Curriculum and faith

What does the Jewish studies element of the curriculum consist of?

All students follow an innovative Jewish education programme, both formal and informal. Study is text-based and offers a wide variety of interpretative models., It includes courses in:
– Jewish texts ( Tenach, Rabbinics,)
– Jewish values (Tikun Olam, laws between humanity (bein adam l’chavero) )
– Jewish practice (Jewish calendar, life cycle , festivals, prayer)
– Jewish history (ancient, medieval, Shoah, modern Jewish communities)
– Israel studies
– Jewish art and literature

Students all have the opportunity to take national examinations in Jewish Studies at GCSE and A level

Won’t this favour some Jewish traditions over others?

No. It is perfectly possible to provide Jewish studies while being open to difference between the various mainstream Jewish traditions, indeed this is the norm in most Jewish schools around the world. The aim is to enable students to develop their own beliefs and practices from a position of knowledge, so they graduate as proud, self-confident Jews.

Are students taught Hebrew?

Hebrew (Ivrit) is offered to all students as a part of the Modern Foreign Language syllabus, and accommodates children of all abilities and skill-levels.  Biblical Hebrew is taught to students as part of the Jewish Studies curriculum

Do you observe festivals and keep kosher?

The school closes early for Shabbat and is closed on all festivals.  Festival and Shabbat preparation and celebration is a central feature of school life.  All catering is kosher.

Do you allow children to bring pack lunches?

Yes, vegetarian only.  Children are not allowed to bring into school any prohibited foods, which others may inadvertently share.

Who is your religious authority?

Formally it is the JCoSS Governing Body which is representative of the whole mainstream community.  JCoSS is a school, not a religious authority.  As a result, we approach questions of religion and halacha as educational opportunties rather than religious dilemmas.  There are no rabbis on our Trustees or Governing Body and we are entirely independent.  We ensure that all of the community is comfortable in our school.  Our cafeteria, for example, is supervised by an Orthodox rabbi (Rabbi Michael Pollak) and on the Sabbath, we are Shabbat Observant in public areas.

Do children have to wear kippot?

A kippah is included as a part of the school uniform, but the decision whether or not to wear it will be a personal one for both girls and boys.

What happens if a pupil breaks the religious rules?

Our principle is that all students have to obey religious rules where others may be affected, We therefore draw a distinction between personal and public religious behaviour.  For example, boys need not wear a prayer vest (arba kanfot/tzitzit) but children are not allowed to bring into school any prohibited foods, which others may inadvertently share. Breaking such rules is dealt with through the normal discipline procedure in accordance with school rules.

Do pupils have to pray?

All pupils have the opportunity for daily prayer and thoughtful reflection. However, Jewish prayer can take many forms and students have the opportunity to participate in many different styles of service.

Do you support Israel?

The school ethos supports the right of Israel to exist within safe and recognised borders and is developing strong links with Israel. It has developed a knowledge of and relationship with Israel’s people, history and land, and takes pride in its achievements.

There are regular visitors and guests from Israel, internet links with pupils in Israeli schools and residential visits to Israel. In addition JCoSS has generated close links with Israeli schools and teachers.

Do pupils learn about religions other than Judaism?

Absolutely.  This is an integral part of JCoSS’s inclusive ethos.  All JCoSS students study world religions through the school’s religious education curriculum and the school makes good links with the wider faith and local community.

How can I ensure that my child won’t meet non-Halachically Jewish children?

You can’t. We live in a multi-cultural society and part of the JCoSS ethos is to prepare and educate pupils to understand the meanings and implications of this.  As such, if this is a major concern for you, JCoSS may not be the school for you.

But of course, even if you send your child to another Jewish school they may meet non-halachic students and again when they have left school.