The Center for Jewish Civilization administers Hebrew courses at Georgetown University. In 2014, the curriculum was revamped to ensure that students are exposed to a program of high academic rigor and language learning. A minor in Hebrew is available to students from any school. Within the College, Hebrew language study can fulfill the core language requirement. For more information on the College’s language requirements, please visit the Faculty of Language and Linguistics page. In the School of Foreign Service, Hebrew is one of the languages in which students can fulfill the language proficiency requirement. More information about the Hebrew proficiency exam is available below. MSFS students can find out more on the MSFS language requirements page.
The Georgetown Hebrew Program is fortunate to have a strong teaching faculty in Professor Meital Orr and Professor Sara Grayson. Professor Orr has a doctorate in Modern Jewish Literature from Harvard University and an M.A. in Comparative Hebrew Literature from Columbia University. She has extensive experience teaching Hebrew at both Harvard and Columbia universities. Professor Grayson received her M.A. and B.A. in Jewish Education and Jewish Studies, respectively, from Baltimore Hebrew University. She has taught Hebrew at American University and other institutions, including the U.S. Air Force.
For information regarding placement into Hebrew courses please visit the language placement guidelines page and for more information on Hebrew language programs, please contact Professor Orr at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Hebrew program welcomes all consortium students and auditors who are interested in rigorous learning.
Hebrew Courses and Times
The Hebrew course offerings at Georgetown (the completion of which constitute the Hebrew minor) are as follows:
- HEBR 011 & 012 Intensive Beginning Hebrew I & II, M-TH 11:00 – 12:15, 6 credits/sem.
- HEBR 021 & 022 Intermediate Modern Hebrew I & II, T/TH 9:30 – 10:45, 3 credits/sem.
- HEBR 101 & 102 Advanced Modern Hebrew I & II, M/W 12:30 – 1:45, 3 credits/sem.
Hebrew Course Descriptions
Intensive Beginning Hebrew – HEBR 011
Instructor: Sara Grayson
This course assumes no prior knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet or its grammar and provides a thorough grounding in reading, writing, comprehension and speaking. It focuses on teaching useful vocabulary and grammar in a gradual sequence which covers the present tense and the beginning of the past tense. The course is an intensive, interactive program meeting four times per week and equivalent to 6 credits per semester. It covers 2 years of college Hebrew at most institutions (which offer 3 credits/semester for 2 years).
Intermediate Modern Hebrew I – HEBR 021
Instructor: Meital Orr
This course develops students’ Hebrew language skills taught at the beginning level. Expanded verb conjugation in the past, present and future tenses is taught and proficiency is developed through conversations utilizing increasingly complex grammar and vocabulary, journal writing, reading and discussing progressively advanced passages and newspaper articles, viewing and discussing Israeli songs, films and TV shows. Included are an oral presentation and 5 attendances per semester at conversation hour. Requirement: One year of Intensive Beginning Hebrew, or equivalent proficiency on the Hebrew Placement Exam.
Advanced Modern Hebrew I – HEBR 101
Instructor: Sara Grayson
This course covers advanced grammar and verb paradigms. Students build upon the extensive knowledge gained in Intermediate Hebrew to read and analyze un-adapted Israeli newspaper articles and works by Israeli authors, engage in extensive writing exercises, and review movies and Israeli TV programs. Fluency in speaking and knowledge of the formal vocabulary used in the media (newspapers, TV, radio) is a main goal of conversational drills and an important aid in preparing for the proficiency exam. Requirement: One year each of Intensive Beginning and Intermediate Hebrew, or equivalent proficiency on the Hebrew Placement Exam.
Recommended (not required):
Professor Meital Orr
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Jewish Civilization
Hebrew Program Coordinator
Israeli-Palestinian Literature & Film
Introduction to Jewish Civilization
Professor Sara Grayson
Assistant Teaching Professor
Intensive Beginning Hebrew
Hebrew Placement Exam
Students with no previous experience in modern Hebrew or with a basic knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet or no grammar background should register for:
- HEBR-011 Intensive Beginning Hebrew
The following students are required to take a Hebrew Placement Exam:
- All students new to Georgetown’s Hebrew program who have prior Hebrew grammar knowledge.
- Students who have taken Georgetown Hebrew in the past, with a break that is at least one semester in duration.
The Hebrew placement exam begins with beginning level Hebrew and progresses through Intermediate Hebrew to Advanced Hebrew. It may take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the level of the student. The placement exam is administered either in person, or online via Canvas and remotely proctored by an AI system called Proctorio. No outside sources may be used, and a signed honor code adherence is required. Students interested in the placement exam may email Professor Orr (email@example.com).
Language Requirement Information
Students in the College who wish to satisfy the language requirement with Hebrew must complete HEBR-022 Intermediate Hebrew, or four semesters of Hebrew (two semesters of Intensive Beginning Hebrew, and two semesters of Intermediate Hebrew: HEBR-021 and HEBR-022). Alternatively, students with prior Hebrew coursework elsewhere can take the placement exam and place above the HEBR-022 level, or above third-year college Hebrew.
All undergraduate and graduate students in the SFS who wish to complete the language requirement in Hebrew must pass the Hebrew Proficiency Exam (see below).
Proficiency Exam Information
The Hebrew language proficiency exam is offered two times per year in December and April. To register for the exam, students must complete two semesters of Advanced Hebrew at Georgetown or the equivalent level of four years of college Hebrew (Intensive Beginning Hebrew 1 & 2 are two years of college Hebrew) as validated by: (1) coursework and/or a placement exam, and (2) a proficiency pre-approval, by a member of the Hebrew faculty. Please email Professor Orr (firstname.lastname@example.org) to sign up or for more information.
The proficiency exam takes approximately 1 hour. The format of the exam for both BSFS and MSFS students includes a reading comprehension component for which the student will be presented with an article from a daily Hebrew newspaper. The student has 30 minutes to read and review the article with a paper dictionary (provided by the department), followed by a 30 minute interview/conversation. The conversation begins with 5 minutes of discussion about general topics (routine social small talk), progressing to questions about the student’s studies and interests, and continues with 20-25 minutes of discussion about the provided article. This last part of the discussion progresses from basic level, reading comprehension questions to progressively higher level, analytical questions. A two-member board conducts the exam: one professor discusses with the student, while the other notes proficiency levels at the other end of the room.
MSFS graduate students must present the MSFS Language Proficiency Form at the time of the exam, provided here.
The Hebrew proficiency exam is evaluated on a five-point scale ranging from “Poor” to “Excellent.” A score of “Good” or above is required to pass the exam and be rated as proficient.
Passing the proficiency exam (i.e. achieving a score of “Good” or higher) is comparable to performing at a level of “Advanced Medium” or higher, in accordance with ACTFL ratings.
Mandatory Pre-Approval for Proficiency Exam
Due to a strong commitment to student success, the Hebrew Program requires all prospective proficiency exam takers pass a pre-exam assessment. This will help students assess their readiness for the proficiency exam, and allow them to obtain approval to register for the exam.
As a part of this assessment, the student is asked by a Hebrew professor to read part of an article from an Israeli newspaper. The student reads for 30 minutes with access to a supplied dictionary and then answers questions about the article for approximately 20 minutes, thereby constituting a type of “mock” exam, only with one professor rather than two at the actual exam.
After the assessment, the examining professor provides feedback as to the readiness of the student, including which course of action, if any, is needed in order to register for the proficiency exam.
Please note that, per program policy, no student is authorized to register for the proficiency exam without the pre-exam assessment, which must be completed at least 8 weeks before the exam and approved by a Hebrew professor.
If you are interested in scheduling a pre-assessment for the Hebrew Proficiency Exam, please contact Professor Orr at email@example.com.
Weekly Hebrew Conversation Hour
The CJC sponsors a weekly Hebrew language conversation hour (with free coffee or pastry!) for Hebrew students of every level, run by the Hebrew Program Teaching Assistant. All Hebrew speakers of any level, from beginning to advanced, are welcome and encouraged to attend! When on-campus classes are in session, the conversation group meets at the café, More Uncommon Grounds (MUG), in the ICC (third floor). During online instruction, the group meets weekly via a Zoom invite, for one hour per week (virtual pastries included).
For more information or to sign up for the Hebrew Conversation Hour mailing list, please contact Professor Meital Orr (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Study Abroad in Israel
Study abroad opportunities in Israel are available at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, including at the Rothberg International School and the Spring Honors Program, Tel Aviv University, including in the Global Business Experience program, and the University of Haifa in the International School. For more information about study abroad programs in Israel, please refer to the Office of Global Education’s program offerings here.
Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
The National Resource Center on the Middle East and North Africa (NRC-MENA) is pleased to offer Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships for language and area studies. FLAS Fellowships are available in modern Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish. The fellowships aim to provide training in these languages in order to meet the national need for specialists on the Middle East region. Visit the FLAS page for more information.
Conversation Partner Program
Georgetown’s English as a Foreign Language Department at the School of Continuing Studies offers a Language Exchange and Conversation Partner Program. In this program, when Israeli students in the EFL are available and interested, they are paired with interested Hebrew students such that each pair converses half an hour in Hebrew and half an hour in English, thereby benefiting both parties. The frequency of meetings is coordinated by students. Interested Hebrew Language students should contact Professor Orr (email@example.com) to learn more about the availability of this program.
Hebrew Program Student Testimonials
Nathan Wecht, Government and Anthropology Major, Hebrew Minor, Georgetown College
“I chose to take Hebrew because I love languages and I wanted something more out of my comfort zone. When I was younger, I had learned how to read and write Hebrew for my Bat Mitzvah, but I never knew what I was reading. I love how close-knit the Hebrew community is at Georgetown, simply because there are so few of us. Because I started basically from scratch, I feel like I’ve learned so much in only 3 years. The Hebrew minor made sense because it only required 2 beginner, 2 intermediate, and 2 advanced courses, and that was my plan anyway. I didn’t want to take a language to just fulfill the requirement; I actually wanted to learn the language so that when I go to Israel, I will be at least moderately self-sufficient. By being a TA, I’m hoping to engage with more students in the Hebrew program that I don’t usually see, and become more confident as a Hebrew speaker.”
Sophia Shiffman, Biology of Global Health Major and Modern Hebrew Minor, Georgetown College
“I personally took Hebrew because it is a sister language to Arabic which I already speak. My professional focus is on the Middle East and North Africa, and that necessitates an in-depth understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Learning Hebrew better positions me, both now and in the future, to work with issues related to the conflict and to better understand points of view on both sides. Studying Hebrew has also helped my overall linguistic ability as the commonalities between it and Arabic have improved my understanding of both.”
Joseph Walker, US Army Foreign Area Officer, Master of Science in Foreign Service
“Conversing in modern Hebrew, we can appreciate the voices of people from a dynamic and enterprising country. Reading ancient Hebrew texts, we can divine a clearer understanding of the wisdom on which Judeo-Christian teaching rests. Studying Hebrew not only enriches my personal life but also broadens my career opportunities. As a teaching assistant, I deepen my understanding of the Hebrew language. Georgetown Hebrew professors respect, challenge, and inspire their students. Take Hebrew.”
Jam Smith, Georgetown College 2020
“I decided to take Hebrew at Georgetown because I want to be able to speak the historic language of Judaism and the Jewish people. It’s meaningful to be able to read and [try to] speak in the same tongue as the one in which we recite the Torah and our prayers. Hebrew is relevant to my studies because I’m particularly interested in the US-Israel strategic relationship, and I think it would be fascinating to work in the area of diplomatic and security cooperation between the US and Israel. It is also personally relevant because it allows me to communicate (and make) Israeli friends!”
Norm Kaufmann, Walsh School of Foreign Service, McDonough School of Business
“Having attended Jewish day school for 10 years before coming to Georgetown, continuing my Hebrew education through proficiency was very important to me. I’ve studied in Israel three times, the most recent time at University of Haifa’s Ulpan program this past summer on a FLAS fellowship from Georgetown, facilitated by the Hebrew program. The Hebrew program at Georgetown is very flexible in suiting your level beyond the Advanced class level. I’ve connected with an Israeli exchange student who is helping me prep for my Hebrew Proficiency Exam at the end of this semester through the School of Continuing Studies International Students conversation partner program (form available on Hebrew web site). I also enjoyed TA-ing/ tutoring students in the Intermediate class last Fall. If you have any questions about Hebrew, please don’t hesitate to reach out!”
Lille Brown, Regional Studies Major and Jewish Civilization and Persian Minor, School of Foreign Service
“The Georgetown Hebrew program is awesome! It’s so close-knit, and it really feels like a community. I took Hebrew to connect more with my Israeli family, but along the way, I also learned a lot more about Judaism, Israeli culture, and Jewish history. I’ve made great friends through my classes, and everyone involved in the Hebrew program is so genuinely kind and invested in your success. I love this program so much that after taking all six classes, I became a TA! Take Hebrew. You won’t regret it.”
Becca Saltzman, French and Linguistics major, Master of Science in Linguistics