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CU-Boulder Hebrew Club is revived, led by Eyal Rivlin

Eyal RivlinAFTER a three year hiatus, the Hebrew Club at CU Boulder is back. And, as some hope, better than before.

Carly Coons is a senior and recalls the club in its earlier incarnation.

“The old club started to [allow us to practice speaking Hebrew], but this is the energy and enthusiasm that it really needed. It’s something I really need.”

She’s talking about the guitar-strummin’, Hebrew rappin’, hip-hop singin’ instructor who’s breathing new life into the club: Eyal Rivlin, born in Israel and a Colorado transplant since 2000.

He moved to Boulder to get a master’s degree from Naropa and, like many, decided to stay and call it home.

“I’ve been teaching in different capacities around town at the JCC, through Menorah, Nevei Kodesh, and privately. And now, I started teaching at CU this semester . . .  the desire for [the club] was to bring excitement and bring aliveness and to it,” Rivlin says.

The kick-off event attracted 22 students and featured klezmer and hip-hop music, an encouraged group sing-a-long, Israeli food, and Israeli dancing — the latter courtesy of computer science Professor Emeritus Skip Ellis, who leads Israeli dance instruction every Sunday night at Pearl Street Studios.

“[The earlier version of the club] didn’t have the music or the dancing,” says Zilla Goodman, head of the Hebrew program in the Dept. of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literature at CU.

“It was more we had music once with someone leading it. We had a movie once.”

GOODMAN used to run the club with a core group of students. But when they graduated, the club fell by the wayside. “I got very busy and didn’t have time to do it anymore,” she says. Now, she’s still busy running the Hebrew program, but with new funding she was able to hire another Hebrew instructor.

“He’s a great teacher,” Goodman says of Rivlin. “We have the good fortune of Eyal being a musician as well.”

“He’s inspiring and motivating to all these young students that they want to come and socialize,” says Judy Oberer who is auditing first semester Hebrew. Her son is a Hebrew student as well. “I think there will be a lot more young people showing up for the club.”

“So that’s why I’m on this side of the room,” she says with a smile before adding, “it’s helpful when you’re learning Hebrew to be able to use it other than in the classroom. The way Hebrew is taught here is modern conversational Hebrew so when people go to Israel, they’ll be able to speak.”

IF Rivlin has his way, students will be able to do more than just speak.

“In my experience, when learning a languages is more than a text book, when it’s more experiential like dance, like movies, like music, like role-playing out in the street talking, the learning is so much more integrated into the body, so that there isn’t that phenomenon where you learn all these years and you go to Israel and have no idea where to begin. Your brain doesn’t know how to open up. This format of teaching,” he says, “relaxes you and makes it easier to connect with Hebrew.”

As for the club, Rivlin hopes it will develop community among the students at all levels of instruction as well as reach out to the greater Boulder community with one or two large events each semester.

Copyright © 2012 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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