One of the big questions been asked today by many Jewish leaders is – How do we create long standing meaningful connections between Jewish People and Jewish communities around the world in a time of social distance and diversity of Jewish expressions? While many of our friends from Jewish organizations gathered at Paolo Alto at an impressive conference, which dealt in this issue, we at Melitz were busy in New York dealing with this question but from a different angle.
For the past year, Melitz & HATC (Hebrew At The Center) a North American organization have been working on developing the “Melitzi Ivrit” or “Hebrew Advocates” initiative. The aim is in creating awareness of the importance of the Hebrew language as a key element in connecting Jews and strengthening three Jewish Identity and since of belonging.
Here is a quote from a leading American Jewish educator that I met last year – “Today in North America, we celebrate 100 years of failure in teaching Hebrew as a second language.” This statement is not accurate, but it comes from a place of concern. For me a quote like that immediately brings me to ask questions like – Why teach children to read a language they do not understand? Should Hebrew be a “second language” for Jews? What is the purpose of teaching Hebrew to kids who do not see the relevance and future use of it?
Hebrew is not a second language! It’s the way Jews should talk. It is a key to our culture and we should teach to love it.
Eliezer Ben Yehuda took the Hebrew language and made a structural innovation out of it. He was a wonderful startup person and a true Jewish pioneer. He drew Hebrew an elementary cultural anchor from a narrow and precise place and leveraged it to a large and broad goal – of turning a people living for centuries in oppression and depression to a rebirth of a Nation. He understood that the Hebrew language is what is needed in order to enable the Jews to take part in the promise Zionism then offered. He hoped that Hebrew could be a creativity source for a renewed cultural like it was through thousands of years.
Can the Hebrew language be a source for future connections between Jews and Jewish communities? Can the Hebrew language enable Jews to strengthen their identity and create a sense of commitment and belonging to the Jewish people?
We at Melitz believe that this is possible if Hebrew is not alone. Hebrew is one component of many other actions that need to be taken.