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Super-Cool SHINSHINIM: Magic Potion for Enthusiastic Middle School Hebrew Studies at The Brandeis School of San Francisco

At The Brandeis School of San Francisco Students have the choice to continue their Hebrew language studies or switch to Spanish when they enter 6th grade.  

The numbers of self-selected Hebrew students remain strong, thanks to the influence of smaller groups and accelerated progress of those who decide to continue learning Hebrew. However, developing close relationships with the Shinshinim is a major motivating factor for continuing to study Hebrew in Middle School. 

Shinshinim are 18-year-old Israeli emissaries that come to communities in America to spread knowledge and love for Israel. According to Debby Arzt-Mor, Director of Jewish Learning at The Brandeis School, the Shinshinim bring Ruach, lots of games, up-to-date Israeli music, and enthusiasm for both Israel and for Hebrew language. The selection process in Israeli high schools to become a Shinshin is highly competitive, and is cannot be overstated that Israel’s best and brightest high school graduates are taking a gap year before beginning their army service to serve in Jewish communities. Inspiring Shinshinim increase motivation as they bring Modern Hebrew language to life, throughout the K-8 school, “making Hebrew cool.”   

Over the past few years, a strategic decision was implemented to focus a major part of Brandeis’ Shininims’ time to support the work of the 5th, 6th, 7th. and 8th grade Hebrew classes. This has resulted in greater interest among 5th graders to continue their formal study of Hebrew when they move into 6th grade.   

Shinshinim are not trained teachers, however they prepare and run a wide range of Israel and holiday related programs. They function as “intern teachers” and interact with students during formal and informal learning times, such as assemblies, arrivals, recess, and aftercare. The Shinshinim that work at the Brandeis School are highly motivated to “teach” Hebrew throughout the school, as they see and feel how their leadership impacts student motivation. 

This year The Brandeis School has had one full-time and one part-time Shinshinit, Lia and Avya. Both Shinshiniyot work with 4 Hebrew teachers as well as with Debby, infusing the spirit of Israel throughout the school. The Middle School Hebrew teachers work with the shiniyot an average of 3 times a week, in the different classes and most teachers spend some of their prep time mentoring the Shinshinim, working with them on their ideas, and helping them adapt their ideas to a language class environment. By way of example: the Shinishinim don’t just get to teach a new, trendy Israeli song. They learn to give context, teach vocabulary, and help students integrate the new vocabulary into their own receptive and productive language skills.   

When this academic year ends and Lia and Avia return to Israel to begin their army service, they will be able to apply their new skills to their service. No doubt they will employ some recently acquired teaching skills from their year as a Shinshiniyot at The Brandeis School of San Francisco. 

For more information on effective utilization of Shinshinim in Hebrew ool classrooms, contact Debby Arzt-Mor at Click HERE or more information on bringing Shinshinim to your school and community. 

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