Richmond Synagogue School Visits
For the last few years, Richmond Synagogue has run regular school visits on a Friday morning from 10 a.m to 11.45, regularly hosting up to ninety children and several accompanying teachers and parents. The schools either come from the borough of Richmond itself or as far away as Hounslow and Wandsworth. The visits are for years 3 to GCSE.
Run by an experienced team of trained volunteers, the visits are structured and experiential, as well as educational and great fun for all involved. Teachers, parents and volunteers often seem to enjoy the visits as much as the children!
Visits are typically requested to enhance the learning of the Religious Education curriculum in school, so it is not surprising that those who have already spent some time learning about Judaism do seem to benefit the most.
What happens on a visit? The children assemble in the synagogue’s main sanctuary, where they learn about the features that are essential to any synagogue around the world and what actually happens there.
Then they divide into three smaller groups: one group is shown the Torah scrolls and learns about how they are written, when they are used and what is actually written on the scrolls. Meanwhile another group has the Shabbat table experience, during which they learn about a typical Friday night and get to sample some grape juice and challah bread. A third group learns about some Jewish symbols such as the mezuzah and may even try on a tallit or prayer shawl and a cap or kipah. They will also touch on any festival that is close to the time of the visit.
After they have visited all three stations, they are quite ready for a drink of juice and a biscuit before we say shalom or goodbye. While school visits are useful as an adjunct to the curriculum, it is often felt that they are just as important in building good local community relations and understanding.