Years 7 and 8 visited the Synagogue in Exeter which is the second oldest synagogue in Britain. A member of the Hebrew Community, Mr R. Halsey, talked to the group about the beliefs and customs of Judaism, as well as the history of Jews in England – including their expulsion in the 13th century and Oliver Cromwell’s invitation for them to return.
He pointed out special features of the synagogue, read from the Torah in Hebrew, blew a ram’s horn and gave a valuable insight into Jewish practices.
Rebecca in Year 7 writes:
We learnt about the Ark in the synagogue, it’s got a curtain, and behind the curtain is a large cupboard – and in the cupboard are the Torah scrolls. The Torah scrolls would be the length of a football pitch if you unrolled them! The Jews read and speak in Hebrew, and when they read it’s from right to left. As they aren’t allowed to touch the Torah scrolls when they are reading from them they use something called a yad to point to the Hebrew words.
We only have 10 Commandments, but the Jews have 613 Commandments. One of the things about the synagogue if that there is a gallery for the women. When they have a service the women have to go in the gallery and stay there for the whole service because if the women sat opposite the men, they might not pay attention.
Emily in Year 7 continues:
Tuesday 9th of November we went to Exeter Synagogue as an R.E. trip. We learnt a lot about what they can and can not do – like they can not eat pork and they are not allowed to have meat products with dairy products at the same meal.
The Torah is very special and when they are not using it they must cover the Torah. Instead of burning or throwing away the Torah when it is too old or damaged to be used, they bury it in religious ground.
On the door at the front of every Jewish house would be a mezuzah – this would carry a prayer. This prayer is in Hebrew and you read it from right to left.
Charlie in Year 8 remembers:
We were met at the door by a Jewish person called Richard. Richard was wearing a kippah and a dyed piece of cloth (prayer shawl). When he put the cloth on he had to wrap it around his head and say a blessing. Richard gave us a talk on Jewish history and the history of the Synagogue. He also took out one of the scrolls from the Ark. The scrolls are very heavy and are covered in silver objects. He told us about the Sabbath and said what they were allowed to eat and what not to eat. When the talk was over we went back to school.
Tara from Year 8 writes:
When we got there we were greeted by Richard who led us into the Synagogue.
He told us about the Jewish religion and that they are not allowed to eat any pork products – e.g. ham, pork, bacon. Richard said that he was told when he was younger that if he ate pork he would become seriously ill, so he has never eaten it. Also, he is not allowed to eat dairy products after meat! E.g. cheese and crackers after a beef pie!
As well as that, he told us that their cheesecake is completely different from ours. It is made ‘properly’ and is a better cheesecake! Furthermore, he told us that he had dumplings which float on top of his chicken soup. They float because they are made to a lighter consistency!