First Unity Lodge – Historical News
View our January 2016 News Letter
Happy New Year
Report by Robert Bruckner
As you can see from the photos everyone had a good time. The food was good, ably organised by Henny and her helpers and served in a novel way. The conversation flowed and we tried our hand at one of the Programme Committee’s famous quizzes.
Suddenly it was 2015 and we sang Auld Lang Syne.
BNAI BRITH FIRST UNITY LODGE ANNUAL UNITY LECTURE – 23rd NOVEMBER 2014
RELIGIOUS EDUCATION IN A MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY – BY DAME HELEN HYDE
Report by Sylvia Lewin
You could have heard a pin drop as a large audience listened with rapt attention to vivacious, dynamic Dame Helen Hyde deliver the annual Unity lecture.
Dame Helen, South African born Jewess with a degree in Theology, is the head teacher of Watford Girls School. She has a passion for religious education and its many and varied possibilities as well as its far reaching uses.
She described her 1300 pupils as incredibly multicultural – “my Jewellery box” – a very endearing term. When she stands up each morning at assembly she has a whole world in front of her. She obviously feels that she has a huge commitment and responsibility to the girls in her care.
The school has a multi-talented Religious Education department – her staff has theology degrees and are therefore able to teach about Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each also has a specialisation in another important religion. She explained that RE, whilst a compulsory subject until the end of the GCSE year, is not in the national curriculum which leads to a huge amount of freedom going hand-in-hand with responsibility.
Her aims are lofty and plentiful – teach them to think for themselves, discuss and give opinions, participate in their country as responsible citizens, have clear moral standards, be proactive, be constructive, not show cynicism, have values which have been taught and are now lived.
The children’s values must include care of others, respect, tolerance, love of others especially those who are different to oneself.
She sees RE as potentially life changing and society changing, enabling people to make informed decisions without merely regurgitating what they have been taught, helping to form the ability to reason and evaluate by having one’s own answers.
Her younger pupils discuss philosophies like Who am I? Where do we find God? They learn about the artefacts of the three Abrahamic religions.
The second year includes discussions about life after death, creation and science, looking after our planet.
Come the third year and they are ready to look at their own prejudices, Holocaust education including the immorality of the Shoah, perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, resistors, God in Auschwitz, racial prejudice and discrimination, human rights, sexual responses, bereavement, capital punishment and medical ethics including assisted suicide.
As they continue up the school, these issues are all dealt with in greater depth.
The school raises £10000 a year for charity, knit blankets, visit a hospice. Their many visits during these years include going to different places of worship.
The girls learn to respect each other’s religions and maintain friendships for life with people of varied faiths. No one has ever been coerced into converting to a different religion.
Dame Helen felt that her topic fitted in very well with the concept of Unity as required by a lecturer delivering our Unity lecture. We certainly all agreed with that and were very impressed with the way in which religion is handled and delivered in Watford Girls School.
I wonder if our whole country would be a better, safer, kinder place to live in if all schools followed her example and taught such high moral codes of behaviour and understanding of our differences.
Report by Robert Bruckner
On July 9 an intrepid group set off for Cambridge ably driven in a mini bus by Henny on our annual Walter Hoffman outing. We first went to Kettle’s Yard, an unusual house that was once four tumbledown old cottages. Jim Ede, once on the staff of the Tate Gallery, realised its potential, restored them and converted them into one house. Over the years he placed his collection of pictures and sculpture amongst his own furniture and turned it into something special; it is indeed.
In the afternoon we went to the University library and listened to a marvellous lecture on the history of the Cairo Genizah and its documents. Among them was a Petition to Saladin, one of the first cheques and an Autographed Letter of Moses Maimonades.