It’s simple to be nostalgic for favourite storybook tales from childhood. That’s true for Natalia Tsvibel. She clearly remembers the nice outdated days of Russian “Vinnie” the Pooh. And she or he desires to cross that pleasure to new college students of the Russian language, notably the Bay Space kids of Jewish immigrants from the previous Soviet Union.
“There are classical books translated into Russian that turned very Russian,” she stated. “[And] there are some books that exist solely in Russian, and we cherish them. Possibly as a result of we didn’t have a variety of selection in our childhood, in order that they turn out to be crucial.”
Tsvibel is the chief director of Yom Rishon Faculty, which is devoted to instructing Russian language and literature to the subsequent technology of post-Soviet Jews. An extension of Congregation Beth Am’s emigre resettlement program, the Yom Rishon Faculty turned impartial in 2015, and after a number of years assembly within the synagogue constructing is now renting house on the Oshman Household JCC in Palo Alto.
Hebrew for “Sunday faculty,” Yom Rishon Faculty enrolls Jewish college students ages 2 to 12 — alongside their mother and father (and generally grandparents) — to spend two hours per session studying Russian language, literature, artwork and cinema, and celebrating conventional Jewish holidays.
Yom Rishon’s curriculum presents the educational in numerous methods, together with a yearlong venture by the youthful college students, typically a brief movie (with story explanations in English) about a facet of Jewish historical past.
Whereas Yom Rishon’s Russian-language courses are aimed toward instructing the vernacular — many mother and father who converse Russian at house wish to converse with their kids of their native language, and for his or her children to have the ability to talk with grandparents who could solely converse Russian — Tsvibel additionally desires kids to find among the magic in Russian thought and literature so it stays with them lengthy into maturity.
“This can be a household factor we want to switch to our youngsters,” she stated.
Grandparents tackle an prolonged and beloved function in lots of Russian-speaking households, Tsvibel stated, so it’s gratifying when members of the family can perceive one another via language.
In line with the newest U.S. Census, California has the second-largest Russian-speaking inhabitants within the nation. Kyiv-born Shimon Margolin, a Bay Space rabbi who directs a San Francisco nonprofit for Russian-speaking Jews, estimates there are between 15,000 and 20,000 Russian Jewish households within the area.
Whereas lots of her college students are close to fluent in Russian as kids, Tsvibel stated, in the event that they don’t proceed to review into their teenagers they’ll lose it. “They’re able to converse, however fashionable individuals don’t like effort,” she stated. “They may by no means learn literature in Russian.”
The brand new faculty yr is beginning off at half capability due to the pandemic, with two ranges of courses — one for ages 6-9, and one other for ages 9-12. There are 11 courses scheduled between September and April.
Like different households at Yom Rishon, Tsvibel spent a lot of years dwelling in Israel earlier than coming to the U.S. Her daughter was 2 once they immigrated, after which she went to a Russian preschool and kindergarten; she didn’t hear English till she was 6 years outdated. Tsvibel stated most of the households from Israel want to talk Russian at house relatively than Hebrew.
Russian is a notoriously troublesome language to study, at any age. “Grammar is boring in each language,” Tsvibel stated. “It’s a must to attempt very onerous.”
She credit the lecturers for maintaining college students . “It’s their job to make it enjoyable,” she stated. “Enjoyable ought to be part of the educational course of.”