RE books often fail Judaism

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

Judaism is inadequately portrayed in religious education materials used in general schools, according to a report prepared for the government.

Textbooks contained inaccuracies and ignored the ethics and philosophy of the rabbinic tradition, the research team from Warwick University found.

“A particular issue was the failure of many of the resources to engage with the long tradition of Jewish thought over the last 2000 years,” the report said.

“Instead, the religion all too often comes across as the Old Testament religion that preceded Christianity.”

RE is compulsory in state schools which, according to national guidelines, should teach something about Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism as well as Christianity. Faith schools can focus exclusively on their own faiths.

Material on Islam could be “simplistic” and on Sikhism “superficial”, while there were a large number of inaccuracies on Hinduism, the report said.

While it noted positive examples of quality material on Judaism, it highlighted a failure too often to present Judaism as a “living religion”. One textbook even called Shabbat “a day off”.

The report also noted that a reference in a book on Christianity to “the location of Palestine now known as Israel” could “cause offence”.

Hannah Ashleigh, education policy and projects manager at the Board of Deputies, said the research revealed “little that we didn’t know already”. 

She added: “There are resources in circulation which have inaccurate information on aspects of Judaism or which cover only the basics of practice without going into any of the detail of the reasons behind the practice, of why our faith is so important to us or the values which underpin it.”

Last updated: 6:32pm, February 4 2010