For Epstein Hebrew Academy, Israel Independence Day was a day to celebrate Hebrew learning

Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Avi Katz is a preschool student at H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy—and an author. Katz wrote a book—in Hebrew—about his dog, Leo, a Beagle mix. Yet another preschool student, Bennett Bukhshtaber, wrote a book in Hebrew about his father, Matt, talking on the phone.

Katz, Bukhshtaber and their fellow 5-year-old student authors all chose different subjects for their first published works. Their books were the culmination of an innovative Hebrew learning project that was celebrated on Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel Independence Day, April 15.

The idea was to help the students learn to read, write and appreciate the nuances of Hebrew, using their own experiences to personalize it, according to Rabbi Moshe Shulman, head of school.

“Each student took an Israeli book in Hebrew,” said Shulman. “They read it, understood it, learned it and re-wrote it in their own personal version, in Hebrew. It was a new book, based on the original. So on display we have two versions, the original and their version. Each grade did it, all the way from preschool all the way up to high school. It’s amazing accomplishment.”

Shulman said the project mimicked a major Israeli book festival event. The students at Epstein Hebrew Academy even got a bit of insider knowledge from a published Israeli author who joined them via a Zoom session.

“At the Israeli event, authors come and display their literary creation, so we did it to celebrate the language,” Shulman said. “It’s the brainchild of our Hebrew language specialists Orna Dar, Ariela Ish-Hurwitz and Chani Pinsberg.”

A highlight was the session with the Israeli author, according to Ish-Hurwitz.

“On Zoom the students could ask questions and then they create their own books in Hebrew,” she said. “It helped them learn vocabulary and learn the language more effectively.”

Dalia Oppenheimer said the project was a great tool for learning for her daughter Yaffa Globower, 6.

“The books they wrote were an excellent expression of creativity and a great way to learn Hebrew,” Oppenheimer said.

Rabbi Shulman said the book project was one of the ways the school is attempting to make learning Hebrew both fun and more effective. Another is through immersion, which is often cited by language experts as the optimum method for learning.

“Part of the innovative Hebrew language studies this year is that the Hebrew classes have taken place complete in Hebrew, through immersion,” Shulman said. “They are learning Hebrew in the best possible way. We started that literally from pre-school all the way through high school. It’s a much more effective way of teaching and learning. They students love to learn Hebrew that way.”