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Berlin Jews Learn Hebrew

Is it not an overstatement to say that Jewish Berlin is learning Hebrew? Are there not, even now, many Jews in Berlin, as there are all over the world, who speak very little or no Hebrew? It is true that many people are still estranged from the holy language, but on the other hand it is a fact that recent times have brought about a sudden rise in the interest in the Hebrew language in the Diaspora. It cannot be explained simply by a change of circumstances; it runs much deeper. In these times of intensive Jewish experience, many – one may even say the majority of Jews – have understood what spiritual strength can be drawn from the cultural assets of the past. In these times, when everything is unstable, a new cultural value has been revealed for us in the Diaspora, a value that has proven its firmness through thousands of years, and which can provide us with something to grasp on to. The younger generation in particular feels that many of the European cultural values that we have accepted over the past centuries have lost their appeal. They therefore return to the world of our ancestors, which today is becoming the world of our children…

The Problem of Teachers

Speaking of the problems of Hebrew instruction, one should not disregard the teaching problems. There is a shortage of Hebrew teachers, and there are certain difficulties in assigning teachers who often come from other backgrounds and places to positions in the Berlin environment…

It is especially difficult to teach Hebrew to the older generation, especially if they had only an elementary education, and therefore have no background in grammar. One attempts in these cases to overcome the difficulty by working on the spoken language.

The outcome of the courses

The outcome of the courses in which youngsters and older people sit together is nevertheless not negligible. An experienced teacher told us that the average student in a six months course gains a vocabulary of about one thousand words, which gives him a basis on which to build. We visited one of these courses, which allowed us some insight into this work. There were nineteen students, among them fourteen women, not all of them young. They practiced basic conversation. Each participant tried, mostly in a very sympathetic way, to manage with his or her vocabulary and to form his or her own sentences…

Hebrew is without a doubt once again a value in the life of Berlin Jews. A connection is being established to the past, and it will serve as a bridge to the future as well.

Source: "Juedische Rundschau," 21 December 1934

Source: Yad Vashem - Eclipse of Humanity