DECEMBER 31, 1949
HYDE PARK, Friday—A few days ago a Jewish organization, Histadruth Ivrith of America, held a ceremony in New York City at which they gave citations to the Board of Education and the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York, which 20 years ago recognized the value of teaching modern Hebrew in the public schools.
This move by New York City set a pattern that was followed by many other cities. Today in the high schools and municipal colleges of New York 5,000 students are studying Hebrew. This is of particular interest since the knowledge of a language forms a bridge between two countries. The ability to talk modern Hebrew will mean that many American Jews will be able to give a greater sense of friendliness when they contact Jews of the new nation of Israel who may have come from many other lands, such as Poland, Germany, Czechoslovakia and Russia, but who also speak modern Hebrew in their new nation.
This means, of course, the revival of a great Hebrew culture in Israel and the fact that many of our Americans will be able to appreciate this revival adds a bond between our nation and this new nation.
I constantly wish that we would emphasize early in the education of our children in the United States the value of learning foreign languages. The goodwill such a knowledge creates because of the ability to talk to somebody else, either in a language that both have learned or in the native tongue of the other person, is immeasurable.
We are always searching for ways to bridge the gap between our children and the children of other countries and to promote new friendships with youngsters of other lands. The Girl Scouts, of the United States, for instance, have a new international project this year. They are making and filling school bags for children in countries where such things as pens, pencils, crayons and erasers are still scarce. This project was adopted at the last national convention and the work on it is to begin promptly. Not only will the children make the school bags and fill them with school supplies, but they will put in a little extra gift, such as mittens, hair ribbons, scarves or any other small item they can include. Each Girl Scout also will write a little greeting to go with her bag to one of her "schoolmates overseas."
If every Girl Scout in our country makes and fills at least one school bag, more than 68,000 such bags will be sent abroad during the year. Of course, some children may make many more. But surely, one from each will reach many children and be a symbol of the friendly feeling we hope to teach our children to have in relation to the children of the rest of the world.
I congratulate every girl who carries through this project. I hope she will hear from her "schoolmate overseas" and learn something about the life and conditions in the country where that schoolgirl lives.