Students from the second-ever graduating class of the Hebrew Public Charter school network, a U.S. state-funded Hebrew-English school system open to all Americans regardless of background, toured Israel for the first time, visiting tourist sites, harvesting olives and meeting their peers from the Ethiopian, Druze, Bedouin and south Tel Aviv schools.
Hebrew Public schools are state funded and are thus free. There are currently three campuses in New York City and has nine affiliate schools across the U.S. which serves the local populations, totaling three thousand students. Many of the schools have a large majority of students from African-American, Hispanic, and Asian communities, who become proficient in Hebrew and learn about Israel. Some students are Jewish and Israeli who prefer the Hebrew Public system because of its high standards.
“These trips are vitally important as we seek to educate global citizens with a love of Hebrew, the people and State of Israel,” Valerie Khaytina, Chief External Officer of Hebrew Public said. “We hope that these feelings will last a lifetime, and bringing our students to Israel to see the country, culture and language that they study every day will become a formative event in their lives.”
“We hope in the next few years that 10,000 American children of all backgrounds will be learning Hebrew every single day, and many will visit Israel to learn about its history and complexity.”
With the exception of English language arts, Hebrew is woven into its subjects through a team-teaching model. As most teachers are from Israel, the students learn to speak with Israeli accents, and Hebrew is also the primary language spoken during lunch and recess. Hebrew teachers oversee the students to help reinforce the Hebrew-only rule during these times.
The group of 32 middle school graduates from Hebrew Language Academy in Brooklyn, NY, and in Hatikvah International Academy in East Brunswick, NJ, had an opportunity to deepen their connection with the country they have studied for years as they learned Modern Hebrew. Since kindergarten, these students have learned about the country and its democratic values, and have created connections with their lives in the United States to those of their peers in Israel.
One student, Zhara Adeyemi, whose parents come from Nigeria and Trinidad said that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I don’t think I would have had the chance to do this when I am older,” Zhara said in polished Hebrew. “The thing that is great about this school is learning Hebrew and learning about Israel, but also the fact that I meet other students from all over the world.”
“My family is very Zionist and are extremely proud of the fact that I am visiting Israel,” said Victor Oleynik, also in Hebrew. “I am very excited to be here and see Hebrew everywhere I go and know that I can understand it.”