LAKEWOOD RANCH — Sue Huntting nods in approval as student Mackenzie Dyrda carefully reads the words before her.
The Hebrew script looks nothing like her typical reading material, but Mackenzie sounds out each symbol as smoothly as if reading the English alphabet.
The 10-year-old is one of about 100 children enrolled in Temple Sinai’s Hebrew School program. And starting this month, the Sarasota temple will begin offering mid-week Hebrew lessons at The Out-of-Door-Academy in Lakewood Ranch to better serve its students and their families. Weekly classes start at 4:30 p.m., Sept.14, and are open for children in third through sixth grades.
“Because of the Hebrew program we use, (children) can start at any level,” said Huntting, religious school director for Temple Sinai. “We can tailor (lessons) to each (student).”
Children in Temple Sinai’s Hebrew School program already learn the Hebrew language and Jewish subjects (Judaica) on Sundays at the temple. But in preparation for their Bar Mitzvahs (for boys) and Bat Mitzvahs (for girls), which usually take place at age 13, children in third through sixth grades begin extra studies, putting an additional focus on Hebrew with a midweek lesson.
Huntting said the idea to offer Hebrew classes in the East County came after realizing many children in the program were being bused from ODA’s Siesta Key campus to its Lakewood Ranch campus and then driven back to Sarasota for lessons at Temple Sinai. After a one-and-one-half-hour lesson, the families would head east again, this time for home.
“It’s a huge chunk out of their late afternoon, and that’s such a precious time for families during the school year,” she said. “I thought, ‘What if there were a way for us to alleviate some of the logistical challenges?’”
Huntting also suspected there were other families in the East County who would like their children to participate but were unable to because of logistics.
Families wishing to enroll in the Hebrew School program must first become members of Temple Sinai, which is affiliated with the Reform Jewish Movement, Huntting said.
The pilot program in Lakewood Ranch, she said, will continue through this school year and be reevaluated at the end of classes. If only three more families join the Lakewood Ranch group, the program will continue in the East County. If not, the school will reevaluate whether the program will continue next year, she said.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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