Local grants awarded for Hebrew learning, special needs

 

MILWAUKEE – Some of the money will be used to bring kids with special needs together with others in the community, while another portion of the pot will change the way Hebrew is taught.

In all, four plans for local Jewish education are to get a helping hand.

Milwaukee Jewish Federation is granting a total of $20,000 to four local Jewish education projects, after a study by the Federation’s Education Task Force identified needs last year.

The task force studied the local state of Jewish education and decided Milwaukee Jewish Federation could help, in part, by making local Jewish education and innovation grants. For its first year in granting funding, the Federation’s Jewish Education and Innovation Grants Committee selected four out of 18 applicants.

The committee hopes to continue the Jewish education and innovation grants program next year and, if so, applicants who were not accepted will be welcome to re-apply, said Tziporah AltmanShafer, Jewish education community planner with the Federation’s Coalition for Jewish Learning.

The total $20,000 gift is broken down into $7,500 for the new B’Yachad inclusion training program; $7,500 for a new “Hebrew through movement” approach to education at Congregation Shalom of Fox Point; $2,500 for a “Judaism through the Arts” program with Chabad of Waukesha-Brookfield; and $2,500 for Sukkot and Tu B’shvat programming.

“From the committee’s point of view, we were talking about engagement … bringing people together around subjects,” said Louise Stein, a committee member who has been volunteering in support of local Jewish education for decades. “I think that with the innovation grants, we were looking at what’s going on around the country, what’s new …. What we’ve learned in the last decade.”

B’Yachad inclusion training

The B’Yachad Staff Inclusion Training Program is a program of Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid of Glendale. It’s to have participation from two programs of the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center – the Steve & Shari Sadek Family Camp Interlaken JCC and the STARS (Students That Are Really Special) program.

The B’Yachad program will have a national institute visit Milwaukee to instruct teachers, college interns and teens how to better work with children who have special needs. AltmanShafer said the committee liked this program because it will reach many people.

Inclusion, Stein said, was “really important” for the committee. B’Yachad means together, and the participants are sure to all learn a lot together.

Hebrew through movement

Congregation Shalom is to change the way it teaches Hebrew with assistance from the grant money, adopting a method called “Hebrew through movement.”

“They want to revamp their Hebrew program from start to finish,” AltmanShafer said.

Typically, kids in afterschool and Sunday Hebrew programs start learning the aleph bet in third or fourth grade. “They don’t really start reading until six or seventh grade,” AltmanShafer said. “They spend years starting to decode and forgetting and relearning it.”

Hebrew through movement is the notion that you can learn Hebrew by hearing it and responding to commands. AltmanShafer said it can be easier to learn a language by first hearing, understanding and speaking it, moving some of the initial focus off of reading it.

“It’s bringing Hebrew education into the 21st century,” AltmanShafer said.

Judaism through the arts

Chabad of Waukesha and Brookfield will bring unaffiliated families together to do high-quality art projects.

In Waukesha, Jefferson and Walworth counties, there are many young Jewish families who are unaffiliated, according to the Federation. “Judaism through the Arts” is a program that will involve children in Jewish experiences through the universal language of the arts.

“This is outreach,” AltmanShafer said. “This is a way to reach unaffiliated families. This is a way to give support to families that are raising their kids with fewer Jewish families around.”

Tu B’shvat celebration

Local organizations will team up to create a large-scale, communitywide educational celebration of Tu B’shvat. This will target families with children ages 2 through 10 — with extra effort placed on drawing in families who are less engaged in Jewish life and education.

The committee liked the fact that this is a collaborative effort, reaching out to people who may not already be well-connected to Judaism, AltmanShafer said. “It’s not in a Jewish space so it’s a low barrier … A low boundary to come in,” she said.

It’s a joint effort of the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, Milwaukee Jewish Day School and the Jewish National Fund.

The cash for the four grants is likely to be distributed this summer, so the grantees can get to work and hold their programs in 2018 and 2019.

“It’s important because we need to be able to reach and hold on to our young people. We’re talking about our future,” said Stein. “We can’t afford to lose our young people. That’s where it starts and we have to mirror it with lifelong learning.”