More Than 50% Of American Jews Are Illiterate In Hebrew

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National Jewish Outreach Program Launches 9th Annual Read Hebrew America Campaign, offering Free Crash Courses in Hebrew Reading

More than 50% of Jews in the U.S. can not read Hebrew and an additional 40% can only slowly sound out letters, according to a recent survey of Hebrew literacy conducted by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP.) The vast majority of American Jews (more than 80%) wish they could read Hebrew better.

In response, NJOP is promoting its national Hebrew literacy campaign, Read Hebrew America, offering free Crash Courses in more than 44 states and 500 locations. An innovative ad campaign launching this fall, features radio, billboard, print, Internet, podcast and email components.

“We have a literacy crisis in the American Jewish community,” said Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, founder and director of the NJOP. “And this matters on many levels. The ability to read Hebrew provides a fundamental connection to our Jewish heritage; it is the language of our people; it is the language of our prayers and the language of our soul. The vast majority of American Jews indicate they want to read Hebrew! And as such, Jewish leaders and organizations must provide the means.”

According to the survey, among the many reasons American Jews cite for wishing to improve Hebrew-reading skills is a desire to enhance their prayer experience. Others believe it will provide a closer connection to Judaism and allow them to help their children with Hebrew School homework. More than 80% of survey respondents want their children or the next generation to learn to read Hebrew.

So why haven’t American Jews learned to read Hebrew? A primary reason is that many are unsure, as adults, where to begin. Read Hebrew America teaches Hebrew reading skills in “Crash Courses” designed to fit into the busy lives of Americans Jews. Led by volunteer teachers in synagogues of all denominations, Jewish community centers and college campuses, the courses are generally offered in five 1 ½ hour sessions. In response to those who indicate they want the next generation to read Hebrew and/or they would like to be able to help children with homework, NJOP also offers Hebrew Reading Crash Courses through the Parents Are Teachers (P.A.T.) program. This program takes place during Hebrew school hours at synagogues and religious schools nationwide.

For a list of locations offering Read Hebrew America courses, visit http://www.njop.org.

About the National Jewish Outreach Program

Founded in 1987 by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald to address the critical issues of assimilation and lack of Jewish knowledge, NJOP is now one of the largest and most successful Jewish outreach organizations in the world. To date, more than 920,000 people have benefited from NJOP’s innovative, free programs which have been held in 3,645 North American locations including synagogues, community centers, military bases and college campuses in all 50 states and nine Canadian provinces. NJOP programs have also been offered in 32 countries around the world. (http://www.njop.org).

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