Family & Education

Schools all set for record Etgar

Primary children are ready to test their wits at tomorrow's inter-schools contest


“Today we are going to look at the connection between the land of Israel and the Jewish people,” says Deborah Harris, Jewish studies lead at the Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary School, “and the fact that it goes back thousands and thousands of years.”

She puts a question to her class of year-fives: “Who was the first to enter the land of Israel?”

“The spies,” says one. “Joshua,” tries another. “Abraham,” pipes up a third.

“And when do you think Abraham settled in the land of Israel?” Mrs Harris follows up, pointing to multiple-choice options projected on a whiteboard. “Was it 1737 BCE, 1812 BCE or 1549 BCE?”.

There are only a few days to go to Etgar, the national Jewish primary schools’ contest, and the Ilford children are grappling with a set of brainteasers in preparation for to tomorrow's event.

A record 900 children from 27 Orthodox schools across the country are due to compete in the event, including one for the first time from Israel. A group of 20 are coming from the bilingual King Solomon School in Ramat Gan (which is headed by Rabbi Cobi Ebrahimoff, who is also head of the Independent Jewish Day School in Hendon).

They will not only take a quiz to test them on the Jewish general knowledge syllabus they have been learning during the school year but also face creative challenges.
Around 20 from Ilford will be going this year, representing around two-thirds of the class and including a handful of non-Jewish students. 

The school entered for the first time last year, having previously hesitated over whether the Etgar programme was suitable for it. “We decided to be brave,” said Jewish studies teacher, Rabbi Yaakov Singer. “We thought the only way to do it was to make it part of the curriculum. The children have really enjoyed it. We started preparing soon after Pesach, beginning with one lesson a week and then more intensively, for two or three.”

The syllabus, contained in a 116-page, colourfully illustrated handbook, not only encourages children to absorb basic Jewish information — from festival dates to berachot recited over different foods — consolidating what they have been studying through their time in school. Rabbi Singer said it also touches on areas that they wouldn’t have necessarily covered in Jewish studies before such as the difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities or the creation of modern Israel.

“I use it as a launchpad to go into things I feel it is important for them to know, not just for the Etgar quiz,” he said, “but to enrich their knowledge”.

Has the programme helped the children’s learning. “100 per cent,” he said.

That is an opinion which pupil Samantha Falk, who is looking forward to participating next week, would endorse. “I think I have learned more in the past couple of months than the past few years,” she said.

(And when did Abraham settle in Israel? 1737 BCE).

* Wohl Ilford Jewish Primary School has just been awarded the SafefyMARK certificate from the National Safety Certification Scheme for Schools, which recognises those who go “the extra mile” in providing a safe environment.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive