This week was Other Faiths Week at St. Vincent’s! Each year during the Autumn term, we spend time learning more about the Jewish faith and its beliefs, practices and customs. Learning about other faiths is so important as it links with our British Values of tolerance and mutual respect.
We began the week with a special assembly led by Susannah from the Liberal Jewish Synagogue! Susannah taught us more about important Jewish symbols and shared her own experiences of being Jewish. The children shared lots of knowledge they already had about Judaism and asked lots of insightful questions. Susannah also taught us the Hebrew-Arabic song ‘Salaam’ (Arabic: سَلَام) or ‘Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu’ (Hebrew: עוד יבוא שלום עלינו) using the Hebrew and Arabic greetings which both mean ‘peace’.
Over the course of the week, each class had a special workshop with Susannah to discover more about an aspect of Judaism:
Year 1 focused on Jewish symbols such as the star of David and stories including the story of Abraham ‘Father of many’ who is the father of the Jewish faith. Susannah shared that the Jewish come from the line of Abraham’s descendants. Susannah showed Year 1 her tallit, a special shawl, and kippah, a small hat, which she wears during prayers and at the synagogue. Susannah’s tallit and kippah had images of pomegranates on them which is the name of the Jewish Nursery she works at. Jewish people believe that a pomegranate has the same number of seeds as the number of laws which God wants them to follow (613).
Year 2 learnt all about Shabbat happens each week from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. It is when Jewish people rest to remind them of the seventh day (Shabbat) when God rested after creating the world. On Friday afternoon, Susannah visited Year 2 again for a special lesson on the day of Shabbat where the children were able to see how the Challah and wine are blessed and the candles are used for prayer. Year 2 even got to try the Challah together and practiced saying the blessing over a cup of grape juice!
Year 3 discovered about the Synagogue which is the special Jewish place of worship. They learnt about the key features of Synagogues and had a virtual tour around Susannah’s Synagogue in St. John’s Wood which some classes visited last year. The children found out that Synagogues are not only used for prayer but also as a place of study and for people to socialise through community events. The Synagogue is also where special events in a Jewish persons life are celebrated including Bar/Bat Mitzvah, weddings and funerals. There is also a Jewish Nursery at the Synagogue and Saturday classes which Susannah leads to help children learn Hebrew.
Year 4 had the pleasure of learning more about the Sefer Torah. Susannah shared a piece of an actual Torah which had sadly been damaged but could now be used as a model. The children explored how the Torah is written by hand by a Sofer in Hebrew onto parchment which is animal skin. Year 4 explored how the Torah is a guide for the lives of the Jewish people through its stories and laws. Susannah also shared about a special time Jewish children experience called a Bar/Bat Mitzvah which is when a Jewish person is able to read a portion of the Torah for the first time in the Synagogue and is from then on seen as an adult in the Jewish faith.
Year 5 covered the topic of special celebrations and learnt about Pesach or Passover. This festival remembers the Exodus of the Jews and their struggles in the desert. A special meal called a Seder is eaten during Psach with each food symbolising an important part of the story. The children heard about how the Seder plate had compartments for each symbolic food and learnt about their religious meanings. They then spent time thinking about why this festival is significant to Jewish people and what they can learn from remembering it.
Year 6 focused on Rosh Hasanah which is the Jewish New Year. It is the beginning of the holiest time of the year for Jewish people and a time for thinking about things they had done wrong so that they can make raparations with God before the beginning of the new year. The children learnt about the practices and special symbols of the festival and designed their own Rosh Hashanah cards!
Thank you Susannah for coming to visit our school and for delivering these engaging workshops for each class. Well done St. Vincent’s for all of your hard work throughout Judaism Week!