Watford Shuls’s Cheder celebrates first graduates
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Thursday 27th July 2017

Monday 14 July saw the first graduates of Watford Synagogue’s Cheder mark seven years of extracurricular Jewish education. Watford Rebetzen Rochel Levine started the Watford Cheder Club in 2010 to meet demand from parents whose children were attending non-Jewish primary schools and wanting to learn about their heritage. In the seven years since, it has grown from just five students to over 30.

The primary age children meet on Mondays after school, which keeps their weekends free, to learn how to read and write Hebrew in a warm, welcoming environment. They also learn about Jewish life with teachers Shlomit, Miriam, Oshra and Rochel leading festival-themed activities including cheesecake-making, matzah baking, challah-making, Purim songs, Havdalah and Sefer Torah workshops. With its mission ‘Nurturing the neshama (soul)’, the popular classes attract Jewish families not only from Watford but also other towns in the surrounding area.

The graduation ceremony started with a short video clip of a typical Cheder Club session in which the children explain what they enjoy about Cheder. “The best thing about Cheder is I have lots of friends and lots of food,” said one. “What I will miss most about Cheder is the variety of nosh,” said Toby. “I will not forget the lessons I have learned, which have made me the Jewish boy I am today.” His fellow student Evie summed up the atmosphere when she remarked, “Cheder is like a little family.”

The children then sang the traditional Shabbat song Shalom Aleichem, the song for peace Oseh Shalom and the Pesach song Dayenu before Rochel Levine addressed the graduates saying, “We are sure you will make a positive, beautiful and bright tomorrow. Be a lamplighter – light up the souls of others.”

Mum Sim Saunders spoke movingly on behalf of all the Cheder parents saying, “My two children don’t go to a Jewish school so I wanted them to learn to embrace their Judaism, how to read Hebrew and be confident in this often very unkind world. My husband and I remember Cheder as being torture but my son’s experience could not be more different because of the most wonderful teachers. He looks forward to going every week and his Hebrew reading practice is the only homework I don’t have to nag him to do.”

Concluding the ceremony, Watford minister, Rabbi Ephraim Levine presented each of the students with siddurim in which the book label had deliberately been left blank for parents to write an inspirational message to their child.

The first 12 graduates are now moving on to various secondary schools including JFS, Yavneh College and Immanuel College. Several girls will continue to be taught by Rochel in preparation for their forthcoming batmitzvahs.

If you’d like more information on the Cheder or any aspect of Watford Synagogue please email secretary@watfordsynagogue.org.uk or call 01923 222 755.