Friday, August 31, 2007

Can a school that teaches Hebrew be secular?

I'm visiting my parents in South Florida for a few days with my son, and in addition to the hot-as-Hades weather, something else is hot here that I hadn't realized: a controversy over a new charter school that is teaching Hebrew as a language only. It seems that this newly-created school, called the Ben Gamla Charter School, is trying to do something that has never been done before: teach Hebrew without teaching Jewish culture or religion. Or rather, the culture part is okay, but not the religion part.

Now, this sounds fine initially, but anyone who knows anything about Judaism knows that it is BOTH a culture AND a religion: you really can't separate the two. Here's an example. You are a kindergarten teacher and you are teaching your kids the days of the week. Here we go: yom rishon (first day, which is Sunday), yom sheni (second day, which is Monday) and so on, until you get to Saturday, which is Yom Shabbat. There is no "yom shevii" (seventh day), there is only Shabbat. That is the beauty and the curse of Judaism: the religion is an integral part of the language. Even secular Israelis call Saturday "Yom Shabbat," people who never intend to celebrate the day as the Sabbath. But that's what it's called.

Apparently, this story is getting a lot of press, such as this story in the Boston Globe and this from the New York Times. Charter schools are publicly funded, and aren't supposed to be teaching any particular religion or ideology.

Now, I may be a bit biased, because my son goes to a Jewish day school which intentionally integrates Jewish culture and religion into ALL it's classes. But I think that it is impossibly to separate the religion from the Hebrew language, and the idea that somehow educators can take the Judaism out of the Hebrew curriculum at this school is ludicrous.

My dad is a former Jewish educator, and he feels that it's one thing to teach Hebrew to high school kids as a language, but with small children, it's really impossible to take the religion out. And I agree.

So for now, it's an interesting experiment in the separation of church and state and how that plays out. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Song Obsession

I'm currently obsessed with Jennifer Hudson singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from Dreamgirls. Feel a bit like a teenager. I haven't been obsessed with songs very recently, but this one's got me bad.

And I am telling you…I'm not going.
You're the best man I'll ever know.
There's no way I can ever go,
No, no, no, no way,
No, no, no, no way I'm livin' without you.
I'm not livin' without you.
I don't want to be free.
I'm stayin',
I'm stayin',
And you, and you, you're gonna love me.
The words alone don’t really do this song justice.
You can see Jennifer Hudson sing it here:

I’m trying to figure out what it is about this song that makes me feel so connected to the words and the feelings...Something about the situation, where a woman loves someone (here, a man), and he decides that he doesn’t want to be with her anymore… but SHE hasn’t decided that. And she tells him that she’s NOT going… she doesn’t WANT to be free… she’s staying, and not only that, he’s GOING to love her once again. Something about the power of a woman…. feeling her power, but not realizing that you can’t MAKE someone love you, stay with you… it’s so poignant, sad, and powerful all the at same time….

I just had to share that.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What A Mom Will Do For Some Alone-Time

Last Saturday, after a week of family vacation in a house with six adults and four kids, I was ready for some peace and quiet. On the first leg of our flight home, we sat three across: my son at the window, me in the middle, and my husband on the aisle. The four-hour flight went fairly well, thanks mainly to the inflight movie (Shrek III), but my son was hanging on my arm, wanting me to put my arm around him, etc, etc. for almost the entire flight. On the next leg of the flight, we had two seats together, and one seat a few rows back. I got the seat by myself.

Yes, I was seated in the middle once again, jammed in-between a 10 or 11 year old boy with a video player, and a Japanese gentleman with laptop. I had my iPod and I listened to several episodes of This American Life... and I was very, very happy.