Most Jewish day schools view the learning and teaching of Hebrew language as a vehicle to shape and reinforce their students’ Jewish identity. The outcome desired by heads of school, parents and students is for graduates to have internalized and “owned” the Hebrew language in a way that will allow them to feel comfortable using Hebrew in the context of modern Israel and be equally able to interpret at least the Siddur and the Tanakh confidently.
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
What are the goals of Hebrew in day schools? Do we teach it primarily to access religious texts or to speak in Tel Aviv? What are we achieving today, and what can we realistically strive to achieve? Contributors believe in the capacity of day schools to teach Hebrew and present methods and tools for achieving high goals in Hebrew.
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Its 10:30 am and the kindergarteners are talking about recycling. They’ve just put their milk cartons from snack in the class recycling bin and are wondering what the cartons will be made into. The third graders just finished reading about Joseph and his brothers and are discussing sibling rivalry. The middle schoolers are putting the finishing touches on their time capsules, the tenth graders are prepping for a debate about society’s obligations towards homeless people, and a senior is working on his graduation speech.
At the core of our Jewish tradition is the metaphor that we all stood at Sinai and received the Torah through our various senses and according to our abilities. This tenet is mirrored in the progressive educational slogans “learning for all,” “no child left behind,” and in the concept of “differentiated learning.”
Six years in the field can frequently save six hours in the library.” The message of this well known quip is clear: It’s more efficient to learn from research than to reinvent the wheel. But educators in the field don’t always have the luxury of keeping up with research.
שלום חברים, hope that everyone enjoyed Passover meals, gathered around dining room tables with family and friends, re-telling the story of the exodus and sharing personal stories, connecting the past to the present and creating new stories that can be told in the future. We are a people who have continually lived in the present and built our future drawing strength and wisdom from the past.
In a global and interconnected world, speaking more than one language is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Approximately one-fifth of Americans speak a language other than English (LOTE), and around the world it is estimated that almost two-thirds of children are bilingual. Thanks to the ubiquity of technology, LOL, IMHO, OMG and BBM are common linguistic currency, and people text and tweet in many tongues. Recent research indicates that this multi-linguistic phenomenon may even be beneficial to the brain. Bilinguals perform better on a variety of cognitive tasks; one study even found that the onset of dementia was delayed by four or five years in people who spoke more than one language.
One of the most vexing issues surrounding Hebrew concerns the proper method of transliteration. Hebrew scholars are generally passionate that there is one correct system, and all others are in grievous, even heretical, error. Without q for kuf, th for taf, and a dot under the h denoting chet, the world descends into chaos, as described in the last sentence of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did as he pleased.” On the other extreme are the many people who seem to think that making it up as they go along, approximating English equivalents that sound right to them, is a perfectly acceptable technique. Everyone will get the idea. Needless to say, these two camps engage in an eternal, simmering, low-level war.
was thrilled to learn I would be teaching Hebrew in the middle school this year. Although I taught middle school students in the past, it’s been ten years since I welcomed a group of adolescents into my class.
Hebrew poetry and literature have been integral parts of the curriculum ever since Hebrew began to be taught as a modern language sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century. Indeed, for many years literature comprised almost the entire curriculum. It was not until the professionalization and standardization of the study of Hebrew in the second half of the twentieth century that its size in the curriculum began to shrink. Today, literature competes with a rich variety of cultural sources that threaten it even more. Films and various Internet sources, including Youtube, have pushed the study of literature to the margins of Hebrew studies. There seems little need to even mention poetry, which has all but disappeared from the Hebrew classroom, save for rare cases where the brevity of the form remains one of its only virtues. One feels thankful for Etgar Keret, whose poem-size short stories have recently bolstered the retreating forces of literature from Hebrew pedagogy. But that is an exception that proves the rule.
Ask a student or a teacher why Hebrew language instruction is important; most will give you two reasons: (a) to better connect to, and understand, Biblical and Jewish texts, and (b) to better communicate when they travel to Israel. But how many students would venture to say that Hebrew allows us to explore Zionism, pioneering, state-building and Jewish national identity?
Named after the famous Rabbi Akiva, who began his Jewish education at age 40, Akiva is Solomon Schechter School of Westchester’s program for entering ninth grade students who have not previously been in day school.
For the poems submitted to RAVSAK’s Hebrew Poetry Contest, fifth grade students at the Columbus Jewish Day School examined biblical and liturgical texts and melodies to uncover our tradition’s use of trees as metaphors for humanity. Upon the completion of text and melodic study, the students extended and integrated their learning experience by creating brush paintings of trees. Finally, they wrote original poetry to compliment their visual art renditions.
Interview with Robert Whitehill-Bashan, American Hebrew Poet
Online learning has many benefits: it is convenient, up-to-date, enjoyable, taught by experts, and geared to the individual. It eliminates the geographical distance between moderators and learners, and provides a learning experience that is intensified by the learner’s sense of being a part of a diverse and global group.
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