The Hebrew School or 'Cheder' run by the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation is, arguably, the most important activity undertaken in the community. Although it meets on Sunday mornings only, it has nevertheless been most ambitious in its aims and most successful in achieving them. In the examinations run by the United Synagogue Board of Education, the children have never failed to achieve top results, outdistancing Hebrew School centres which meet 3 or 4 times per week.
The Cheder accommodates children of synagogue members and meets in the purpose-built classrooms of the synagogue. Children learn to read and write Hebrew, as well as Jewish customs, festivals and practice, in an experiential and meaningful way. They are taught by qualified teachers as well as by supervised teenagers who have passed successfully through the Jewish education system. It is very much, then, a Hebrew School run for and by the community.
A family service is held monthly. On Succoth, the Cheder children participate in decorating the Succah. At Chanukah, children light the candles and sing Chanukah songs in the Synagogue. Afterwards a party is held in the Communal Hall with doughnuts and latkes for everyone, and entertainment for the children. Tu B'Shevat sees the planting of saplings and bulbs in the Synagogue garden. Purim is celebrated with equal vigour, each class contributing to a concert of plays and songs with a fancy dress parade for all. The Cheder children hold their own mock Seder at Pesach, with each class taking responsibility for reading and explaining different parts of the Haggadah.
The Cheder year is rounded off with a prize giving, where many excellent prizes are awarded, not only for passing exams but also for consistent effort. The annual Cheder picnic, which follows the prize giving, is an afternoon of fun, games and food, where families can get together, relax and (usually) enjoy the sunshine!
At present, children from the age of 4 to 13 attend, although many continue to pursue their Jewish studies with the Rabbi outside of the Cheder after that age. The Rabbi also conducts Bar mitzvah and Bat mitzvah classes for children in addition to their normal Hebrew School attendance.
The younger members of the Cheder produce a newssheet for the major festivals. You may view their work by clicking the files, which are saved in PDF format.