13 Apr Teaching Hebrew to Connect

Special guest column by Ruth Servi, Jewish Studies and Hebrew Coordinator

אני לובש חולצה לבנה, מה את לובשת? אני לובשת חצאית כחולה
(I’m wearing a white shirt, what are you wearing? I’m wearing a blue skirt) – Gan student.

מה מיוחד במוזאון המדע בניו יורק? מה אפשר לעשות שם? במוזאון המדע יש עצמות של דינוזאורים והרבה תערוכות חדשות
(What’s special about the New York Science Museum? What can you do there? You can find dinosaurs’ bones and many new exhibits there) – fifth-grade student.

These are just a few examples of simple Hebrew conversations that I observed in a few of our classes recently.

At Schechter Manhattan, Hebrew is at the center of our educational philosophy. We teach Hebrew as a second language with all its grammatical structures and vocabulary to support our students in their efforts to communicate with each other and with Jews and Israelis around the world. We teach Hebrew through prayer to connect our students’ lives to the daily tfillah and Jewish ritual life. We teach Hebrew through Jewish text to learn the stories, the morals and the ethical ideas our rabbis have taught us. And we teach Hebrew to connect to the culture and the society of the State of Israel.

Students at Schechter Manhattan are surrounded by Hebrew throughout their school day. Teachers and students greet each other every morning with a warm “boker tov” and many of the daily instructions are given seamlessly in Hebrew to all students. Oral fluency and communication skills are strengthened by intentional teaching of vocabulary and modeling of dialogues on a variety of themes. Students first mimic a given dialogue to then develop the ability to reproduce it and internalize the skills to make it their own. Starting in gan and all the way to eighth grade, students are encouraged to formulate sentences, to express ideas and concepts with their classmates and their teachers, without the fear of making mistakes.

Support in Hebrew expression is additionally provided by engagement with our shinshinim, May and Itamar. Their presence in all our classes brings Hebrew fluency to the forefront of our Hebrew instruction. They also plan and implement instructional games and fun lessons in morning meeting, chagim, and text classes, as well as during lunch and snack times.

At the same time, students at Schechter Manhattan work on developing their reading decoding and reading comprehension skills. Students in gan, first and second grade learn to decode the aleph-bet, to read with nikud, practice reading for comprehension, which complements the oral skills they learn on a daily basis. Writing in script and developing personal writing skills goes hand in hand with reading and oral communication skills.

In the upper elementary grades and in the middle school, students continue to engage in the four skills of second language acquisition (listening, speaking, reading and writing) in all their Hebrew lessons. Hebrew groups serve students with different needs to acquire the skills to improve and progress. Students are exposed to a variety of instructional websites and online apps to strengthen and enrich their learning.

The various elements of Hebrew study at Schechter Manhattan help students to connect- with others, with Jewish and Israeli culture, and with their own developing Jewish identities through the language of our people.

Shabbat Shalom


Ruth Servi

Author’s Chair

Each week we will feature the written work of our students. We hope that you will stop back next week and see what they are writing and thinking about.


Students had free writing during Writing Workshop where they could write fiction or nonfiction, incorporating characters, setting, problem and solution.

A prinses dus not havuprins. Shelivd in a casuol. Shefawnd the prins andtha got mared
(A princess does not have a prince. She lived in a castle. She found the prince and they got married).

Wns upon a tym there lid monsrs. Thay wer Not Nis to humans.
(Once upon a time there lived monsters. They were not nice to humans).

I went ou hrip with my famule. I went in a juokose
(I went on a trip with my family. I went in a Jacuzzi).



Kitah Bet recently completed its writing unit on Poetry. Students were asked to use their knowledge of poetic language and poetic features, such as repetition, as the starting point for this assignment.

Click here to view work by Liat, Adam, Bela, Zac & Naomi



The fifth graders STEAMfest projects focused on how to make New York City more welcoming to newcomers. Students wrote about their projects.

Calming Space

Description of our project:

Our project is a calming outdoor green space with many activities. Our green space could be on an empty lot between buildings. One part of it is the magnetic poetry where you can make your own poem out of magnets with words on them. Another part of our project is the fidget band. The fidget band is a fidget that you roll in your hands and it feels good on them and it makes noise. The next part is a pillow that has a micro bit on it so you can shake it or press the buttons and pictures pop up of relaxing beach stuff. The last part of our project is the google cardboard were there is a video of calming things that make you feel like your there.

Problem our project addresses:
Our project addresses the lack of calming places in New York. Another part of the problem is people look for relaxing places but they can’t find any so we provide them with one.

Client (who our project helps):
Our project helps NYC residents all ages to find a calm place.

Most challenging part of our project:

The most challenging part of our project was getting the micro bit onto the pillow because there was a lot of components to put in the little place in the pillow.

What we would add or change if we had more time:

If we had more time we would add more stuff to the micro bit like better videos. We also would add a wind chime.

by Rafi, Ella, Elinor, and Avia


Rotating Sign

Description of our project:

The description of our project is a rotating sign that rotates by motors that are connected to a wheel. On one side the sign says “Yes Parking”, on the other side it says “No Parking”.

Problem our project addresses:

Our project addresses the problem of NYC parking signs being really confusing.

Client (who our project helps):

Our client is any Suburban people who moved to NYC and don’t understand the parking signs.

Most challenging part of our project:

The most challenging part of our project was finding a good and secure way to contain the motors and wires to the cardboard tube.

What we would add or change if we had more time:

If we had more time we would try to make the project a bit more secure and safe.

By Sarah, Shlomo, and Dror


Fold Up Bed 

Description of our project:

Our project is a bed that folds up. It also has shelves that fold out of the wall when the bed is down. These shelves can hold things like sheets and blankets that you only need for sleeping. There is also a cup holder. You would fold the bed down when you wanted to go to bed, and when you wake up, you would fold the bed down and fold the shelves back. It would look like the whole thing was part of the wall.

Problem our project addresses:

The problem out project addresses is that apartments in New York City are very small. Lack of space can make a community feel less welcoming.

Client (who our project helps):
Our clients are kids, adults, or families that live in small apartments in NYC.

Most challenging part of our project: The most challenging part of our project was making the fold-in shelves work. We had lots of mistakes. One of them was that we measured the cabinet wrong and when we glued it we were not able to fold out the shelves. We had to cut a little bit out of the wall.

What we would add or change if we had more time: If we had more time we would have made it bigger. Our bed is not that big, and we would have been able to add more details.

  by Talia, Abby, Ben, and Hannah


Translating Menu

Description of our project:

This is our STEAM project, the Translating Menu. It is used so that a customer who does not speak English can hold the home button and tap the food that they want and the person in the ‘kitchen’ hears that food in English and can give the customer the food that they have selected. Next to each food, you can see each food in many different languages in case the customer does not know what the food they want looks like. We also added a ‘cancel order button’ in case our customer selects the wrong food. It is built with a Makey Makey and Scratch.

Project our project addresses:

People who do not speak English may have difficulty ordering food at a restaurant in NYC.

Client (who our project helps):
Our project helps people who do not speak English communicate with people who only speak English and allows them to order food in a restaurant.

Most challenging part of our project:

The most difficult part of our project was connecting the Makey Makey to the menu and different foods.

What we would add or change if we had more time:

If we had more time, we would add more items to our menu.

by Maya, Nadav, Ella, Ari, and Sam


NYC Welcome Kit

Description of our project:

A website that can help tweens who just moved to NYC fit in and a micro bit friendship bracelet to keep in touch with their old friends from back home

Problem our project addresses:

Tweens who move here are overwhelmed by all the noise, people, and new way of life in NYC. This can make them miss their old homes.

Client (who our project helps):

Tweens who just moved to NYC from other countries.

Most challenging part of our project:

The most challenging part of our project was finding the website.

What we would add or change if we had more time:

We would add another kit if we had more time.

by Annabelle, Nina, Simon, Nathaniel, & Arielle



Seventh-grade students are currently exploring the role of Israel in their lives as Jews. In this introductory writing prompt, they were asked to share their ideas about what it should mean to be a Jewish country.

Question: What do you think the phrase “Jewish country” or “Jewish state” means? What do you think of when you hear “Jewish state”? What would you like people to associate with the term “Jewish state”?

When someone says “Jewish country” or “Jewish state” I think of a piece of land that was given to Jews (Israel) or a piece of land where more than 50% of people living there are Jewish/identify as Jewish. When someone mentions the term “Jewish state” I would like people to think of it as a good, powerful, kind, welcoming state.
– Valentina

I think of Israel when I hear someone say “the Jewish state” because it’s a place where Jews for the first time have a place that is run by Jews, is mostly populated with Jews, and was given to the Jews. I want people to think of a “Jewish state” as a good place that has important values that relate to Judaism. For example, on the other side of this sheet I said treating people with respect is very important and I think that should be something strangers connect to when they hear or see the phrase “Jewish state.”

I think of Israel when I hear Jewish state, because Israel is the only Jewish country. Regardless, I don’t believe that nations should have religions, but that’s beside the point. I don’t think that Israel lives up to my standards as the Jewish state. As a Conservative Jew with a woman rabbi for a mother, I am not satisfied with the Orthodox rule. In my opinion, gay people should be allowed to be married Jewishly in the JEWISH state. Women and men shouldn’t be separated at the Kotel. If they’re going to be separated, that should be the smaller place. I believe in equal rights, and Israel doesn’t live up to my standards.

When I hear about a “Jewish country” I think of a place where everyone does the things I listed on the opposite side of this page. [On the previous page, Samuel listed going to a Jewish school, going to shul, laying tefillin, keeping kosher, and observing Shabbos as things that make him identify as a Jew.] It is a place that Jews will feel at home about things such as whether a soup at a restaurant has meat in it. The place is governed by Jews and only Jews live there. Anyone else can visit, but only kosher food is allowed.

When I think of a Jewish state, I think of a place run and populated by Jews. A place where the government does not necessarily go by Jewish law, but incorporates it into their government. I want people to think of a Jewish state as a place where Jews can practice Judaism however they want, but are all Jews none the less.