While not as ancient as the 2,000-year-old practice of lighting the menorah, exchanging gifts on Chanukah has been a custom for over 100 years. I ordered one of my Chanukah gifts early this year; it was a book for a friend, a slim volume, and I loved it so much that I ordered a second copy for myself. When the book arrived it brought a smile to my face, and wonderful memories of my childhood came rushing back. The book is called “Leshoni;” it was my first Hebrew primer.
Earlier this year my friend, a member of the Akiva community, shared with me that he had forgotten whatever Hebrew he had learned as a child, and wanted to learn the holy language from the beginning. I was thrilled at the idea of teaching him, and knew immediately the book I wanted to use. I still remember the excitement of first learning the Hebrew alphabet, and the wonderful way that letters combined with vowels underneath to form sounds. To me, it felt like magic.
At Akiva this year we are capturing the magic of language learning with our theme, The Language of Akiva. The tagline refers to the three languages of Akiva, French, Hebrew, and English, as well as to the myriad of other languages that we speak at school each day, including the languages of math, mindfulness, and coding. Since the beginning of the school year we have rolled out several language-related initiatives including our one-of-a-kind Language Laboratory, “la ligue québécoise”, and a reinvigoration of Akiva’s language of kindness: The Five Promises. Our staff professional development has likewise centered on language, beginning this summer during our Staff Week when we studied theories and practices of linguistics through the biblical story of the origin of multi-lingualism, the Tower of Babel. And this fall at our staff retreat, our faculty learned how best to teach Trilingual Literacy and the language of Social Emotional Learning.
As we enter the gift-giving Chanukah season, it makes us proud as Akiva parents and educators to give our students one of the greatest gifts of all, the gift of language.