After three to five years of “Hebrew School,” our pre Bar/Bat Mitzvah age students studying in part-time Jewish educational settings often complain that they don’t know Hebrew. And certainly when compared to their successes in Spanish, French or Chinese in their elementary school public or private school classes, they have a right to feel like something is amiss.
To help open the conversation, I’m delighted to share a short video that I’m hoping will provoke discussions amongst a variety of Jewish professionals and lay leaders: educators, clergy, professional staff, faculty, education committee members. The video suggests three reasons why pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah age students are not succeeding in learning Hebrew to the degree we might expect, and offers three strategies that will create stronger success.
- Some of the arguments will feel familiar – e.g., not enough time to achieve our goals that haven’t changed for decades, even as the number of days have decreased for Jewish learning.
- Some may feel counterintuitive – e.g., that learning to decode Hebrew is not as easy as those of us who already competent in this skill might feel.
- And some are not for the faint-of-heart – e.g., that we shift the learning of decoding to the later grades.
I firmly believe that the Hebrew model that has been in use for decades is not serving our students well and that the learning process needs to honor sound-to-print language learning, even in our part-time settings. I’m not asking you to agree with me, but I would like to open the conversation.
As mamy of you know, the JECC has been working on curricular materials that support a sound-to-print model of learning Hebrew, including Hebrew Through Movement and Let’s Learn Hebrew Side-by-Side. It would be wonderful if over the next few years, alternative curriculum and materials would be developed by other educators - ours is but one approach, and there will hopefullly be many!
In the meantime, feel free to use this video as you wish. And please feel free to click the COMMENT button and share your thoughts, questions and concerns.
Nachama Skolnik Moskowitz, JECC