The UK drops Hebrew from officially recognized languages

The importance of classical Hebrew was recognized almost 600 years ago in England, according to official records.

By Eva Fett


The U.K. government has dropped Hebrew as an official recognized language for the purpose of teaching it to school children, according to press reports.

The government exclusion of Hebrew from the provided list of officially recognized languages for primary schools could damage Jewish education, the Board of Deputies warned this week.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss last month announced plans to make it mandatory from September 2014, to teach a foreign language to children aged 7 to 11. Schools must offer at least one of seven recognized languages, excluding Hebrew.

Many elementary Jewish schools, who have to fit in Jewish studies, along with the national curriculum, are currently offering only Hebrew as a foreign language. According to the Board, they would be unable to continue their education if they were forced to offer another foreign language.


Board Senior Vice President Laura Marks said the government’s proposals could be “extremely damaging to our community’s identity, such as language, including classical and modern Hebrew, is a vital ingredient for the understanding of our faith and culture.” He urged the government to “reject the idea of stipulating only a narrow range of languages.”

The importance of classical Hebrew was recognized almost 600 years ago in England when Henry VIII established Regius professorships in the subject at Oxford and Cambridge, according to official records.

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