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Course correction: Hebrew is back in
The charter school may teach about the Jewish faith, but must stop short of advocacy.
Published September 12, 2007
FORT LAUDERDALE - A charter school may resume teaching in Hebrew, three weeks after the lessons were halted over concerns the Jewish faith was seeping into public classrooms, the school board voted Tuesday.
Broward County board members said close monitoring of the country's first Hebrew-language charter school still is necessary, but that its administrators had cleared up major concerns.
The school district will work with the Ben Gamla Charter School in Hollywood to create training programs for teachers and board members to ensure the separation of church and state, said superintendent James Notter. Lesson plans will be submitted monthly for district review.
The school may teach about the Jewish faith, but cannot advocate it. Hebrew instruction is to resume Monday.
"We never considered crossing that line," said school founder Peter Deutsch, a former Democratic congressman.
Ben Gamla's roughly 400 students in kindergarten through eighth grades follow the state curriculum, but also are to take a Hebrew language course. One of their core subjects - math or physical education, for example - is also to be taught bilingually.
The school taught Hebrew for only three days before classes were halted last month. Since then, they have used the time allotted for language instruction to teach Israeli geography and Jewish history and culture.
Michael Gerson, a Coral Springs man whose 6-year-old daughter Julia goes to Ben Gamla, said he felt the debate helped strengthen the curriculum. He said he was glad his daughter would begin learning Hebrew again just after the start of the Jewish New Year.
"That's all we wanted," he said. "We didn't want them to teach them religion."
Deutsch plans additional Ben Gamla locations in South Florida and in New York and Los Angeles. The school takes its name from a Jewish high priest.