This morning I ran a family explanatory service in Wanstead & Woodford Shul. This idea started informally as a group learning session for parents who wanted to know more about how the mechanics of the Shabbat service works. This Shabbat we ran an actual service and explained why we do what we do. It differed from a standard explanatory service, since rather than focusing on meaningful insights into prayer, we focused on issues such as: when we say Amen, when we stand and sit, when we are quiet, why we say a half not a full Kaddish etc.
The service was a success and I believe that many more people in regular United Synagogues would benefit from such a service. I feel that adult education in the community has somewhat neglected this aspect of shul, and possibly because some people feel that they already know it. Unfortunately, many don't, and we must find a way to bridge this gap, ensuring that as many people as possible can gain a fuller understanding of the structure of the shul service.
After shul, a group of students from King Solomon came for Shabbat lunch with my family. We had a really fun afternoon, enjoying the Shabbat atmosphere and having an entertaining game of Articulate afterwards! Reflecting on this, I really feel that this is what it means to be a teacher at a Jewish school (and not merely a function of being a Jewish Studies teacher either). When I went to a non-Jewish school, I enjoyed my time with my teachers but there is something fundamentally different about the relationship I aim to have with my students.
When you share Shabbat with someone, that leaves a mark that will always be remembered, as it is such a special and uniquely Jewish experience. The fact that the students and teachers would want to spend Shabbat together is a sign that the school, where the relationship started, is not where the relationship need end. It shows that Jewish education is not complete without Jewish experience - you can teach Shabbat in a classroom but you have to experience it to appreciate it. It also shows that King Solomon is not just a school, but a community, where people can interact informally outside of the hierarchical structure of school, yet still reinforce the lessons learnt in the classroom, being played out in real life.