I was appointed last April by the then outgoing Board to act as a temporary part time education coordinator from April to till the end of the year, expanding on the role of B’nei Mitzvah Coordinator I had been doing as a volunteer since Gwynneth’s retirement.

At the time there was some expectation that we would have a replacement Rabbi possibly by the beginning of the new school year. As you know that was not realistic, and my role has continued in the absence of any other educational figurehead.

My main focus this last year has been our BM programming, previously Makpetzah and now Kivunim. With the support of Lucy Nuttgens and the Bar Mitzvah Tutors we were able to keep the BM programme running online throughout lockdown, and then last September we began again in person at Sinai.  

I have been working in conjunction with Naomi Raanan at the MRJ to merge our previous B’nei Mitzvah programme ‘Makpetzah’, into the MRJ National BM Programme, Kivunim, meaning Directions. This is a programme for children in School years 7 & 8, bringing young people together from small and medium sized UK Reform Communities as they prepare for their B'nei Mitzvah.  It is a 2 year programme based around 4 residential weekends full of adventure and learning opportunities. In addition to this Sinai provides our youngsters with Hebrew classes every week and Kivunim activities usually every other week during term time. We also encourage them to participate in service leading once a month to gain confidence leading the community in prayer prior to their big day, and 1:1 tutoring on their parashah when they are ready for it.

I am happy to report that feedback on Kivunim from participants and parents has been very positive. Many thanks to Lucy Nuttgens who has been teaching one of the Hebrew classes and especially to Sam Bartfield who has been volunteering his skills to support the Kivunim programme, and to all those who offer their support as BM Torah Tutors.

We have been involving our year 6 cohort with Kivunim Sinai in the year before they join the National programme, to give them a head start on their Hebrew preparation and a taste of what they have to look forward to in their BM journey, so we already have 5 participants ready to sign up for Kivunim next year.

I have also been working with MRJ on various other collaborations such as the very successful Chocolate Seder last year, a lag B’omer event this year, RSY Sinai, and ongoing discussions on a Hadrachah training course for our recent post BM members.  Although this is not yet up and running, we have had some great support from our teenagers, Josh Keevash, Elicia Bordoley, Ben Fisher, Leo Maurice, Sidney O’Bryant, Leah O’Bryant and Leora Zucker. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all very much for their commitment and to encourage other teenagers to get involved.

Another innovation at Sinai this year has been the Shabbat Adventurers’ Guild, which was the brainchild of Sarah Glatherine. This has taken the place of our traditional cheder or religion school since last September. I had hoped to reopen Religion School after lockdown, but many families found it hard to return to regular schooling and did not feel they could manage anything extra at weekends. As we did not have much demand for Hebrew classes, we had to think of an alternative and Shabbat Adventurers’ Guild was born. Sarah has been running sessions every week on Shabbat morning for those children in Years 1-5 who care to join her, helping them not just to learn, but to feel part of the Sinai community. She has done a great job covering all sorts of Jewish themes based on the weekly parashah, including Hebrew, which with such a wide range of age and ability has required special skills and resourcefulness. Thank you so much Sarah for rising to the challenge!

An alternative educational offering we have been providing for the Primary age group is RSY Sinai, which has been running once a month on a Sunday morning with support from Becky Teiger and myself, led by a young Israeli student, Emily, who is funded by MRJ. Each month has a particular Jewish educational theme which is taught through games and fun activities. Emily will be returning home later in July, but we hope to be able to continue this next year with her replacement.  

We are pleased to have been able to offer some Adult Education sessions during the past year, some in collaboration with Jackson’s Row and Menorah Synagogues, and some of our own. I would particularly like to point you to the Sinai website to find out about the joint Northern communities’ learning sessions available online for Shavuot on the evening of Saturday 4th June.

In the past year we have benefited from several study sessions with Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner, and more recently with student rabbi Eleanor Davis, which have received very good feedback. We have also been running the MRJ L’Chaim course and Adult Hebrew classes.  Many thanks to Jonathan Lewis who collaborated with me on the L’Chaim course and was a great support, especially taking on the technology side of things.

There are 4 other people I would particularly like to thank:

1 Carol Adams, whose work as School visits coordinator and co-host is invaluable and much appreciated by me and Heidi and the schools who visit,

2 Suzanne Korn, who was keen to set up a Rosh Chodesh group which has now been running on the last Sunday of the month since February. This is both a social and an educational event, with opportunities for spiritual renewal as we welcome the new moon,

3 Becky Teiger, who has been a great support on so many levels. I have especially enjoyed working with her on all our big community social and educational events over the past year.

4 Finally Rob Bartfield for all his support as Trustee with responsibility for education, even stepping in to cover a class on one occasion, and all the Trustees who have supported education in funding our operations.

It only remains for me to say that although I will continue in this temporary role as long as needed, I do urge the Trustees to consider now recruiting a permanent Head of Religion School who can rebuild our education provision for the Primary school age cohort. The Education Working Group which was set up under the previous Board recommended this at the last AGM, and it was put on hold until we had a new rabbi in place. I think it has been on hold too long and we now need a fresh view on how to take this forward.