This November, suburban Jewish communities will gather at BAY Shul of Buffalo Grove to participate in a continentwide campaign aimed at teaching North American Jews to read the Hebrew language.
Conceived and orchestrated in 1998 by the National Jewish Outreach Program, "Read Hebrew America and Canada" is expected to reach 12,000 affiliated and unaffiliated Jews this year.
All members of the Jewish communities in the North and Western suburbs are invited. BAY Shul, in conjunction with Suburban Alliance for Jewish Education, will be one of 600 Jewish institutions across North America to host this Hebrew reading crash course for five weeks this fall.
Led by Rabbi Eliezer Grunberg, this program will focus on teaching the Hebrew alphabet and basic reading skills to Jews who have little or no background. Classes will meet at 8 p.m. Mondays starting Nov. 11 at BAY Shul, 314 McHenry Road, Buffalo Grove Town Center (2nd floor).
An essential component to the practice of Judaism, Hebrew is the primary language in which virtually all prayer books, holiday services and significant religious texts are written and read.
"Twenty years of ... teaching over 234,700 North American Jews to read Hebrew has taught us that for most unaffiliated Jews, Hebrew literacy is a crucial first step toward personal Jewish empowerment and enthusiastic communal involvement," said Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald, founder and director of NJOP.
"Without the ability to read Hebrew, many Jews feel alienated from religious services and shy away from involvement in ritual observances and traditions," he added.
After the five-week class, follow-up programs are available to people interested in advancing their Hebrew reading and comprehension skills.
NJOP believes that the mass outreach approach of Read Hebrew America and Canada has been proven to be an opportunity to touch, inspire and engage tens of thousands of seeking Jews, thus ensuring a flourishing and vibrant future for them as part of an enriched North American Jewish community.
Experts agree that, at minimum, 80 percent of all North American Jews cannot read Hebrew. A report documenting the growing rate of Jewish assimilation in North America says that of the 5.2 million North American Jews, 2.3 million no longer identify themselves as Jews, 1.4 million are unaffiliated with any Jewish organization, and 1 million are marginally affiliated, meaning that they rarely attend synagogue and have little to do with any aspect of Jewish life.
The BAY Shul classes are free. To register, call Rabbi Eliezer Grunberg at (224) 534-9613.