Ideas for Incorporating Hebrew into Peoplehood Education
Introductory Discussion: The Nature of Language
Introduce your students to a conversation about language in general, and Hebrew in particular. Note that we are talking here about language in its broadest sense, where it denotes words and phrases, as well as the values and culture that are embodied in those words. The Hebrew language, then (as any language) reflects the values and culture of Jews throughout the ages, and in all places that Jews have lived. Today, when Hebrew is the language of the State of Israel, Hebrew is the expression of contemporary Jewish life and its interaction with modernity, Jewish history and Jewish sovereignty.
- Ask your students to list all the languages that they, and their families, speak.
- Ask your students to think of a time when they encountered a situation or a language that they didn’t understand.
- Ask your students to think about a time when they were able to understand a situation or a language but others in the room didn’t.
- Ask your students to think about a time when they translated for others who didn’t understand. How did feel to be the translator? What was difficult or easy? What were the pitfalls of translation?
Discuss the ways that being fluent in a language (or not) includes and excludes us. Ask students to share their experiences with this.
Now turn the discussion to Hebrew. How do they feel in relation to Hebrew. Does it include or exclude them from being part of the Jewish community? What kinds or levels of Hebrew do they want to know?Do your students feel more or less connected to Hebrew than other languages? Is it more useful or relevant to them to learn Spanish or another language?
Show your students the short videos from the 5 Legged Table website about the power of language to embody culture.
You could also expand the conversation to include the text studies from the story of the Tower of Babel and Yeshayahu Leibowitz.
Focus on contemporary Israeli culture as a way to create a relevant experience of Hebrew. Songs and movies are the best way to do this.
Using the music of the bands HaDag Nachash and musicians Kobi Oz and Ehud Banai, you can teach Hebrew language and culture. See the excellent resources from Makom that provide translation and transliterations of songs, as well as explanations of the cultural context surrounding them. Makom has resources on:
- Old Songs Renewed
- Kobi Oz – Psalms for the Perplexed
- Various Israeli musicians including Arik Einstein and HaDag Nachash
- Create a lexicon of Hebrew words that convey Jewish history, culture and values, and that demonstrate the value of Hebrew to the learner’s identity development.
- Infuse Hebrew terms into the learning environment to create a sense of comfort and familiarity with the Hebrew language.
- Connect students with Israeli peers. See more ideas for this in the section on Mifgash.