A flurry of recent articles testifies that there is much ferment in Hebrew education in America. From bemoaning the sharp decline of Hebrew study in college and overall absence of Hebrew knowledge among American Jews, encouraging the expansion of Hebrew in public school (and here) while offering suggestions for ways that the Jewish community can support that effort, and urging greater communal investment in Hebrew educators — Hebrew is suddenly an urgent topic of discussion in the Jewish community.
One area drawing relatively little conversation, however, is Hebrew education in Jewish day schools. The reason for that, I would argue, is found in the old adage, “No news is good news.” Day schools have been teaching Hebrew methodically, purposefully, devotedly for decades. The effort has not by any means always been easy, nor have results been consistent; but there is no comparable institution in Diaspora Jewish life so dedicated to raising Jewish youth with a strong knowledge of Hebrew. Never before in American Jewish history have so many people been engaged in the study of Hebrew, often for many hours every day over the course of years.
At Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, we decided to provide schools with a panoramic view of the field, presenting the range of areas in which day school administrators turn in order to work on improving their Hebrew programs. The result, “Thought Leadership: Hebrew Education,” presents six levers that schools use to strengthen Hebrew learning: staff, time, pedagogy, curriculum, assessment and mission. Each of these areas are ripe for reflection and growth, with new programs and initiatives arising year by year. Further, new energy and resources are going into research on Hebrew education, especially from CASJE and AVI CHAI, whose practical applications are still being explored.
Prizmah is looking to work with day school leaders, to hear about the levers they are using in their school and to foster conversations on how we can collaborate to elevate student learning. We invite people to start the conversation here!