There was standing room only at the Giffnock launch of SCoJeC's new educational resource, "JOES boxes" – "Jewish Objects for Education in Scotland" – which was attended by more than 30 teachers from as far away as Caithness, as well as MSPs Annabel Goldie and Hanzala Malik.
The vision for an educational resource that is "positive, educational, and memorable" came from SCoJeC's Education and Community Development Worker Zoe Jacobs, who also co-ordinates our programme of information sessions about Judaism for schools and community groups.
The boxes include a range of objects including a tallit (prayer shawl), siddur (prayer book), and Passover Seder Plate, that can all be used to stimulate interest about Judaism and understanding of the Jewish way of life – as Zoe said at the launch, "to increase the quality of Jewish education, deepen understanding, and make abstract ideas and people, real and living."
The initiative was welcomed by Joe Walker, Senior Education Officer for Religious and Moral Education at Education Scotland, who recently participated in a "Glow Meet" with SCoJeC at Giffnock Synagogue. He described the resources as "authentic – the real deal", and encouraged teachers to use them as "to help young people engage, and ask the deep and meaningful questions." He also emphasised the importance of continuing professional development, and highlighted Education Scotland's newly published Professional Learning Paper about Judaism.
Prof Joe Goldblatt, who enthusiastically sourced many of the items in the resource boxes, thanked the many donors, some even from the United States and Canada, who had sent items for the boxes, and singled out his favourites – small Torah scrolls which were donated by the synagogue in Dallas that he attended as a child, and tzedakah (charity) boxes that have been decorated by children from the Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community.
The highlight of the event was a demonstration by Zoe Jacobs of how the resources can be used to make Judaism real to pupils, many of whom may never have met a Jewish person. She summarised SCoJeC's objective in creating this new resource for Scottish schools saying, "We hope that these artefacts offer you the chance to explore some of the traditions in Judaism with young people across Scotland, giving them the opportunity to learn about Judaism, explore their own ideas, and to increase tolerance and understanding in schools and in the wider community."
The presentation concluded with a lively question and answer session, and an opportunity for everyone to handle the various resources.
Any schools wishing to borrow one of "JOES Boxes" should contact their local Education Authority.