When materials to aid in learning the language are limited, so are the chances of learning it at all

Hebrew is a beautiful and widely spoken language. But it is hard to access literature in Calgary that could help beginners learn the language — something the Jewish Book Festival’s new Hebrew Book Exchange is trying to change.

Stan Berezovski, an author who was at the festival, says “some people want to learn Hebrew just to speak Hebrew, while some people want to learn Hebrew because it is the original language of the whole world.”

The cultural arts manager of the Calgary Jewish Community Centre, Shula Banchik says it is easy to learn to read the language, taking just “three to four hours, because there’s a whole method to that reading. The difficult thing is to understand what you’re reading.”

In previous years, the festival — which features 350 titles packed, stacked and laid out for members and non-members of the centre — had few Hebrew books available to help in that process.

That’s why Banchik is overjoyed to have the Hebrew Book Exchange booth at the festival, which allows those with genuine Hebrew books to drop one off, and pick another up.

Amanda Biers searches through over 300 titles for a perfect new read at the Jewish Book Festival.

Photo by Justine DeardoffAmanda Biers, also a newcomer to the festival, was among those who turned to it for help.
“I was really hoping to find kids’ books, to just help me to get quicker at reading,” explains Biers, who said it was easier to find a Hebrew tutor online.

“I can read it, it’s just slow. We (Biers and her boyfriend) pray in Hebrew, so I want to get quicker at praying in Hebrew.”

The lack of children’s Hebrew books is still a problem, but Banchik hopes to have this booth grow in its selection and featured more often for many years to come.

The Jewish Book Festival goes from Dec. 14. Information about the event can be found on Facebook or through their website at http://www.calgaryjcc.com/jewish-book-festival.

Jdeardoff@cjournal.ca

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