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Youth Hebrew Learning

We are changing the way students learn Hebrew at Beth Am!

To learn more, read A Different Type of Hebrew School by Sarah Lauing, Director of Learning and Educational Innovation.

Goals
Objectives
Method

Frequently Asked Questions

Goals

  • Hebrew is the language of our sacred texts, prayers and rituals, the state of Israel, and the shared vehicle for communication among all Jews.
  • The study of Hebrew engenders connections with Judaism and the Jewish community everywhere.  
  • Through learning Hebrew at Congregation Beth Am, students develop a Jewish cultural literacy which deepens their Jewish identity and helps contextualize Jewish values, history, and ritual.  
  • Hebrew learning prepares our young people for active participation in Jewish life, from home holiday observances to milestones like B’nei Mitzvah to prayer spaces they will encounter throughout their adult lives.  

 

OBJECTIVES

Hebrew Reading

  • Identify the names and sounds of Hebrew letters
  • Decode, meaning to sight-read syllables and words
  • Feel confident in their Hebrew decoding skills

Prayer Competency

  • Read and chant prayers for Shabbat morning and
    evening and home blessings
  • Understand key words and themes in Jewish rituals and prayer (Baruch atah Adonai, siddur, etc.)
  • Feel confident in prayer spaces
  • Value Hebrew as a sacred language

Cultural Literacy

  • Use important Jewish words and phrases in Hebrew as part of their Jewish lives (e.g. shanah tovah, haggadah, mazel tov)
  • Understand key modern Hebrew words in conversation ( e.g. todah/ thank you)
  • Sing Hebrew songs
  • Value Hebrew as a relevant part of their Jewish identity

Method

Hebrew learning at Beth Am follows a “sound-to-print” philosophy, introducing the sounds of Hebrew early through Hebrew-rich Judaic programs in Pre-K through 5th grade. Once they have an aural and oral foundation in Hebrew, students learn to decode through the addition of one of our formal Hebrew reading programs, starting in 3rd or 5th grade.

Families choose between two options based on their goals for Hebrew learning. In Track 1 (Onward Hebrew), students achieve the objectives above. In Track 2 (Basic Modern Hebrew), students will additionally learn to speak and understand key modern Hebrew words.

Phase I: Sound
Students in all of our PreK-5th grade programs build a foundation for the sounds of Hebrew, through the following methodologies:

  1. Hebrew through Movement: a specialty program in which students hear and respond to Hebrew commands in a fun and active way
  2. T’filah: clergy-led Hebrew-rich prayer experiences build familiarity with the sounds, choreography, and meanings of prayers
  3. Music: singing songs in Hebrew provides joyful connections with Judaism
  4. Jewish Life Vocabulary: Key Hebrew phrases that are part of contemporary Jewish life are woven into our curriculum, celebrated during all-school gatherings, and visible throughout the space.

 

Phase II: Print
Decoding Hebrew means to sight-read syllables and words. Families will choose one of two tracks for students to learn to read Hebrew.

TRACK 1: 6th-7th Grade Hebrew TRACK 2: Basic Modern Hebrew OPTIONAL
  • Goal: Gain Hebrew reading skills through the exploration of prayer text and themes
  • Timeline: Beginning in 5th grade, students spend time in their Youth Education Programs learning to recognize the Alef Bet and building skills for reading. Bet in their Judaic Programs.
  • Setting: Small group learning or choice of individual tutoring
  • Goal: Fundamentals of reading and speaking Modern Hebrew vocabulary before beginning our prayer curriculum.
  • Timeline: Begins in 3rd grade as a separate enrichment program.
  • Setting: Classroom session or choice of individual tutoring

Phase III: Integration
Students integrate their decoding skills with their foundational prayer learning.

Beit Midrash is required for students choosing to celebrate B’nei Mitzvah at Beth Am.

Goal: Read and chant prayers for B’nei Mitzvah and beyond
Timeline: Begins 7 months prior to B’nei Mitzvah (usually 7th grade)
Setting: “Study hall” group setting moderated by tutors, teen helpers, and Cantor Shpall

Read more about our Beit Midrash and B’nei Mitzvah preparation programs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s new exactly?
Why SO many changes and why right now?
What will Sunday look like?
How will students build community?
What about the deeper learning about the meaning of individual prayers?
How will you accommodate students with learning challenges?
What if my kid doesn’t fit into Track 1 OR Track 2?
What if my child is anxious about being behind in the B’nei Mitzvah process?
What is individual tutoring like?
Will this affect those in 7th grade preparing for B’nei Mitzvah?
What about 6th graders entering Beit Midrash during their 6th grade year?

Q: What’s new exactly?
A: Since the 2020-2021 school year and continuing into 2021-2022:

  • Clear and realistic goals for Hebrew learning that are in line with our vision for Youth Education
  • Hebrew is integrated into all our Youth Education Programs. Enrollment and tuition have also been integrated so that you will enroll for one program and pay a single fee unless you are choosing Track 2 enrichment options.
  • Students engage with the sounds of Hebrew at an earlier age, experiencing vibrant Hebrew learning through Hebrew Through Movement, t’filah, music, and Jewish Life Vocabulary that is integrated into and connected to Judaic learning.  Students build positive feelings for Hebrew at a young age.
  • Many students wait to learn to read Hebrew until 5th grade, when they have already developed an aural and oral facility with the language, and when they are motivated by an upcoming B’nei Mitzvah. Only families who wish their children to learn the fundamentals of Modern Hebrew speaking and comprehension choose to add a separate Hebrew learning course beginning in 3rd grade.

Q: Why SO many changes and why right now?
A:
There are a few reasons:

  • We want to focus on clear and realistic goals for our programming, understanding the reality of the limitations of our setting. In a few hours per week, we cannot achieve fluency in reading, prayer and Modern Hebrew. The new program will allow us to achieve the goals we really want for our young people.
  • This is an ongoing process of pursuing Jewish educational excellence at Beth Am. The 2016 B’nei Mitzvah Revolution task force made several recommendations toward this model as they did a critical look at our B’nei Mitzvah preparation process, and we were able to pilot some ideas in the 2018-2019 school year. With the arrival of a new Director of Learning and Educational Innovation, we partnered with a task force of parents and teachers to continue to refine the change process.
  • We are part of a national movement of re-visioning Hebrew learning in Jewish education. Educators around the country are finding similar challenges and using sociolinguistic research to find innovative solutions.

Q: What will a typical Sunday look like for a student in Track 1? What will a typical Sunday look like for a student in Track 2? How exactly is this integrated into Judaic programs?
A: Sunday programs (as well as Hagigah) include several elements:

  • A typical Sunday includes a 15-minute Hebrew through Movement session and a Hebrew-rich t’filah and music session, along with curriculum learning and other specialty sessions like art and library.
  • Track 2 students may add a 45-minute Basic Modern Hebrew class to their Sunday or schedule a 45-minute Hebrew tutoring session at another time during the week.
  • 6th and 7th graders spend 1 hour in Hebrew or Beit Midrash, 45 minutes in t'filah, and one hour in a core course or elective workshop,  in addition to a 30-minute structured social moment. You may see the schedule by clicking here.

Q: How will my child continue to make friends and build community at Beth Am without the additional 2 hours of Hebrew Program each week?
A:
To help students build community, we will offer more robust menu of community building opportunities, including Family Shabbat evenings that reinforce prayer learning in real time and demonstrate prayer knowledge by grade level.

Q: What about the deeper learning about the meaning of individual prayers? When will that happen?
A: The 6th and 7th grade core curriculum now includes teaching the meanings of the prayers, making them relevant at a middle school level before they begin to practice reciting them for B’nei Mitzvah. Enriched t’filah experiences throughout their time in Youth Education Programs also reinforce the meanings of the prayers.

Q: How will you accommodate students with learning challenges, who may find the pace to be too quick?
A: We actively work to individually tailor our Hebrew teaching to different types of learners, no matter which track they choose. It is important that we partner with families to make sure we can meet students' needs from the beginning of learning Hebrew all the way through b'nei mitzvah. The more we know ahead of time, the better we can accommodate and customize the Hebrew curriculum to fit your child's needs and style. Please reach out Sarah Lauing to set up a time to talk.

Q: What if my kid doesn’t fit into Track 1 OR Track 2?
A: That’s ok! Please email Sarah Lauing to set up a time to discuss your child’s unique situation.

Q: My child is anxious about being behind in the B’nei Mitzvah process. How can I explain this to them?

 

A: The new program means that “learning Hebrew” might look different than it used to, and that they are not supposed to be able to recognize letters or read words until later in their education. Ask your child if they can sing any Hebrew songs or prayers or what words they remember about the holidays or Jewish traditions. Remind them that they do know Hebrew even if they can’t yet read, and ensure them that our talented teachers, educators, and clergy will prepare them to read from the Torah and the siddur with plenty of time.

 

Q: What is individual tutoring like? Are the tutors full-fledged Hebrew teachers or are they high schoolers? Does this option significantly increase the tuition cost?
A: In Hebrew tutoring, students meet one-on-one with one of our talented Hebrew teachers for 22, 45-minute sessions to learn to read and gain fundamentals of Modern Hebrew language (or achieve additional Hebrew learning goals to be discussed with our educators and the tutor.) Tutoring schedules are determined directly by tutors and parents. Individual tutoring costs $1,400 in addition to Youth Education Program tuition.

Q: Will this affect the curriculum for those in 7th grade who are preparing for their B’nei Mitzvah?
A: All students will enter the Beit Midrash B’nei Mitzvah prep program seven months prior to their date. Students will remain in Hebrew from the beginning of 6th grade until they enter Beit Midrash. Our hope is that this new program will better prepare our students for the B’nei Mitzvah preparation process.

Q: What about 6th graders who enter Beit Midrash during their 6th grade year? Won’t this all be rushed for them?
A: We begin teaching Hebrew reading in 5th grade, but students with much earlier B'nei Mitzvah dates may choose to begin Hebrew year. We will be in touch with that group on an individual basis.

Sat, June 19 2021 9 Tammuz 5781