Emanu-El debuting ‘Hebrew@Home’ remote learning

Rabbi Batsheva Appel, center, shown repairing a Torah with students in January 2014, says distance learners will be in the physical classroom one day a week to preserve a sense of community. (Courtesy Temple Emanu-El)

Temple Emanu-El’s Kurn Religious School will implement a new distance learning strategy to increase Hebrew school engagement in the upcoming academic year. Called Hebrew@Home, it will allow students in third through eighth grades who live in remote locations or cannot make it to the school for other reasons to participate in Hebrew classes online alongside students in the physical classroom on Tuesday afternoons.

“Hebrew@Home is something we are developing here at Temple Emanu-El. It’s really going to be very much cutting edge. We’re the only ones in the state of Arizona doing it,” says Rabbi Batsheva Appel, the synagogue’s rabbi educator.

She and Senior Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon began developing Hebrew@Home because they know it is not always easy for students to get to Hebrew school on Tuesday afternoons.

“We have a family who drives their child up from Nogales every Tuesday,” says Appel, adding that other families may have scheduling conflicts “if both parents work or it’s a single parent household.”

With the new program, she says, “some of the students will come in remotely, by way of computer, and some of the students will come in person on a Tuesday afternoon and the teacher and the students will all be able to see each other and they’ll all be able to learn together for those two hours.”

The program will use technology designed specifically for meetings. Temple Emanu-El is investing in the necessary hardware, Appel says. On the students’ end, all they will need is a computer or tablet with a web cam.

“We’re very excited about the possibilities this offers,” Appel says. “One of the biggest priorities is making sure that we preserve the community of the classroom. We want the kids to know each other, which is why we’re only doing it on Tuesday afternoons and why everybody’s in the classroom on Sundays.”

The Kurn Religious School is accepting registration applications for children aged 3 through 10th grade. The registration fee will be waived with registration by May 31.

Contact Appel at 327-4501 or bappel@tetucson.org.