Navigating Jewish American Identity


In this lesson, students will watch and respond to a video clip from the film American Creed in which historian and author David Kennedy draws from W. E. B. Du Bois’ idea of “twoness” to explore the tensions that can exist when an individual’s American identity and their religious, ethnic, racial, and other identities are at odds with one another.

In American Creed, David Kennedy discusses the changing attitudes towards what he calls “hyphenated Americans” (Italian-American, Irish-American, Jewish-American, etc.). He asserts that there was a time in the history of the United States political discourse when embracing a hyphenated identity was considered disloyal. He goes on to comment that while identifying with your ethnic heritage today is considered a good thing, there is nonetheless an underlying assumption that it should be less prominent than your American one. Over the course of this lesson, students will use Du Bois’s and Kennedy’s ideas to explore their own Jewish identities and consider how they coexist with their identities as Americans.



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