NYHS turns to online Hebrew learning

This year, NYHS struggled with finding a new honors Hebrew teacher. Instead of hiring someone, NYHS is using a program called Lookstein taught by a teacher from Bar Ilan University in Israel.

Prior to NYHS’s hiring struggles, Tali Rothstein was the honors Hebrew teacher. She left to teach at Seattle Hebrew Academy this year. The non-honors Hebrew teacher, Sarit Nuriel, returned to Israel due to family reasons. That left only Lior Bakshitz in charge of three Hebrew classes, which conflicted with the honors class.

NYHS hired Yifat Reuveni as the honors Hebrew teacher. However, she was only needed for one class three times a week. After two months at NYHS Reuveni accepted a position elsewhere. “We needed a very part-time teacher at a very specific time of the day,” said Judaics head Rabbi Naftali Rothstein. “That made it even more difficult as coming to Mercer Island for one class in the middle of the day is pretty inconvenient for most people.”

Finding Hebrew teachers in Seattle is challenging. “There are a limited amount of people who fit these criteria in the Seattle area and who are available,” he said.

NYHS was still struggling to find a replacement after Reuveni left, so Rothstein and Bakshitz  came up with weekly projects for the honors Hebrew class to take part in. Honors Hebrew class is for Israeli or high level Hebrew students in the school. They work on advanced writing and speaking skills.

After a few weeks of implementing those projects as part of the honors Hebrew curriculum, Rothstein implemented a new online Hebrew program called Lookstein. Students learn through Zoom with a teacher, Karen Goldscheider, and complete at-home assignments. “The new program is a live online course through a very prestigious organization, The Lookstein Center at Bar Ilan University, with an expert teacher who has been a teacher in the U.S. at SAR in NY and in Israel,” Rothstein said.

According to Rothstein, the purpose of this is to teach students Jewish texts in Hebrew about the development of Middot as they improve their conversational Hebrew, increase their vocabulary, sharpen their reading and writing abilities, and participate in online Hebrew discussions.

Yehonatan Rothstein, who is Rabbi Rothstein’s son, who is a senior in the honors program says, “the class is difficult for me, but I like that the teachers are trying to help us.”


This story was published in The Mane Idea on February 16, 2023.