Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I Hated Hebrew School, And How!
by Schvach Yid

I hated Hebrew school. Yet, I get up every morning, and after the standard first-thing-in-the-morning routines, I put on tallis and tefillin, and daven.

I loathed Hebrew school. I couldn’t stand Hebrew school. Hebrew school was the worst junk, garbage, nonsense – Uch!!!

I attended a Conservative Movement Hebrew school (since renamed the Conservative Movement of Judaism) located somewhere in the City of New York. For five full years – that’s right, count ‘em, five full years - I attended elementary school-level Hebrew school. Two afternoons during the regular week, and Sunday mornings, I attended Hebrew school.

How does one kill a kid’s weekend? Send him to Hebrew school Sunday morning – for five consecutive years.

I hated the building in which the Hebrew school was situated. I hated those lousy chairs on which we sat. I hated the metal stairs that led up and down that lousy building – it was brand new, still under construction, when I was registered for ‘Kitah Aleph’ in the autumn of 1960.

I hated the green blackboards.

I hated the odor of the building. I don’t know from whence it came – the ventilation system, the paint, the people; perhaps the place was built on some ancient burial ground, and bad odors are the means by which offended spirits vent their displeasure.

I hated those fucking lousy little yellow raisins we kids were given on Sukkos. I hated those lousy little Israeli flags we were given to wave on Simchas Torah. What the hell is the connection between Simchas Torah and Zionism? Simchas Torah and Torah I understand, but Israeli politics? Israeli politics as a defense against Jew-hatred I understand, but not as indoctrination for American school children.

I hated my Hebrew school teachers. Actually, one I liked. He was the only American. With pleasure I announce his name – Rabbi Rothman! I have no idea what he used as a first name. I loved that guy. He wore a fedora in class. He worried. All the other teachers, and the principal, were recruits from Israel. They were brought over and employed to indoctrinate us – not in living lives of Torah and mitzvos, but in conditioning us to make aliyah. I couldn’t stand this foreign political indoctrination.

I hated being required to pronounce Hebrew in the Israeli-Sefardic manner, only to hear the Yiddish-Ashkinazic pronounciation at home (I have nothing against the Sefardim, or for that matter, Israel’s choice to honor the Sefardim by adopting their pronounciation of Hebrew as the official ‘brand’).

Our cantor was a native of Vienna, like my mother and her family. He did his chazzanus training in Vienna. He was super – just like home. He had two sons; I attended the Hebrew school with the younger. I hated his guts. To this day, he is by far the most overtly obnoxious person I have ever met – nolo contendre! Foy!

I hated those lousy miserable notebooks – machberet. What the heck were those uninterpretable double blue lines about? Where was I supposed to write? In five years time not one teacher told me.

I hated our siddur – please forgive me (sorry for sounding like Don Rickles). No English translation, just Hebrew. The Shilo Siddur. I still have it. It’s water stained, but intact, very usable, and on my shelf. What was the point? Teaching first grade, brand new, never before studied children the Hebrew nusach without translation? We were each handed a copy for keeps, and immediately were led in davening. The son of the cantor knew how; the rest us….. Five years later, I still couldn’t translate one word from the siddur, but I could parrot any nigun (and Yiddish was verboten – the Israelis hate Yiddish).

I loved my bar mitzvah. My folks, the rabbi, and the cantor knew how – baruch HaShem This was a term I never heard, even once, in Hebrew school. Sheket b’vakasha (shut up, please) we heard incessantly, but never baruch HaShem.

Hebrew school planners, curriculum writers, and teachers have been screwing up for a long time, not to mention that Jewish day schools (full time private schools) cost a fortune.

‘New wave’ Jewish education for the young, new, innovative curricula, are bs. They too are junk. Let’s make it interesting and engaging doesn’t work. Public grade school isn’t innovative and engaging. The obligation to obtain a basic grade school education is law – go, or else. If you drop out, you’ll spend your life living in the gutter.

A quality Jewish education is no option for our Jewish young, and bs has no place. Judaism is a religion, not engaging entertainment, and it needs to be full time, and it can’t ‘cost’.

Good luck!


jessicaleigh said...

Very provocative, Schvach...yet you're still davening, you're still here. So the meanie Israelis and the ruined Sunday worked, didn't they? :)
Seriously, what are we Jews gonna do about our terrible how-to-be Jew schools?

Schvach said...

Hello Yo:
Thanks for your comment, and for reading my post.
One day I may blog about my Jewish 'awakening' - it had everything to do
with my experiences in the workplace
(don't you know? - I'm a 'real' Jew).
As for our 'terrible how-to-be Jew schools', I think you were right to write in your blog that any Jewish education is better than none. Developing a class A curriculum is a tough task, especially for suburban kids who may not encounter much Yiddishkeit outside their 2 hour Sunday morning class in Hebrew school. And, of course, full time schools cost beaucoup.

Yehudi said...

I love your blog here, Schvach! I may be the only Jew alive that loved Hebrew school! I feel like a minority among minorities...L'Shalom, Yehudi

Schvach said...

No offense was intended to those like you who have fond memories. I literally loathed it, but I grew up a Jew anyway.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.