28 Elul 5777
19 September 2017
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LSJS
London School of Jewish Studies

‘But Why?’ – Difficult Questions Children Ask

Engaging responses to challenging questions from young Jews today

Introduction

This project has its origins in the many challenging questions that have been asked by children in the last years of Jewish primary Schools (Key Stage 2) to their Jewish Studies teachers.

Children are filled with questions as they begin to discover the world. Many questions do not have simple answers. Queries on subjects such as God, Israel, Evolution, divine punishment, death, self-identity, and Creation are not easy to respond to. The issues involved are often sensitive, spiritual and profound.

For a number of years, Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum, Dean of LSJS, has been leading sessions on how to respond to these questions at our annual Teacher’s Conference. In response to requests from teachers, below are short responses to 33 questions that have been asked by young people. They have been written by Rabbi Dr Zarum and Maureen Kendler, a Teaching Fellow at LSJS, in plain language that is appropriate for the age of the children. Teachers will immediately realise the approach and language taken in each question and be able to use them in responding to children.

These 33 responses will often be the start of a conversation with a young person about key Jewish questions that interest or maybe trouble them. We hope these responses assist teachers in enabling young Jews to seek and find, learn and grow on their Jewish journey.

Any and all feedback from teachers is very welcome. Please email: info@lsjs.ac.uk

The 33 questions divide into a number categories. Click on the question you are interested in learning more about:

Questions about God:
Q1: What is God?
Q2: Do most people believe in God?
Q3: Who is God?
Q4: What is so special about the Jewish view of God?

Questions about the Torah:

Q5: Why did God give us the Torah?
Q6: Doesn’t the Torah sometimes contradict itself?
Q7: It was Pharoah who would not let our ancestors leave Egypt, so how come God punished all the Egyptians?

Questions about the Commandments:
Q8: Do I have to keep the commandments?
Q9: Am I punished if I don’t keep the commandments?
Q10: Is non-kosher food bad for me?

Questions about Prayer:
Q11: Does God listen to my prayers?
Q12: How can I talk to God if God does not talk to me?
Q13: Why should I go to shul?

Questions about world problems:
Q14: Why are there starving people in the world?
Q15: Why do people die?
Q16: Why do bad things happen? Why is life sometimes so unfair?
Q17: Do Jews worry about the environment?

Questions about Creation:
Q18: How did the Universe begin? Does the Creation contradict Science?
Q19: Did God really make the world in seven days?
Q20: Does the theory of Evolution contradict the Torah?

Questions about Israel and Anti-Semitism:
Q21: Why do some people hate Jews?
Q22: Why does the news criticise Israel so much?
Q23: Why is Israel so important to Jews?
Q24: How come lots of Israelis are not religious?

Questions about Jewish identity:
Q25: What is my role as a Jew; why am I here?
Q26: Can I be a good Jew without keeping the commandments?
Q27: can I stop being Jewish?
Q28: What do I do if I really don’t like being Jewish?
Q29: When I grow up, why should I marry a Jew?

Questions about relationships:
Q30: What is the Jewish attitude to love and marriage?
Q31: Does Judaism allow people to get divorced?
Q32: What is the Jewish approach to gay relationships?
Q33: How do Jews relate to non-Jews and people of other religions?