Brandeis Magazine

Winter 2023/2024

A Fresh Approach for Teaching Hebrew

By Lawrence Goodman

Brandeis has launched an initiative — the Consortium for the Teaching of Hebrew Language and Culture, directed by research professor Vardit Ringvald — that aims to transform Hebrew language instruction in North America and create a new generation of proficient Hebrew speakers.

A partnership with Queens College, in New York; Middlebury College, in Vermont; Universidad Hebraica, in Mexico City; and two yet-to-be-announced institutions of higher education, the initiative expects to train 500 licensed or master’s-accredited Hebrew teachers over five years.

Brandeis will offer a master’s degree or licensure in teaching Hebrew through the Rabb School of Continuing Studies.

It’s projected the newly trained educators will reach some 30,000 students (in kindergarten through college), 10,000 of whom will continue their studies enough to become proficient Hebrew speakers. Currently, only about 2,000 non-Israeli North American Jews speak Hebrew fluently.

Israel native Ringvald, a pioneer in Hebrew-language acquisition, says the consortium’s goal is to help students become proficient in Hebrew in a manner that allows the language to become part of their identity.

The Brandeis consortium, she says, will create educators who “teach a modern language in the context of how it’s used in the country where it’s spoken. Acquisition is when we process language. It becomes part of who we are.”

She believes it’s vital for the Jewish people to learn Hebrew. Those who don’t, she says, are “very limited in [their] ability to understand Jewish history, religion, culture, people, and Israel.

“Hebrew is the key to understanding Jewish tradition and Judaism.”