Congregation Tifereth Israel Rabbi Michael Unger hopes a free Hebrew class will help his synagogue members get a little bit more out of their service.

Congregation Tifereth Israel Rabbi Michael Unger hopes a free Hebrew class will help his synagogue members get a little bit more out of their service.

"Read Hebrew America," a five-week session, is being offered at Congregation Tifereth Israel, 1354 E. Broad St., beginning Oct. 4 at 7:15 p.m.

The program is geared to those who have little or no knowledge of Hebrew by using techniques that trigger easy letter recognition. Students will read Hebrew sentences by the end of the first class.

"It is an awesome program," Unger said. "I have probably taught this class 15 times."

Unger said he taught it for the first time when he was a rabbi in Toledo.

"I have seen a lot of crash-course type (classes); this one I believe is in the top two for effectiveness," he said.

The program, which is free and open to the public, is a National Jewish Outreach program based in New York.

Unger also teaches an introduction to Judaism class and the Hebrew program is a prerequisite for that, he said.

The class draws a variety of participants, including Jewish residents interested in improving their worship services and Christians studying the Bible who want to be able to go to sources of material and read them in their original language, Unger said.

Read Hebrew America is a big hit with serious students of the Bible, Unger said, saying that sometimes the meaning of a scripture may be lost by translating it from Hebrew to English.

Jack Gold serves as chairman of Congregation Tifereth's adult education committee. He took the Read Hebrew America class a number of years and learned to read Hebrew in six weeks. It took him awhile to get adept at reading Hebrew, but he was able to follow the service after taking the class.

"By the end of class I was able to follow the services in prayer," he said. "It was an amazing class. I was surprised. I didn't believe I would be able to do it."

Unger said the goal is to have participants look at a Hebrew letter and know how it is pronounced. Students will also learn basic vocabulary aimed toward Hebrew prayer. Most of the service at Congregation Tifereth is in Hebrew.

Without speaking Hebrew, parishioners lose the ability to follow along in a prayer book, Unger said. They can memorize the songs without knowledge of Hebrew, he said.

"I think a lot of people who take the class come to the synagogue service and feel they get a lot more out of it," he said.

Unger stresses how easy it is to learn Hebrew compared to English. In Hebrew, there are 22 consonants and a handful of vowels, Unger said. Once you learn the consonants and the vowels, you don't have to worry about how the word is pronounced, he said.

The course draws students from all over central Ohio. Participants have come from as far away as Mount Vernon and Lancaster, Unger said.

Classes will meet in Katz Chapel from 7:15 to 8:45 on Oct. 4, 11, 18, 25 and Nov. 1. The instructor is Rabbi Unger. For more information, call 253-8523.