A manifesto for education, a commitment to question. Enshrined in the very heart of the Jewish people’s sacred story, our myth, is a commitment to ask questions and to learn. That’s why the Lyons Learning Project is so important and I warmly encourage you to join our Launch Reception and courses on 25th January with the author Thomas Harding (www.lyonslearning.org.uk). But allow me to take you beyond the West London Synagogue and Lyons Learning Project. Let me take you through our story to the story of a lone child who died trying to be reunited with his sister just two weeks ago.

Central to the description of the redemption from Egypt is a demand, an obligation, a manifesto for education. Listen to these statements, all found in our Torah portion this week:

“You shall explain to your child on that day.”

“When your child asks you”

“You may recount in the ears of your children and descendants”

“When your children ask you”

The authors of the Torah understood – identity is not an abstract idea. Identity, belonging, understanding, only comes through the transmission of culture, ideas, stories, experiences. The story of the Exodus from Egypt, which we are reading from the Torah, is compelling because it situates us at the heart of Jewish history. We tell our story, to understand who we are, to set our vision for ourselves and the world in which we live. Slavery, exodus, redemption. If we are not learning, we are nothing. This is our manifesto for education and our commitment to ask those important questions about why and how to live our lives.

Slavery, exodus, redemption. This is our story. But we are part of another story too.  This week I read about the current tragedy of the life of Masud, aged 15. We think he was the first known death in Northern France in 2016 in the current refugee crisis. He died trying to find a way to be reunited with his sister who lives here in the UK. Next week his case was due to be heard in court that would surely have found him to have every right to be given refuge here in the UK, reunited with family. A desperate, vulnerable child. You shall tell your child…what shall I tell my child?

What will you tell your child? We should be angry that Masud’s life ended so young. I am angry and devastated that I heard the news about Masud as I sat sipping coffee in a café on Oxford Street. I am angry that there seems a lack of will to make brave changes to the current situation. What will we do to change this, not just alleviate suffering, but actually change what is going on – as I wrote in my sermon http://wp.me/p1B8IT-bq? What will we recount to our children? What is education without action? If you, like me, want to change things for others in the future then please be in touch. Because our story of Slavery, Exodus, Redemption must count for more than seder night. Email me at neil.janes@wls.org.uk

To be a Jew is to learn – to learn about who you are, how better to be and to be engaged in thinking and creating the kind of world you want to exist.


There is a petition in the UK to stop children dying trying to reach families in the UK:


This contains a correction removing a reference to Syria, Masud was from Afghanistan.