JLife speaks to Naomi Goldman, the newly appointed education outreach officer at Brodetsky Primary School, to discuss the state of Jewish education and the importance of helping our youth embrace their faith for the benefit of our community.
Hi Naomi, tell us a little about yourself!
I’ve lived in Leeds all my life, having attended Brodetsky Primary School as a child, and even completed my Year 11 work experience there. Over the years I have worked at Leeds Talmud Torah Cheder before starting at Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB) when I was 19. I have also worked and volunteered on and off since, including five years at Manny Cussins House Children’s Home, various Leeds Jewish Welfare Board summer camps and I was, until recently, the early years and youth worker at Sinai Synagogue.
I’m married to musician Dan Goldman, who makes groovy electro funk under the pseudonym of JD73, and we have two girls, Daisy and Mia. I was brought up attending shul regularly. I’ve always felt comfortable there and able to follow a service, so we want the same for our children. Shul, for me, isn’t solely about the religious side of Judaism but also the spiritual side that comes from praying as a community – I find it magical.
What does the position of education outreach officer entail?
I love Leeds and our community is incredible. Just the way we have come together during COVID, shows how strong we are, so when I saw the job advertised, I was so excited. My role has many aspects to it.
I currently hold community organisation meetings to enable each Jewish festival to have a community approach, including volunteering opportunities and Chessed projects, and we are currently looking at how we can develop volunteering experiences for our children and young people.
Teaching children the importance of our Jewish values is so important, so they are able to be the best people they can be. If children volunteer at a young age, they are more likely to volunteer when they are older. We are also working with organisations on our first ever community youth council, ensuring our young people have an active voice in their community. The youth are our future, and we need to nurture that future now.
In addition, the education outreach role is about equipping our members with the skills and confidence to create even more Jewish experiences at home and in the wider community. It’s about facilitating learning opportunities for our community as a whole and providing support for community members in the practical application of their newfound skills.
We are also wanting to mirror the learning our children have at Brodetsky, with children who do not attend a Jewish school. Together with Leeds Kollel, I created free Shavuot packs, which included a home lesson plan explaining what the festival is and why we celebrate it, which were available at Gourmet.
We want to create these types of packs on a regular basis for children to enjoy and learn.
What can the community expect from the new Northern School of Jewish Studies (NSJS)?
Although this will be based at Brodetsky, I won’t be directly involved in this EFI (Educating for Impact) initiative, but the project can only have a positive bearing on my work. For example, NSJS may help to attract more people to our community who have in-depth Jewish knowledge that we can tap into while they are studying here or post qualifying, if they would like to settle inLeeds.
It officially starts this September, but secular teacher and member of the EFI steering group Rebecca Skolnick is leading on this, together with Brodetsky deputy head Sagi Yechezkel.
What are your thoughts on the current state of Jewish education?
As a parent I am so happy with my children’s Jewish education at school, but like secular learning, it needs to be backed up at home. You can learn your times tables in school but if you don’t practice, it won’t imbed. I feel this is the same for Jewish understanding. We cannot leave Jewish learning just to our schools, it is important that they see the pleasure and beauty of our religion at home so when they leave, they not only have the knowledge to be able to practice the religion, but also the desire to do so.