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November 15, 2002 - Image 56

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-15

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use their newfound knowledge of
Hebrew to form groups for conversa-
tional Hebrew and textual translation
"Maybe we could go as far as
reviewing the prayer book or the
weekly Torah parshah," Rabbi Cohen
says. "I'd really like to see students use
what they learn in any way they
For Dr. Bogrow, that would be "a
combination of learning more about
Judaism and about Torah." While he
says his new Hebrew-reading skills
have led him to involvement in other
Jewish studies, these studies also have
enhanced his reading ability.
'Along the way, my other Jewish
learning has allowed me to pick up
more Hebrew reading," he says.
Dr. Bogrow, a member of
Congregation Shir Tikvah, and Rabbi
Meisels follow the NJOP study plans,
but have chosen to meet one-on-one
for more intensive learning than a
class would allow. "Learning Hebrew
has inspired me to learn more about
Judaism," says Dr. Bogrow, who now
also attends a weekly study group with
Rabbi Meisels.

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from page 55

What To Expect

Standing outside Rabbi Cohen's Level
I Hebrew-reading class, one can hear
the recitation of vowels and Hebrew
sounds repeated by the students in
Using the NJOP-provided book, he
says, "You can hear us reading: "ah,
ah, ah; bah, bah, bah. Once they've
got the aleph-bet (alphabet) down,
Level II takes them to prayers and
songs like "Hatikvah," kiddush and
"Adon Olam," which are both read
and translated."
The rabbi says mostly everyone
from his October Level 1 class has
already signed up for this month's
Level II class.
"But many people know more
Hebrew than they think and can sign
up to take Level II without ever taking
the first level," he says of the courses,
which are open to anyone in the com-
munity — not just members of Keter
"Level I really is geared toward
those who want to learn what each let-
ter is — and how to pronounce it. For
those who are rusty, there was a review
session offered between the Level I and
Level II classes," he says. "For many,
by the end of the three-hour class,
they're reading Hebrew again."
Although Rabbi Cohen says his
students rarely miss a class, if they do,

NJOP has made available an audio-
tape of each session.
"The course is to teach students to
read the language," Rabbi Meisels
says. The program makes use of pho-
netics and rhyming.
"Then, when they learn to under-
stand the roots of the words, they
begin to understand what they're read-
ing. Within six months, most students
are comfortable opening up a siddur
and are reading nicely — and know-
ing what they are doing."

Understanding Hebrew

After trying various other means
for brushing up on his Hebrew,
Congregation Beth Shalom member
Harley Sherman contacted NJOP,
who referred him to Rabbi Meisels.
"Unlike a CD-Rom I tried for learn-
ing Hebrew word pronunciation, the
rabbi corrects me as I go," Sherman
says. "I'm more apt to do my homework
knowing I'm going to meet with him.
"My overall goal here is to learn to
read and speak Hebrew," he contin-
ues. "I want to understand the service
and to understand the Hebrew terms
my friends use when they speak."
Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, NJOP's
founder and director, says Read
Hebrew was conceived to combat the
feeling that most Jews "feel like dum-
mies" when it comes to reading Jewish
religious texts or attending services.
That loathing grows into fear of
Jewish involvement, he says.
Rabbi Buchwald says this year's
$350,000 campaign aims to rekindle
Jewish identity at a time when Jewish
activity has hit a new low.
The program "will reach the largest
numbers of people in a cost-effective
manner," he says.
The rabbi is hopeful that once peo-
ple get a taste of Hebrew, they will
come back for more. He maintains
that 77 percent of those who take a
beginning-level Hebrew course will
take a follow-up course or another
NJOP class. Among them is Shabbat
Across America, which teaches people
about Shabbat.

— Joe Berkofiky of the JTA
contributed to this story

To learn .more about the Read
Hebrew America/Canada project,
access the National Jewish
Outreach Program Web site at:
wwvv.njop.org or call
(800) 44-HEBREW

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