Lifting the Language Barrier

In the past, when members of Los Angeles Hebrew High School’s student body applied for foreign language credits at their home high schools, some were routinely turned down. This despite the fact that they had spent the school year studying Hebrew intensively three times a week, in the evenings and on Sundays, as part of the LAHHS program.

The situation could change now that Los Angeles Hebrew High has been certified by a national body formed to accredit private schools and religious day schools. The action by the Commission on International and Transregional Accreditation, commonly known as CITA, marks the first time that any Jewish supplementary school in the United States has been given CITA’s seal of approval.

The new accreditation should make it easier for full-time LAHHS students to receive high school credit for their study of Hebrew. Those school districts and private high schools that have resisted granting foreign language credits to LAHHS teens will presumably cooperate now that the LAHHS curriculum has been given official sanction. Of the 280 students slated to attend LAHHS during the current school year, nearly 70 percent have signed up for the full-time program, which would make them eligible for the language credits.

1997 has turned out to be a banner year for the 48-year-old Los Angeles Hebrew High School. Earlier this year, the school won accreditation both from the Bureau of Jewish Education and from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. LAHHS, affiliated with the Conservative movement, serves teen-agers from all over the Greater Los Angeles Basin. During the week, students attend courses at satellite campuses that spread from Arcadia to Agoura, from Palos Verdes Estates to Newhall. They come together on Sunday mornings at the University of Judaism for classes that range from Hebrew conversation to “Jews in the Media.”

In the words of LAHHS principal Ben Zion Kogen: “We are thrilled to have completed the accreditation process. It has resulted in a serious school self-study, and we look forward to working with all of our feeder schools so that our students can receive the credit they so richly deserve.”

Jules Porter, president of the LAHHS board of directors, says: “At first, I didn’t realize how important the accreditation was. Then, one of our high school sophomores explained that fulfilling his foreign language requirement through Hebrew High gave him a free period during the school day to use either for study or for an elective course.”

Beverly Gray writes about education from Santa Monica.