Hebrew School for Everyone
At New York’s newest charter school.
Here’s a brain teaser: is a school that teaches secular subjects in Hebrew inherently religious? The people behind the Hebrew Language Academy, New York’s first publicly funded Hebrew-language charter school, think not; they insist that, like an Arabic school that opened two years ago in Brooklyn, the new school can stay safely in secular terrain while teaching in a language widely associated with religion. Skeptics aren’t convinced; they see the school’s overwhelmingly Russian Jewish enrollment as evidence that the funders, investor and Birthright Israel founder Michael Steinhardt and Oklahoma philanthropist Lynn Schusterman, want to co-opt public funds to promote Jewish identity.
To reassure critics, they’ve hired Maureen Campbell, the Vassar- and Oxford-educated daughter of Jamaican immigrants, to oversee the inaugural year; Campbell, who grew up in Harlem, isn’t Jewish and doesn’t speak Hebrew herself but said she’s learning fast. (Lucky, since she’ll need it to chat to her students and teachers during breakfast and lunch breaks, when Hebrew will be strictly enforced.) In an interview with The Forward, Campbell was insistent that “you can teach a culture and a language without encouraging the observance of religion.” But, she added, Israeli colors will be integrated into the school’s decor; which means, in other words, it’ll basically be just like a school in Tel Aviv.
Charter School’s New Chief Touts Church-State Separation [The Forward]
Report says yes, though author has anti-Israel background
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.