Sunday, June 13, 2010

Nightmare on King David Street

Well, it finally arrived...the day I have been waiting for. Today was the first day of our Hebrew pre-Ulpan. I'd like to tell you that it was a great day and a wonderful learning experience. I'd like to, but I can't. It was a total nightmare for me. From the moment our teacher arrived in class and told us that she (and we) would only speak in Hebrew, I sunk deeper and deeper into knowing that I am incredibly far behind every other student in the program.

Part of the problem is that most, if not all, of the other students have had a couple of years of college Hebrew. The only formal Hebrew education I ever received was from Cantor Feldman at Sherith Israel OVER 45 YEARS AGO! And, of course, it was prayerbook Hebrew. Everything else I have absorbed has just been by osmosis. To get through the entrance exam, I studied specifically for the test and was surprised that I did as well as I did since I left entire sections blank. Now I am in the "faster class" and it is clear that they are all passing me by at a dizzying pace.

The teacher came to talk with me as I was sobbing at my desk during our first break of the day. She said that she is going faster than she had planned because the other students are able to handle it and there is the possibility that I will switch to the other class on Wednesday. She was also very kind and encouraging and said I would have extra tutoring and that everything would be all right but it didn't do much for my self-esteem.

Once we get through Ulpan - if I get through Ulpan - I have no doubt that I will be able to hold my own in classes in history and bible and trope, etc. I welcome the challenge of writing a sermon and leading the congregation in prayer. But this conversational Hebrew is just deadly for me.

If it was feasible, I would have come home today, packed my bags, and slinked back home, never to show my ashamed face again. But, that's not going to happen. There are several of my classmates who have been very kind and have offered to study with me so, for the next couple of months, I am going to take every single opportunity to study my Hebrew.

I am not in Israel to sightsee. I am not in Israel to go to cafes and bars. I am not in Israel for any other reason but to learn Hebrew and be able to get on with the program. I don't know how but I WILL SUCCEED.


  1. As a retired professor of foreign languages, I can tell you'll do fine. Willingness to study and your positive attitude will lead to your success. As my college students used to say, "you go, girl!"

  2. Adrienne,

    Savlanut - patience! At some point it will just start to come to you, and you will thoroughly enjoy your Hebrew competency.

    We'll be seeing you soon - and I know you'll get past the nightmare!


    Doug Kohn