Hebrew Literacy Classes

Contributed by Sandra M. Z. Armstrong

I am pleased to announce that Biblical Hebrew classes are taught at the conclusion of our Shabbat services and oneg/lunch at Congregation Sof Ma’arav every Saturday afternoon.

The good spirited, highly motivating learning that takes place in these classes makes Hebrew Education fun. I tell my students that learning to read Hebrew is easy.  It takes ten minutes a day of practice to commit to sitting down with a Hebrew text and finding time in our busy lives to study.

Beginner Biblical Hebrew at 12:30pm in the Sof Ma’arav sanctuary.

This class meets in the sanctuary at 12:30. The text is Shalom Aleichem by Rabbi Noah Golinkin. The Rabbi designed a phonetic approach to learning Hebrew letters. Rabbi Golinkin takes the student from letters, to words, to phrases in the song Shalom Aleichem. Proficiency is obtained after two months of weekly study sessions.  The students usually don’t believe me how quickly they will learn, but after a few weeks, they get it! I also tell them it is fun and easy. And they laugh when they realize just how easy beginner Hebrew is with this text.  I have been teaching this course for 27 years beginning in New Jersey and now here in Honolulu. The success rate is incredible and I love watching the students discover the art of Biblical Hebrew study

The Goal – to have students learn Biblical Hebrew and make use of their new Hebrew reading skills during services at Sof Ma’arav.

Advanced Beginner Biblical Hebrew

An additional class is taught as a follow up to the beginner class. The text is Eyn Keloheynu by Rabbi Noah Golinkin. This course guides the knowledgeable Hebrew reader into the Saturday morning service. Rabbi Golinkintakes the student through the service with comprehension skills and practiced fluency.

The Goal – to elevate students to lead parts of the service during our lay led weekly minyan. I have been teaching this class for the last 12 years at Congregation Sof Ma’arav.

Trope Torah Reading Class at 1:00 in the Sof Ma’arav Sanctuary

This year of 5778, a new Torah reading class was designed to encourage Biblical Hebrew students to read from the Torah during Shabbat morning services at Sof Ma’arav. We are on a triennial Torah reading schedule and we are an egalitarian shul. The text is The Art of Torah Cantillation, A Step-by-Step Guide to Chanting Torah Volume One by Cantor Marshall Portnoy and Cantor Jose’e Wolff with a CD included. It is currently available from Behrman House Inc. Students learn the trope phrases and apply them to parashot in the Torah. It is an interactive and thrilling experience as we delve closer to the Biblical text each week.

The impact of these classes

They foster the love of Biblical Hebrew throughout the Jewish Community, and showcase Sof Ma’arav as a leader in Adult Education on Oahu. Also, the more Hebrew readers we create, the more of a need we have for Conservative Congregations like Sof Ma’arav. Students, who were once unfamiliar with Hebrew, become participants in the weekly Shabbat services.

Weekly Saturday morning Children’s class at 11:10am taught by Sandra M. Z. Armstrong, certified in Hawaii as a primary early education teacher. In addition, the weekly babysitting room is continual from 10:00am to noon every Shabbat.

Classes are held for 30-40 minutes in the library adjoining the Sof Ma’arav sanctuary during the regularly scheduled Shabbat morning service.

Purpose: to keep children and grandchildren of our members actively engaged in Jewish Studies while their parents/grandparents attend services.

The class consists of up to 10 children on any given Shabbat morning. Biblical stories are read (and sometimes acted out). Jewish themed books are explored as holiday specific ones come along.  Stories are read aloud by the teacher and the students who have recently learned to read at public school and now share their new found knowledge with the younger members of the class! A surprise bag with Jewish content is presented each week and the children guess what is inside. Then a discussion pursues. Topics such as What does it mean to be Jewish?, How do we do mitzvahs in our every day life? and What was it like for our Jewish ancestors so long ago? The answers are so intelligent from these young children that sometimes I wonder who is really teaching who?

Along with timely holiday education, we study Hebrew letters with our homemade “musical” flash cards and find familiar letters in our miniature children’s Torah. Lively Hebrew songs are sung and prayers are practiced. A highlight for the adults and children alike is when we walk around the main sanctuary during the Return to the Ark Torah service and carry our very own miniature Torahs (our collection of toy, stuffed Torahs is extensive). The young ballerinas in our class enjoy dancing in front of the ark as the congregation sings. We are on the third consecutive year of teaching this “fun” and engaging class.