Mindy Schiller’s What’s Wrong With Hebrew School? in the current World Jewish Digest is a MUST read for every Jew who spent their Sundays reciting the aleph-bet and is subjecting their children to the same. It’s probably going to echo your remembered frustrations and those of your children – namely that it’s boring – but Schiller isolates a few variables like poor timing (like any fourth grader’s going to be bright and sparky at 6pm on a Wednesday) and part-time teachers who aren’t focused (um, you talkin’ to me?) that contribute to the problem.
The article delves deep into the real question – what’s the point of Hebrew School at all if no one’s really learning to speak Hebrew? My humble opinion as a lazy Jew and fast-and-loose Sunday School teacher is that whatever we can do to imbue our children with a positive Jewish identity that’s going to last through the college years is valuable, even if it’s only the memory of sitting on a rug doing the S’hma in sign language.
But those who teach the higher grades have real challenges trying to teach a language, prayers, culture and history in the two-and-half measly hours that their students would rather be playing Wii. Our Shalom School has incorporated the Union for Reform Judaism’s Chai program this year, which focuses on Torah and ethics, and the older students get a midweek dose of Hebrew as well. But is it enough?
You know I can’t possibly answer that. All I know is I’d better my tushy moving on this week’s lesson plan.