Full article in eJewishPhilanthropy.com, August 31, 2023. [Below includes just the first and last paragraphs]
No need to go running for the ice buckets, but I’m officially throwing out a challenge to all involved in synagogue/part-time Jewish education to lower the emphasis on, and decrease the amount of time devoted to Hebrew decoding. We are a quarter of the way into the 21st century, but still holding onto a last-century Hebrew-learning goal — the fluent and accurate “reading” of Hebrew prayers. No, I’m not suggesting that we stop teaching the Alef-Bet, nor Hebrew decoding skills. Rather, I am challenging us to expand our Hebrew learning goals...
[The middle part of the article offers info from research on teaching reading, as well as Jewish historical realities that explain why we need to change our focus. Go read it!]
Hebrew has the potential to touch our children’s hearts if we expand our learning goals, moving beyond an almost singular focus on prayers. I challenge educators and clergy to invite stakeholders to new conversations about Hebrew learning goals and to reconsider their assumptions about successful Hebrew learning.
I also challenge colleagues to discover ways to create a more symbiotic relationship between Hebrew recitation and decoding. If a child can recite/sing G’vurot, can we not count that as an equal success to decoding it? And once a child can recite G’vurot, how can we help them complement their oral mastery of the blessing with the printed words on the page? This is relatively new territory – it needs all of our brain power.
The gauntlet has been thrown down! On behalf of our learners, will you accept the challenge?
Rabbi Andrew Ergas, director of Hebrew at the Center, took the theme from the article above one step further in his own eJP opinion piece the next week:
https://ejewishphilanthropy.com/its-time-for-teshuva-for-hebrew-education/. His words can inspire us to consider how else we can be connecting our learners to Hebrew, whether within or beyond our doors.
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