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An Old Fashioned Hebrew Course: An Overview of Hebrew Grammar, Based Upon the Historic "Hebrew Grammar for the Use of Beginners" by James (Joshua) Seixas

Taught by Hazzan Rabbi Ira Rohde

They don’t teach things the way they used to anymore! For an antiquarian take on studying Hebrew, in the classic way it was taught in America, largely to non-Jewish Bible students, but also to American Jews in our very congregation as well, nearly two-hundred years ago, Hazzan Ira Rohde will be conducting a special twelve-week Overview of Hebrew Grammar, using as a textbook the historic Manual: Hebrew Grammar for the Use of Beginners (Andover, MA, 1833), by James (a.k.a. Joshua) Seixas. James Seixas (1802-1874) was, of course, one of the many children of our notable Hazan Gershom Mendes Seixas. At various times in his life James/Joshua seems to have taught in New York, including at our Talmud Torah, but also, like some Jews of his time (in those days often involving some outward, and sometimes sincere, conformity to Christianity), found himself lured, as many have been, by the lucrative realms of academia and the church, teaching Hebrew and Judaism to non-Jews, at least for a short time when he was trying to make ends meet during his younger years. James Seixas first moved to Massachusetts to teach at the famous Andover Theological Seminary, but then accepted an offer teach at two newly-founded colleges in the Cleveland area, Oberlin and Western Reserve (now Case Western Reserve), before returning to New York. While there he is noted for having taught Hebrew to the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, and to the church of his followers, who were, by stages, migrating westwards from their origin near Rochester. Going through the Manual will give students a thorough overview of Hebrew grammar, give insight into the language, and will also shed light upon the classical grammatical method of instruction used in those days. James Seixas boasted that he could teach his course in six weeks; due to our modern unfamiliarity with the terminology and the grammatical method (as well as, perhaps, due to our lack of zeal as compared to the early Mormons who risked everything to follow their leaders in their migrations), we will take double that amount of time. But Hazzan Ira Rohde, Cantor of the congregation, who has served the past 27 years in duties parallel those of James Seixas’ father, can offer artisanal-quality, experienced insight in making modern use of traditional teaching methods.  It will be an old-fashioned type of course, taught via an old-fashioned methodology, in a historic institution, by an old-fashioned artisan practitioner! As Hazzan Rohde exhorts, in the Hebrew cohortative, his prospective congregational cohorts:

  הבה נלמדה-נא עברית “Come let us, prithee, learn Hebrew!” 


Taught by Rabbi Ira Rohde, Hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel

The Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue in the City of New York

Twelve Thursday Evenings, 7:15-8:30 pm in the Elias Room

Fall 2017 Semester

Sep. 7, 14, & 28; Oct. 19 & 26; Nov. 2, 9, 16, & 30; Dec.7 & 21; Jan. 4

Revolutionary War Torah Scrolls

In 1776, several British soldiers desecrated two of Shearith Israel’s Torah scrolls.

Choral Music of Shearith Israel