Toward an Understanding of Hebrew Language Education: Ideologies, Emotions, and Identity

By Sharon Avni


This paper focuses on the practices of teaching and learning Hebrew language at a non-Orthodox Jewish day school, showing the ways that Hebrew language ideologies intersect with categories of emotions, affect, and identity. Drawing from a corpus of ethnographic data collected over an 18-month period, this paper examines the ways in which local interpretations of what being Jewish entails for seventh and eighth grade students and their teachers is intricately tied to their feelings and beliefs regarding the Hebrew language. While prevailing language ideologies explicitly support the importance of Hebrew at their school and within the Jewish community at large, and identify Hebrew as a marker of Jewishness, in practice feelings about the language are complex and entangled with conflicting beliefs about how Jewish identity is expressed in a variety of languages and practices. Ethnographic investigation of language use in religious educational settings is crucial to providing a lens through which to view these complex interrelationships between ideologies of languages, modes of representation, and religious identity.

This is an author's draft, a later version of which was published in the International Journal of the Sociology of Language, vol. 208, pages 53-70, in 2011.

Topic: Language, Pedagogy, Day Schools, Hebrew, Education, Religious Schools

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Genre: Article

Coverage: New York, New York

Language: English

Copyright Holder: Author

Copyright Information: Download for personal use, freely distribute link

Bibliographic Information:
Avni, Sharon. Toward an Understanding of Hebrew Language Education: Ideologies, Emotions, and Identity. 2011:


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