Hebrew charter school in Hollywood, Fla., halts
language classes over church-state concerns
Tucson, Arizona | Published:
— A charter school has been ordered to temporarily suspend Hebrew classes
while officials try to determine whether teachers are advocating the Jewish
Broward Schools Superintendent James Notter sent a letter to officials at
the Ben Gamla Charter School in Hollywood on Wednesday advising them to halt
Hebrew classes until the school board could further examine the curriculum.
it comes up in the course of conversation, that is one thing, but if it
comes to promoting religion or proselytizing, we don't want it to happen,"
said Keith Bromery, a spokesman for the Broward schools.
School founder Peter Deutsch, a former Democratic congressman, said he told
teachers Thursday to halt the Hebrew classes. Deutsch said he shared
Notter's aim to ensure religion doesn't enter the new, publicly funded
school, which started operations this week.
goal and my goal are really exactly the same," Deutsch said.
ban on Hebrew will extend at least until Sept. 11, when the board next
meets. Until then, time that would have been spent on language instruction
will be used teaching Israeli geography and Jewish history and culture.
Deutsch said he believes the school has every right to continue Hebrew
classes, but decided to stop them to ease concerns. Both he and school board
member Eleanor Sobel, in whose district Ben Gamla is located, have described
their efforts as "bending over backwards" for one another.
Gamla presented its curriculum to the board for a third time Tuesday, but
Sobel said it still had religious overtones.
"We're going into the fourth round now and maybe that's what it takes to get
it right," she said.
Gamla, which has about 400 students in kindergarten through eighth grades,
has generated controversy since it was proposed. Students follow state
curriculum, but also were to take a Hebrew language course, and one of their
core subjects — math or physical education, for example — was to be taught
bilingually as well.
school takes its name from a Jewish high priest, serves kosher food, and its
director is a rabbi.