“Hebrew… is the sacred language, it is the language of the Bible, it is the language of the prayer book and the depository of all the sublimest thoughts and noblest sentiments that Israel taught and felt for more than three thousand years. It is the tie that unites us with millions of worshippers in the same sacred language… It is the natural language of the Jew when he is in communion with his God… We must thus insist on Hebrew.”
These words were written by Solomon Schechter, our school’s namesake, from whom we draw so many important lessons. In the hundred years since Schechter wrote about his commitment to Hebrew language, the importance and centrality of Hebrew to the Jewish people has only increased. As in Schechter’s time Hebrew continues to be a key to accessing the intellectual history of the Jewish people, by way of engaging with our sacred texts and the timeless ideas within them. Hebrew also continues to be the language of communal Jewish prayer, allowing for Jews from around the world to come together in holy communities.
But back when Schechter was advocating for sustaining Hebrew in the American Jewish community, Hebrew as a living, spoken language was still at the beginning of its modern rebirth, and most Jews did not speak Hebrew. Today, in the age of the State of Israel, Hebrew is the native language of more than a third of the Jews in the world. Hebrew is also taught and spoken in Jewish communities around the world, connecting us to each other and to Israel. Hebrew language connects us across time to our history and ancestors and across space to the Jewish people.
Hebrew has always been a key component of a Schechter Manhattan education and this year we are putting a renewed focus on it. We are finding more and more opportunities to speak Hebrew. I am pleased to speak Hebrew with every student I see during my school days, and as the students know, if they speak to me in Hebrew, I am thrilled to give them each a sticker that reads דברתי עברית עם בן (I spoke Hebrew with Ben). In the first days of the school year it has been fun to have lots of students come up to me, ready to talk to me with a Hebrew phrase or sentence at whichever level they can express themselves, in the hopes of getting a sticker.
As the school year continues I look forward to many Hebrew conversations with Schechter Manhattan students and opportunities for them to build their Hebrew skills and love for Hebrew language.
Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop by every week and see what they are writing and thinking about.
During the first days of school in Kitah Aleph, we had a discussion about our hopes and dreams for the year. We considered what we wanted to accomplish in the year and what new things we wanted to try. We then drew our hopes and dreams with vibrant colors. We also expressed these hopes and dreams by writing them under the drawing. We shared the hopes and dreams with each other, which allowed us to get to know each other better.
This week began a new unit of study called Pitgam. Pitgam means sayings in Hebrew. In Kitah Gimmel, we are studying different sayings that our rabbis said and were eventually recorded in the Mishnah. This week, we studied the pitgam “Al shlosha devarim ha’olam omed: v’al torah v’al avoda v’al gemilut chasadim.” This saying means, “The world stands on three things: On Torah, on work, and on acts of kindness.” The students were divided into groups and each group was assigned one of these values. They discussed why this value was important and then together as a class we discussed whether we each feel that these values are important to the world. The students then created a visual representation of this saying and articulated why they agree or disagree with this rabbinic saying.
The students in Kitah Heh learned about having a growth mindset. They learned about neurons and synapses and what happens in our brains when we learn. They created comics to reflect what they learned about growth mindset.