BJE Feast invites families to explore Hebrew language

With that in mind, the S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education is using the Hebrew alphabet as a gateway to discovery in the sixth annual "Feast of Jewish Learning." A concentrated offering of activities begins Sunday and continues through Sunday, Feb. 13.

The theme, "Alef-Bet: The Letters, Language, & Literature of the Jewish People," was chosen to encourage families to explore the many ways to access Judaism through language. In addition, the BJE is distributing an educational kit so the learning can continue long after the Feast ends.

Here are some activities you can do at home:

*The next time you go for a walk or hike, bring a copy of the Hebrew alphabet with you and try to find the shapes in nature or architecture.

*Try to form the letters of the alef-bet with your body. Or, arrange the bodies of friends and family lying on the floor, into the forms of letters. You can take pictures of the forms and make your own alef-bet poster. Or play charades, trying to guess the letters that the opposing team forms.

*Using raw cookie or challah dough, form the letters of the alef-bet. Bake and serve for a special meal.

*Buy noodles that come in alef-bet shapes (usually made by Israeli companies, but available in American stores). Select the letters of your name or of a Hebrew word or phrase. Dye them with food coloring. When they dry, you can glue them onto buttons or pin backs.

*Figure out the value of your name using gematria (Jewish numerology), or use it like a secret code and send messages to friends.

*Let Ben Shahn's "Alphabet of Creation" inspire you to create your own stories about the letters.