Hebrew may be a difficult language, but that hasn’t kept Poles from trying to learn it. These days, stories by Etgar Keret and songs by popular singer Aviv Gefen serve as instructional textsIn recent years, no fewer than 13 Hebrew language faculties have launched throughout Poland. In addition to the academic area, a number of private schools that teach students the wonders of the written language, as well as an ulpan that teaches spoken Hebrew, which operates in Warsaw’s Jewish community.
Reading from right to left, the strange letters, and the guttural sounds of Hebrew don’t seem to put off Poles.
According to Israeli Ambassador Zvi Rav-Ner, several hundred Polish citizens are currently studying Hebrew, and the demand is growing.
“This makes me very happy,” Rav-Ner said. “I ask the students why they are studying Hebrew, and their answers are interesting. They say that the Jewish and Yiddish cultures are part of Poland’s history and culture and they want to learn about it.”
“Some say that they want to help make Polish society, which is mainly Catholic, more diverse,” he continued.
The embassy provides assistance for Hebrew courses in the form of textbooks and in inviting Hebrew instructors to work in Poland.
Anna Zaluska, 25, who teaches Hebrew at a private language school in Warsaw, explained that one reason for the increased interest in Hebrew study is increased economic cooperation between Israel and Poland.
“There are also Poles who want to study Hebrew because they have an Israeli partner,” Zaluska noted.
However, despite renewed interest, Hebrew language study is not an entirely new phenomenon. The University of Warsaw has been teaching Hebrew since 1950. The Hebrew study curriculum includes, among other sources, books by contemporary popular writers Eshkol Nevo and songs by Teapacks.