On a business visit to Houston three years ago, Israeli real estate agent-turned-educator Eran Dubovi accepted a suggestion from Lee Wunsch, executive director of the city’s Jewish federation. Go see a certain public school in southwest Houston, Wunsch said.
Near the end of the 2007-08 academic year, some unusual news about one class at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan came home to Miriam Akabas and her daughter Ariel and other families of then-fifth-grade students: there would be no boys in the school’s sixth-grade class the following year.
For various unconnected reasons, several families of end-of-year fifth-graders were moving from New York City; seven of the departing students were boys, all the males in the class.
American schools have been teaching foreign languages from the earliest days of the republic and yet most Americans are like Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” trying to speak French to the French: “We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.”
But after 9/11 and the intifada, there’s no room for “innocents.” Yeshiva high schools that have long offered French, Spanish and even Latin, along with Hebrew, are now teaching Israel’s other official language: Arabic.
The biblical story of Samson and Delilah came alive recently for a group of 14 senior citizens who, in looking for parallels in today’s world, cited the cases of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and former President Bill Clinton.
Even Michelle Obama and her heritage became the subject of debate.
The women, residents of the Gurwin Jewish-Fay J. Lindner Residences, an assisted living facility in Commack, L.I., were speaking of how Samson’s love for Delilah led him to reveal the secret of his superhuman strength.