Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sometimes they actually comprehend the lessons

When my children were 2, I put them in a Jewish preschool/daycare. From the beginning of school they learned about Judaism, about Jewish holidays, and they learned a bit of Hebrew. Now, I speak some Hebrew, not as fluently as I did when I lived in Israel, but I can hold my own in a conversation that isn't about quantum physics or airline mechanics. Since I can't hold a conversation about either of those two topics in English either, I don't feel that I've got much of a deficit.

Once kindergarten was on the horizon, I choose to send the two kids to a Jewish day school. It was an obvious choice since our town only offers half-day kindergarten and I was a working mom. My kids were used to being at school all day, liked the social aspect of school, and did well with the challenges intellectually, at least most of the time.

After kindergarten we moved to the Bay Area, where there were a choice of three Jewish day schools in our area. The Orthodox one didn't have the best academic reputation, the Conservative one was a bit out of the way and during our initial interview, the woman representing the school did a terrible job of presenting the school. She was so negative that I went with door number three, the community day school in Shallow Alto. This was a bad choice. A very bad choice for our family.

We were one of three 'religious' families in the school. The rest were sending their kids there to avoid the huge asian population in the public schools. I'm not making this up, it's a known fact seen by the original charter of the school. In addition, the Principal was less than truthful in how he presented the school. Ok, he was a rabid liar. After we arrived and started school, the lies came to the surface but we were screwed. We started considering leaving the school by November, but chose to stick it out through the school year before moving to the Conservative school.

Throughout all this Jewish education, my children learned Hebrew. The Girl took to it like a duck to water, and she read Hebrew well before she read English. She also understood Hebrew very well, and even began speaking it with me when we were out and about, so we could converse privately. That was way cool.

The Boy was more academic in his approach to Hebrew, and he learned it well too, but he never had the love of the language that the Girl did. She was a natural, that one. They went to Jewish camps in the summer, and to synagogue throughout the year, and Hebrew was a living language in their lives.

But things happened, things I don't need to discuss, and I pulled the kids from the day school and homeschooled them for a while before putting them in public school. Even when they were in public school, we continued with Hebrew school at our synagogue so the kids were able to keep current on the language.

When we moved back to Boston, I tried to put them in Hebrew school at our former synagogue, but it was an unmitigated disaster. I mean, I could write a novel about the months they were in Hebrew school and how bad it was. For example, the Girl's Hebrew school teacher called me about a month into school and said that she was concerned that the Girl didn't know her aleph-bet. I almost choked. I asked her if she had ever tried to get the Girl to read in Hebrew, and she said she hadn't, but the Girl didn't pay attention in class so she ASSumed that she didn't know what was going on. When I informed her that the Girl had spent 4 years in a bilingual day school program and her Hebrew was excellent, the teacher didn't know what to say. Suffice it to say, they didn't last much longer in this program, which sucked donkey balls in a major way.

From that moment on, I was pretty disgusted with organized Judaism and didn't keep up with my kids Hebrew education. I've talked about this before, and it's not particularly germaine here, but my kids didn't ever receive the Jewish education they should have due to finances and a lack of sensitivity of the Jewish community. They never had their b'nai mitzvah. We stopped attending shul weekly and no longer belong to a synagogue. Although we still live Jewishly, I'm just disinterested in organized Judaism in this area. It's not for me or my family.

So the years passed by and my kids had less and less exposure to Hebrew. Tonight I was talking to the Girl on the phone and she was telling me that she was helping another girl with her Hebrew homework. A girl who isn't Jewish but it interested in converting and is attending Hebrew school at our old synagogue. To say I was surprised would be putting it mildly.

I asked the Girl if she remembered her Hebrew, and she was incredulous. "Of course I do" she said. And she started telling me what they had been working on, and how she was teaching the girl pronounciation and grammar. Oh, the nachas! I was filled with joy. I had given up hope that my children would know Hebrew well. This was such a great joy for me to hear.

I told her that when she went to Israel in a few years (Birthright will send them both) she would value that Hebrew, and she was all proud of herself and excited about how much she had remembered.

Sometimes, they DO learn, even when we think they're not. I'm so proud of her. I'm just bursting.

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Anonymous Neener said...

This really IS a triumph. Proves again how powerful early learning is, and the influence a great Mom has on her kids. :-)

15/11/07 10:01 AM  
Blogger Daisy said...

This is a moment to be proud of! I love her telling you that of course, of courseshe remembered!

15/11/07 9:37 PM  

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