UK's first Jewish Heritage Centre for Children opens in Leeds built a nation and now it is the foundation of a new visitor centre in north Leeds.

The UK's first Jewish Heritage Centre for Children has opened on Shadwell Lane.

The extension to the Lubavitch Centre has been made possible by a 275,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant and has been some three years in the preparation.

It aims to teach children from all backgrounds about how Jewish traditions, heritage and culture have survived through the ages to the present day.

Visitors will be introduced to Jewish words like shtetl (village), shul (synagogue), succah (temporary dwelling), mezuzah (parchment scroll), and chuppah (wedding canopy).

And a 19th century east European farm village has been recreated where Jewish festivals are brought to life in a fun, hands-on way.

There is a children's kosher supermarket and a kosher kitchen, and a series of short films depict traditions, food and festivals and feature children from the local Brodetsky Primary School.

The centre is open to the public on Sundays from noon until 4pm and is available for group bookings from Mondays to Thursdays.

"We have already had a few bookings and are looking forward to many more," said Ruth Bell, project coordinator who designed the centre.

"Although it is primarily for children, there is something of interest to everyone.

"We have consulted with schools, faith groups, after school clubs and women's groups and the response has been very enthusiastic.

"We are sure this is going to be a great asset, not only for Leeds but for the whole country.

"I was asked to design something which would display our traditions in an interesting way and I came up with the idea of a shtetl village which showed the east European and Russian way of life.

"We don't claim to be a museum. We do have some old books and some old candlesticks and we have some parchments under perspex. But we want people to be able to touch the artefacts."

There are rooms with different themes. A chuppah, a canopy under which a bride and groom stand during their wedding ceremony, is recreated on a small scale.

The mourning suite displays a bowl of eggs and bread, the circular food representing the cycle of life and death.

A succah, a temporary shelter with a covering of leaves, commemorates the period in which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert.

Fiona Spears, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Yorkshire, said: "What is really special about it – and the reason the HLF has supported the venture – is the fantastic permanent resource that now exists for children and people of all ages who want to learn more about the heritage of Judaism."

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