My answer to this question is a vigorous “Yes!” Yet any reaffirmation of Hebrew as the proper classroom language for teaching Judaic subjects in day school must acknowledge that this is an ideal under fire. Teaching in Hebrew is a tough challenge for today’s non-native speaking teachers who, unlike their predecessors of a generation ago, were not trained in Hebrew-rich environments like the Hebrew colleges. There is always the concern, shared at times by parents and educators alike, that “meaning” in core areas will be sacrificed in the awkwardness of communicating in a foreign language. Finally, there is American society itself, which has never fostered language study and has given Americans to believe that anything truly important will be given them in translation.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
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Everyone has a personal version of “the story.” It could be that you asked to go to the “beit shimush,” only to be met with a blank stare, instead of directions to the ladies room. Perhaps you needed a blood test and after 15 years of living in Israel, you asked for a “mivchan dam” instead of a “bedikat dam.” My personal favorite belongs to a friend who was arguing heatedly over a contract, a “khozeh.” He was infuriated at the mirth that his protests inspired – until he realized that he was, in fact, arguing over a “khazeh,” a chest or more accurately, a breast.
Hebrew is the nerve center which unites and integrates Jewish people in time and in space. It serves as an intellectual bond among all Jews throughout all generations, and through all the lands of dispersion. Its granite syllables are personal links to the timeless message of Moses and Isaiah. And by means of the Hebrew Bible and prayer book, Jews of the remotest corners of the earth are bound together.”
In the past two years, there has been a steady increase in inquiries from Jewish schools across the continent expressing interest in having their Hebrew language programs reviewed. The two main reasons given are:
I hope, please G-d, that you are all well and continue to find joy in your most holy work.
I hope that you are well and your preparations for the close of the school year are not too burdensome. My wishes for a most successful year end.
RAVSAK has historically been focused on the advancement of community day school education in the US and Canada. This year, we had the good fortune of welcoming our first Mexican Jewish day school as a new member. As we begin our preparations for the year end, we find that the work of RAVSAK is reaching beyond North America and across the Anglo-Jewish world.
There is good news for day schools educators who have pleaded for interesting, engaging and educationally superior materials for teaching Hebrew language. There has been a resurgence in the past few years in Hebrew language education at all levels, from preschool through high school and beyond. Some initiatives, such as “Hebrew in America”, sponsored by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and the Ma’alah program, developed by the Melton Center with a Covenant Foundation grant, have tackled the preschool years. Two ambitious initiatives have begun to transform Hebrew language education in day schools at the elementary and high school levels. Both are known by Hebrew acronyms: Tal Am (Tochnit Limudim Ivrit Umoreshet) is designed for grades one through six and NETA (Noar Letovat HaIvrit) is geared for grades seven through twelve.