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December 19, 1986 - Image 79

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-12-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

HEBREW
STRUGGLES



'Lack of interest'
nearly closed Southfield
Schools' Hebrew classes

Bub McKeo wn

I

Teacher Gail Gales, left, helps Rachel Karp with Hebrew prepositions.

SHELLEY SHERMAN NADIV

Special to The Jewish News

Rachel Karp and her Hebrew class: "There are definitely enough kids to fill up the program."

outhfield Public Schools
nearly closed the doors on its He --
brew department this semester.
The recommendation of Dr. Be-
verly Geltner, associate superinten-
dent of instruction in Southfield was
a major influence in the decision to
phase out the program. The adminis-
tration's proposal was to not offer
Hebrew I for the 1986-1987 school
year and, in following years, to dis-
continue levels II, III and IV.
The reason for the move, accord-
ing to Dr. Geltner is "current figures
show a decreasing enrollment in the
program which signifies a lack of
interest among Southfield students
to learn Hebrew."
There are approximately 14,000
Jewish students in Oakland County;
Southfield is the only public school
system which offers the language as
an elective for credit.
This year, 85 students signed up
for the Hebrew program which is
based at Southfield-Lathrup High
School. The program is open to stu-
dents at Southfield High and the

district's middle schools, but they
must be bused to S-L to attend He-
brew class.
Despite these and other difficul-
ties, the pupils and their parents are
not about to give up their fight to
keep Hebrew. At a school board
meeting last April held at Thompson
Middle School, Southfield residents
voiced their support for the program,
including attorney Mark Schlussel.
Schlussel has lived in Southfield 18
years and his four children have all
gone through the Hebrew program
at S-L. His youngest son Jeffrey is
currently enrolled in Hebrew III.
When Jeffrey came home last
year and informed his parents about
the school board's decision to drop
the program, Schlussel — an officer
of the Jewish Welfare Federation
and president of the Jewish Educa-
tion Service of North America —
took up the matter with Dr. Geltner.
According to him, she said, At this
time there is no demand for Hebrew
among our students. We have de-
cided to phase out the program from

our curriculum and to add Japanese
to our list of foreign languages as
the language would be beneficial to
the future of commerce." --
Dissatisfied, Schlussel told the
school board, The decision to phase
out Hebrew makes a statement to
the Jewish community about their
commitment to Southfield, that our
participation is no longer valid
enough to include the program."
He also pointed out that the
roots of Judeo-Christian theology are
steeped in the Hebrew language,
more so than Latin, which is still
being offered. To keep us an inte-
grated rather than a changing city,
the school system must recognize the
pluralism and ethnic structure of our
society and not exclude the Jewish
community as we have always been
and will continue to be cultural and
financial contributors to the city of
Southfield."
Due to the protests of Schlussel
and other parents, Hebrew is again
offered this year, although the pro-
gram's future is still on shaky

ground. According to Robert Wright,
a counselor at Southfield High
School, "There is still talk among
the administration of phasing out
the program. The administration is
also considering conducting normal
classes on Rosh Hashanah and Yom
Kippur because of the insignificant
drop in attendance on those days."
For years Southfield schools have
closed on the High Holy Days to ac-
commodate Jewish students and
staff.
Hebrew, offered in Southfield
since 1972, was originally taught at
both of the city's high schools. The
program is completely secular and
includes studies of Middle East cul-
ture and geography. The language is
taught through the use of classical
stories, movies, and the text book
Habet Ushma — Look and Listen,
which is the same method employed
in Israeli ulpanim for foreign resi-
dents. The majority of the students
are Jewish, although there have
been pupils of other religions, in-

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79

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