EDISON—Throughout the month of November, members of Middlesex County’s Jewish community will gather at the Jewish Community Center of Middlesex County to participate in the only continent-wide campaign aimed at teaching North American Jews to read the Hebrew language.
Conceived and orchestrated by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) in 1998, Read Hebrew America/Canada is expected to reach 12,000 affiliated and unaffiliated Jews in the United States and Canada this year.
Opening its doors to all members of Middlesex County’s Jewish community, the JCC will be one of 600 Jewish institutions across the continent to host Read Hebrew America/Canada. Led by Rabbi Melinda Zalma and Jennine Shpigel, the six week Hebrew Reading Crash Course Level II will focus on teaching basic reading skills to Jews with little or no background in Hebrew.
Classes will meet on Wednesdays from 1:30-3 p.m. beginning Nov. 4 (no class Nov. 25), at the JCC, 1775 Oak Tree Road, Edison.
“Twenty years of experience in teaching over 214,000 North American Jews to read Hebrew has taught us that for most unaffiliated Jews, Hebrew literacy is a crucial first step towards personal Jewish empowerment and enthusiastic communal involvement. Without the ability to read Hebrew, many Jews feel alienated from religious services and shy away from involvement in Jewish ritual observances and traditions,” commented Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, Founder and Director of NJOP.
NJOP strongly believes that the mass outreach approach of Read Hebrew America/Canada has been proven to be an opportunity to touch, inspire and engage tens of thousands of seeking Jews, thus ensuring a flourishing and vibrant future for them as part of an enriched North American Jewish community.
While no surveys or studies specifically report on the state of Hebrew literacy in North America, experts agree that, at an absolute minimum, 80% of all North American Jews do not know how to read Hebrew. The basis for this statistic is the report documenting the growing rate of Jewish assimilation in North America.
Of the 5.2 million North American Jews, 2.3 million no longer identify themselves as Jews, 1.4 million are unaffiliated with any Jewish organization, and 1 million are marginally affiliated, meaning that they rarely attend synagogue and have little to do with any aspect of Jewish life. (2001 National Jewish Population Survey, United Jewish Communities)
Read Hebrew America/Canada is the first continent-wide program designed to introduce North American Jews to the Hebrew language – a skill that will enable them to participate in Jewish services and customs in the original language of their ancestors. An essential component to the practice of Judaism, Hebrew is the primary language in which virtually all Jewish prayer books, holiday services, and significant religious texts are written and read.
The Read Hebrew America/Canada program is based on NJOP’s popular Hebrew Reading Crash Course. Designed for Jews with little or no background in Hebrew, the program concentrates on teaching the Hebrew alphabet and basic reading skills. Follow up programs are available to those who are interested in further advancing their Hebrew reading and comprehension skills.
For more information about Read Hebrew America/Canada, or to register, call the JCC at 1-732-494-3232 or NJOP at 1-800-44-HEBRE(W).
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