Congregation B'nai Israel

2710 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604 | (203) 336-1858 | |

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Why Hebrew? Why Not?


  • Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people.
  • Hebrew is the language of the Torah and prayer.
  • Hebrew is a “learned Jew” thing to know.
  • Hebrew connects us to Jews all over the world.
  • Who needs Hebrew? Nearly every Israeli speaks English and the prayer book is transliterated.
  • Reform Judaism introduced using the local language in our service. That is good enough for me.

Do one or more of those answers resonate with you? Obviously I hope the first four do more than the last two. When I first came to B’nai Israel in 1995, one of the first tasks was to review the curriculum. It was suggested that my credentials and experience made me uniquely suited to the task. But I said that while I could absolutely craft what I thought the ideal curriculum would be, it wasn’t the right thing to do. What we taught needed to reflect who we were as a congregation.

Our school and I are not proxies for the parents in our congregation. We are tools that help parents and the whole congregation with the task of raising young men and women who are functionally literate adult Jews, ready to take their place in leading the Jewish people forward and to rear the generation that will follow them. It needed more than one newcomer’s input.

So instead the Religious School Committee, the faculty, and I engaged in a 2½-year process of curriculum review. In 1999 we published the learning goals for our school. (You can download it at rscurr.) There are no longer any children in our school from that time. And B’nai Israel has changed: a new building, new learning resources, new members, and new developments in the Jewish and general world. It is time to take another look at what we teach to make sure it reflects who we are and who we want our children to be. We are beginning with Hebrew and worship. We want to invite you to be a part of the process. So I am asking you to send me an e-mail ( and tell us one or two things.

First, I would like to know what you think about Hebrew. What should we be teaching? (Prayer? Conversation? Grammar? Idiom? Torah chanting? Cursive?) What do you think every Jewish child should know, feel, or experience when it comes to Hebrew and prayer? Does Israel play a role in this area of learning, and what do you think that role is? Second, I would like you to tell us if you are willing to join our ad hoc curriculum task force.

You may join us for the entire process, or just for the areas that concern you most. We will meet every 4–6 weeks based on participants’ availability.

The Religious School Committee and I cannot do this alone—please share your input with us!

Ira J. Wise, R.J.E.
Director of Education