Hebrew School Gets Web Savvy

Aleph Bet Goes Online With Innovative Lesson Plans

thinkstock

By Emily Shire

Published February 07, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

If you ask me (and, if I had to guess, many of my peers), there is nothing worse than Hebrew school. In the world of fun Jewish activities, with Yom Kippur fasting being a one and hooking up with Israeli soldiers on Birthright a 10, attending Hebrew school is a lowly three.

On Sundays, when all I wanted to do was sleep, I was dragged out of bed by my parents, stuffed into a minivan and sent off to learn a language that was so complicated and had so many funny looking letters that paying attention was a hopeless endeavor.

And it didn’t stop there. At least once a week, after a long day of secular school, I was carted off to synagogue to stare blankly at books for another two hours. I ran out of the classroom as fast as I could, unlikely to ever crack open our workbook. After seven years, all I could say was “I don’t know” in the male personal form. Suffice it to say that my comprehension of the Hebrew language was, and continues to be, minimal.

Luckily, it’s the dawn of a new era for bored and irritated Hebrew school students! Behrman House, a Jewish educational publisher in operation for 90 years, is trying to change those dreary (and ineffective) educational experiences by harnessing the power of the Internet. In early 2012 Behrman House became the first Jewish educational publisher to launch an Internet portal. Called the Online Learning Center, it provides digital lesson plans, articles and textbooks.

“We started with the idea of how can we make Hebrew exercises easier for students and families to use and provide greater flexibility,” said Vicki Weber, Behrman House director of communications and customer support. Offering a variety of games, the Online Learning Center seeks to increase the potential hours for learning outside the classroom, as well as motivate students to spend more time on their homework.

I remember my Hebrew school learning as a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process. With in-class instruction just once or twice a week, every time I learned a new word or vowel, I forgot it by the next class. I was given the opportunity to try out one of the Online Learning Center games for second- and third-graders, “Ready, Set… Go Alef Bet!” and I could quickly see the appeal to children. Before I began the lessons, I created my own avatar, an experience akin to choosing a Mario Kart player. Though her bright orange skin and purple hair did not bear a strong resemblance to my own physical attributes, I thought her kicky newsboy cap conveyed my spunky eagerness to learn Hebrew. There were 20 lessons in total. Letter sounds and words from the previous sets were always interspersed in new sections. This was the continuity and reinforcement that my Sunday and Wednesday Hebrew lessons lacked.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.