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Thought for the Week by Jonny Wineberg

26 February 2012

Jonny Wineberg, MJF Co-chair, appeared on the Mike Shaft show on BBC Radio Manchester on Sunday 26 February 2012 and gave the "Thought for the Week." His text is copied below.

One of my most prized possessions growing up was my Comic Bible. It recounted the Torah in pictures and words from Adam to the Maccabees. As someone who loved comics, it made my religion seem fun and relevant to me.

In my school Divinity lessons, the Jewish boys sat at the back of the classroom, where we were allowed to study Judaism separately from our Christian peers who were looking at Christianity. When it came to exams, we just had to write bible stories. So I just wrote out what I’d read in my Comic Bible. Without meaning to brag, I tended to come top quite easily every year.

Nowadays, I get to go into youth groups and schools and help young people become more aware of Judaism, alongside colleagues educating about other faiths. I use a quiz, show slides, tell stories and make jokes, and the feedback’s great. In an hour or two, we know we have a huge, positive impact on these young people’s views of other faiths, not least because our evaluations actually give us this evidence.

So I continue to be amazed when I see religious education in some schools being undertaken by dry analysis of texts and a focus on minutiae. It seems that some teachers are determined to bore the majority of children away from a love of religion.

Children love to hear about the diversity of belief in the world around them. They have a thirst for knowledge and a desire to get hold of facts that help them better understand themselves and their place in society. The questions they ask during our faith education sessions are usually incisive and probing, and remind me of our Passover Seder meal, when the youngest present asks the adults why we do strange things like eating bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The wackier we present ourselves, the more they engage.

Children and young people deserve direct answers delivered in an accessible form that they can engage with. We should commit ourselves to help them find what works for them, whether that’s through stories, discussions, quizzes or, sometimes, a comic.

 

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