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Community Blog Hebrew College Partners with Middlebury School of Hebrew for Summer Immersion Program

By Adam Zemel

We are excited to announce a new strategic partnership with Middlebury School of Hebrew at Middlebury College, which will provide a significant opportunity for incoming ordination students to enhance their Hebrew language skills. This collaboration will allow new rabbinical students to access an unparalleled immersive learning experience during the summer before they begin their studies in Newton.

The School of Hebrew is a constituent of the Middlebury Language Schools, one of the foremost language learning programs in the United States. Current rabbinical student Naomi Zipursky inspired the partnership, as explained in a story on the Middlebury Language Schools website announcing the collaboration:

When Naomi Zipursky decided to pursue her dream of becoming a rabbi, she quickly learned she’d need to build her Hebrew language skills to tackle the work ahead. After consulting with trusted advisors, she enrolled in the Middlebury School of Hebrew in summer 2022.

…Zipursky returned the following summer to pursue further study of the language: “I noticed every day how my learning at Middlebury set me up for success in rabbinical school. I started to wonder, ‘What if every incoming student at Hebrew College could attend Middlebury?’” She ran the idea by Elizabeth Gerner, co-director of Middlebury’s School of Hebrew, and Rabbi Gita Karasov, director of admissions and student life at Hebrew College, both of whom embraced the concept and worked to formalize it.

“The reason I feel as prepared and empowered as I do every day I walk into the beit midrash is a direct result of my time spent at Middlebury. I noticed every day how my learning at Middlebury set me up for success in rabbinical school and I began to wonder, ‘what if every incoming HC student had the chance to attend Middlebury?’ — hence the birth of the partnership,” says Naomi (below, third from left, with fellow HC Rabbinical School student Hannah Limov, left.) “In addition to my foundational Hebrew skills, the patience and resilience I honed in my time at Middlebury serve as a strong foundation for my journey in rabbinical school and will continue to serve me far into my future rabbinate. I’m so excited for all that’s ahead with this partnership!

students smiling

The partnership will commence this summer. Students will have the choice to attend either the seven-week program or the three-week immersion program offered by Middlebury, both of which include a commitment to the Language Pledge®—an agreement to communicate exclusively in Hebrew. Operationally, the partnership will facilitate an expedited admissions process for incoming Hebrew College ordination students. Additionally, participants will receive financial aid from Middlebury alongside an additional $1,000 grant from Hebrew College.

As admissions director and student life director Rabbi Gita Karasov told Middlebury in their announcement, this partnership addresses a deep need for Hebrew College’s pluralistic student community:

Karasov said the partnership gives her an official response to the most asked question of prospective students: Where can I go to learn Hebrew in a deep, rigorous way in a short amount of time?

“What they can accomplish in seven weeks over the summer is significant,” Karasov said. “We’re excited to send people to a place they can learn from the best of the best that is now a formal partnership.”

Language Schools students receive about five hours of daily classroom instruction while engaging in extensive reading and listening activities using texts from invited lecturers, novels, short-stories, plays, movies, media items, and journalistic accounts. They also engage in daily co-curricular activities, including music, theater, readings, and lectures to develop cultural fluency.

This collaboration coincides with Middlebury School of Hebrew’s new curriculum track, combining modern and biblical Hebrew study. Students will begin the summer focusing on modern Hebrew, followed by an integrated approach to both modern and biblical Hebrew. This comprehensive curriculum is designed to equip students with the language skills required to succeed in Hebrew College’s ordination program.

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