Mor Naveh: A lover of French art; a woman who believes she has the responsibility to correct wrongdoings in the world; and a teacher whose philosophy is that the student’s only responsibility in the classroom is to enjoy. I sat down with Mor in her Jerusalem home to find out more about what drove her to sign up to teach olim chadashim (new immigrants) Hebrew for Jerusalem Village, and what she expects the sessions to be like.
Q: Tell me about yourself.
A: I am 28 years old and from a small village called Kiryat Bialik, near Haifa. I’ve lived in Jerusalem for 10 years now and I’ve been a certified Hebrew teacher for three. I studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and I teach at Ulpan Mila, the best ulpan. I have a BA in Art History and Philosophy and I am working towards my MA in French Art at the moment.
Q: Why did you agree to teach for Jerusalem Village?
A: I love it. I’d teach for free. But don’t tell anyone I said that. When I was in the army, I had a terrible officer. So I decided that I would become an officer to make a correction in the world. I believe in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). So I went to officer training school. And when I learned English and French, I had some terrible teachers—one English teacher made me feel really bad, and learning is supposed to be fun, so I decided to become a teacher!
Q: What excites you about the new way Jerusalem Village is looking to teach Hebrew with the oleh community for their new program, Alter.Native?
A: To teach olim is especially interesting for me. What I love about it is I’m teaching for use—people can use what I teach them instantly! Language learning really opens worlds for people, and Hebrew is the best language. The shorashim (roots of words) are used to make nouns, infinitives, verbs, and it’s great when students make connections because of the shorashim.
Q: What can you tell me about your work as a Hebrew teacher, and how would you describe your teaching style?
A: At the ulpan where I teach, there is a great variety of people—Baha’i, Jewish, Muslim, and Christians. I like the style of the ulpan—the classes are calm and flowing. I believe that the only responsibility of the student is to enjoy and to know it will be okay. So to make students enjoy, I like to make jokes. I think it’s really cool to hear and understand jokes in other languages. I really don’t like to lecture—I hate when the attention is on me. I love questions because they always make me think. Because there are so many learning styles, I like to be creative. I use pictures, music, and comedy… My dream was to be a comedian. The profession of teaching seems to attract many lost artists and comedians.
Q: What are some of your challenges when teaching?
A: Teaching grown-ups is difficult. You don’t want adults to feel like children when you’re teaching them. So humor is a great way to make it intelligent and fun. Another challenge is that there are always different learning styles in a classroom, so I try to use every method of teaching at the same time.
Yom.Yom is also different than what I’ve taught before—First of all, I’ll have a TA, and I’ve never had one before. Second, I love teaching grammar, so sometimes I go on about grammar. But for Yom.Yom, the class is more verbal so we won’t do grammar, and maybe we won’t even have a whiteboard.
Q: What advice do you have for Hebrew learners?
A: Don’t think—do. Nobody will make fun of you if you get things wrong here, so try! There are so many Hebrew learners here so it’s normal to hear imperfect Hebrew. And with all of the English speakers here, it’s so easy to speak English, but you need to make the effort to use your Hebrew—it’s the little things that count. Even if it means reading a menu in Hebrew and it takes you 30 minutes, do it. It will make a big difference.
Q: What do you think of Jerusalem now that you’ve lived here for 10 years?
A: I love how Jerusalem is European and Middle Eastern at the same time. It’s really a cross point for worlds meeting—like a village. And people trust each other here—everyday around 6am, I see people leaving food shipments outside of restaurant doors to be picked up later and nobody touches them! Coming from Kiryat Bialik, everything is big and new for me. You can walk the width of my city in one hour, so once I had to walk somewhere here and it took much, much longer than I expected. And yet, Jerusalem also has a small town feeling. It’s diverse. For example, I see priests and nuns here, and I’ve never seen them before I moved to Jerusalem. The best thing is that there are so many projects like Jerusalem Village where people have the ability to get to know the community.
Q: Any closing words for the readers?
A: I believe a language class should be a place where each student feels comfortable, a place of infinite patience, a variety of teaching methods and mostly—a lot of laughter and humor. At the Yom.Yom course we’re gonna talk some real Hebrew, explore the Israeli culture and mainly have some fun. If you’ve been living in Israel for quite some time, learned some Hebrew in an Ulpan and yet been intimidated by the idea of speaking it at the Shuk or with Israeli telephone receptionists, I invite you to join us and find out what an AMAZING Hebrew speaker you are. Looking forward to meeting you.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Like her on Facebook and follow her column on JNS.org.