Hebrew School

Is Hebrew school necessary?

With a view that the stated purpose of most Hebrew schools is to engage young Jews in religious and cultural life, and the wink-and-a-nod purpose being to prepare students for their bar mitzvahs while preventing dwindling attendance at synagogues, I’ve come to wonder about the necessity of the institution.

Last week, while attempting to embark on an experiment to put myself through the pangs of re-learning my bar mitzvah’s haftarah portion (assuming the suffering would be “good for my art”), the point was driven home more succinctly. Not only can one get their haftarah online, but they can have it transliterated and sung to them.

Sadly, Hebrew school for me was a rather similar rote memorization of letters, vowels and songs with– at maximum– a cursory explanation for what the words mean. Except that it went on for six to seven years, upwards of three times a week, with a lot of extemporaneous truancy. A veritable speed-reading and horseradish eating contest, as I’ve said before. (Fortunately, I did excel at both.)

Sounds like an indie noise-rock record to me… Thanks, Hebrew school of Norman Greenbaum!

* * *

News ‘n’ notes…

Ran into Abena Koomson this summer at a Celebrate Brooklyn concert… She’s been performing with Bill T. Jones’s cast in Fela!, an energetic narrative of the life of Afrobeat’s godfather which includes music from Bushwick’s Antibalas. The show only runs for two more weeks so get tickets now!


The Shondes have embarked on an extensive U.S. tour, winding up this fall in New York with shows at the Knitting Factory and my other Hebrew school.


Hebrew School (this site) received kind mention on WYSIWYG, part of BlogDay 2008‘s festivities.


Oh no! will someone please turn off my stove?


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