The great Jewish knowledge quiz
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