22nd of July 2014 / Serving Oregon & Southwest Washington since 1959

Hebrew, Israel classes to earn Portlanders high school credit


article created on: 2010-04-01T00:00:00

Hebrew High is coming to Portland.

In September, Wilson High School will join Riverdale High in offering Hebrew for foreign language credit in on-campus, after-school classes. And all students in Portland Public School high schools will be able to take Hebrew conversation and Israel history/advocacy for elective credit in afternoon classes offered in Southwest Portland.

Riverdale began offering Hebrew outside school hours last fall.

Hebrew High is a program of Portland’s Jewish Student Union, which has clubs in seven area high schools. The Portland Kollel, an education and outreach organization, will provide classroom space at its 6688 SW Capitol Highway office for the conversation and history courses.

“The classes will not be of religious nature due to the separation of church and state. The Bible will be studied as a historic or literary piece,” said Meira Spivak, Portland teen programming director for JSU and NCSY.

“This is a response to many students and parents wanting more Jewish educational opportunities,” Spivak added. “We’ve gotten tremendously positive feedback from the community.”

The Portland program is modeled on similar for-credit classes in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

“Our program has been so successful in Vancouver that we are expanding to Portland this year, which will be one of only a handful of places in the U.S. that will offer Hebrew and Judaic classes for elective credits,” said Rabbi Stephen Berger, regional director of NCSY and founder of Torah High in Vancouver BC. “What is amazing to me is that while the numbers enrolled in Hebrew school supplementary programs across North America are dropping, we have sparked the interest of Jewish teens who are looking for something a little more and a little different.”

Foreign language credit at Riverdale and Wilson high schools will be available by passing a test through Portland State University. PPS requires two years of foreign language credit for graduation. At Riverdale, Hebrew will again meet Mondays from 8 to 8:55 a.m. and Wednsdays from 3 to 3:55 p.m. At Wilson, beginning and intermediate Hebrew will meet 3:30-4:30 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays.

Speaking about the first year of classes at Riverdale, student Anna Steckel said, “Hebrew class has challenged me to learn the language in new and interesting ways including learning plays, playing games and having basic conversations with classmates.”

Spivak said she has worked with PPS to meet their requirements for a half credit for electives for both the conversational Hebrew and the Israel history/advocacy classes that will meet at the Kollel 2:45-4:45 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, respectively. Students enrolling in those classes will need to sign up for early dismissal, which Spivak said the district has told her should not be a problem.

The Israel class will be taught by a variety of lecturers, including Reed College English Professor Laura Leibman, Jewish Federation of Greater Portland Executive Vice President Charles Schiffman, JFGP Community Relations Director Robert Horenstein and Eric Kornblit, the local representative for Friends of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces).

Hebrew High will follow the Portland Public School calendar, but classes will not meet on Jewish holidays.

Cost of the classes are are expected to be about $200 with scholarships available. The final cost will be set depending on receiving any grants.

For more information, visit Hebrewhighpdx.com or contact Spivak at 503-757-3037 or Meiraspivak@gmail.com.

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