HLA is beginning its seventh year of operation! For many years, I dreamed of starting this school: a school that is rigorous and nurturing; a school that is diverse; a school that incorporates service learning from the earliest grades. Now, the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School is all of those things: we are the most diverse charter school in New York City and more than 95% of our first-year students returned this year to engage in the challenging and supportive curriculum.
At the heart of our school is the teaching of Hebrew. There are many dual language programs in New York City public schools, where throughout the day, in different areas of study, students are immersed in Greek, Latin, Spanish, Mandarin, and Arabic, to name but a few languages. HLA now adds Hebrew to that impressive list. Many of the founding fathers of our country knew Hebrew. Hebrew was studied by the greatest enlightenment thinkers. It is yet another language spoken in our great city. It is a classical language, steeped with culture and history throughout the world, it is also a modern, spoken language, as well as a language associated with cutting-edge technology.
While HLA is the first public school in New York City to offer Hebrew in this dual-language setting, it is by no means the first public school in the city to offer Hebrew instruction. In the 1940s and 1950s, Hebrew was taught in approximately 40 high schools in New York City. In the 1970s and 1980s, Hebrew was taught in roughly 20 public schools across the city. More than 150,000 students have studied Hebrew in New York City public schools.
It is important to me that the elementary school graduates of HLA speak Hebrew with a level of proficiency that prepares them for life-long language learning. I still can’t understand why so many schools begin language instruction in middle school, when it is increasingly clear that the window for language acquisition is in the elementary, if not nursery years.
For nearly five years, I wrote a weekly column in the New York Sun about the joys of raising children in New York City. I spent a great deal of time considering the myriad of ways being raised in New York City is an education in itself. The mere existence of more than 100 charter schools, located in almost every district of the city, speaks volumes about the city’s commitment to offering its parents school choice. I feel so proud to be a part of this system.
As a journalist, as well as a parent of five children, I also spend time thinking about what really matters when it comes to our children’s education. Is it the curriculum? The facilities? The friends? The principal? The teachers? The books? The homework? The dress code? The athletics? The answer is probably all of the above, but I am most proud of HLA’s administration and teaching staff. They are extraordinary, and I am confident that they will create a rigorous and nurturing environment for all of our students.
I am committed to making sure HLA is a school characterized first and foremost by academic excellence. I look forward to being one of many partners in this process. And I am looking forward to another successful year!
– Sara Berman
Founder & Board Chair
Hebrew Language Academy Charter School