Volume 55 Number 50
                    Produced: Wed Aug 22  8:31:29 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Conversational Hebrew (2)
         [Orrin Tilevitz, Harvey Lieber]
Government Financing of Religious Education
         [Orrin Tilevitz]
Lying for Peace
         [Saul Mashbaum]
Orthodox don't contribute (for publication)
         [Frank Silbermann]
shva na of shva nach
         [Saul Mashbaum]
Welcome Home to the New Olim
         [Jacob Richman]


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 19:29:21 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Conversational Hebrew

> I think most parents are upset that their children are not fluent in
> conversational Hebrew by the time they finish high school, and,
> indeed, I know many complain to the schools about that.  What has
> happened, I think, is that ivrit b'ivrit is no longer the usual
> educational method, and it was ivrit b'ivrit that previously made
> American students comfortable and somewhat fluent in conversational
> Hebrew.  . . . Be that as it may, I don't believe the change came from
> parental demands or was, in any way, anti-aliyah oriented.

I speak pretty fluent Hebrew, the legacy of a couple of years during my
day school education in the 1960s when this was encouraged, parents'
feelings be damned, and my persistence since in speaking Hebrew - in the
States-- to anyone who'd speak it with me.  I had hoped my kids would
have it easier.  Forget it.  And it's not only an issue of
conversational Hebrew: limudei kodesh texts are taught by being
translated into English.  My evidence is limited, but in my experience
it's the parents who are at fault; and I agree it's not because they
oppose aliya.

My kids recently emerged from a YU-affiliated high school following an
increasingly right-wing day school whose parents were, as someone once
put it, not exactly daf yomi material.  In the day school, at
orientation for fourth grade parents, the Hebrew teacher said that they
began the year with a combination of Hebrew and English, and increased
the Hebrew content to 100% ivrit be-ivrit once the girls understood.  I
stopped going to these meetings after being told the same thing in sixth
grade and after attending another meeting in which a large group of
parents verbally attacked the Hebrew teachers, in the presence of the
assistant principal, for giving too much homework and making things too
hard.  But at least the older kid had two charedi Israeli teachers who
spoke to the kids in nothing but Hebrew.

At the dog-and-pony show for the high school, we were led to believe
that limudei kodesh would be taught "mostly" ivrit be-ivrit except to
explain concepts that couldn't be explained in Hebrew.  The older kid
had a few of teachers who taught that way, but most didn't, one left,
and then the school hired a young chumash teacher who could read Hebrew
but could not speak it at all.  The older kid kept reporting that in her
classes, a small group of kids would want to use Hebrew, and would reply
to the teacher in Hebrew, but most of the kids did not, and teachers
acquiesced.  In one class, she used to have her own Hebrew conversations
with the teacher.  I think the younger one had one or two ivrit be-ivrit
classes in four years.  I discovered the key at a parent-teacher
conference where a chumash teacher showed me my younger kid's exam,
which was in English.  When I asked her what was wrong with this
picture, she replied that she wanted to teach in Hebrew, but in response
to parental complaints the administration told her not to.  The
Hebrew-ivrit language classes were a joke; in their senior year, the
kids were reading stuff that I had been introduced to in eighth grade.
My older one emerged totally frustrated--and when I first took her to
Israel, she was afraid to open her moth-- but then spent a year in
Israel largely "by choice" in the company of Israeli students at her
mixed program who refused to speak English. (It seems that the all-Anglo
classes are taught in English because the Brits, unlike the Americans,
have no Hebrew background.) The younger one was equally frustrated in
high school; we'll see what happens with her.

I also found it instructive that at these parent-teacher meetings, as
the years went on fewer and parents went to see the Hebrew (limudei
kodesh) teachers, but they all lined up to see the secular teachers.
So, again in my limited experience, it's MO parent's lack of interest in
their kids' getting a serious Jewish education, and the resulting desire
that their darlings shouldn't have to work too hard at it.

I am told that at a non-Zionist charedi (the administration; the parents
tend to be college educated, if right wing) girls' high school near me,
all limudei kodesh classes are conducted strictly ivrit be-ivrit.

Orrin Tilevitz
Brooklyn, NY

From: Harvey Lieber <tlieber@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 18:35:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Conversational Hebrew

The change away from ivrit beivrit was caused, I believe, because the
majority of the teachers of Hebrew subjects were rebeiim who were
trained in right wing yeshivot and could not themselves speak ivrit.  In
the past I've proposed, only half humorously, that these teachers spend
their summers at ulpanim learning Hebrew.

And the year in Israel that American kids spend, post high school, also
doesn't improve the situation.  I was told by the head of a leading
girl's seminary that almost all courses are taught in English because
they don't think that learning Hebrew before substantive courses begin
is a priority worth devoting time to.

Tsvi Lieber


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 08:52:35 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Government Financing of Religious Education

Here's why I think it is incumbent on us to support a vigorous public
school system; and that tuition vouchers, or any government support of
religious schools, is a terrible idea, and an even worse idea for the
American Jewish community to support.

To my knowledge, the Jewish school "system" is, other than Catholic high
schools, the only religious school system of any size in the U.S.  If
there is a large group of madrassas (Moslem schools), they are flying
under the radar.  They haven't even been mentioned n the current
controversy over a New York City-supported secular school that would
teach Arabic studies.  And as underfunded and burdensome as they have
been, Jewish schools have assured a steady stream of people who identify
as Jews.  The exceptional Noah Feldmans of the world (another thread)
noted, we know that a day school system is the best assurance we have of
our children continuing to identify as committed Jews.  This school
system has also assured a steady stream of voters who can be counted on
to vote for candidates who support the State of Israel or, more to the
point, who are perceived as supporting the state of Israel. Opposing the
state of Israel, at least outside Moslem enclaves in the Detroit area,
is almost invariably considered bad politics.  In addition, in the
U.S. we have generally been spared Muslim anti-Jewish violence; the
exceptions - as I recall - have been by immigrants, not their
descendants.  This is the status quo.  And it has remained the status
quo in the face of increasing Moslem immigration, and what would seem to
be the increasingly fundamentalist nature of their religious practice.
My thesis is that absent public funding of religious education (or
otherwise the abandonment of the public school system), it will remain
the status quo, because in a generation the public-school educated
Moslem children will act, and vote, like their American chums, because
the Moslem community here has no history of supporting religious schools
on their own, and there is no evidence that they will do so.  That is,
we can survive without public funding of our schools.  I don't think
fundamentalist Islam can survive in the U.S. without it.

But throw public funding into the equation.  What is to stop madrassas
from being formed to take advantage of it?  If they are, this
fundamentalist Islam and all it represents will be perpetuated, in the
hands of young people with the time and energy to make trouble.
Reflexive United Sates support for Israel is jeopardized, and the
physical safety of American Jews becomes an increasing issue.


From: Saul Mashbaum <smash52@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 21:27:57 +0300
Subject: Re: Lying for Peace

Joel Rich wrote

> ... in my mind Freud was right on when he said all men are geniuses at
> rationalization

How true, and how sad.

In this vein is the following, appropriate for this time of year.

Sometimes, when the gates of prayer are closed, the gates of tears are
still open. And when even the gates of tears are closed, the gates of
excuses are still open - they never close at all.

Halevai that in the upcoming season we approach heaven in the first two
of the above gates, and not the third.

Saul Mashbaum


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 11:59:07 -0500
Subject: Orthodox don't contribute (for publication)

Len Lindwe (V55 N49):
> In New York City, as in many other localities, the amount of school aid
> allocated to public schools is direclty related to the number of
> children that ATTEND those schools.
> Since yeshiva kids do not attend public schools their presence in the
> community does not add a pfennig to public education and do in fact by
> their absence deprive the public schools of badly needed funds.

The total amount of money available to be allocated on the basis of
attendence is limited by the amount of taxes collected.  Paying taxes
while holding our kids out of school most certainly _does_ increase the
average per-pupil size of the _overall_ pot.

However, the benefit is spread over the entire school district, and the
administrators at your local school might prefer to have $20,000,000 to
run a school for 2,000 students rather than, say, $10,040,000 to run a
school for 1,000 students.

So, even though we are paying more than our share, school administrators
might prefer that we did so in someone else's neighborhood -- so they
could benefit from our subsidy without suffering a loss in the size of
their empire.

(Of course, the city could decide to use the windfall we provide to
reduce the city's deficity, or to hire more firemen.  But that's between
them and the voters overall.)

I guess the conclusion is that even though we are correct in feeling
that we are pulling more than our share of the weight (at great personal
hardship), much of the benefit does not necessarily accrue to the
immediate neighborhood in which we live -- and therefore our immediate
neighbors might not necessarily be thrilled at our arrival.

I suppose that this problem only increases as taxation and program
funding becomes centralized at higher levels of government.  If the
federal government paid for education, no community would care feel
grateful for the extra taxes we pay.  On the other hand, residents of a
small _self-funded_ rural town in Iowa might well appreciate people who
pay taxes while placing reduced demand upon city services.  (I suppose
there is a political lesson there, somewhere.)

Frank Silbermann        Memphis, Tennessee


From: Saul Mashbaum <smash52@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2007 07:09:13 +0200
Subject: Re: shva na of shva nach

Catching up...

I have a question on this subject. The verse in question has 3 words
which start with a vav hahipuch with a shuruk: uv-lecht'cha,
uv-shachb'cha, uv-kumecha. In what way is the second word different from
the other two, so that in it the first shva is a matter of dispute among
grammarians, while in the others the first shva is, from what I see,
clearly nach?

Saul Mashbaum


From: Jacob Richman <jrichman@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2007 19:06:25 +0300
Subject: Welcome Home to the New Olim

Hi Everyone!

Congratulations to the 225 new olim from North America who made
aliyah today to their new homes in their ancient homeland - Israel.

Hundreds of guests were at Ben-Gurion airport this morning to
greet the new olim. I took pictures of this historic and exciting
event and posted them online at:


When the first page appears, press the F11 key 
to view the full length of the pictures. To move from page to page, 
use the navigation buttons on the bottom of the screen.

May the aliyah from all over of the world grow and bring more 
Jews back to their homeland, Eretz Yisrael.

Have a great day,


End of Volume 55 Issue 50