Dec 6, 2006 — “Is Early Childhood Too Early for Hebrew?” This was the question posed by Tani Foger, EdD, a 2006 graduate of Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and a school psychologist, at the inaugural colloquium of the new Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies at Azrieli Graduate School on Dec. 5.

The gathering — attended by Jewish education students, professionals, and early childhood and Hebrew language specialists from major day schools in the metro area, and broadcast via videoconferencing to three remote locations—was the first in a planned annual series under the auspices of the doctoral division. It also featured Scott J. Goldberg, PhD, director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies.

Dr. Foger, a special education expert, focused her presentation on the immersion method of teaching Hebrew to preschoolers.

“Hebrew immersion programs in early childhood education will ensure that our day school graduates have a vibrant, facile and working relationship with the Hebrew language,” Dr. Foger said prior to the colloquium. “Fluency in Hebrew will enable greater understanding of our Biblical and Talmudic texts, and will determine the level of discourse and the quality of scholarly pursuit available to future generations in the Diaspora.”

She told those gathered at the colloquium that 70 percent of all Jewish children are enrolled in some form of Jewish education during their school-age years, which exposes them to Hebrew-language study. Of them, 30 percent receive intensive day-school education. After completing elementary school, only a few have a command of spoken Hebrew, and after graduating high school, only a minority are fluent.

According to David J. Schnall, PhD, dean of Azrieli, “This colloquium series highlights the research conducted by Azrieli students and faculty to inform the practice of Jewish education. A partnership between the university and Jewish educators is evident in Dr. Foger’s work.”

The Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies, dedicated last May, endows doctoral fellowships for the advancement of women in Jewish education as well as providing funding for men.

According to Dr. Goldberg, topics for the colloquium pertain to the doctoral division’s three concentrations: educational leadership, student support, and curriculum and instruction. Presenters are recent graduates of the Azrieli doctoral program, and their faculty mentors.

The next colloquium in the series, “Positive Jewish Identification,” featuring Aliza Fessel, EdD, with Dr. Schnall, will take place Feb. 7.