We Didn't Start The Fire -

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Resource Type: Peula in: English
Age: 14-16
Group Size: 15-60
Estimated Time: 75 minutes

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Resource Goal

For the chanichim to realize that they should be and stay strong in their ideology and convictions

Resource Contents

We Didn't Start the Fire

Written by: Josh Skarf, Detroit

Goals: For the chanichim to realize that they should be and stay strong in their ideology and convictions

Suggested Age: Chevraya Bet

Suitable for Shabbat

"We Didn't Start the Fire"
by Billy Joel

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe Dimaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, Television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I" and "The Catcher in the Rye"
Eisenhower, Vaccine, England's got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana Goodbye

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu Falls, "Rock Around the Clock"

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland
Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", Trouble in the Suez
Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, "Bridge on the River Kwai"
Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball
Starkweather Homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Buddy Holly, "Ben Hur", Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go
U-2, Synghman Rhee, Payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, "Psycho", Belgians in the Congo
Hemingway, Eichmann, "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs Invasion

"Lawrence of Arabia", British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston Beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician Sex
JFK, blown away, what else do i have to say
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, Punk Rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

"Wheel of Fortune", Sally Ride, Heavy Metal, Suicide
Foreign Debts, Homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shore, China's under martial law
Rock and Roller Cola Wars, i can't take it anymore

Peula Bet: The Flow of History

We will start off with a bit of a play, everyone together. We have two kids on stage, talking about how theyre going to be when theyre older. Basically, one of them, who we will call Moshe, is ranting about all the things that are wrong in the world, and how hes going to change them. He wants to go live in Israel in a settlement, wants to unify all Jews, bring peace with the Arabs, help Israel improve its handicapped facilities, volunteer in development towns helping out underprivileged kids, etc. His friend is providing slight resistance, saying maybe he wont be able to do it all. But Moshe is steadfast.

Scene two are the same two, this time at age forty. Theyre at a PTA meeting or something in America, and basically, through the conversation, it comes out that Moshe is still living in America, basically has been living a normal life, has a mortgage on his house, bogged down in his job, and while he still feels ideologically, he has done very little to act on it.

Break up into groups. Above you will find the lyrics to Billy Joels 1989 hit We Didnt Start the Fire. Ask the chanichim if theyre familiar with the song. Its entirely possible that one kid will be able to sing the whole thing off by heart. (I was able to in ninth grade.) No matter you can quickly pass it around, or skim it with the kids. The song is basically a history lesson it goes year by year from 1949 until 1989 and just says some of the big things that happen that year.

Question: Why did Billy Joel write this song? Okay, we dont expect kids to know for sure, but perhaps they can guess. The reason Joel gave was that when he was working on the album, he was talking with his kids one day. They said to him something along the line of dad, you were so lucky. When you grew up there were tons of things going on in the world. There was WWII, there was Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, all sorts things. We dont have anything big going on in our lives. Joel thought about this for a bit and thought how incredibly lucky they were: What, you guys WANT to live through Vietnam? Anyways, he began thinking about all the events that had occurred in his life that had shaped the world around him, and how quickly they followed, one after another. And as he jotted them down, he came up with his new songs lyrics.

Okay, wonderful story, right? Heres the bottom line: ask your kids how many of them side with Joel on this issue, and how many side with his kids? Can you understand where both are coming from? Now, if the kids are sharp, theyll catch on that there are some generations that have huge, world-shaping events in them, and there are others with different challenges.

Question: If you were living at any point in history, when would it be? Why? This should get some interesting responses.

Question: If we were rewriting We Didnt Start the Fire from a Jewish perspective, what would it look like? (No, we arent interested in someone quoting the Shlock Rock lyrics We Have a Strong Desire.) What events in the past fifty years have shaped the Jewish people? Next, if we had to update the song from 1990 through today, what would be in it? What great events have we lived through? I think that so far in our lives there have been two major events: what happened on September 11th, and the Collapse of the Soviet Union. But certainly there were other major events: The gulf war, the challenger explosion, assassination of Rabin, reunification of Germany, the end of apartheid in South Africa, environmental movements Specifically as Jews, which events have occurred?

Question: Going back to Billy Joel and his kids, ask the kids, why is it that Joel took the position he did and his children took the position they did?

Its possible to explain this difference as between youth and adults. As far as outlook on life is concerned, how do Adults and Youths differ? This is where the play we began with comes in. Youths tend to have more strength to be ideological, and when we get older, we lose that. Q: Why does this happen? 1. Adults are more proper, and dont speak their minds as much (for example, the story of The Emperors New Clothes.) 2. They havent given up hope yet on improving the world 3. They live more for the moment, and less out of practicality 4. They dont have to worry about making money, as of course you cant EAT ideology. These are some ideas. The Chanichim may have others. (One quote that comes to mind is Anyone who is twenty and doesnt believe in Socialism has no heart. Anyone whos forty and DOES believe in Socialism has no brain.)

So, if kids are so full of ideological strength, why dont they use their strength? You can ask the kids why THEY dont do more? (Obviously not in an accusing way, just as a casual question.) Even if some kids may help out here and there, donate time to doing chesed, etc., it isnt a huge part of their lives like it ought to be. Four reasons why: 1. Belief when youre young, its hard to have faith in what you believe in enough to sacrifice for it. 2. If you do have strong belief, you might still not follow it vigorously. 3. Unwillingness to work hard. It takes a long time to see results, and this requires a lot of patience and hard work with little to show for it. Not an easy thing to ask of young people. 4. Lack of causes. While last generation had many concrete things to work towards, the establishment of Israel, civil rights, etc, this one has less concrete goals.

So how do we solve this problem? A. How do we stay ideological? B. How do we act on our ideology? You dont necessarily need to give an answer, but perhaps have the kids make some real suggestions for what they could do, both now and in the future, both individually and as a shevet. As a youth movement, we in Bnei Akiva feel very strongly about the power of the youth, our power collectively, to change the world. One major way that we can keep from losing our ideology is through the strength of the shevet. As a part of a shevet, you have people who support you and give you strength. You see the ideology of your friends, and it gives you strength in your own beliefs. It pushes you, but also encourages you and lets you know that you dont have to give up the struggle, because your friends are in it with you.

Conclusion: So going back to We Didnt Start the Fire, the main point of the song is that things are always happening, there are continuously battles to fight, the fire never stops. We have battles to fight, and together we can write the next verse of the song.

Related Resources can be found under:

» All > Am Yisrael > A Light to the Nations

» All > Bnei Akiva > Youth Movement

» All > Hadracha > Leadership

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