Peer Study GroupsThis month's topic is Peer Study Groups. This past summer and fall, I was involved with an Interpreter Study Group in Philadelphia. There were a total of 8 people in the group, 5 of whom attended regularly. We met 10 times between July and January, about twice a month. We usually met on a Thursday night, at the Hebrew Association of the Deaf, for two hours.
The group came with varying skills; some were experienced interpreters, new to Judaic interpreting and with limited background in Judaism. Some were beginner sign language students with strong Jewish knowledge. One member was even a rabbinical student! Each person had a unique contribution.
Our first few sessions dealt with resources. We identified various books on Judaism and/or Sign Language that would aide in our studies. We also discussed various places to learn more about Jewish Interpreting. We created a calendar of all of the Interpreted Services in the area (at various synagogues) for the coming school year.
For the next few sessions, we focused on basic Jewish concepts and common Jewish sign vocabulary. What started out as a quick lesson on Jewish Signs became an overview of Judaism, Jewish History, Jewish Holidays, branches of Jewish observance, etc. We also spent one or two weeks looking at various prayer books, identifying the common elements of a Shabbat evening or morning service. We learned that every Jewish service follows the same basic structure and order.
Finally we were ready to attack some basic Jewish blessings and prayers. We began with blessings for candles, wine, and bread and the Jewish "watchword": the SHEMA.
By this time, several of the group members had accepted monthly jobs at several local synagogues, to interpret Shabbat Services. These interpreters each made their own Interpreting Notebook, with the Transliteration and rough Sign Glosses for the major prayers in the service. Subsequent meetings were opportunities to share these glosses and use a group process for suggesting revisions. Although by the end of the 10 weeks, we had not discussed EVERY prayer in a Shabbat Service, the group had established an APPROACH to translating prayers from Hebrew into ASL. We had made an audio cassette (with the help of a local cantor) containing all of the Shabbat Prayers used at services at that Shul. We had made a video of two local interpreters, demonstrating their own versions of these prayers, and we had created a disk with the Transliteration and Sign Gloss/Translations of all of these same prayers. We had gone on several "field trips", to observe various Jewish Interpreters in action.
Last month, I moved from Philadelphia to Maryland. Therefore I will no longer be able to participate in the Philadelphia Study Group. However, the group is hoping to continue on it's own, with the help of another experienced interpreter.
Meanwhile, a NEW Study Group is forming in Washington, DC. This group has the aim of training a small group of interpreters so they feel comfortable interpreting once or twice a month at a local synagogue. This group will include not only interpreters and sign language students but deaf resource people as well. We will spend 6 weeks studying 17 particular prayers from the Shabbat evening service that are spoken in Hebrew at this synagogue. I am looking forward to another exciting growth experience.
If you would like more information about forming your own Interpreter Study Group or have experiences to share about learning with others, please write to me at LORELYON@aol.com