Clifton College’s Jewish Life programme offers a Jewish home to pupils from a broad range of Jewish backgrounds. Jewish pupils of all ages can attend synagogue services, festival celebrations, cultural activities and learning opportunities, which are all overseen by our Jewish Chaplain.

We have our own Synagogue, which is located in the heart of the historic college campus, allowing Jewish pupils to be part of every aspect of college life while belonging to our unique Jewish community. Every Jewish pupil is encouraged to honour their shared heritage while creating their own Jewish future.

Jewish Community

Above all, the Jewish Life programme at Clifton College is a community for pupils and staff with Jewish heritage. It is a place where your children can make Jewish friends for life, with whom they will enjoy Shabbat dinners and celebrate the Jewish festivals when they are away from home.

Our community is diverse, with pupils from every branch of Judaism and every part of the Jewish world. Every pupil is encouraged to share their own family traditions while respecting those of others. It is a safe and supportive environment for pupils to explore their individual Jewish identity as it evolves through their adolescence and becomes part of who they are for life.

Our Jewish Chaplain, Rabbi Anna Gerrard  takes a pluralist approach to coordinating Jewish activities and supporting Jewish pupils across all parts of the school from the Pre-Prep to the Sixth Form. She works with the other pastoral staff to ensure that pupils can express their Jewish identity freely and to raise awareness of the Jewish traditions through assemblies and RE lessons.

Kosher food is available in the main Dining Hall for pupils that observe a mainstream Kosher or a Kosher-style diet. We are unable to cater for pupils that keep Glatt or Lemahadrin Kosher.

Jewish Traditions

The Polack Centre, named after the original Polack’s House (see below), is the centre of Jewish Life at Clifton College, housing both a Synagogue and a social space for Jewish activities. It houses a Jewish library and a beautiful wooden ark with three Torah scrolls, including one that was rescued from the Holocaust and is on permanent loan from the Czech Scrolls Trust.
During the course of a week in the Polack Centre, one will find pupils learning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah portion, joining together for morning prayers, meeting with the Jewish Chaplain for pastoral support and sitting down together for chicken soup with kneidlach on a Friday night. The Polack Centre’s central position on campus is a reflection of the fact that Jewish pupils at Clifton are fully involved with every aspect of college life while being part of our unique Jewish community.
When Jewish festivals fall during term time, pupils are able to attend festival services and other festival activities. Highlights of the year include our school Sukkah, the college-wide Chanukah party and an on-site tree-planting programme for Tu Bishvat.

Jewish Learning

Co-curricular Jewish learning opportunities exist throughout the week for pupils of different ages. As with all aspects of the Jewish Life programme, the approach to learning is inclusive and multi-denominational.

Our Jewish Chaplain runs a Bar/Bat Mitzvah programme for pupils approaching twelve/thirteen or for older pupils that missed out for whatever reason. The programme includes group classes that explore the history and significance of Bar/Bat Mitzvah as well as individual tuition for those wishing to learn a parashah.

Modern Hebrew is now offered as a Modern Foreign Language option in Year 7 and Year 8. The aim is to extend this in due course to the Upper School and provide pupils with the opportunity to take a Modern Hebrew GCSE.

There are regular opportunities for pupils to engage with the wider Jewish community in Bristol and to represent both the school and the Jewish community in local civic events. As part of the Jewish Life programme, we also run school trips to places of Jewish interest.

Our Heritage

Clifton College’s unique and longstanding relationship with the Jewish community goes back to the founding Headmaster, John Percival, and the establishment of a boarding house for Jewish pupils that opened in 1878.

Polack’s House remained a ‘Jewish home in an English public school’ until its closure in 2005; since then the school has collaborated with the Polack’s House Educational Trust [link] to ensure that this precious relationship continues to flourish in the 21st Century. The presence of this strong and vibrant minority community within the school has always been a great strength, and this has been recognised by pupils, parents, staff, governors and inspectors alike.

To find out more about Jewish Life at Clifton College, contact our Admissions Team or email our Jewish Chaplain.

For information about the Polack’s House Educational Trust Award which is offered specifically to Jewish pupils visit the link below.

Find Out More About The Polack’s Award for Jewish pupils