Friday, September 12, 2008

Jewish Education: Speaking to a Child in His Language / Thoughts of My Ancestors in An Election Season

A friend of mine transferred his son to a new Yeshiva. Why did he do it? His son had been there since preschool. Mysterious headaches and a manifest dread of going to school troubles were obvious to my friend. Troubleshooting was going nowhere.

Last year, his son was studying for a long final. He brought home a list of biblical passages that he had to translate from Hebrew to Yiddish. Other passages had to be translated from Yiddish to Hebrew. My friend helped as best as he could. When he translated a passage to English his son said,"They're not testing us on that."

My friend started testing his son on the English translation. The boy was clueless. He was exchanging one set of foreign syllables for another and only had a vague idea of the topic.

Rabbi Hillel said "What is hateful to you, Do not do to your neighbour." How would you feel translating between two languages and understanding neither? I would be bored out of my mind.What does it do to a child when no connection is made to his reason and understanding? What torture for a young mind!

My friend came to the same conclusion. His son now translates between Hebrew and English. Instead of exchanging one set of foreign sounds for another, there is an attempt made to connect to the heart and the intellect.

Many children come from homes in which Hebrew , Yiddish or both Hebrew and Yiddish are spoken. Such children could do very well with no problems in a school such as the one attended by my friend's son.

My friend feels some guilt for the suffering he subjected his son to. An honest look enabled him to take the needed steps. The boy seems much happier now. His English is a help in learning Torah instead of a useless sideshow.

This problem is not a rare one. Jewish language demographics are changing. The schools are adjusting. But parents need to be aware. Speak to a child in a way and a language he or she can understand. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. One soul lost to our faith is a terrible price to pay


Thoughts of My Ancestors in an Election Season

My grandfather kept two portraits in his living room. One was or Emperor Franz Josef, in whose navy he served. The other was of Franklin Roosevelt. When he was in Croatia, he supported the monarchy. In America he supported the Republic. Continue Reading »

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