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Texts for Yachdav Table Conversations – Hebrew

It’s that time again – Yachdav is almost here!

As you know, this will be a wonderful opportunity to (re-)connect with colleagues in the Coalition and learn with one another. Over lunch, you’ll be able to sit with others curious about the same areas. Each table will include a few texts to ground your discussion in Jewish thought, values, and history. Here are a few you may see at the Hebrew table:

All Jews speaking the same language felt that they were members of a living people bound to their brothers wherever they might be…. 
-Simon Glustrom- The Language of Judaism

The loss of Hebrew and the inability to read primary Jewish sources will leave us with only a watered down cultural heritage, not a national identity.  
-Occidental Israeli, 2009

It will therefore not be beyond the power of this people again,
as once before in the days of King Cyrus,              
to effect the miracle of awakening to life even after its death
and to revive the language that died with it!
-Eliezer ben Yehudah

I’ll tell you how much I love Hebrew:
Read me anything Genesis,
or an ad in an Israeli paper, and watch my face.
I will make half sounds of ecstasy,
and my smile will be so enormously sweet
you would think some angels were singing Psalms
or God alone was reciting to me. 
-Danny Siegel

For the most part, the Hebrew programs in our supplementary schools teach recitation (through participation in t’fillah/prayer services) and decoding. We set children up for disappointment when we tell them that they will learn to read Hebrew in their four years of “Hebrew School.”  
-Lifsa Schachter

Powerful learning occurs for students when there is congruence between the core values of the congregation and the Hebrew focus chosen for the school.
 -See Rabbi Nicole Greninger’s article in The Journal of Jewish Education

Many schools are unclear about what to teach and toward what end… Within schools, teachers lobby for a greater emphasis on modern Hebrew because it may be more accessible to students or easier to teach. But learning a foreign language is difficult, and without utmost clarity about goals and whether specific goals are attainable, schools surely will not succeed.
-Schools That Work, Avi Chai Foundation

If a congregation commits to “Prayer Hebrew” …then children need to be nurtured to be prayerful. Hebrew for a spiritual journey, connecting life’s essential questions to the words and chants of our people, is very different from learning a list of Hebrew prayers. Hebrew can be a language to call out, to hear anew and to connect. A child only learns that language when given practice and permission to have a private and communal prayer life. 
-Cyd Weissman

Replace conjugating verbs and checking off Hebrew prayers “learned” with having a child explore Hebrew prayer within a community that uses the siddur as a roadmap to a life with meaning and purpose. Then Hebrew is not a subject to be taught. It is a Hebrew that is lived.
-Cyd Weissman’s blog…Hebrew is not a subject to be taught

Each school has the ability to articulate its own Hebrew curriculum goals, to choose ways to realize them that respond to the students and circumstances, and to assess whether the program is achieving the goals that have been set. However, this type of independence and differentiation can only be realized if the school invests in the professional development of its teachers.  
-Ringvald, Vardit. “Raising the Bar in Hebrew Teaching and Learning,” Learning from the Cutting Edge in Education, in Contact: The Journal of the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life. Winter, 2009. pp. 8-9.

…the Internet, with its unparalleled ability to connect people throughout the world, is changing the way that many people learn languages. There is no still way to avoid the hard slog through vocabulary lists and grammar rules, but the books, tapes and even CDs of yesteryear are being replaced by e-mail, video chats and social networks.
 -Wayner, Peter. “Learning a Language From an Expert on the Web,” New York Times, July 28, 2010

 … There is no point in teaching Hebrew grammar to our young students…. Moreover, there is no point in expecting most of our students to read Hebrew prayers or Torah portions with comprehension.  The linguistic complexities of the texts and the lack of background knowledge of this genre make it virtually impossible for most children to comprehend such texts in Hebrew. 
-Rivka Dori, “What We Know About…Hebrew Language Education,” in What We Know About Jewish Education, pp. 264-265

Hebrew is a portal, a sign post and a roadmap to a life well lived and guided by Judaism. As educational leaders we should be asking:
What life journey do we commit to nurturing in our learners? How can Hebrew support that life journey now and in the future?
What kind of Jewish living does our community embody? How does Hebrew enable our children to be nurtured in this community?
-Cyd Weissman, “Hebrew is Not a Subject to Be Taught”

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