The great Jewish knowl­edge quiz

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHAR­LOTTE OLIVER

DO YOU know your Hil­lel from your Hal­lel or your Mish­nah from your Midrash?

If not, it might be worth ask­ing your clos­est 10-year-old. With more Jewish chil­dren in faith ed­u­ca­tion than ever be­fore, pupils to­day are grow­ing up with far more text­book knowl­edge of their re­li­gion than their par­ents.

The re­sult? More of­ten than not, it is the chil­dren school­ing their el­ders on Jewish trivia around the din­ing ta­ble.

Notic­ing the trend three years ago, ed­u­ca­tors Adam Taub and Jo Rosen­felder set out to consolidate this grow­ing knowl­edge.

To­gether, they set up Et­gar, an ed­u­ca­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion aimed at sup­port­ing Jewish learn­ing in pri­mary schools.

Ev­ery Septem­ber, Et­gar de­liv­ers a hand­book filled with in­for­ma­tion on Jewish fes­ti­vals, history and ethics to 24 pri­mary schools across Lon­don and Manch­ester.

They fol­low this up by send­ing a weekly chal­lenge sheet, de­signed the- mat­i­cally to cor­re­spond to re­li­gious events or fes­ti­vals hap­pen­ing at the time, to all par­tic­i­pat­ing school­child­ren, as well as to an ex­tra 100 par­ents who have also signed up.

“We want to en­cour­age di­a­logue around the Shab­bat ta­ble,” said Deb­bie Cowen, Et­gar’s di­rec­tor. “It’s all about help­ing them ques­tion and use their knowl­edge, and not just learn for learn­ing’s sake.”

At the end of the school year, the or­gan­i­sa­tion brings to­gether all its sub­scribers for a mas­sive inter-school quiz — the largest Jewish school quiz to be held in Europe. Last year, the Chief Rabbi at­tended and, this year, they ex­pect to have more than 800 chil­dren tak­ing part.

“We hope to in­spire kids who want to learn more about their faith,” Mr Taub ex­plained. “It takes away the in­tim­i­da­tion that some pupils can feel about as­pects of their Jewish stud­ies.”

Ac­cord­ing to its founders, get­ting chil­dren in­volved is only half the story. The other half is en­cour­ag­ing par­ents to get in­volved. “At present, par­ents don’t feel very en­gaged with Jewish ed­u­ca­tion,” Ms Rosen­felder said. “Their gen­er­a­tion some­times grew up with an in­ef­fec­tive cheder sys­tem, and they tend to as­so­ciate Jewish ed­u­ca­tion with child­ish ac­tiv­ity.

“But when you in­vite par­ents back in, they en­gage. Lim­mud is a great ex­am­ple of that.”

In three years, Et­gar’s in­flu­ence has swelled. Ev­ery year sees more schools sign­ing up, while chil­dren who took part in pre­vi­ous years be­come men­tors.

The hand­book and chal­lenges are also now used in South Africa, Canada and Hun­gary.

“We test them with trivia, but also with philo­soph­i­cal is­sues,” Mr Taub said. “The aim is to al­low ev­ery kid with any skill to shine. And we are not pro­scrip­tive in the way Ju­daism is taught.

“The way we see it, we are telling them: ‘Here are your Jewish bench­marks — you can take it from here’.”

Stu­dents at last year’s Et­gar in­ter­school quiz

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