Amitei Ivrit Fellows Bring Hebrew to Life Around the Country

Over the past few months, Hebrew at the Center staff ventured out into the field to visit with our Amitei Ivrit Year-Round fellows in their settings, and found them doing some extraordinary things!

Each site visit revealed a new exciting way our fellows were expanding the learning of Hebrew in their settings. At The Temple, in Atlanta, Rebecca Good guided fifth graders to create an exhibit in her program’s Jewish Museum to teach Hebrew to K-3rd grade students using Hebrew at the Center’s “Table Top” Hebrew learning games. At Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue, in California, Michelle Geft welcomes all her students each week with a kinus opening session in which she prompts them to respond in Hebrew using various signs to let her know how they are feeling, what the date is, and answer other queries. In Manhattan, at Park Avenue Synagogue, teachers used Hebrew at the Center’s Hebrew word card decks to have first grade students identify Hebrew letters on the cards that are also in their Hebrew names. In Atlanta, at Shearith Israel, Sharon Graetz’ students opted into a scavenger hunt elective in which they had to identify in Hebrew the various rooms and objects that make their school and sacred space special. 

In each of these ways, and many others by the other fellows in the Amitei Ivrit year-round cohort, this group of educational leaders is deepening and expanding the role and presence of where Hebrew lives in our students’ lives. They are determined to bring Hebrew as a language, as part of Jewish culture, as central to religious behavior out of the academic oriented classroom and into the experiential and organic environments of informal education. In doing so, these students will see Hebrew as more than just a language to learn for a B’nei Mitzvah, or to use singularly on a trip to Israel. They will know and feel how Hebrew connects them to Jews in their own city and around their world. They will understand how Hebrew offers access to both exciting contemporary culture and the wisdom of Jewish literature that is thousands of years old. 

In these months, we witnessed the returns of the efforts to invest in training and coaching educators and providing them the resources and support to give them the space to dream, experiment and learn how Hebrew can elevate their mission and vision for Jewish education. 

Interested in bringing Amitei Ivrit fellows to your school? Click here to learn more about the program.

Hillel Day School’s Journey: Elevating Hebrew Language Education Standards

Like at all Jewish day schools, Hebrew is crucial to the heart and soul of Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit. “[Hebrew] drives a big part of who we are as a Jewish day school. Hebrew is connected to our identity and Hebrew connects us both back historically and forward to our future,” says Rabbi David Fain, Rav Beit HaSefer at Hillel. The idea, however, of a professionalized journey toward Hebrew language proficiency began five years ago, as a result of a “self-study of the curriculum,” in conversations between Rabbi Fain and Amira Soleimani, Director of Judaic Studies Curriculum and Instruction, and the decision to tackle strengthening Hebrew language education as Item #1. What would it take to not just teach Hebrew, but to teach Hebrew as a second language, based on standards at the highest level? Over the next two years, Fain and Soleimani spoke to experts, learned that indeed, international standards (called ACTFL) existed, tried various approaches, and concluded that their most promising path to bringing Hebrew language instruction to the same level of professionalism as general studies subjects required a long-term, deep, and committed relationship with Hebrew at the Center.  Changing the paradigm also required funding over several years to receive Embedded Educational Services from Hebrew at the Center.

Currently, Hillel Day School and Hebrew at the Center are in the midst of the third year of that fruitful relationship. It has not been without its ups than downs. It took time to learn what the possibilities were, to galvanize the Hebrew faculty, secure funding, and build trusting relationships with the Hebrew at the Center pedagogues. “When we started we did not know that there is a real field of second language acquisition and that Hebrew is a part of it. We had to educate ourselves at many levels – the administration, the teachers, the parents – about what’s out there,” says Rabbi Fain. This past week, Hebrew at the Center’s Dr. Esty Gross, Chief of Staff and Director of Education, and Meirav Levy, Hebrew pedagogy coach, spent three energized and impactful days at Hillel Day School, working with the Hebrew faculty as a whole, grade levels, and individual teachers. 

What is Rabbi Fain most proud of? That Hillel now has clear standards for Hebrew that they can measure and hold themselves up to. He is also proud that the Hebrew faculty has a pedagogical language around second language acquisition and Hebrew learning that they did not have before. Most of all, he is proud of students’ Hebrew language outcomes, and that joy and enthusiasm has mushroomed up around Hebrew throughout the school. 

Elyse was one of seven Hillel students honored at the 2024 Heseg ceremony

Hillel’s parents and recent alumni delighted in their harvest, and the Hillel Hebrew faculty and administration celebrated the fruits of their labor at the International HESEG Ceremony on January 14th. (Tu B’Shvat-inspired metaphors are hard-to-resist at this time of year!) For the first time in the school’s history, seven Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit’s 9th alumni scored high enough on the AVANT Stamp assessment while in 8th grade to be honored at the Annual HESEG Ceremony, having met the international standards to earn the Global Seal of Biliteracy. This credential has a unique serial number for each awardee and can be presented on college applications and for college credit. 

Mazal Tov to the students, their parents, the strong and heroic Hebrew faculty, and the visionary administration of Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit! 

(Is your school thinking about taking a deep dive into Hebrew language standards? Contact Rabbi David Fain at Hillel Day School of Metropolitan Detroit to get his perspective, or Dr. Cindy Dolgin, Director of Membership at Hebrew at the Center.) 

Westchester’s Shinshinim Prepare for Hebrew Month

Each year on Eliezer Ben Yehuda’s birthday, the Jewish world remembers his singular impact on revitalizing the Hebrew language by observing יום עברית/Hebrew Language Day. However, the eight Shinshinim in Westchester have decided to extend this celebration throughout the month of January, bringing their unique approach to Israel engagement to thousand of young people and adults through the programming they facilitate in almost forty organizations.
The Shinshinim are select young Israelis who use their gap year to work in the diaspora prior to their service in the IDF. Posted in congregational schools, day schools, JCCs, and a range of other educational settings, they work to build a personal and positive relationship between the Jews of the community and Israel, Israelis, and Israeli culture. Hebrew programming aligns beautifully with their mission, and the group spent a morning training with Rabbi Andrew Ergas, EdD, CEO of Hebrew st the Center, learning how to to apply the approach and tools of the Amitei Ivrit program to their target audiences. This approach, originally developed in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the sponsor of the Shinshinim program, has been field-tested in over forty Jewish summer camps and is now also being utilized in congregations and day schools. Alison Bender Kellner, the Educational Coordinator for this group shared, “The interactive introduction effectively raised their interest in “why teach Hebrew” and the modeling of the games got them excited about “how to teach Hebrew. They eagerly took the Hebrew at the Center teaching tools and are looking forward to using them at many of their 30+ sites throughout Westchester.”
For more about the Amitei Ivrit program, visit the program page on the Hebrew at the Center webpage. In the meantime, we wish the Shinshinim plenty of success as they interact with their learners via a fun, innovative, annd  interactive approach to the Hebrew language and strengthen their connection to Israel.

Finding Ourselves at a Key Moment in Jewish History: Observing יום השפה העברית/Hebrew Language Day Post-October 7th

אנחנו בעיצומו של רכע מכריע בהיסטוריה היהודית:
חגיגת יום השפה העברית – אחרי ה-7 באוקטובר

“שני הדברים שבלעדיהם לא יהיו היהודים לעם: הארץ והלשון.”
-אליעזר בן יהודה


כשאליעזר בן יהודה אמר דברים אלו, הוא היה חלק מהפרויקט הלאומי היהודי הרחב שפעל הן להקמת למדינה יהודית ריבונית והן להחייאת השפה העברית. אלו היו שני מרכיבים הכרחיים כדי לאפשר לעם היהודי “לחזור לתוך ההיסטוריה” כעם שהוא שחקן פעיל בהיסטוריה של עצמו במקום שההיסטוריה “תפעל עליו מעצמה”. כשאנו חוגגים את יום השפה העברית הנערך מדי שנה ביום הולדתו של בן יהודה, איש ששיחק תפקיד משמעותי בהחייאת השפה העברית המודרנית, ראוי לציין עד כמה החזון הזה הוא לא פחות נכון עבורנו היום, במיוחד לאור הטרגדיה הנוראה של ה-7 באוקטובר ותוצאותיה.

בן יהודה ועמיתיו חוו באופן אישי את מה שקרה כאשר לעמנו חסרו מאפייני הריבונות: ארץ, צבא, ודגל, וכן שפה ותרבות שהוכרו כשוות לאלו של עמים אחרים. הם היו עדים לאנטישמיות מקומית וממוסדת, לשנאת היהדות, לפוגרומים אכזריים, ועוד, מבלי שעדיין הבינו את ההיקף של העתיד לבוא באירופה באמצע המאה ה-20.

למרבה המזל, הפתרון שהם הציעו הכין את העם שלנו להגיב ל-7 באוקטובר באופן שונה בתכלית ממה שחווינו במאות ה-19 וה-20. המלחמה עדיין בעיצומה בישראל ולא ברור עדיין האם תתממש האפשרות שהיא תתרחב. אנטישמיות ושנאת ישראל ממשיכות להרים את ראשן המרושע ברחבי צפון אמריקה ומעבר. אבל בשונה מהתקופה בה פעלו אליעזר בן יהודה, בני דורו, וקודמיהם אשר החיו את השפה העברית, עמנו כבר לא חסר אונים. בתוך ישראל, לעם שלנו יש כוח רב בדמות מדינה ריבונית, שלה צבא חזק מלא בחיילים מסורים ומיומנים, כולל בני שלי, שגויס באותו יום אוקטובר נוראי ומאז נמצא בעזה וסביבתה. לעם שלנו יש גם כוח נוסף – הכוח הנובע מעמידה האיתנה של עמנו ברחבי תבל, והכוח הנובע מהעבודה הקריטית שלוקחים על עצמם מורי העברית מדי יום.

הציטוט של בן יהודה בפתיח מציב את הארץ ואת השפה במרכז הלאומיות שלנו. צה”ל ואזרחי ישראל, הנתמכים בסולידריות עולמית של העם היהודי, עושים את העבודה החיונית של הגנה על הארץ, על העם ועל החברה בגבולותיה. אנו מצדיעים למחנכי השפה העברית הממלאים תפקיד חיוני בהבטחת המרכזיות של העברית, הבטחת הדור הבא של יהודים המוכנים לבנות מטרה משותפת עם דוברי עברית בישראל ומחוצה לה.

באופן אישי, ומקצועי, אני כועס עמוקות על מה שהאויבים שלנו מנסים לעשות לנו. באותה מידה אני מקבל השראה מהאופן שבו הגיב השטח המקצועי שלנו. מורי עברית בבתי ספר יהודיים, בישיבות, במחנות יהודים, בבתי כנסת, ובמסגרות נוספות, ביחד עם הצוות המדהים של עברית במרכז ועמיתינו בתחום השפה העברית, כולם מחויבים לקידום הוראת השפה העברית לחיזוק הישגי התלמידים, להבטחת מסוגלות עצמית והצלחה של המורים, ולמילוי ההבטחה שמבטיחים מוסדות החינוך להורים, לקהילה, ולעתיד היהודי שלהם. אנו שמחים במיוחד למלא תפקיד של מנהיגי שטח כדי לטפח ולקדם רעיונות חדשים וגישות חדשות אשר יתרמו עוד יותר למשימה הקדושה הזו. זוהי עבודה שמחזקת ומדגישה את המטרה והגורל המשותפים שלנו כעם.

בנוסף, אני קורא לכל אלו המאמינים במטרה להיות פעילים יותר בדרישה למצוינות ולאחריות מהעובדים בשטח, ולתרום מזמנם, נכסיהם, ומשאביהם הכספיים כדי להפוך משימה זו למציאות. אנו בעברית במרכז מקווים שהיום החשוב הזה בלוח השנה העברי ימשיך לעלות בחשיבותו, ושבשיתוף פעולה, נוכל להבטיח קהילה עברית אוריינית פעילה. באותה מידה בה כולנו נהנים מהמתנה שהעניקו לנו בן יהודה ועמיתיו, אנו מקווים שגם אתם תתרמו למשימה קדושה זו.

אני מודה לצוות ולעמיתינו, למנהיגי בתי הספר, ולתומכינו, על כך שאפשרו לנו להניח עוד לבנה בבסיס לעתיד חזק עוד יותר שמשחרר את העוצמה של העברית.

בהכרת תודה,

הרב ד”ר אנדרו ארגז, מנכ”ל
עברית במרכז

“שני הדברים שבלעדיהם לא יהיו היהודים לעם: הארץ והלשון.”

“There are two things without which the Jews will not be a nation –
their land and their language.”
– Eliezer Ben Yehuda

When Eliezer Ben Yehuda made this statement, he was working as a part of the broader Jewish national project to bring about both a sovereign Jewish state and a revitalization of the Jewish language. These were two necessary elements to allow the Jewish people to “step back into history” as a people that would now once again be actors in history rather than have history “act upon them.” As we celebrate יום השפה העברית/Hebrew Language Day, held each year on Ben Yehuda’s birthday, an individual who played an oversized roll in making Modern Hebrew language return to its role as a living tongue, it is worth noting how this vision is no less true for us today, especially in light of the horrific tragedy of October 7th and its aftermath.

Ben Yehuda and his peers had personally experienced what happened when our people lacked the instruments of sovereignty: a land, an army, and a flag, as well as a language and culture that was recognized as equal to those of other people. They had witnessed both individual and state-sponsored antisemitism, anti-Judaism hatred, brutal pogroms, and more, not yet realizing the scale of what was to come in Europe in the mid-20th Century.

Thankfully their proposed remedy prepared our people to respond to October 7th in a manner fundamentally different than the experiences we endured in the 19th and 20th Century. The war is still unfolding in Israel and the possibility that it could expand is still not clear. Antisemitism and hatred of Israel continues to raise its evil head throughout North America and beyond. But unlike the period that birthed Eliezer Ben Yehuda and his generation and predecessors that revived the Hebrew language, our people are no longer powerless. Within Israel, our people have hard power in the form of a sovereign state with a powerful army filled with deeply dedicated and capable soldiers, including my own son who was called up that horrible October day and has been in and around Gaza since. Our people also have soft power – the power that comes from our people standing together as one throughout the globe and the power that comes from the critical work Hebrew educators undertake each day.

Ben Yehuda’s quote above places both land and language at the center of our nationhood. The IDF and the citizens of Israel, supported by global solidarity from the Jewish people, are doing the essential work to defend the land and the people and society within its borders. We salute Hebrew language educators around the globe who are playing an essential role in bringing about the difficult and still incomplete task of elevating the primacy of Hebrew in our communities and ensuring the next generation of Jews become equipped to build and maintain a common destiny with Hebrew speakers in Israel and beyond.

While I am personally and professionally profoundly angered by what our enemies are trying to do to us, I am equally inspired by how our field has responded. Hebrew educators in day schools, yeshivot, Jewish camps, congregations, and in other settings, along with the amazing team at Hebrew at the Center and our colleagues in the Hebrew language space, are all committed to advancing Hebrew language education to strengthen student outcomes, ensure teacher self-efficacy and success, and fulfill the promise educational institutions make to their parents, their community, and the Jewish future. We are particularly pleased to play a role as field leaders to cultivate and advance new ideas and approaches that will further contribute to this sacred mission. This is work that is reinvigorating our shared purpose and destiny as a people.

I also call on those who believe in the cause to become more active in demanding excellence and accountability to those working in the trenches, and to contribute their time, reputational assets, and financial resources to making this mission a reality. We at Hebrew at the Center hope that this important day in the Jewish calendar will continue to rise in prominence and that by working together, we can ensure a more Hebraically literate community. In the same way that we all benefit from the gift Ben Yehuda and his peers brought to the table, we hope you will contribute your gifts to this sacred task.

I thank our team and colleagues, school leaders, and our supporters for enabling us to build yet another brick in the foundation for an even stronger future that unleashes the potency of Hebrew.

In gratitude,
Rabbi Andrew Ergas, EdD, CEO
Hebrew at the Center

The Language of Protest – Accessing Insight Through the Hebrew Language

by Dr. Jeremy Benstein

Trying to follow the ups and downs of Israeli politics is hard enough at the best of times. And these are hardly the best of times. The rift in the nation is deep, pitting supporters of the democratically elected government and its projected legislation to redress perceived imbalances, against opponents who see that legislation as changing some very basic rules of the game thus making Israel a demonstrably less democratic society. My task here is not to adjudicate this dispute (though, like most Israelis, I do have strong opinions on the topic); readers who want explicit political punditry are directed to the news sources of their choice.

Rather, I would like to explore some particular Hebrew terms in the current political discourse that may shed some light on the nuances of recent developments. Of the many reasons for acquiring familiarity with Hebrew, one main one is to try to gain more insight into Israeli life and culture than is normally afforded by exclusively English-language media. For instance, the differences between the two sides are apparent from the get-go, i.e., the words each camp uses regarding what’s going on. The government claims it is promoting a רפורמה משפטית reformah mishpatit, “a legal reform” (from משפט mishpat, law). This indeed sounds innocent enough, and quite legal and on the up-and-up. But in the eyes of the millions who oppose the government plan, this is nothing less than a הפיכה משטרית hafichah mishtarit – משטר mishtar meaning “regime” and הפיכה haficha, meaning “coup”, from ה-פ-כ h-f-ch, reverse, or backwards (see here for more on that Hebrew root in politics and elsewhere).

Perhaps ironically, the two main words that are seen on t-shirts and signs, and heard at demonstrations and government press conferences, are actually not (originally) Hebrew at all: דמוקרטיה demokratiya and דיקטטורה diktatura, words which need no translation. One could claim that since the terms are non-Hebrew, the ideas themselves are foreign as well. However, the idea of the limited will of the majority with safeguards for the rights of the weak is well-established in Jewish tradition (see e.g. Ex 23:2). There is a (modern) Hebrew word for dictatorship (רודנות, rodanut, רודן, rodan, “dictator”, from the Biblical root ר-ד-ה, r-d-h, “rule over,” see e.g. Gen 1:28 and Lev 25:53), though it is less used in common parlance. And Eliezer Ben Yehudah himself proposed a new coinage to replace democracy, עַמּוֹנוּת amonut (from עם, ‘am, “people”), but it never made it out of the starting gate.

Here are a few more key terms to help parse the debate:

רוב – מיעוטRov, “majority” from the root ר-ב-ב, r-b-b, as in הרבה, harbeh, “many, a lot.” This is what the coalition (קואליציה, koalitziya) claims they have, since they do, after all, hold 64 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset (53%). However, protesters and members of the opposition (אופוזיציה, oppozitziya), by definition in the מיעוט, mi’ut, “minority” (from מ-ע-ט, m-‘-t, “few, a little”) point out that the proposed reforms were not central planks in the parties in the coalition (and the ruling Likud party, with only 32 seats is not a majority in its own coalition), and currently polls show a clear majority of  the Israeli public oppose the controversial legislation.

In brief, the main issue under discussion is a proposed change in the balance of power between the judiciary (הרשות השופטת, hareshut hashofetet, literally – “the judging authority”) and the executive/legislative branches (הרשות המבצעת והרשות המחוקקת, hamevatza’at vehamechokeket) , giving more power to the latter, and reducing the scope of judicial review (among many other things, including changing the selection process of judges, the question of legal oversight in government ministries, and more). Confronting these proposals have made these last six months quite a civics lesson for many Israelis, for it gets to the heart of what a democratic society is. In response to claims of government supporters that it is the protests themselves that are undemocratic (since the government was elected it has a right, and a duty, to govern as it sees fit – majority rule – the רוב, rov), the protesters emphasize that a democracy is the rule of the majority coupled with strong safeguards that protect the rights of the minority (מיעוט, mi’ut), to prevent the rule of the majority from becoming a dictatorship of the majority. The claim is that for Israel with no constitution or bill of rights (as in the US), or long tradition of a democratic culture (as in the UK), a strong and independent judiciary is the only thing standing in the way of an ideological government – whether right-wing or left-wing – from enacting legislation that might infringe on basic rights. The word for rights is זכויות, zechuyot, as in זכויות אזרח, zechuyot ezrach, “civil rights” and זכויות אדם, zechuyot adam, “human rights.” An interesting curiosity is that zechut also means “privilege” which is almost the opposite of a right, making it a contranym, a word that means a thing and its opposite, like “sanction” or “cleave.”

סבירות sevirut, “reasonableness.” This seemingly innocuous idea is the basis of the first piece of government legislation: preventing the courts from using “reasonableness” as a criterion for adjudicating issues like government policies or appointments. But what could be unreasonable, or objectionable about reasonableness?

First the word. If something is סביר savir, it is reasonable, makes sense. This root has many expressions in Hebrew, both ancient and modern:להסביר , lehasbir, “explain” (make understandable), הסברה, hasbara, Israeli governmental PR (“explanation” in the sense of “making the case for”), סבירות, svirut, “likelihood,” and also, traditionally, סברה, sevara, a (talmudic) claim or opinion, and סברי, savri, as in סברי מרנן, savri maranan, “with the gentlemen’s permission,” asked before making a public blessing over wine.

Traditionally, the Supreme court has used עילת הסבירות, ‘ilat hasvirut, the reasonability clause, to evaluate whether the government or its several ministries are being, well, reasonable. But given the less than precise definition of this term, the government’s claim is that the gut sense of reasonableness of a group of unelected officials, such as judges, should not take precedence over the sense of the democratically elected parliament. The opposition’s response is that this is what checks and balances (איזונים ובלמים, izunim ublamim) between the branches is all about, and the greater the majority, the greater the temptation to wield power in all sorts of fundamentally self-serving ways, if there is no one to stop them. Which would be, in a word, unreasonable.

There is of course much more that can be said and explored, both linguistically and politically. I will conclude with a section of Israel’s מגילת העצמאות, megillat ha’atzma-ut, Declaration of Independence. The Hebrew word for independence, עצמאות, ‘atzma-ut, from a root ע-צ-מ, ‘-tz’m, meaning “strength” and also “self” was coined by Eliezer Ben Yehudah’s son, Itamar Ben Avi. The fact that the word עצם, ‘etzem, also means “bone,” alludes to Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of the dry bones (Ch. 37) as a prophecy of revival and return. Like the flag, the Declaration is used by the protesters to express their values. But also like the flag – can’t we all identify with what is written here?

מתוך מגילת העצמאות – מדינת ישראל…תשקוד על פיתוח הארץ לטובת כל תושביה; תהא מושתתה על יסודות החירות, הצדק והשלום לאור חזונם של נביאי ישראל; תקיים שויון זכויו​ת חברתי ומדיני גמור לכל אזרחיה בלי הבדל דת, גזע ומין; תבטיח חופש דת, מצפון, לשון, חינוך ותרבות...

From the Declaration of Independence  – THE STATE OF ISRAEL … will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture….

At the very least, words like חירות, cherut, “freedom,” צדק, tzedek, “justice,” שלום, shalom, “peace,” שויון, shivyon, “equality,” and חופש, chofesh, (more) “freedom,” are good words to add to our vocabulary.


Dr. Jeremy Benstein is a senior consultant at HATC and author of Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes: A Tribal Language in a Global World, (Behrman, 2019).

Unabashed Zionists bring joy to Hebrew at Gray Academy, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Some of us live in communities where there are five Jewish day schools and yeshivot within a mile’s radius, while some of us live in states or provinces with only five such schools. Few of us, however, are part of a Jewish day school or yeshiva that is the only game in town and within a five-hour radius! Welcome to the Gray Academy of Jewish Education, a pluralistic Jewish day school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the only K-12 Jewish day school in Western Canada, and a proud member of Hebrew at the Center.

For those who are unfamiliar, Winnipeg is on the Prairies, 536 kilometers (about the length of New York State) due north of the US border, between North Dakota and Minnesota, halfway between Vancouver in the West and Toronto in the East.

Hebrew language educators at Gray Academy of Jewish Education may be few, but they are mighty! The school was founded in 1997 as the result of the amalgamation of three founding Jewish day schools. Today, Gray Academy is the crown jewel of the Winnipeg Board of Jewish Education, supported by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, accredited by the Canadian Accredited Independent Schools, and a member of Prizmah.

Winnipeg’s P2G region in Israel is the Gallil and this relationship has run deep over 25 years. Gray’s grade 10 & 11 students provide home hospitality to their Israeli-teen counterparts from Danciger High School in Kiryat Shmona, and then travel to Israel touring, going to school and living in the homes of their host brothers and sisters in the Galil. Real bonds of friendship are formed and often last a lifetime. Many of the parents of today’s students are themselves graduates of Gray Academy or one of its predecessors, including Ronit Amihude, Gray’s Director of Learning and Innovation. Ronit says that approximately 25% of her childhood classmates made aliyah. The Zionist-Jewish community of Winnipeg wants their children to see Hebrew language as a prominent and intentional feature of Jewish life.

As part of a recent accreditation self-study, focus groups with various stakeholders – including with high school students – revealed that attention needed to be paid to revitalizing Hebrew language instruction at Gray Academy. The love of Hebrew was there in the lower grades, but older students in the middle and high school were looking for more when it came for learning the language. Said Ronit, “We learned from teen students that joy and excitement around the language wasn’t what it could be. The structure of the program did not make them understand what is so amazing about Hebrew. Students said they want to be able to have real conversations with their Israeli peers. They want connections.” Gray Academy’s students were able to clearly articulate the sentiments we suspect exist in Jewish students around the globe. Their school’s leadership and teachers decided to take on the challenge to help students find the intrinsic motivation to use and love Hebrew language.

Thus was born a new partnership between Gray Academy and Hebrew at the Center, a non-profit that envisions a world where Hebrew is vibrant, celebrated, and pivotal to a thriving Jewish identity and the global Jewish community. Gray Academy became an HATC Member School, applied for and received a grant from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba to invest in a two-year deep dive into making Hebrew language instruction more communicative, relevant, contemporary, and youthful.

Teachers entered this process with enthusiasm and excitement and have gotten more clarity about the goals of teaching and learning Hebrew. Says Ronit, “we don’t want our students to learn content through Hebrew, rather, to learn Hebrew as a communicative language.”

At the same time, the process of change has been challenging. While all members of the Hebrew faculty are licensed teachers, none were formally trained as foreign language teachers. With guidance from HATC, they are learning the theories, experimenting, and tweaking their techniques and lessons. At one point or another, each of these dedicated and professional teachers has hit bumps in the road, yet the remain committed to the process.

Because Gray Academy’s leadership recognizes that this kind of deep, nuanced work never happens on a straight, upward-bound trajectory, each of their 13 Hebrew teachers receives individualized coaching from a member of the HATC team. Additionally, HATC’s Chief of Staff and Director of Education, Dr. Esty Gross, has twice visited Gray Academy and she collaborates with Ronit Amihude. However, since Ronit’s responsibilities at Gray Academy span both General and Jewish education, her dream is to one day have an in-house Hebrew language leader at Gray Academy.

Ronit Amihude and the dedicated Hebrew faculty on the prairies of Manitoba continue to grow, persevere, and develop as a team and as individuals, with their eye on their students’ desire to communicate in Hebrew, with authenticity and joy.

A Personal Journey: From Math Teacher in Israel, to Jewish Day School Principal in America

Do you love teaching Hebrew at a Jewish day school, but worry that it is a dead-end job? Are you concerned that the only way to get ahead professionally is to leave the work you love?  Well, buckle up and get ready to be inspired by the career journey of Dr. Ilanit Hoory, an Israeli educator who climbed the ranks in Jewish day school education over the last 30 years, starting as a Hebrew and Limudei Kodesh teacher of young children, rising to the role of assistant principal, and now serving as the beloved Lower School principal of the Leffell School in Westchester, New York. Dr. Hoory’s journey as an educator began in Israel, where she taught math to grades 3-5 students. However, when she moved to the United States, there were barriers to becoming a licensed teacher, so she began teaching Ivrit and Limudei Kodesh at the Brandeis School in Lawrence, New York. Ilanit had no prior experience or formal training in teaching language, Hebrew, or Judaic Studies, but she fell in love with teaching young children, particularly how to read and write, and her students and their parents reciprocated that love. 

In 2000, Dr. Hoory took a position at the Leffell School in Westchester, NY and out of her own curiosity, undertook the best (and free!) form of professional development: closely observing Joyce Wechsler, a Master Teacher, and one of her general studies counterparts across the hall. To this day, Dr. Hoory credits Joyce and all her general studies colleagues for her strong English skills as well as her Hebrew teaching skills. “Year after year, day after day,” says Dr. Hoory, “I was just another first-grade student in Joyce’s classroom, learning the fundamentals and smallest details of English literacy.”  At first, Dr. Hoory was just observing, but over time, her observations became increasingly systematic, and she discovered the subtle but crucial differences between teaching language and teaching reading. “It was an epiphany that within a language-rich environment, each language skill – reading, writing, listening, and speaking – needed to be individually and discreetly practiced, corrected, and perfected.” 

Dr. Hoory’s love of teaching and curiosity led her to earn a master’s degree in Instructional Technology at Touro College and then to a promotion to assistant principal at the Leffel Lower School. Later she enrolled in a doctoral program at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli School of Jewish Education. Although she came from a mathematics background, had pursued graduate training in educational technology, and was focused on educational leadership in her coursework at Azrieli, she chose to focus her dissertation research on Hebrew language instruction, specifically the skill of Hebrew reading. “I wanted to make a lasting impact on our unique language and heritage,” says Dr. Hoory. She chose Dr. Scott Goldberg as her dissertation advisor, a tenured professor of education and psychology, as well as the author of MaDYK (Mivchan Dinami shel Y’cholot Kriah), a tool used in Jewish day schools and yeshivot around the world to assess and monitor Hebrew literacy development. 

Dr. Hoory conducted “action research” at the Leffell School using MaDYK to assess student achievement in Hebrew reading in grades 1-3. To be successful, Dr. Hoory needed to recruit Leffell Hebrew teachers to participate in the action research project, which admittedly, was made easier, now that she had achieved the status of assistant principal. “When we began doing MaDYK reading assessments in 2018,” shared Dr. Hoory,  “there was a lot of disbelief on the part of the teachers that their students were not developing their reading skills at grade level.” Though the results in the first-year baseline assessments were demoralizing, Dr. Hoory and her Hebrew department colleagues persevered and learned from Professor Goldberg to analyze data, identify struggling students, and improve their own instruction.  

Thanks to Dr. Hoory’s in-house action research, the Leffel School is now systematic in teaching Hebrew reading skills. They continue to use MaDYK as a standardized and research-based reading assessment in the primary grades and their Hebrew language curriculum, based on iTaLAM, is enriched using Professor Goldberg’s reading/phonics methodology. Comparing Leffell’s students’ MaDYK scores from 2018 to 2023 shows remarkable progress in young children’s grasp of the important skill of reading, a credit to their teachers who model being lifelong learners.  

Leffell’s Hebrew faculty is now working closely with Hebrew at the Center on additional discreet language skills and according to Dr. Hoory, the Leffell Hebrew faculty have developed a strong bond with Dr. Esty Gross, Chief and Staff and Director of Education at HATC, who pushes the teachers hard. “One thing I love about Hebrew at the Center is the constant growth, change, and renewal, continuously bringing expertise and new ideas,” shared Dr. Hoory. Oral language skills are on the list of long-term Hebrew language challenges. The Leffell School now implements AVANT Assessment in the older grades, which assesses all four language skills, giving the faculty in the upper grades rich data to analyze, study, and utilize to improve their teaching practices. 

Dr. Hoory is proud to be one of the few Israelis in the Jewish day school system who has risen to the position of Principal at an esteemed school and is grateful for the impact her research has had on Hebrew language instruction at the Leffell School. “My dissertation opened the door,” says Dr. Hoory, “but we are still a work in progress. We are fueling and flying at the same time!”  

Dr. Hoory’s journey is a testament to the power of passion and perseverance. By leaning into her curiosity, relying on colleagues in her school and in other organizations, and investing in her own education, Dr. Hoory has significantly led The Leffell School to improved Hebrew language education and results. Dr. Hoory shared her personal story with the hope of encouraging her fellow Israeli colleagues: 

I would like to encourage you and other Hebrew teachers to invest in your careers and in your professionalism as a Hebrew language instructor. Join me! Start small. Take classes through Hebrew at the Center. Spend time observing the English language arts teachers in your school. Rely on your general studies colleagues to provide you with embedded, free professional development as a close observer of their craft. See where it leads you.

Please Note: By being an HATC Member School, The Leffell School has benefited from discount rates on both MaDYK and AVANT assessments. HATC Member schools receive a $350 discount on MaDYK and a 50% discount on AVANT. 

מסע אישי:
ממורה למתמטיקה בישראל, למנהלת בית ספר יהודי באמריקה, המסע של ד”ר אילנית הורי

 האם את/ה אוהב/ת ללמד עברית בבית ספר יהודי אבל דואג/ת שזו עבודה ללא עתיד? האם את/ה מודאג/ת מכך שהדרך היחידה להתקדם מבחינה מקצועית היא לעזוב את העבודה שאת/ה אוהב/ת? ובכן, התכוננו לקבל השראה ממסע הקריירה של ד”ר אילנית חורי, מחנכת ישראלית שטיפסה במעלה סולם הדרגות בעולם החינוך היהודי במהלך 30 השנים האחרונות, מהתחלה כמורה לעברית ולימודי קודש לילדים צעירים, היא קודמה לתפקיד סגנית המנהל, וכעת משמשת כמנהלת בית הספר העממי האהוב של בית הספר לפל בווסטצ’סטר, ניו יורק. 

דרכה של ד”ר חורי כמחנכת החלה בישראל, שם לימדה מתמטיקה לתלמידי כיתות ג’-ה’. אך כאשר עברה לארצות הברית, נתקלה במכשולים שמנעו ממנה להפוך למורה מוסמכת, ולכן היא החלה ללמד עברית ולמודי קודש בבית הספר ברנדייס בלורנס, ניו יורק. לאילנית לא היה ניסיון קודם או הכשרה פורמלית בהוראת שפה, בהוראת עברית או יהדות, אבל היא התאהבה בהוראת ילדים צעירים, בעיקר קריאה וכתיבה, ותלמידיה והוריהם השיבו אהבה זו. 

בשנת 2000, ד”ר חורי עברה לבית הספר לפל בווסטצ’סטר, ניו יורק ומתוך סקרנות, בחרה את הדרך הטובה ביותר (והחינמית!) להתפתח מקצועית: היא צפתה מקרוב ולמדה מג’ויס וכסלר, מורה מצוינת ללימודים כלליים, שלימדה מעבר למסדרון. עד היום, ד”ר חורי זוקפת לזכותה של ג’ויס ולזכותם של עמיתיה ללימודים כלליים את כישורי האנגלית שלה כמו גם את כישוריה בהוראת העברית. “שנה אחר שנה, יום אחר יום”, אומרת ד”ר חורי, “הייתי רק עוד תלמידה בכיתה א’ בכיתה של ג’ויס, שלמדה את היסודות והפרטים הקטנים ביותר של אוריינות אנגלית”. בהתחלה, ד”ר חורי רק התבוננה, אבל עם הזמן, התצפיות שלה נעשו יותר ויותר שיטתיות, והיא גילתה את ההבדלים העדינים אך המכריעים בין הוראת שפה להוראת קריאה. “זו הייתה תגלית שבתוך סביבה עשירה בשפה, כל מיומנות שפה – קריאה, כתיבה, הקשבה ודיבור – זקוקה לתרגול, לתיקון ולשכלול בנפרד. 

אהבתה של ד”ר חורי להוראה ולסקרנות הובילה אותה לקבלת תואר שני בטכנולוגיות למידה במכללת טורו ולאחר מכן לקידום לסגנית מנהל בבית הספר היסודי של לפל. מאוחר יותר נרשמה ללימודי דוקטורט בבית הספר לחינוך יהודי עזריאלי בישיבה יוניברסיטי. למרות שהגיעה מרקע של מתמטיקה, למדה הכשרה לתואר שני בטכנולוגיה חינוכית והתמקדה במנהיגות חינוכית בקורסים שלה בעזריאלי, היא בחרה למקד את מחקר עבודת הדוקטורט שלה בהוראת השפה העברית, ובמיוחד במיומנות הקריאה בעברית. “רציתי להשפיע על השפה והמורשת הייחודית שלנו”, אומרת ד”ר חורי. היא בחרה בד”ר סקוט גולדברג כיועץ הדוקטורט שלה, פרופסור מן המניין לחינוך ופסיכולוגיה, וכן מחבר הספר MaDYK (מבחן דינמי של יכולות קריאה), כלי המשמש בבתי ספר יהודיים ובישיבות ברחבי העולם להערכות ולמעקב אחר התפתחות האוריינות העברית. 

ד”ר חורי ערכה “מחקר פעולה” בבית הספר לפל באמצעות MaDYK להערכת הישגי התלמידים בקריאה בעברית בכיתות א’-ג’. כדי להצליח, נדרשה ד”ר חורי לגייס מורים לעברית בלפל להשתתף בפרויקט המחקרי שלה. “כשהתחלנו לעשות הערכות קריאה של MaDYK ב-2018“, שיתפה ד”ר חורי, “היה הרבה חוסר אמון מצד המורים בכך שהתלמידים שלהם לא מפתחים את כישורי הקריאה שלהם בכיתה.” למרות שהתוצאות הראשוניות של הערכות הבסיס של השנה הראשונה היו מעוררות דאגה, ד”ר חורי ועמיתיה למחלקה לעברית התמידו ולמדו מפרופסור גולדברג לנתח נתונים, לזהות תלמידים מתקשים ולשפר את ההוראה שלהם. 

הודות למחקר הפעולה הפנימי של ד”ר חורי, בית הספר לפל פועל כעת באופן שיטתי בהוראת מיומנויות קריאה בעברית. הם ממשיכים להשתמש ב-MaDYK כהערכת קריאה סטנדרטית ומבוססת מחקר בכיתות היסוד ותכנית הלימודים שלהם בשפה העברית, המבוססת על iTaLAM, מועשרת באמצעות מתודולוגיית הקריאה/פונטיקה של פרופסור גולדברג. השוואת ההישגים באמצעות שיטת MaDYK של תלמידי Leffell בין השנים 2018 עד 2023 מראה התקדמות יוצאת דופן בתפיסת מיומנות הקריאה החשובה של ילדים צעירים, וזה נזקף לזכות של המורים המהווים דוגמא כיצד להיות לומדים לאורך החיים.  

המחלקה לעברית בבית הספר לפל עובדת כעת בשיתוף פעולה הדוק עם עברית במרכז (HATC) על כישורי שפה נוספים ולדברי ד”ר חורי, הפקולטה העברית של לפל פיתחה קשר חזק עם ד”ר אסתי גרוס, ראש הסגל ומנהלת החינוך בעברית במרכז אשר דוחפת חזק את המורים. “דבר אחד שאני אוהבת בעברית במרכז הוא הצמיחה, השינוי וההתחדשות המתמידים, שמביאים ללא הרף מומחיות ורעיונות חדשים”, שיתפה ד”ר חורי. מיומנות ההבעה בעל-פה נמצאת ברשימה של אתגרים ארוכי טווח. בית הספר לפל מיישם כעת את AVANT Assessment בכיתות הבוגרות יותר, אשר מעריכה את כל ארבעת כישורי השפה, ומעניקה לסגל בכיתות הגבוהות נתונים עשירים לניתוח, לשם שיפור שיטות ההוראה שלהם. 

ד”ר חורי גאה להיות אחת מהישראלים הבודדים במערכת החינוך היהודית שעלתה לתפקיד מנהלת בבית ספר מוערך והיא אסירת תודה על ההשפעה שהיתה למחקריה על הוראת השפה העברית בבית הספר לפל. “עבודת הדוקטורט שלי פתחה את הדלת”, אומרת ד”ר חורי, “אבל אנחנו עדיין בתהליך. אנחנו מתדלקים וטסים בו זמנית!” 

המסע של ד”ר חורי הוא עדות לכוחם של התשוקה וההתמדה. על ידי הישענות על סקרנותה, הסתמכות על עמיתים בבית ספרה ובארגונים אחרים והשקעה בחינוך שלה עצמה, ד”ר חורי הובילה באופן משמעותי את בית הספר לפל לשיפור החינוך בשפה העברית. ד”ר חורי שיתפה את סיפורה האישי בתקווה לעודד את עמיתיה הישראלים: 

אני רוצה לעודד אתכם ומורים נוספים לעברית להשקיע בקריירה שלכם ובמקצועיות שלכם כמורים ומורות שלהשפה העברית. הצטרפו אלי! תתחילו בקטן. קחו שיעורים בעברית במרכז. הקדישו זמן להתבוננות במורים בשפה האנגלית בבית הספר שלכם. סמכו על עמיתיכם ללימודים כלליים שיספקו לכם התפתחות מקצועית בחינם כמתבוננים מקרוב במלאכתם. תראו לאן זה יוביל אתכם. 

שימו לב: בהיותו בית ספר חבר בעברית במרכז, בית הספר לפל נהנה משיעורי הנחה הן על הערכות MaDYK והן על הערכות AVANT. בתי הספר החברים בעברית במרכז מקבלים הנחה של $350 על MaDYK והנחה של 50% על AVANT.


TalentEducators: Data-Driven Professional Development for Hebrew Teachers

By: Aharoni Carmel and Yael Harari

The statistics for teachers leaving the field are shocking: between 30-50% of teachers in the US resign within the first five years. Research has also indicated that the right professional development and mentoring can reduce this attrition rate significantly. That said, a one-size-fits-all approach to professional development has proven to be highly ineffective.

For this reason, at TalentEducators, after we match and place teachers in new positions, we place emphasis and resources on highly professional and personalized support for each of our newly recruited teachers. To do this, we work with the educational institution as well as the educator to build a comprehensive support plan that includes programs from many wonderful partner organizations that offer professional development. This support plan looks different for different teachers even if they are teaching the same subject – such as Hebrew – at the same school.

In our experience, there are two specific challenges that need to be addressed when supporting new Hebrew teachers in their positions: the skills involved in teaching a second language and the cultural gap that many non-native North Americans experience when teaching in a day school for the first time.

In the past two years, we placed 59 Hebrew teachers in day schools in North America and the UK. These Hebrew teachers have required different support plans depending on the school requirements, and the teacher’s education and experience:

  • Hebrew at the Center bootcamp. Hebrew at the Center offers a three day bootcamp for new Hebrew teachers. In the last two years, 16 of our North American teachers have attended this bootcamp, preparing them for the first days of school.
  • One-on-one mentoring. All of our fellows have individual mentors who meet with them once a week to coach them through pedagogical approaches as well to address on the ground issues. Many of our mentors are independent though some are through organizations such as BetterLesson, JNTP, and Hebrew at the Center.
  • Curriculum support. For schools that follow a specific curriculum, we fund our fellows participation in iTalam, B’shvil HaIvrit, and Ulpan Or professional development sessions during the summer and throughout the year.
  • Graduate degrees. For teachers who are looking for both practical pedagogy as well as academic rigor, we have funded several of our fellows MA degrees as Middlebury College in Teaching Hebrew as a Second Language.
  • Cohort. We bring our Hebrew teachers together as a cohort to share best practices, ask questions, and create a community of new Hebrew teachers. This cohort has been run by Hebrew at the Center in the past and is now run by a TE staff member who is a veteran Hebrew teacher.

In order to measure the efficacy and success of these teachers as well as the support TalentEducators provides them, we conduct surveys twice a year. Our survey results reveal that these educators’ satisfaction in their positions as well as their administrators’ approval rate is higher than that of other new teachers. On a scale of 1-5, the employers rated their satisfaction with their Hebrew teachers’ work at 4.5, as opposed to an approval rate of 3.9 for other new teachers. In addition, all of the Hebrew teachers felt that their mentors positively impacted their teaching, rating the impact as a 4.6 out of 5. More than 80% of these Hebrew teachers are still in their original position (surpassing the average retention rate even amidst the Great Resignation), and the few who have left have either moved to a new location or have been given expanded responsibilities.

During the course of this work, one of the major challenges that we encounter when working with new Hebrew teachers is the reluctance of day schools to hire teachers with little to no teaching experience. The administration worries that the cultural gap combined with inexperience will ultimately lead to failure. In our experience, focusing on potential while creating a comprehensive personalized support plan can lead to greater satisfaction and retention. There is still a significant shortage of teachers, and specifically Hebrew teachers, however, if there is a mindset shift in addition to personalized professional development and mentoring, perhaps we can slowly bridge the gap.


Aharoni Carmel is the founding CEO of TalentEducators and a veteran principal of educational institutions both in Israel and the US with over twenty years of experience in the field of education.

Yael Harari is the Chief Operating Officer of TalentEducators and has more than fifteen years of experience in the field of education: as a teacher of literature and language and as a teacher-mentor in American Jewish schools and in Israeli mechinot.

Coffee And Politics, Or: From Cups To Coups

By Dr. Jeremy Benstein, HATC Senior Consultant

The favorite joke of one of my sons, when he was about four years old, went as follows (translated from the original Hebrew): “A man was walking along, fell into a hole, and couldn’t get out. ‘God,’ he prayed, ‘Make a miracle for me!’ God answered: ‘With sugar or without sugar?'”  

Now, in order to get this joke, you have to understand that the word for “miracle” in Hebrew is nes, which also means “instant coffee.” So, if you ask someone to make you a nes, you’re more likely to get a cup of coffee than a miracle. Even from God.  

Nes, by the way, is actually short for nescafe, which though the brand name of a type of coffee made by Nestle, is generic in Israel for “instant coffee.” The correct term for that light brown powder dissolved in hot water (which is hardly divine, by any standard) would be kafeh names, literally “dissolving coffee.” Compared to other types of coffee, this one (pronounced “nah’mess”), indeed involves less mess, and thus is somewhat miraculous.  

Today Israel boasts world-class cafes in most cities and a burgeoning coffee culture, with a plethora of brews to fit every discerning palate. But once nes was one of a mere two types of Israeli coffee.  

The other was a sort of Turkish coffee that, instead of being cooked on the stove, is simply mixed in water like nes. But since it is essentially unbrewed coffee grounds, the miraculous dissolution does not occur. This leaves a thick, black sludge at the bottom of the glass, which looks a lot like mud, or in Hebrew, botz, which became the name for this potent beverage usually served in small glass cups.  

It’s not hard to imagine the chalutzim, Israeli pioneers, after a hearty mug of muddy botz in the morning, going out to drain the swamps — the bitzot, same root — whose black peat looked and probably smelled about the same.  

Miracle or Mud? 

These two types of coffee seemed to define the two poles of Israeli reality: miracle or mud. Roses or thorns, paragon or pariah: a country of extremes. And it’s no accident that these are opposites. For the third type of coffee, which came on the scene a little later, is kafeh hafuch, or simply hafuch, meaning “opposite,” or “reversed.” Or upside-down, or inside-out, or backwards – from the Hebrew word hafuch means all those things. More on that to follow.  

In the case of coffee, though, it means something between a cappuccino and a latte (or café au lait) – a shot of espresso, with a lot of milk, and possibly some ketzef, whipped or steamed milk, depending on your taste. It’s not clear whether this is considered hafuch, backwards or reversed, because the hot milk is poured in first, and only then the coffee (not every barista would agree with that method), or simply because as opposed to nes, which is a lot of water and a little milk, this is the opposite. (While this coffee is usually not made at home, it is one of the most popular types ordered in cafes.)  

Many claim that this is a unique Israeli blend, but it turns out that in the Netherlands something like this type of coffee exists and is called verkeerd,“incorrect” or “cockeyed,” not unlike hafuch. Who knows? Perhaps it was not only the Turks who influenced Israeli coffee culture, but the Dutch as well.  

A revolutionary word 

The root of the word hafuch is h-f-ch, which may not evoke the same symbolism as do “miracles” and “mud,” but is also central to Israeli culture and history. The very oscillation between the “roses” and the “thorns” is an indication that reality here is very hafachpach, a beautiful word that means “changeable,” “volatile,” or “erratic.” It is in a form that repeats the second syllable (“f” and “p” being alternates of the same medial letter) to make it a descriptor, and almost onomatopoeic at that: one can almost hear the flip-flop.  

Probably the most well-known use of this root was by the legendary newscaster Haim Yavin, who broadcast the results of the election polls in the game-changing vote of 1977 when the Labor Party was ousted and the Likud, under the leadership of Menachem Begin, came to power for the first time in the history of the state.  

To this day, Israel uses paper ballots, and so it can take many hours to get even preliminary results. That year was the first time public opinion surveys were conducted at the polling stations to get an indication of the results before the final count. When Yavin got the news that the polls showed Likud with a significant lead, he summed it up in a word: “Mahapach!,” a reversal, an upset, a sea change.  

In saying this, Yavin meant that this was not nearly a mahapecha, a full-fledged “revolution.” And since it was achieved by democratic means, neither was it a haficha, a coup d’etat. But all of these words from h-f-ch signify different political developments that turn things, well, inside-out, upside-down, or backwards – at least relative to previous regimes or norms.  

Even though the Starbucks chain famously failed in Israel, it seems that the global coffee culture is here to stay. One might say that this trend is not hafich, “reversible.” This form makes the verb “X” mean “X-able,” such as achil “edible”, from aleph-ch-l, “eat,” or kari, “legible,” from k-r-aleph, “read” or dalik, flammable, from d-l-k, “burn.”  

But to someone who would claim that regime change or a bad political decision is irrevocable or irreversible, bilti hafich, we would say: lehefech! “Au contraire!” Hope springs eternal, and we have to believe that there’s still room for some surprising tahapuchot – turnarounds, changes of direction, though at times it may seem like this requires nothing short of a nes 

Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of Our Nation’s Capital Named a HATC Demonstration School

This past June, HATC CEO Rabbi Andrew Ergas joined the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School community to celebrate their successful completion of four plus years as the first school in the Leading in Hebrew initiative, a project that selects Jewish day schools with a strong commitment to Hebrew education and invests in them to become “demonstration schools.” These schools become models of excellence in Hebrew teaching and learning for other day schools and communities to emulate. These model schools demonstrate successful educational outcomes, which then catalyze similar outcomes in surrounding schools and the broader field. Data dissemination and guidance on curricular approaches will subsequently expand knowledge about Hebrew education to other communities in North America. The ultimate goal of this $1.3 million dollar project is to elevate the quality of Hebrew language teaching and learning such that Hebrew becomes an integral and elevated part of Jewish life in a community. Imagine the shift in the attitudes of parents, students, and the communities in which they live when day schools begin to graduate students with a passion for the language of the Jewish people, taught by Hebrew language teachers who model the best in both language education and education writ large. Consider graduates with a passion for the language of the Jewish people and an intimate understanding of Israeli culture, ready to contribute personally to strengthening bridges between America and Israel. Equally important, these schools will provide inspiration and a new, higher standard demonstrating what is in fact achievable, establishing expectations in North America that will have transformative implications for Hebrew education everywhere and a reframing of the North American Jewish community’s relationship with world Jewry and the Jewish state.

The team at Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School worked closely with HATC’s educators and professionals over the past four and a half years articulating a vision for Hebrew, developing work plans to bring that into reality, using assessment data to inform the pathway forward, and training teachers in a wide range of Hebrew language education pedagogy. This school has worked with the other Leading in Hebrew school, the Chicago Jewish Day School, to address shared or common challenges, present at conferences, and advance the field. Milton’s Hebrew leaders have also been trained as coaches in order to prepare them to both sustain the forward progress as the school moves into its next stage of work and share their expertise with other day schools in the community and beyond. In order to realize these successes has been even more challenging over the past two plus years, as both the school and HATC have wrestled with the numerous issues emerging from the pandemic. In reflecting on the work together, Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School Hebrew leader Aliza Sandalon shared, “I am grateful for HATC’s support, especially last year, in light of the difficulties our team endured.”

As a part of the concluding ceremony, Rabbi Ergas had dinner with the entire Hebrew faculty and joined them at a reception for school Board Members. At this gathering, two eighth graders reflected on their time at the school as they prepared to graduate, with their thoughtful and sophisticated presentations done completely in Hebrew. When Rabbi Ergas later addressed the school Board of Directors, he reflected on these students, saying, “While their Hebrew was beautiful, grammatically accurate, and showed great use of vocabulary, these two non-native speakers really demonstrated their love for the language and the sense that they were completely at home in Hebrew. This only comes out of the tremendous work that we have engaged in over the past few years and the deep commitment to excellence supported by teachers, administrators, parents, and the Board. This sets the bar for every other day school that wants to know that this is truly possible!”