Finding Creative Inspiration Abroad

YU High Schools Hebrew Language Workshop Pairs Students with Acclaimed Israeli Author

Twelve students from the Yeshiva University high schools—eight from the Yeshiva University High School for Boys/Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (YUHSB) and four from the Samuel H. Wang Yeshiva University High School for Girls (YUHSG)—are participating in an independent study Hebrew literature course in which they will be mentored by a renowned Israeli author with the goal of developing their Hebrew-language creative writing skills.

Bat Shahar (on-screen) mentors YU High School students during a monthly workshop.

Titled “Meet the Israeli Author,” the course—first implemented last year as a workshop— is the first of its kind in a North American Jewish high school, according to Tova Rosenberg, coordinator of the workshop and director of Hebrew language studies at both YU high schools.

Jerusalem-born Chana Bat Shahar, the author of nine Hebrew titles and recipient of the Prime Minister’s Prize (1994), serves as the students’ mentor—a role she filled last year, as well.

Throughout the year, students will participate in monthly “virtual workshops” with Bat Shahar—conducted entirely in Hebrew— during which they will get to know the author, learn about her methods and receive pointers on how to hone their craft. Between meetings, the students work with their Hebrew teachers to prepare for their monthly sessions.

Yolly Dratch (right) chose to take the course for the second year in a row.

Rosenberg believes that this course provides a multi-faceted experience in which the acquired skills will be widely applicable to other areas of study. “In addition to affording these students the opportunity to meet and interact with a well-known Israeli writer, this unique workshop will help them develop the skills and self-confidence required to write excellent Hebrew stories of their own, and these techniques will be used in their English writing, as well.”

Between video conferencing sessions, the students will correspond and receive additional guidance from Bat Shahar through e-mail.

“I chose to take this class because I wanted to learn more Hebrew and I heard it was unlike any other language class given,” said Yonatan Schwartz, of Teaneck, NJ.

“I think it is incredible that we are able to meet and converse with an established author. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Avi Rabinovitch of Denver, CO.

Liora Haibi (standing) teaches Hebrew at YUHSB between workshops with Bat Shahar.

Yolly Dratch of West Hempstead, NY chose to take the course for the second year in row. “I took this course again because I enjoyed it a lot last year. The feedback I got from my teachers and Chana bat Shachar was extremely helpful and encouraging,” said Dratch. “The most interesting part about this class is how I’m pushed to do my best and beyond.”

Over the course of the year, the students will publish their own Hebrew literature journal with their completed short stories.

“I have to admit that last year, I had doubts about the success of this workshop,” said Bat Shahar. “I thought that the students would not be able to overcome the difficulty of creative writing in a foreign language. But, the students’ Hebrew improved from session to session and their creative writing, as well. They wrote beautiful and interesting stories.”

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