The Covenant Grants

Proficiency Approach to Hebrew Language Teaching: Empowering Teachers Enabling Students

Organization: Brandeis University Hebrew and Oriental Language Programs, Waltham, MA

Grant Year: 2003

Project Director: Sharona Givol

Type of Grant: Signature

Grant Amount: $250,000 (5 years)


Covenant Classroom
Hebrew Language Acquisition
Professional Development

Project Description
The grant funded the pilot of a Modern Hebrew teaching program in the Jewish Community Day School of Greater Boston (JCDS) which introduced the proficiency approach to foreign language education. The proficiency approach is a proven, cutting-edge model for teaching language acquisition. The grant inspired the creation of an organization dedicated to Hebrew learning and the proficiency approach, and led to the launch of a national initiative to transform teaching and learning Hebrew.

Hebrew language teachers for grades K-8 at the Jewish Community Day School of Greater Boston.

Tools were created to assess the current status of Hebrew teachers and Hebrew programs. The proficiency assessment tool from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language was adapted for Hebrew to give baseline measures of the status of the schools’ Hebrew programs. Schools were then able to make transition plans based on that assessment.
An assessment rubric for teacher skills was developed to identify individual areas for professional development.
At the conclusion of the grant period, a national initiative was launched to transform the teaching and learning of Hebrew and to invest in developing a field of Hebrew language teachers through professional development workshops to prepare educators.
Hebrew at the Center (HATC) emerged as an organization dedicated to expanding and developing the field of Hebrew language education. The Center is now working with schools in Atlanta, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., and with National Ramah Commission.
The program has transformed multiple schools, including JCDS, Solomon Schechter Day School of Great Boston, and schools in Florida and Brooklyn.
Current Status
The project has continued. An evaluation of the pilot program at JCDS has been completed. Nationally, the program is now focusing on building a cadre of Hebrew language teachers who are adept in the proficiency approach method. One large factor holding back the spread of the program is the high cost of the training necessary to transform the schools. HATC is currently exploring the development of an online teacher-training platform that could potentially reduce training costs.