Tag Archives: Judaism

Fieldwork in Religion: Going Out and Finding Out

This last week has been very busy for our undergraduate students, who have benefitted from meeting and engaging with local faith communities.

Year 2 Ethnography students are currently engaged in their own fieldwork projects, exploring a range of topics including witchcraft, perspectives on the after life in a care home, life in a convent, challenges and controversies in contemporary religion, digital ethnography, as well as engaging with Paganism, Christianity, Sikhism and Islam. The principle of the module is to allow students to go out and find out more about how living religion is experienced as part of every day life.

Year 2 Judaism students and their module tutor, Dr Chris Greenough, visited Southport and District Reform Synagogue on Wednesday 7th November. They received a very warm welcome from the team there, especially Selwyn and Anne who gave an informative talk about the Jewish way of life and particularly the differences between the Orthodox and Reform movements. On Tuesday 13th November, the same group of students visited Southport Orthodox synagogue, where they were able to consolidate their subject knowledge about Jewish worship practices and the design of a synagogue.

Year 3 students, with Maggie Webster, were welcomed by Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Preston to mark the celebration of Diwali and new year.


“Speaker’s Corner” in Jerusalem during the Second Temple Era

Today, as part of the new “Abrahamic Traditions” module, the first year students from both Secondary Religious Education + QTS and Education and Religion programmes participated in a roleplaying game reenacting different major religious groups that were current during the Second Temple period (roughly around 0 C.E.).

The students were stunningly dressed in makeshift costumes and props from the RE storage cabinets while delivering short fiery speeches summarising the teachings of Pharisees, Zealots, Gnostics and Messianic Jews, against the Powerpoint backdrop of the old Western wall of the temple. The speakers did splendidly in spite of the presence of a strange heckler.

“Roman authorities and Jewish city elders are said to have been interested in the outcome of these discussions, and rumours have it that there might be arrest warrants for some of the speakers!”

A Pharisee calling for adherence to the Torah and criticising the hypocrisy of the Temple priesthood.

“Zealots” calling for militant rebellion against the Romans.

Mysterious Gnostics propounding radically unusual interpretations of the Torah and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Messianic Jews cheerfully bringing good news of an “Apocalypse” and the coming of a Messiah
A bemused heckler. Has one of the speaker groups convinced him to join their cause?

RE SKE 2018: Judaism development session

In addition to visiting the Princes Road Synagogue, trainees were able to further develop their understanding of Judaism thanks to a wonderfully engaging session led by Becky Scott, one of our amazing Partnership Curriculum Mentors. In addition to building on their experiences at the Synagogue, trainees were able to look at the differences between Orthodox and Reform Judaism, the nature of Covenants in Judaism and undertook some lively discussions about antisemitism in the UK. As an experienced RE practitioner, Becky was also able to share with them some practical strategies and activities for them to use in their teaching.

RE PGCE: Bradford Interfaith Visit 27.6.18

As part of their pre-NQT enrichment week, RE PGCE trainees visited Bradford as part of an interfaith visit to a number of places of worship.

The day began with a visit to the Gurdwara Singh Sabha where trainees were given a tour of the worship hall and able to see the rituals and practices associated with the Sikh Holy Book, the Guru Granth Sahib. Trainees enjoyed asking questions and experiencing some of the sounds of Sikh worship.

Next it was onto the Shree Laxmi Narayan Hindu Temple where trainees were able to observe the daily Aarti worship and meet with Seema, who discussed her experiences and beliefs as a Hindu. Ready for a rest, we thoroughly enjoyed our vegetarian lunch!

Before making our way back to Ormskirk, we ended the day with an insight into Reform Judaism at the Bradford Reform Synagogue, learning about the history of the Jewish community in Bradford and some of the differences between reform and orthodox practice.

A wonderful (very hot!) day and a lovely end to the PGCE course.

RE Subject Knowledge Enhancement 2017: Stenecourt Shul, Salford

RE PGCE and UG students travelled to Salford to visit Stenecourt Shul with their tutors Sjay Patterson-Craven and David Arnold as part of the SKE course. The day gave students the opportunity to develop their understanding of Jewish belief, enjoy some challah, visit the shul, ask questions and ended with a very enjoyable Israeli-Kosher meal!

A full day teaching

As part of their Creative Medium Term Planning Module Year 2 Undergraduates work in groups to plan a small Scheme of Work.  We then go into a local school and deliver the scheme – in one day – to year 8 pupils.  One of the undergraduates, Joe, reflected on the day.

First I would like to thank those involved who placed their trust in us and made it possible for our class to go into the year 8 classroom and present our scheme of work regarding Judaism.

Preparation

A few months ago we were tasked with completing a group scheme of work that we would teach to year 8 students who had no or limited knowledge of Judaism. Our key focus within our group during the process of planning was the Shoah and thanks to our lectures, visitors and class trips we gained knowledge regarding how the subject should be approached when teaching. Some key points what our group focused on were the promotion of shared values before moving onto the idea of focusing on an individual story during the Shoah that would allow the students to connect more with the material when considering understanding and empathy.

Basic outline of scheme:

Basic beliefs and practices and shared values
Diversity within Judaism / challenging anti-Semitism
Shoah 1933 – 1945
Shoah part two
Why remember?
We hoped this scheme would first provide the students with the basics, before allowing them to explore the diversity within Judaism to challenge and negative stereotypes and myths. Next we would connect this to the idea that the Nazi Party rose to power presenting negative stereotypes and myths regarding Judaism and this is why it important to recognise and challenge these ideas. Finally we would enable to students to evaluate the importance of the previous lessons and why it is important to remember past events.

So….. How did it go I hear you ask?

Well on arrival as you can see from some of our faces, the plan changed a little. The lessons we had planned would have to be adapted, since there was a high possibility students would not necessarily be the same for each lesson. Straight away this created a problem since each of us planned to be teaching the same students one scheme of work allowing the lesson to flow and connect learning from each. Even though, this was a shock and essentially a problem it was also a blessing in disguise, because it made each of us revise our initial planning on the spot and adapt it were necessary, which we were assured sometimes can and will happen in school.

However the day overall was a success each of us gained valuable experience and confidence before beginning upon our Year 2 Placement.

A few things that went well and key lessons learnt for the future:

Preparation is key.

Making sure the student had the equipment and things as simple as pens and paper are essential in order to complete the tasks is essential. From my first placement I was advised always put every little thing on the lesson plan and make sure this is ready and available. This advice ensured each lesson during the day ran smoothly and the students began starter tasks as soon as they walked through the door. I observed and helped as a teaching assistant in one lesson and there was no paper in the classroom and this resulted in the lesson getting off to a rocky start and it was difficult to gain control of the class again. This was simply down to lack of organisation, since when teaching the same pupils in the next lesson, on arrival I had a starter task on the board and individual sheets laid out and they began straight away and it was like a completely different class. Therefore, an organised start with a stimulating starter task is essential, you have to keep them busy and give them no time to wait.

Talk Time/ Activity Time.

I admit sometimes I want to say so much I need to consider the balance between me talking and the pupils doing activities. However, there was only really one lesson were I felt I had to do this more and it was the introduction to the Shoah I wanted to give them a good understanding of the events that during 1933-1939. A way that I found effective to do this without the students switching off to me droning on was to give them a work sheet with information boxes with blanks to fill and arrows which they had to follow in connection with the slides. This worked well and all the pupils seemed engaged and completed the sheet whilst asking questions. This was evident since sadly I did make a mistake in one box and the students picked up on it straight away, therefore they had to have been listening. To get around this I told them that it was a test to make sure they were listening, I think most believed me.

I understand that my questioning techniques need improving when trying to engage a full class discussion, however throughout the day the discussion generally went well and comment were made by teachers who said certain pupils who don’t generally get involved were engaged and participated.

Overall I believe the day was a success for all of us, we all survived a full day of teaching and for me personally a key observation was that the second they walk through the door if your starter task is stimulating and organised you are off to a winner.

You can see more pictures from the day here

Jewish Community Visit

Once we had all gathered, our guide, David, took us into the schule, the Hebrew word for synagogue. He explained the features of the room, with men’s and women’s seating, the bimah and the ner tamid. He talked a little about what might happen in a Shabbat service.

David explained the concept of Pikuach Nefesh, which means that the sanctity of life takes precedence over any other rule or commandment. There are 613 commandment, and the opportunity to fulfil a commandment is seen as a very positive aspect of the Jewish way of life.David explained that Maimonides’ 13 principles of faith, developed in the 11th Century, are central to a Jewish way of life for ordinary people. Being the chosen people does not imply that Jews are better than others, but they have been chosen by G-d for a particular task. The focus of Judaism moved from the Temple (destroyed in 70CE) to the home.

David showed us a copy of a Torah scroll, and explained some of the differences and similarities with the Christian Old Testament. Looking at the first few verses of Beresheit, we noted that day’s start in the evening, which led on to a discussion of Shabbat, the day of rest. Through looking at the Shema, we investigated the tzitzit, tallit and tefillin, the ritual clothing worm by Jewish men.

After a brief consideration of the importance of Jerusalem, we turned our attention to food, and the rules around kosher.

Then it was time to eat! We went to a local kosher restaurant, which was a ‘meaty’ restaurant so no milk products. Many of us had the traditional chicken soup, although the garlic mushrooms were a popular starter too, with fish and chips, burgers and pastas being the popular choices for mains.

After a filling lunch, we returned to the Schule and considered inter faith issues, majoring on the work of Jules Isaac.

Interfaith Week in Liverpool

For Inter-faith week, the University’s  Chaplaincy team organised a trip to visit the three Abrahamic faiths’ places of worship in Liverpool. Thre years of Undergraduate students and the PGCE students came together for this fantastic trip.

First year Undergraduate Hailey wrote this about the day:

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Arriving at the Cathedral I thought that we had turned up at the wrong place. I had never been to a Cathedral before but this wasn’t the picture that I had in my head as to what it was meant to look like. In my head it was meant to look exactly like a church with an old brown building just much much bigger. I was in for a shock with a white building which resembled that of a large tent. Everything about this Cathedral is very modern. Going inside I was in awe.

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The whole place was lit blue and I really couldn’t understand why until our very nice tour guide explained to us that this was due to the architect of the building and that the stain glass windows make the whole place change colour throughout the day symbolising that Jesus is the light. The next thing to catch my eye was a large silver sculpture just hanging from the ceiling, usually going into a church you would never see anything like this which just made this Cathedral much more interesting. This actually symbolises Jesus’ crown he wore when he was crucified. Our guide talked to us a lot about the different roles you can take within the Roman Catholic Church and also about the difference in the different types of Christians explaining why and how they were all so different.

Arriving at the synagogue I was surprised. Walking into the little hallway for some reason I imagined that when he opened the door it would look very similar to inside a Church. How naïve of me. As soon as the two men opened the doors everyone in our group all made a very similar ‘wow’ noise.

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It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be and I was completely surprised at how grand the whole place was, also how different it was to a church. Straight away the man started to tell us all of the different things that a Jew would believe in and do within his/her life.

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He explained the whole synagogue to us, even down to explaining how the Torah was made and telling us about a fire they had in the late ‘60s. During our trip to the synagogue the university rabbi joined us and he didn’t shy away from telling us everything from marriage in Judaism to the decline that has faced its followers following World War 2. I would personally say that the synagogue was the building I was most in awe at during the trip.

Finally we arrived at the mosque (the first university group that has been allowed in to view it), this being the shortest of the three but they didn’t lack to tell us any information. While they didn’t go into depth with the beliefs involved in Islam they told us all about the building we were in and the founder of the whole thing.

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Abdullah Qwilliam was the founder of this mosque, more interestingly this was the first mosque in England. Abdullah Qwilliam was an English convert who wanted to spread his faith among other people within his culture at home. The mosque was closed for a while after Abdullah’s death and Liverpool council opened it as a registry office but more recently has been reopened and they are now working on making it a fully working mosque again and replacing the old traditional things that were there at the beginning such as the organ which Abdullah used to play.

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After being there a short while we were asked to move to a different room as it was time to do the call for prayer, I had never heard this before and thought that it was amazing. I would to go back again soon when they have finished restoring it back to the way it used to be.

You can read the rest of Hailey’s blogs here: https://haileyhill14.wordpress.com/

A day at Schul

Today was an insightful opportunity to experience first hand an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue and find out more about what is involved within Jewish worship. Those of the Jewish faith refer to the Synagogue as ‘Schul’ which translated from Hebrew means ‘assembly’ as those of the Jewish faith assemble together within to worship G-d.

 Above: In the centre of the photo is what is known in Hebrew as a ‘Bimah’. This is a raised platform in which the Torah Scroll is read from during prayer by a member of the congregation. Below in the photo can be identified as Jewish prayer books in which members of the congregation can take at any time to perform prayer during each day.
 Above: Within this photo behind the stand (where a Rabbi will stand to read sermons at the end of a prayer service) is the ark, also known as ‘Aron Kodesh’ where the Torah scroll is stored and only taken out during a congregational service. Above the ark beneath the Star of David reads in Hebrew, “I always have the almighty before my eyes”. This therefore suggests how those of the Jewish faith have G-d with them in their mind during every aspect of the day. Also above the Star of David (which can’t be seen in the photo) is a lamp known as a ‘Ner Tamid’ which is representative of the constant light which was within the Temple  of Jeruslem.

 Above (both): At both sides of the Ark in every Schul you will also find two marble plaques. One will always contain a prayer for the Jewish faith and the other will always contain a prayer for the country. This is representative of every Schul in every country. This is due to the fact the obligation of Judaism is twofold, as you must follow Jewish law (Torah/Talmud) and also follow the laws of the land you live within.

You will also find a storage box beneath every seat within the Schul which contains a Tallat and a prayer book so that it will be there ready for when a memeber of the congregation attends on Shabbat (day of rest). Each memeber of the congregation pays rent for their seat which goes towards the running of the Schul and payment of the Rabbi (payment amount is decided by the congregation).

 Above: Jewish prayer books for members of the congregation to use when visiting to pray. Just above this shelf is the women’s section of the Schul as men and women worship separately in an Orthodox Schul.
During prayer a Jewish individual will wrap a Tefillin around their head (contains small parchments of scripture from the Torah) and also a Tefillin around the arm seven times which is placed next to the heart. This is to symbolise the fact G-d should be next to your heart and mind at all times during prayer. Then the Tallit (prayer shawl) is worn which has the Tzitzit hanging at the bottom to represent the 613 laws of the Torah. A Kippah is also worn on the head to represent the fact G-d is always above you.

We also had the chance to visit a Kosher restaurant near the Schul and had a lovely  meal that adheres to Kashrut dietary laws.

Overall a very educational day to experience first hand a Jewish place of worship and learn more about the Jewish faith.

Judaism, a Way of Life

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On Thursday the 18th of September we had the privilege to visit the  “Great and New  Stenecourt” synagogue in Manchester, built in 1960. We were being educated on the insider’s version of what it is like to live the orthodox Jewish lifestyle by a member who regularly attends that particular synagogue.

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Upon arrival we were introduced to our faith tutor, David Arnold who kindly had kosher refreshments prepared for us. At this point we were advised that any non-kosher food was to be left outside and not taken into the Shul. After refreshments we were taken into the Shul and shown around. We were told men and women have different seating arrangements in the room and women were to be covered by partitions. Seats are bought on rent in the Shul and each person can have a designated seating spot. Further we were shown where the Torah is kept and where the service takes place. The Torah is kept in the back and protected very carefully. David also explained the all the different locations in the Shul from the Pew to the Bimah (Platform).

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David explained that Judaism is not seen as a religion but rather as a way of life. He explained the role of a man and women and how they differ in Judaism. He explained how the Jewish people are the ‘chosen people’ in a special covenant with God due to Abraham and renewed with Moses. He explained that not only do they pay a respect to God but also to the law of the land and in this case it would be the United Kingdom. This was very promising to see as it explains the way of life for a Jew especially in the light of the legacy of history.

David explained the Torah as the five books of Moses. He advised it can take years to compile. It is written by hand with a quill in Hebrew and on parchment. Further the cycle of reciting the Torah takes exactly a year and once finished the cycle starts again. To purchase a Torah would cost at an average of 20 – 30,000 pounds. The Torah is written on a scroll with wooden holders which symbolically mean ‘the tree of life.’

After visiting inside the Shul we took our seats in the meeting area where we had the opportunity to discuss the most important day in the Jewish week, Shabbat. We discussed the preparation for Shabbat and the religious meanings to why this day is known as the day of rest. David explained the importance of preparing the meals and drinking the special wine. He explained that once a week there is a special service at the Shul to commemorate the beginning of the holy day. We were told the lady of the house lights the candles to bring the light of Shabbat in to the house. We also had the opportunity to taste the special bread which is prepared for the meal. In all it was very clear that Shabbat is a family occasion and a day to thank God.

Moving on from Shabbat we discussed kosher food and the importance of it in the Jewish household. Separation of meat and dairy is very important to the extent dishes should be kept completely separate. No dairy and meat should be eaten together. David gave us examples of what is considered to be Kosher. Following on nicely from this we went for lunch at a kosher restaurant which was a great insight and first-hand experience.

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Some RE reflections

Our visit to the Shul was definitely a first-hand insight to the thinking and reasoning of a Jewish tradition. It was interesting to find that their truth claim is still very much at the heart of their lives. We all may not agree with certain aspects of what may have been discussed but it is important to take away that every person, be it secular or religious is committed to and identifies with their truth claim and as civilised fellow humans we need to learn to accept and respect differing opinions. Speaking for myself this visit truly opened my eyes to the challenging of managing conflicting truth claims and beliefs which I may face as an RE teacher. I am looking forward to this challenge and resolving the issues this brings in my classroom by developing excellent RE for community cohesion.

Aisha Butt- RE PGCE Trainee 2014