This Month’s Inspiring Story
Not Your Traditional Hebrew Class
(and Not Your Traditional Hebrew Class Student!)
There are many reasons why someone may want to learn Hebrew as an adult. For Bender JCC ulpan (school for the study of Hebrew) student Robert Nath, being able to converse with his Israeli granddaughter, Talia, was a major factor.
“My wife, Judy, and I go to Israel a couple of times a year and I wanted to be able to speak Hebrew, especially so that I can communicate with Talia, when we go there,” Robert explains.
For the past five years, Robert has been studying Hebrew at the Bender JCC with teacher Rivka Degani, a native Israeli who has been teaching Hebrew for 40 years. Robert knew no Hebrew when he started. He chose to take classes here because “the program is well known and has a wonderful reputation.”
“Rivka is a superb teacher,” Robert states. “She’s funny and very tolerant,” he says. “And, she laughs at my jokes.”
“As much as Reuven [Robert’s Hebrew name by which Rivka addresses him in class] enjoys the class, I enjoy having him in it,” Rivka states. “He’s animated and brings a lot of spirit to the class.”
Rivka explains that the weekly class begins with each student talking about something that happened during the week. “Reuven is always well-prepared and incorporates what he’s learned in class into his story,” Rivka reflects. “One can learn only so much from spending two hours in class each week. Reuven does the homework and puts in the energy and time to learn.”
The Bender JCC ulpan program recently adopted a new curriculum, Bishvil Ha’Ivrit. Rivka explains that this exciting program employs technology to enhance learning with audio recordings, interactive technology, documentary films and more. The goal is to learn not only modern Hebrew, but also its historical progression.
Robert likes the new approach. He says that the online interactive component complements the class work. “You hear Hebrew spoken by native speakers; the brain is trained to learn the language. And culture is woven in beautifully.”
Robert was born and raised in New York – the Bronx and Westchester. A tax attorney, Robert moved to the DC area after law school. He joined Washington Hebrew Congregation (WHC), which is where he met Judy. They have two daughters and a son.
One of Robert’s interests is music; he belongs to the WHC choir and is an amateur composer.
“I value Hebrew even more because I have always wanted to understand not only the words I sing and use in compositions, but also the spirit—the ‘Jewish soul’—behind the language.”
An FIDF (Friends of the Israel Defense Forces) board member, Robert is very involved with the organization’s program to grant scholarships to soldiers.
Robert believes that the Bender JCC plays a valuable and urgent role in preserving Jewish identity and heritage, which is why he is a generous donor.
“The JCC’s music, Jewish education, seminars, language and more keep our identity and faith alive and well. And the JCC has it all there, in one place, for everyone, at reasonable cost.”
Learning Hebrew at the Bender JCC is a meaningful vehicle through which Robert has become more acquainted with his heritage. “For me, it has been an awakening of Jewish culture.”
Senior Satellite Program Offers Winter Warmth
The winter months can be an isolating time, which is one of the reasons that the Bender JCC’s Selma Sweetbaum Senior Satellite Program is such a vital asset for senior adults in our community. Offering opportunities for nutrition, socialization, entertainment, exercise and education, the program meets in Rockville at the Bender JCC and Ring House, in Wheaton at Har Tzeon Agudath Achim, and in Silver Spring at Young Israel Shomrei Emunah Congregation. Results from a recent survey indicate that we are meeting our goals of providing better nutrition, socialization and quality of life for seniors.
90% said that the program has significantly improved their quality of life
80% said they were eating better
92% rated the social environment as good or very good.
The Bender JCC collaborates with community partners to fill critical gaps in needed services for seniors. Partners include: The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington; Meals on Wheels of America; Montgomery County Health & Human Services and Recreation; Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy and Charles E. Smith Life Communities; Leisure World; and Jewish Council for the Aging’s Senior Community Service Employment Program.
We also partner with local hospitals and healthcare professionals to offer free wellness programs and health screenings— including blood pressure, bone density and glaucoma testing—to Montgomery County seniors year-round. Partners include Adventist Healthcare; National Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence at Georgetown University Hospital; and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.