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Why Learn Hebrew

The Language

Hebrew is a language both ancient and modern. With an unbroken literary tradition going back more than 3,000 years, it is the premier example of a classical language revived as the living language of a world community and the idiom of their daily lives. Learning Hebrew provides great potential for connecting people to the life and culture of Israel, but that is not all. The unique historical phenomenon of Hebrew’s revitalization, modernization, and secularization, as well as its transformation into a spoken cultural medium, offers meaningful opportunities for students to explore the evolution and purposes of a language and its function in building and sustaining communities worldwide.

Hebrew is one of the two official languages of the State of Israel. It is the primary language of over five million people and it is spoken by over nine million people worldwide. Prior to its revitalization, Hebrew served as a connector of communities around the world and thus powerfully exemplifies the capacity of language to unite people across time and space.

Video: Sela students enact restaurant scene in Hebrew.

Story: Increased Interest in Hebrew Classes in U.S. Schools also Indicates Educator Shortage

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Technology & Business

Hebrew is becoming increasingly relevant in the world of international business, and mastery of the Hebrew language has pragmatic benefits as Israel’s influence in world markets continues to expand. Israel has the third-largest number of companies listed on the NASDAQ exchange, and is recognized worldwide at the cutting-edge of industry developing the technology of the future. Israel is a giant when it comes to innovation: a global leader in R&D spending and VC investment, and home to global R&D centers for the likes of Google, Apple, and IBM. In light of Israel’s growing influence and prominence, fluency in Hebrew and modern secular Israeli culture is a profound asset for students’ futures.

Government Careers

Hebrew is also a desirable language to know for those pursuing a career in government and in areas such as diplomacy, intelligence, and the military. Various departments and agencies of the United States government consider Hebrew an important language, and several offer scholarships and grants to students pursuing studies in this and other non-Western languages considered critical to U.S. security.


Israel is a popular tourist destination, luring travelers with its history, archaeology, beaches, modern cuisine, and religious sites. Proficiency in Hebrew allows people to go beyond the tourist attractions and immerse themselves more fully in the local culture.

An Exciting Challenge

According to ACTFL’s four categories of languages, Hebrew is the third most difficult group for English speakers (more difficult than languages like Spanish and German, equally as challenging as Russian and Turkish, and less challenging than languages like Arabic and Chinese). Learning Hebrew, then, is an exciting intellectual challenge for adult learners that promotes positive brain development in students.

Adapted from the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life

Scholarships and Grants

American Jewish League for Israel (AJLI) Scholarships

AJLI offers financial support to students enrolled in a select number of Israeli universities (other institutions will be considered).

American Zionist Movement (AZM) Helyn B. Reich Scholarships

The Helyn B. Reich Memorial Scholarship is awarded by the American Zionist Movement to Jewish American students enrolled in one of several designated Israeli universities or programs for at least a semester. The scholarship seeks to recognize candidates who have demonstrated academic excellence, pro-Israel activities and leadership, and commitment to future involvement with the American Zionist community. Scholarships are awarded each fall and spring, with amounts generally ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.

Dorot Fellowship (DFI)

Each year, the Dorot Foundation selects 12 young Jewish lay leaders (ages 22-29) to live in Israel while completing volunteer and personal learning projects.

Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies Israel Scholarships (+ high school)

The Foundation awards financial assistance for study (and travel abroad to Israel) to Jewish high-school and college students from the counties of Erie and Niagara, New York.

Hillel International, College Guide search tool

Jewish students can inquire about funding opportunities for study abroad or academics at the Hillel nearest their campus.

Jewish Federations of North America, local “Fed finder” tool

Jewish students can use this online tool to locate their local Federation, which may provide study or travel abroad scholarship opportunities.

Looking for a Hebrew Program?

While initially developed to report language enrollment figures, the MLA database provides a comprehensive listing of postsecondary language programs, allowing you to refine your results by language, geographic area, and/or type of institution. The data is based on MLA’s 2013 survey.

To Get Started:

  1. Select your language(s), up to eight
  2. Narrow your search, as desired, and click “search now”
  3. Expand your findings to reveal specific schools offering programs in your language by clicking on the small triangles on your results page