Current and prospective parents ask the question. Family members ask the question. Isn’t it more advantageous to study Spanish or Chinese? Sure, a Jewish child must read Hebrew for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, but what is the likelihood that our children will speak Hebrew regularly as adults (unless of course, you are one of our Israeli families)?
Bilingualism is a source of long-term advantages and apparently helps stave off dementia in senior citizens. In fact, this week, Newsweek magazine cited the robust study of a second language as the best way to Buff Your Brain (page 3). Children who immerse themselves in another language develop pathways in the brain that not only support multiple languages, but also support logic, composition and mathematics.
Hebrew is hard. It has a different alphabet, archaic grammar, alien pronunciations, and little opportunity to overhear it conversationally around Foster City. The brain is a muscle and asking it to repeatedly do something hard improves its strength. And once strong, that strength is easily applied to other pursuits.
Our alumni report that their immersion in Hebrew makes it straightforward to learn additional languages in high school and college. There is plenty of time to learn Spanish or Chinese (or both) if that’s your interest. My husband followed 9 years of Hebrew in Day School with fluency in Spanish, then Portuguese and now Mandarin (not fluent in that last one, yet). One of our graduates, a Chinese-language major who became fluent in Italian in high school, credits his K-8 Wornick education as the foundation for his academic interests and successes.
For Jewish children, studying the language of our heritage is a gateway to the values of our people, to connection with Israel and to developing secure identities to guide them through the very adult choices that present themselves in high school and college. Children who are immersed in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Wornick are learning about Israel in every subject and learning to respect and understand diversity of opinion, culture and religion. In a “flat world” connected by technology and trade, multi-culturalism and multi-linguism are key competitive advantages.
Why Hebrew? Because the effort of learning Hebrew creates the advantages that make our children successful in the future.