Lowell High School, San Francisco’s only public high school with academic and merit-based admissions criteria, is also the only public high school in Northern California to offer Hebrew — a claim it has been able to make for more than 20 years. But there is no guarantee that the 117-year-old school near Lake Merced will continue to offer the class next year.
Funding for the program, which is run in partnership with San Francisco State University’s Jewish Studies department, has always come from charitable donations and not from the San Francisco Unified School District.
In past years, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund was a principal source of funding, but with the closing of that fund in 2012, those who cherish the program have been scrambling to raise the $35,000 it takes to run the program every year. As of now, there is no funding for the school year that will start next fall.
Even with the future in doubt, the students in this year’s classes — Hebrew I, II and III — are wrapping up a year they call kef (fun).
The students are a diverse mix. Though mostly Jews, there are also non-Jews, including Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans. Some of the students are active members of the Jewish community, but others simply are looking to fulfill a language requirement; some have had trouble learning Spanish or French and have heard good things about Batia Horsky’s teaching methods.
Working with a limited budget, Horsky photocopies handouts rather than using Hebrew textbooks, most of which she feels are lacking anyway. She also tailors her quizzes and tests to individual students since there is a wide range of levels and abilities.
Guest speakers from Israel, including former Consul General Akiva Tor, often visit the class. And Horsky has been known to pull out a Hebrew-language Scrabble set for a quick game or show a DVD of the hit Israeli sitcom “Arab Labor.” Horsky even wrote and performed a Hebrew rap for Purim.
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