Family & Education

Schools on song as kids switch on to Shabbat


The badges have been printed, the banners raised and the countdown has begun as 27 Jewish schools prepare to take part in Shabbat UK.

This year, more than 2,000 students are expected to attend the Chief Rabbi's Kabbalat Shabbat party, which will be held on Friday October 23.

As well as the Great Challah Make, a nationwide drive to gather hundreds to bake challah together, the day will include a concert and an inter-school assembly led by Rabbi Malcolm Herman, associate national director of the educational charity Seed.

"We think it is the most fantastic project highlighting the centrality of Shabbat in Jewish life," said Rabbi Herman. "Schools are the future of the Jewish people, educating tomorrow's generation. Schools teach about Shabbat as part of their Jewish studies curriculum, while Shabbat UK allows children to experience it for real beyond the textbook."

In the weeks leading up to this year's main event, all pupils involved have been stirring support and interest in their schools. Each one of them has been sent a song to learn, while secondary schools have been encouraged to participate in an inter-school video competition.

Jeremy Richards, head of Kodesh studies at Beit Shvidler Primary School in Edgware, explained that, in the week leading up to the main event, classes will be focussing on Shabbat.

"We are designating the Thursday afternoon as 'Shabbos Afternoon', which will be filled with activities focusing on what the children have learnt about the laws of Shabbat during the week," he said.

Other activities include a "Junior Challah Make" at Etz Chaim Jewish Primary School in Mill Hill, children's services held on the Saturday at Matilda Marks-Kennedy in Barnet, and a Shabbat Fair at Yavneh College in Borehamwood - complete with grape juice-making and candle-making stalls. "Our children love the official Shabbat UK song and are counting down the days to the Shabbat party," said Etz Chaim's deputy head, Liza Feiner.

Assistant head of Yavneh, Rabbi Andrew Davis, added: "This is a wonderful opportunity for the Jewish world to come together as one and unite over a mitzvah to which we can all relate."

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, who created the event last year, has also been playing his part in drumming up student involvement, encouraging head boys and girls to get their peers involved.

Bertie Green, head boy of Immanuel College in Bushey, attended Rabbi Mirvis's reception for student leaders last week. He said: "After meeting the Chief Rabbi, I was inspired to do my bit to get as many students involved and aware of Shabbat UK as possible.

"We are hoping to educate on all the benefits of Shabbat UK in a fun, dynamic atmosphere and integrate Shabbat into the lives of so many people who it might not currently be present for."

The Chief Rabbi said: "One of my predecessors, Lord Jakobovits, once told Margaret Thatcher when she was Secretary of State for Education that she was, in fact, Secretary of State for Defence.

"Our schools operate on the front line of our collective effort to ensure that the flame of Jewish pride burns brightly in all of our young people.

"That is the essence of Shabbat UK and that is why the contribution that our schools are making is so important."

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