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December 19, 1986 - Image 80

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

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Hebrew Struggles


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Friday, December 19, 1986 THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS


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st\CO s A 4 ,

368-3035 ),

cluding a young black man
whose sister married an Is-
Gail Gales has taught He-
brew in Southfield for the
past 13 years. She attended
the United Hebrew Schools'
Hebrew High, received her
degree at Wayne State Uni-
versity and once lived on a
kibbutz. According to Gales,
enrollment figures are not a
true reflection of student par-
ticipation in the program. A
large number of her pupils
enter at the Hebrew II level
after transferring from pri-
vate schools like Hillel and
Rachel Karp, a 17-year-old
Hebrew IV student, says,
"There are definitely enough
Jewish kids at S-L to fill up
the program. The problem
with a lot of my friends is
they began taking foreign
languages in eighth grade for
the International Baccalau-
reate program and they
thought that Hebrew wasn't
included." The IB program is
designed for college-bound
students who are majoring in
foreign languages.
Ken Silver, Southfield
schools -spokesman, says
there are currently 300 stu-
dents in the IB program. But
both the IB program and the
Hebrew course "will be up for
review next year. We may
not be offering the programs,
but that doesn't mean we'll
the same way win?
Shakespeare program: What's
popular today is not always
popular tomorrow. If three is
an increase in demand for a
subject, it will become avail-
Seymour Pritkin recently
moved to Michigan from
Texas and is in Hebrew I.
For me, learning Hebrew is
important — it's a part of my
heritage. Some kids take the
class because they think it'll
be an easy credit since they
already went to Sunday
school. A lot of people don't
take it because of the stigma
that anything connected with
religion isn't 'cool' and
foreign languages are bor-
Sitting in on a few of
Gales' classes at
Southfield-Lathrup High
School lays waste to these be-
liefs. She is an energetic and
exciting presence in the
classroom and her students
hold her in high regard.
Gales greets her class in He-
brew, requesting collateral
from a pencil-borrowing
pupil, and they tease her
about dressing up. Hebrew
this day is brought to life
through modern video, par-
ticipatory conversation and a
fun game of "Shimon Says,"
the winner receiving extra
points on the next quiz.
Classes are small, 15 to 20
students at each level, which
heightens personal involve-
ment and enables Gales to
give more individualized at-

Jeff Zimberg is a Hebrew I
student. His twin siblings,
Brian and Rhoda, are in He-
brew IV. They all plan to
visit Israel, perhaps to try
kibbutz life or to attend col-
lege there.
Michelle Fields, whose
mother, Donna Schwartz, was
one of the parents responsible
for having the course
reinstated, says, "Chances
are I'll probably use Hebrew
more than any other subject
I'll learn this year. It's some-
thing that's relevant to my
future, especially if I go to Is-
Rachel Karp adds, "I've
learned more in three years
with Mrs. Gales than in 11
years at United Hebrew
Schools. They didn't teach us
to speak the language. We
want to be able to converse in
Hebrew, not just to read and
mumble a few prayers."
In Farmington Hills and
West Bloomfield Hebrew is
not offered in the public
schools. Richard Ulasich, an
assistant principal at West
Bloomfield High School says,
"There doesn't seem to be
demand for the course. A
large number of our students
have learned Hebrew within
a private institution and
some were able to receive a
transfer credit. The idea of of-
fering the program was
brought up at a recent meet-
ing among the adminis-
4- 0m
t.nersioitui t , j2.9.._ one has ever
the class."
According to David Moss
and Tom Wexelburg-Clauser
of the Jewish Welfare Feder-
ation, less than 50 percent of
Jewish youth throughout the
country are receiving any
form of religious education
and the national trend is on
the decline. Figures from the
Fresh Air Society show that
26 percent of their campers
are not involved in any form
of religious instruction and of
those that do attend, 20 per-
cent drop out after bar
mitzvah age.
In the Detroit area, 7,400
Jewish youngsters are
enrolled in some type of reli-
gious institution. The United
Hebrew Schools has 1150
pupils. Temple Israel has
over 1,600 attending its com-
bined Sunday morning and
after-school programs.
Joseph Poisson, director of
education at Temple Israel,
says, ,"Today's child, partly
because of modern technol-
ogy, is extremely bright and
quick and used to being
entertained. Our teachers
have to be sharp and
genuinely interested in what
they are teaching. If they
don't enjoy themselves,
neither will the pupils. You
can't fool kids today, they're
too clever."
Cong. Beth Shalom has
witnessed a ten percent de-
cline in its Hebrew school
enrollment. One member of
the congregation responds

4- 'CAT*

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