The latest addition to SCoJeC’s range of educational resources will be a series of short films in which young people from each of Scotland’s Jewish communities give a guided tour of their local synagogue, and talk about what it means to them.
The idea was the outcome of discussions between SCoJeC's Education and Training Assistant, Zoe Jacobs and a group of school teachers, about the resources they need to support their teaching about Judaism. One teacher commented that, since many schools are too far away to be able to visit a synagogue, it is hard for their pupils to get an interactive, 3D concept of what the building is like, what it is used for, and to understand its purpose in wider Jewish life.
So, with the help of Robin, a former youth leader who is now a cameraman, Zoe started a filming project, looking at three Scottish Jewish communities and speaking to some of the young people who have grown up there. In addition to understanding what is important to Jewish teenagers, we wanted to highlight similarities between the different synagogues – those aspects a visitor would always see when entering a synagogue no matter where they were – and differentiate those from the features that have special communal significance to a particular place or group, or that are unique or unusual.
Each teenager was asked in advance to think about their synagogue under four headings: religious, emotional, communal, and personal. Clare Levy in Edinburgh, Nathan Sharp and Lillian Nyssen in Aberdeen, and Henri Azoulay in Dundee showed us round their respective synagogues, and it was particularly interesting to hear their different interpretations, emphases, and understandings, and how, especially in smaller Jewish communities, the synagogue offers a central point of community and, as Nathan told us, a sense of purpose and belonging.
The teenagers were knowledgeable, interested, and eloquent, offering insightful suggestions and ideas, and each community was welcoming, kind, and exceptionally generous with their time. We hope that the final films will provide pupils with an understanding of the different roles played by synagogues, as Beit Knesset ("House of Assembly"), Beit Tefillah ("House of Prayer"), and Beit Midrash ("House of Learning").
The new films will shortly be available in the Resources section of our website.