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Building an Oasis of Jewish Joy: The Story of the Adelson Campus

Close your eyes and imagine being a child in the middle of a desert, growing up and being educated in an oasis of Jewish joy. What picture comes to mind?

Your imagination may have taken you to one of many communities in Israel. Or, it may have taken you to the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, a community day school in Las Vegas, Nevada, where close to 700 children from age 18 months to 18 years, of diverse backgrounds, receive a world-class education in General and Judaic Studies, in English and in Hebrew.

Hebrew at the Center’s Member School Highlight sat down with the Head of School, Alli Abrahamson, and the lower school’s Hebrew leader, Dina Rudaizky, to learn about their focused efforts to strengthen the Hebrew language program at their oasis known as the Adelson Campus

Knowing that their community wished to take a comprehensive approach to growing Hebrew language learning at the Adelson Campus, their multi-year partnership with Hebrew at the Center began in the spring of 2023. In turning to Hebrew at the Center, their goal was to establish Adelson Campus’ own K-5 scope and sequence, based on the ACTFL standards for teaching of foreign languages, which would lead their students to balanced competency in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Luckily, they already had on board excellent teachers who were open to learning, and who are appreciative that the school was willing to invest in their professional growth as teachers of Hebrew language.

Now close your eyes again and imagine building a house in that desert. You’d first need to envision the house and how it fits into the unique landscape. Then you’d need to develop an architectural plan. Only then could you design the spaces within the house, such as kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms, created by utilizing commercially available components, such as cabinets, lighting, and furnishings.

The process of restructuring Adelson Campus’ Hebrew program began with coming together to develop a bold yet realistic vision for Hebrew language at this particular school, in this particular place. Then came the creation the “architectural plans,” what we call “scope and sequence,” before undertaking the design of rooms, what we call instructional units, utilizing commercially available components, otherwise known as published curriculum.

Throughout the summer of 2023, Dina Rudaitsky worked with her coach, a senior educator from Hebrew at the Center, to developed Adelson Campus’ scope and sequence for the lower school, the architectural plans of education. The next step, beginning in the fall of 2023, was designing each “room,” or instructional unit. For this phase, all lower school Hebrew teachers received coaching from a Hebrew at the Center coach to develop a complete unit plan for their own grade level, including all aspects of language instruction – reading, writing, listening, and speaking – as well as formative and summative assessment of student learning. Adelson Campus’ teacher-developed units incorporate commercially available curricular materials from Nifla’ot (Matach) and Haverim B’Ivrit, and are assembled to align with the blueprint, that is, Adelson Campus’ unique scope and sequence. The plan is that after being carefully coached through the first unit, Hebrew teachers will become more independent in developing subsequent units of instruction.

Thanks to having received Adelson Campus’ unique scope and sequence, teachers know the details of what students need to learn and achieve over time. They can utilize the published materials as components to reach their iterative goals, not just teach what comes next in the textbook series.

Adelson Campus’ reimagined Hebrew language program is a work in progress. They are, after all, a campus, not a house. As a nursery through 12th grade school, there are many more houses to build in this desert landscape. If all goes as planned, in a few years, when you close your eyes and imagine that oasis of Jewish joy in the middle of the desert, it will be much harder to discern if that oasis is in Israel or in Nevada.

2024 State of the Field of Hebrew Language Education Report

We are excited to share the new 2024 State of the Field Report: Hebrew Education in North American Jewish Day Schools.

This report brings together significant work of partners and stakeholders to better understand, recognize and leverage advancements in Hebrew education throughout our field. The 80-page report features aggregated and curated knowledge acquired from our field over the past 12 months.

Join Hebrew teachers, Hebrew leaders, and other school leaders for an intensive, virtual conference on Sunday, April 3, 11:30 – 3:30 EDT. 

Click here for more information and to register