For thousands of years, Jews around the world have used Hebrew as their language of prayer. Knowledge of Hebrew has enabled us to understand the Torah and communicate with other Jews. Hebrew is among the primary elements that bind the Jewish community together. Helping our children learn how to read Hebrew is a key component of our Religious School. It helps to connect our children to the rich Jewish heritage they’ve inherited, provides them with the skills they need to participate in Jewish prayer and rituals, and prepares them to carry on our traditions in a meaningful way.
Like most skills, becoming proficient in Hebrew reading takes a significant amount of practice, repetition and reinforcement. Children acquire skills at different paces and at different levels of ease or difficulty.
Keeping in mind both the importance of Hebrew reading and what we know about skill acquisition, we have developed a new Hebrew reading program in our Religious School. As in previous years, in kindergarten and first grade, our students are exposed to the Hebrew letters, their shapes and sounds; in second grade, when they begin to come to school twice a week, they learn how to read Hebrew. New this year, in third through sixth grade our students are getting a much more concentrated, supported reading program. These classes have a Hebrew reading period of approximately 30 minutes each class session. During this period, the class is infused with Hebrew tutors including a Hebrew reading specialist, adult volunteers and teen madrichim (assistants). The class is divided into much smaller groups, each group working with one of the teens or adults. In the smaller groups, the students are able to practice their Hebrew reading skills in a safe, encouraging environment. These grades all began the school year with review of reading including the sounds of the letters and the vowels and the rules; as students finish the review, they begin working on reading prayers associated with the class’s curriculum.
Our new Hebrew reading program is showing early signs of success. Students share that they feel more comfortable reading Hebrew. They get practice and support they need and are not feeling overwhelmed by the Hebrew reading time. Their progress is being tracked as part of the program and they are feeling a sense of accomplishment. Our teen and adult tutors share that they feel that they are making a difference in the lives of the students.
We are looking to increase the number of volunteers with this program. If you are comfortable reading Hebrew, enjoy working with children and have some time available on Sunday mornings and/or Wednesday afternoons, please contact me. I can be reached in the school office at (585) 473-1198 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am so pleased that we are able to help our children build a stronger connection to their Jewish heritage by increasing their comfort and skill with Hebrew reading.