Home for the Hebrew language.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The World Zionist Organization, along with the Education Ministry and several
other groups, announced on Monday the establishment of a council dedicated to
the promotion of the Hebrew language among Diaspora Jewry.
Language Council, whose inaugural conference was held this week in New Jersey,
is aimed at increasing fluency in Hebrew to forge deeper connections to Judaism
and the Jewish people, Dr.
Simcha Leibovich, representative of the WZO
Executive in North America, told The Jerusalem Post
Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem, as well as the US-based Hebrew at
the Center (HATC) organization, Middlebury-HATC Institute for the Advancement of
Hebrew and Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, are all founding members of
Michael Steinhardt, the chairman of the Steinhardt Foundation,
was one of the founders of Birthright, which has been lauded by Jewish leaders
as an important tool for stemming increasing assimilation and intermarriage in
The announcement of the HLC’s formation comes as Jewish
organizations across the board grapple with the findings of a recent Pew
Research Center study that paint a portrait of a Jewish community racked by
intermarriage and decreasing religious identification and seek new avenues for
combating these trends.
Leibovich told the Post that the WZO decided to
focus on the Jewish tongue because, among other reasons, “Hebrew is not a
language, it’s a culture. It is the Torah, the Bible, it’s us.” The Orthodox,
Conservative and Reform streams are all represented in the leadership of this
new group, he added.
Hebrew is an important component in stemming the
tide of assimilation, he contended, stating that teaching Hebrew to second- and
third-generation Israelis in the Diaspora would be key in “keeping them Jewish.”
“We want to make sure that kids can speak to their grandparents in Israel,”
He believes that not only can Hebrew serve as a bond
between Jews around the world, strengthening Jewish identity, but that it opens
up a world of culture that would otherwise be inaccessible to
Among the goals of the HLC is the establishment of a
professional organization to represent Hebrew teachers. The status of the Hebrew
language can only be improved by giving teachers a forum for collaboration, and
the council will “provide all kinds of professional development” and publicity,
Among the successes that the WZO plans on building upon are
the establishment of Hebrew-language departments in public schools and the
budding proliferation of Hebrew-language charter schools.
Chicago school where he said such efforts had already borne fruit, Leibovich
stated that for parents who are unwilling or unable to send their children to
day schools, adding Hebrew is a way to maintain a connection with
“We want this all over the States,” he said.
also believes Hebrew charter schools, which teach Hebrew and Israeli culture and
are funded by the US government, must be expanded as well.
teach Judaism but they teach Israel,” he explained, adding that he would like to
see the revival of the teaching of Judaic subjects in Hebrew in the day-school
system as well.
Over the coming years Leibovich expects to see a rise in
the number of teacher emissaries that the WZO sends to the US, which he believes
will contribute to the expansion of Hebrew among Diaspora Jews and “make a
According to a report on eJewishPhilanthropy, the new
council will hold an annual conference on Hebrew language and Israeli culture
and will establish a non-profit to raise the funds necessary for future
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