On Wednesday 11 January all Year 5 pupils enjoyed a visit to Birmingham Hebrew Congregation’s Singers Hill
Synagogue in Birmingham city centre. Orthodox Jewish worship has continued since it was built in 1856. You can find out more from their website.
As we entered, we looked for traditional features we had learned about in last term’s study of Judaism: we noticed stars of David and beautiful stained glass windows. We sat in the Children’s Synagogue initially, where we were introduced to the Synagogue’s function as a House of Gathering, for socialising, festivals, celebrations and education, as well as a place of worship. We explored the artefacts and symbols visible in the Children’s Synagogue, including the Menorah and Ner Tamid (eternal light).
Next we entered the main Synagogue – boys through the left hand door and girls through the right. The boys all wore
kippahs (some girls tried one on too) and a couple of lucky volunteers had the opportunity to wear the tzitzit and
tefillin. We noted that many things occurred in groups of twelve: chandeliers, stained glass windows, seats and petals on the window rose, with the number twelve reminding worshippers of the twelve tribes of Israel.
We saw a lot of Hebrew lettering (even the clock was ‘numbered’ with the Hebrew alphabet). Over the Ark where the
Torah scrolls are kept the Hebrew read: “Know whom you are standing in front of”. We learnt to greet each other:
‘Shalom’. We all gasped in wonder as the Ark was opened to reveal the ornate Torah scrolls with their velvet covers, silver crowns, breastplates and pointers (yad). We discovered that Hebrew is read from right to left (but were assured by our guide that it is English, and not Hebrew which is read ‘backwards!) and saw a parchment scroll with the book of Esther written on it. We were amazed that the sofer (scribe) who writes the Torah scroll by hand cannot make a single mistake or the scroll may have to be given a burial and the text begun again.
Many thanks to our tour guide from Singers Hill Synagogue and also to our Blue Coat Staff for accompanying the visit.
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