2006-11-10 / Community

Free Hebrew Lessons Set For Ohab Zedek

Throughout the month of November, members of the greater Rockaway Jewish community will gather at Congregation Ohab Zedek to participate in the only continent-wide campaign aimed at teaching North American Jews to read the Hebrew language. Conceived and orchestrated by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), Read Hebrew America/ Canada is expected to reach 12,000 affiliated and unaffiliated Jews in the United States and Canada.

Opening its doors to all members of the Jewish community, Congregation Ohab Zedek will be one of 1,000 Jewish institutions across the continent to host Read Hebrew America/Canada . Led by Rabbi Boaz Tomsky, the [five week Hebrew Reading Crash Course] [the five week Hebrew Reading Crash Course Level II] [the One Day Review] will focus on teaching [the Hebrew alphabet and] basic reading skills to Jews with little or no background in Hebrew. Classes will meet on November 14, 2006 at 7:00 P.M. for Level 1 students and 8:00 P.M. for Level 2 students. Classes will meet for five consecutive Tuesdays and will conclude on Tuesday, December 12, 2006.

"Eighteen years of experience in teaching over 194,000 North American Jews to read Hebrew has taught us that for most unaffiliated Jews, Hebrew literacy is a crucial first step towards personal Jewish empowerment and enthusiastic communal involvement. Without the ability to read Hebrew, many Jews feel alienated from religious services and shy away from involvement in Jewish ritual observances and traditions," commented Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Founder and Director of NJOP.

NJOP strongly believes that the mass outreach approach of Read Hebrew America/ Canada has been proven to be an opportunity to touch, inspire and engage thousands of seeking Jews, thus ensuring a flourishing and vibrant future for them as part of an enriched North American Jewish community.

While no surveys or studies specifically report on the state of Hebrew literacy in North America, experts agree that, at an absolute minimum, 80% of all North American Jews do not know how to read Hebrew. The basis for this statistic is the report documenting the growing rate of Jewish assimilation in North America. Of the 5.2 million North American Jews, 2.3 million no longer identify themselves as Jews, 1.4 million are unaffiliated with any Jewish organization, and 1 million are marginally affiliated, meaning that they rarely attend synagogue and have little to do with any aspect of Jewish life. (2001 National Jewish Population Survey, United Jewish Communities)

Read Hebrew America/Canada is the first continent-wide program designed to introduce North American Jews to the Hebrew language - a skill that will enable them to participate in Jewish services and customs in the original language of their ancestors.

An essential component to the practice of Judaism, Hebrew is the primary language in which virtually all Jewish prayer books, holiday services, and significant religious texts are written and read. For more information about Read Hebrew America/Canada , call the synagogue office at 718-474-3300 or NJOP at 800-44-HEBRE(W).

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