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June 8, 2012 / 18 Sivan, 5772

Revival of the Hebrew Language

We continue this week the commentary by Prof. Mel Scult on the writings of Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983), who was ordained at JTS and served as a member of its faculty for over fifty years. He is also the founder of Reconstructionism.

From 1936 to 1938 Kaplan taught at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. While he was there he continued to keep his diary. Here we have his thoughts after attending a memorial service for Eliezer Ben Yehudah the man who was primarily responsible for the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language. Ben-Yehudah, (1858-1922), was a writer, journalist, and lexicographer and an advocate of the revival of spoken Hebrew. He demonstrated his commitment by his strict rule to speak only Hebrew to his family. His monumental Dictionary of the Hebrew language is well known.

It is inspiring to experience the singlemindedness and tenacity of this extraordinary man. Most of us do not have the energy, commitment and stubbornness to cling to a goal which everyone else thinks impossible. Kaplan here reacts to Ben Yehudah’s extraordinary qualities.

Wednesday, December 8, 1937.

Today I heard a lecture delivered by [Joseph] Klausner at the faculty club of the University on Eliezer Ben-Yehudah… I confess that I do not understand the genius of Eliezer ben Yehudah any more than I understand the musical genius of Beethoven. How was it possible for Ben-Yehudah to have hoped that our people would return to this land and revive its culture and language when not one of the leaders of the national revival... believed in this possibility? How is it possible for a human being to be so devoted to an ideal which everyone thinks to be impossible? There is no doubt that it was not only his stubborness which had the power to revive the Hebrew language, and he certainly did not rely upon a miracle from heaven to create the conditions necessary for revival. On the basis of what signs in his time did he conclude that the Jews would be able to return to the land, and on the basis of what political teaching did he believe the gates of the land would be opened for them? It is hard to deny the influence that personality forces upon human history when we consider personalities such as Ben-Yehudah.

Questions

Is there anything in y our own life that corresponds to the single-mindedness of Eleazar Ben Yehudah? The knowledge of Hebrew helps us maintain our ties with the past but it also excludes those without background. Do you think the emphasis on Hebrew is damaging to Jewish unity?

Mel Scult, Kaplan’s biographer, is professor emeritus from the City University and the editor of selections from Kaplan’s twenty–seven volume diary entitled "Communings of the Spirit."

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New Publications

Leadership - Innovation - Community
Understanding the Haftarot:
An Everyperson's Guide

In this stimulating and unusual book Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of FJMC, provides the reader with the context to understand how the haftarot were organized, why they might have been selected and suggests reasons for finding meaning and value.
You can purchase it a number of ways.
 
Intermarriage: Concepts & Strategies for Families and Synagogue Leaders
If family members and community leaders wish to become engaged in the process of Keruv they often need to ask, "Does Keruv have an ideology and theology? And if so what is it?" Then they need to learn how to respond to intermarriage from the perspective of both gender and religion. This publication reflects the most current thinking about intermarriage to date and attempts to provide family members and community leaders with the needed understanding to effectively work with intermarrieds or potential intermarrieds.
You can purchase it a number of ways:
It's time for Build-A-Pair
The best way to teach about tefillin!

HeneniThe "Build a Pair" Program is a comprehensive and fun learning program to introduce 5th, 6th or 7th graders to the joy and mitzvah of Tefillin in Jewish life. Multiple components interplay to explore the religious significance, the construction of, and the practice of "laying" Tefillin. A comprehensive education program with videos helps the religious school teach students the meaning of Tefillin in Jewish life and practice. Students practice writing their Hebrew/Jewish names and the SHEMA (first line) to insert into pre-made wooden Tefillin boxes. Students decorate the boxes in any creative way they wish, allowing for personal expression. Students either compete or cooperate in writing a "wRAP" song to sing at a Big Event. The Big Event can be the World Wide Wrap (WWW), sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (FJMC), held annually on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The WWW program is designed to introduce and re-introduce Jewish men [and women] to the significance of "laying" Tefillin. The "Build a Pair" student program attracts the parents to see their children in their model Tefillin sing the "wRap" songs, allowing two generations (or more!) to join in the mitzvah together, and to let the students' sing their "wRAP" song for an appreciative audience.

World Wide Wrap is Sunday, February 3, 2013
The Bar Mitzvah Wrap!

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