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Synagogue visit furthers pupils’ understanding of Jewish faith

Second Year pupils listen to a talk during a visit to Gatley Synagogue

As part of their places of worship visits, Second Year Religion, Philosophy and Ethics pupils visited Gatley Synagogue (Yeshurun Hebrew Congregation) to learn more about the Jewish faith. The trip took place just before the festival of Hanukkah.

Pupils were welcomed to the synagogue by Judge Charles Bloom (an OS parent) who spoke to them about his faith, the building and the traditions – as well as showing them some important items.

Pupils learned about the history of synagogues in general before finding out that the local community built the main shul complex, containing the Main Synagogue, the Hall and the classrooms in 1968. The story behind the festival of Hanukkah was also explained.

The pupils were told about why the The Shul was designed as it was, with an elevated platform (bema) used as an orator’s podium, and they learnt about the plaque with the ten commandments, the twelve tapestries representing the tribes of Israel, the Eternal Light – a symbol of God being eternal and being the light – and the arc which houses the scrolls.

The talk continued with pupils trying on shawls and kippahs, learning about the Sabbath and how many times the Jewish people pray and about why tefillins – a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah – are worn on the forehead and on the arm.

Pupils also learnt that when a Jewish boy is 13 years old, he becomes accountable for his actions and becomes a bar mitzvah and a girl becomes a bat mitzvah at the age of 12 (according to Orthodox and Conservative Jews) or 13 (according to Reform Jews).

One of the pupils commented: “I really enjoyed this trip for several reasons. I appreciated how Judge Bloom mentioned similarities between the Abrahamic faiths as well as giving us a comprehensive explanation as to what everything in the Synagogue was and symbolised.

“Additionally, I found it interesting when he talked about the history of the religion dating back to the time of Moses.”