Hebrew Podcasts

Last week I saw an announcement on H-Net about a new online resource for learning Hebrew: Hebrew Podcasts. “The audio lessons are designed for all ages and consist of a Hebrew dialog with English narration explaining the dialog and the grammar that it is using. The lessons teach contemporary, Israeli, spoken Hebrew. Students listen to these audio podcasts on a portable mp3 player or on their computer.”

The good news is that the podcast audio lessons are free. Lesson guides to enrich the lesson come with site membership (for which there’s a fee).

I’ve listened to one podcast so far, and I’m tempted to return for more. And yes, I’m tempted to buy a membership.

Life Stories

Have you been following the discussion of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s new plan? As reported in The New York Times on Saturday, Sarkozy has “surpris[ed] the nation and touch[ed] off waves of protest with his revision of the school curriculum: beginning next fall, he said, every fifth grader will have to learn the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.”

I have to confess that as much as I promote Holocaust awareness (and as intriguing as I’ve found Sarkozy to be), I’m not exactly enthralled with this idea. The Times article sets forth several sources for disagreement, but the one that resonates most with me, given my own childhood Holocaust-related nightmares, comes from Simone Veil, a prominent Frenchwoman and Holocaust survivor, who is quoted as saying: “You cannot inflict this on little ones of 10 years old! You cannot ask a child to identify with a dead child. The weight of this memory is much too heavy to bear.”

It’s a heavy weight, I suspect, even for grownups. When I first heard about this plan, I thought immediately about Dora Bruder, a book by one of my favorite French authors, Patrick Modiano. In Dora Bruder, Modiano essentially does exactly what Sarkozy wants the fifth graders to do: He researches the life story of one of the 11,000 French children killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust. Dora Bruder is a powerful book, one very much in keeping with Modiano’s entire œuvre. (See Jean Charbonneau’s AGNI review for a good English-language summary.)

I know that I’m not quite up to Modiano’s level–my own family background, Ph.D. in history, and M.F.A. in creative writing notwithstanding. It’s unlikely too many French fifth graders are. Let’s leave this particular task to the Modianos of the world, and use their work to teach the fifth graders–when they’re a little older.

Creative Writing in Israel (Update)

Back in October I wrote a post about (and seeking more information concerning) creative writing programs in Israel. More recently I met an Israel-based writer and translator who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and she directed me to the Creative Writing Study Unit offered there. According to the Web site, “The study unit is designed for students holding a B.A. degree in English or Creative Writing who wish to develop their abilities in creative writing and/or literary translation.” It’s not quite what I’m looking for for my own purposes–but may interest some of you reading this. If so, visit the site to learn more. You can also contact Lisa Katz (lisakatz(at)mscc(dot)huji(dot)ac(dot)il).

ArtScroll Announcement

I’ve been busy the past several days attending (and reporting on) the 2008 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference in New York City. Now that I’m catching up with myself (and the mail that accumulated because although I came home each night to a Manhattan apartment I had zero time to read through anything), I’ve had a chance to read through the latest Jewish Week.

And I was intrigued to find there an announcement from ArtScroll welcoming Mrs. Miriam Zakon to the company as Acquisitions Editor. ArtScroll added this note: “We invite authors whose works are on a high literary and Torah standard to contact Mrs. Zakon with proposals and manuscripts at zakon(at)artscroll(dot)com.”

I’m always interested in learning more about publishers that focus on books of Jewish interest, and I hope to share more discoveries like this one here on the blog in the future.

Some Thoughts on Irène Némirovsky

If you’ve read my review of Suite Française (it’s linked elsewhere on this blog), or followed my comments on my “other” blog (the one that focuses on the practice of writing), you already know that as much as I admire this novel, my positive feelings are more qualified insofar as its author, Irène Némirovsky, is concerned. This new Jewish Week article pretty much sums up the situation and the questions I’m still asking myself. (Thanks to MD for making sure I didn’t miss it!)