I was due to have lunch today with our Co-Ordinator of Ivrit (at Toronto's new, fabulous-food dairy restaurant, Shemen Zait), but unfortunately we had to postpone. So, instead of lunch -- blog!
Ivrit is a major issue in Diaspora Jewish day schools. From all over the world, we hear of schools either reducing their teaching of Ivrit, or in some cases almost abandoning it. On the one hand ... on the other.... CHAT is firmly committed to Ivrit, both as a language and wherever possible as a language of instruction. Some 50% of all Jewish Studies teaching in CHAT is purely in Ivrit. It is a compulsory subject for all students throughout the school, at different levels of skill and knowledge. As a result, for example, when CHAT students go to Israel programmes, many of them (if not most) can go into Ivrit programmes. Keeping up our standard - to which we are committed - is, however, tough, for a number of reasons, and there is a constant murmur urging us to lower our demands. We maintain our levels by intensive staffing, including a requirement that (with few exceptions) our local JS staff must be Ivrit speakers, and also by the fact that we have a large staff of shlichim* (this coming year -- 15, about a quarter of total Judaic Studies faculty). We believe that whatever the difficulties (see following), the advantages of teaching texts in the original is so huge, and the importance of Ivrit so great, that it is worth it.
The difficulties include (but are not limited to!): -- shortage of teachers, especially teachers trained to teach Ivrit as a second language -- the general decline in second-language teaching throughout the Anglophone world (IMHO, due to the decline in teaching grammar in any language, including English) --- in part, ideological opposition to Ivrit in sections of the Orthodox community -- lack of systematic Hebrew reading instruction at an early age.
So --- how important should Ivrit be in the Jewish education system? How much of an educated Jew can you be without it? What are your experiences as graduates, parents, teachers etc?
*whatever experiences may be elsewhere, the shlichim at CHAT are a highly positive, effective and integral part of our team.