“Acquiring the Hebrew language helps a community of asylum seekers and migrants to expand their knowledge, and to solve daily dilemmas. Hebrew language skills provide them with the possibility to speak in the language of the local population, in order to tell their stories.”
English and Hebrew lessons for African asylum seekers have been taking place in Jerusalem for 7 years, in different formulations. In its current formulation, within the framework of our organization, the project of teaching Hebrew has been ongoing since November, and is able to radically improve the quality of life of those in the asylum seeker community. This population came to Israel with no prior knowledge of the local language and culture, and has therefore found it very difficult to find a place in Israeli society. Today, graduates of our Hebrew language program are able to speak fluent Hebrew, to share their experiences with others, and to effectively communicate with the society around them, which does not speak their native language.
Bar Rapaport (24) an undergraduate student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, is the project’s coordinator. After volunteers express a desire to participate in the project, Bar trains and guides them, along with professional teachers, through the process of building a framework of classes that cover the different realms of language acquisition. The project is open to a wide age-range. “We have mixed groups”, explains Bar, “The youngest may be 20 and the oldest may be 50, and it’s nice to see this combination working nicely”. There are two semesters of school throughout the year, with each one offering four levels of instruction - from beginner through advanced. The participants are matched to the level most appropriate to their learning needs, and can advance through the different levels as their Hebrew skills improve. The project has more than 60 participants throughout the year, and every semester ends with a graduation ceremony, allowing students to take pride in their accomplishments.
Bar points out that the JACC has the ability to provide a basic good for asylum seekers, that the government does not - a safe space with social functions. “The lessons have an added value - they are a place for social meetups, and an avenue for understanding Israeli culture. They provide a space where it is ok to ask questions, and a place where both children and parents can focus on their personal development.”, says Bar. She also adds that there is an effort to create a homey atmosphere during the lessons, as well as to foster connections between students, encouraging them to help each other and to broaden their social horizons. These lessons are not merely about personal enrichment:
“Acquiring the Hebrew language helps a community of asylum seekers and migrants to expand their knowledge, and to solve daily dilemmas. Hebrew language s
kills provide them with the possibility to speak in the language of the local population, in order to tell their stories.”
The JACC recently opened a new community center in downtown Jerusalem. The center has classrooms suitable for language lessons, as well as for children’s activities. Our aim is to turn the center into the heart of various activities of Jerusalem’s African community, such that is becomes a place for meetings, for learning, and for social and cultural activities. The language acquisition projects are always in need of new volunteers.
Your are welcome to contact us if you are interested in participating. Please fill out the participation form, and we will get back to you shortly.