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Finding Their Place in Community via Hebrew

In his April 13 memo to American Jews, David Hazony makes a strong case for the importance of Hebrew, and in typical Jewish fashion, readers lob back counter arguments.

Ten years in Hebrew-as-a-second-language education have taught me that students who are genuinely engaged with Hebrew find the question of Hebrew’s importance moot — they have made their own meaning.

Jewish educational institutions must provide Hebrew learners with this meaningful encounter with our language. Educational leaders who see Hebrew as a window to personal intellectual growth as well as a key to Jewish continuity can ensure that Hebrew is taught in an ambitious, intellectually demanding way, with high standards and excellent teachers.

All Hebrew students can tackle important ideas and authentic texts, learning through experience to think, argue, dream and create in Hebrew. When students have used Hebrew for Midrash and texting, for S.Y. Agnon and Etgar Keret, for songs, sports, satire and science, they will be able to find their own place in the vibrant community of Hebrew culture.

Naomi Stillman
Newton Centre, Mass.

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