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Tuesday at CAJE: Hebrew school teachers who haven’t read the Hebrew Bible

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In an interesting class at the CAJE conference about environmentalism and the Bible, a discussion about the first chapter of Genesis prompted me to ask the 40 or so Jewish educators present who had ever read the first chapter of Genesis in the original Hebrew.

About four out of every five raised their hands. That meant that 20 percent of the people in the room, who teach our kids, had not actually read the original text of the first chapter of the Bible.

After class, I caught the executive director of CAJE, Jeffrey Lasday, in the hallway and asked him if the Jewish literacy of the Jewish educators at supplementary Hebrew school and early childhood programs was adequate.

“It is a concern,” Lasday conceded.

One of the pinnacle questions CAJE faces is whether the teachers that are teaching in supplementary schools are the right people for the job – and, if not, what can be done in terms of professional training and increasing salaries and benefits to attract the right people.

The solution is twofold, he said. Teachers and educational professionals need to push their communities harder for resources. At the same time, those professionals must take it upon themselves to make sure they are knowledgeable enough to teach our kids.

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