If you thought Hebrew school was just for bar and bat mitzvah students, think again. This fall, tens of thousands of Jews around the United States and Canada are learning to read and write Hebrew through Read Hebrew America/Canada. The campaign, which is made possible by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP), a New York-based organization that provides Jewish educational opportunities, is now offering its annual free Hebrew crash course in Los Angeles and other cities across the country during the month of November.
"Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people, yet in America we don't know if more than 20 or 25 percent of Jews can read it," said Rabbi Yitzchak Rosenbaum, NJOP's program director.
The organization created Read Hebrew America/Canada 16 years ago with hopes of combating this trend and helping Jews feel more connected to Judaism and Israel.
Classes are taught by volunteers, rabbis and Jewish educators and are being offered at more than 30 different locations around the Southland. The Level One Hebrew Reading Crash Course consists of five 60- to 90-minute classes. Each student receives a free textbook and is encouraged to practice at home for 15-20 minutes each day. Teachers use simple tactics like mnemonic devices to help readers memorize letters and sounds.
Additional Read Hebrew America/Canada classes include the Level Two Hebrew Reading Crash Course, the One-Day Review and the Hebrew Writing Crash Course.
"The idea is that this will make people feel better about themselves and more comfortable in synagogue," Rosenbaum said. "If you can't read Hebrew, you feel closed off from it."
For information on local Read Hebrew America/Canada classes and locations, call (800) 444-3273 or visit www.njop.org .