Hebrew is emphasized in many ways in our Religious School. In second grade, Tuesday afternoons are dedicated to basic Hebrew skills. Through fun games and interactive lessons, students will be introduced to the Hebrew letters and vowels and then begin to put words together as they learn to read with the use of text books, drills, games and music. In all grades, many types of texts and tools to enhance our students learning – opportunities are provided for students to learn visually, aurally and kinesthetically. Our Third through Sixth graders are divided into Hebrew reading levels instead of by grades for Hebrew instruction, allowing each child a differentiated curriculum suited to his/her needs. In addition, we will provide resources for parents including transliteration of the lessons our students are learning, to empower parents to teach their children at home. Our goal is for every child to succeed!
Prayer is something that happens in the heart and the mind and not just the mouth. It is communication with the self, communication within a community and communication with God. If we only learn how to say words in the Siddur but have no way of letting the words work inside us, then we are like someone who knows how to turn on a computer on which no programs have been installed.
The Rabbis believed that the Siddur is a lot like the script that an actor uses. For them, prayer was the capturing of a moment when the Jewish people had a unique experience of the Divine. When we use the Siddur (and can read it in the context of the stories of these moments) we can be just like actors using our own experiences to recreate the moments. The Siddur is really an opportunity to relive the most important moments of the Jewish experience.
Even when we do not have time to teach our students to speak Hebrew, even when we are not be able to give them enough vocabulary and grammar to accurately translate Hebrew texts, we still have the ability to give them a sense of the meaning of the Hebrew in the Siddur.
Our curriculum uses a technique called the "the approximation of translation" that teaches students a core Hebrew vocabulary, builds their skill at recognizing roots in context, and then challenges them to use those tools to build an evolving sense of "the general meaning" of key passages in the Siddur. When students sense a growing ability to understand the Siddur, their connection deepens.
"Sounding" is the process of looking at letters on a page and pronouncing the "words' they form. Sounding is an enabling tool that lets us move to the other two levels.
"Reading" is the act of looking at letters on a page and deriving meaning from them. This is one way that the liturgy comes off the page and enters our heart.
"Performing" is the process of repeatedly practicing a given passage until its words can be spoken or sung with reasonable fluency. "Performing" is a skill that enables most participation in Jewish worship. Students will use "sounding" to learn pieces of their bar/bat mitzvah material, but the rest of their Jewish life will primarily require mastered performances.
Our curriculum spends some time building sounding skills and works toward reading, but centers on the performance of prayers.
In this curriculum the word "reading" is avoided when meaning is not involved. The term "decoding" will refer to "sounding."
Jewish worship has formal structures. When students know the pattern, order and sequence of the prayers (a) they know where they are in the service at any time, (b) the presence of each element makes sense, and (c) they have a better chance of being able to surf the flow of the liturgy and create meaningful personal experiences.
Lifelong learning requires the building of connections, insights and tools. There is much more liturgy to be mastered than can be studied in the context of most schools. We therefore need to provide our students with tools that they can continue to apply after our classes have finished.
*Based on Torah Aura's tefillah curriculum.