Monday, March 27, 2023

Disclaimer: This letter specifically does not speak about anybody in my shul and not about many who do render Hebrew texts just fine. It also does not address pronunciation, which many insist on the “Yeshivish” pronunciation and, despite my dislike for that, they at least have a mesorah.

I read Dr. Wallace Greene’s article with sadness. (“Hebrew in Day Schools—A Rejoinder,” April 27, 2017). I agree with every word he has written, and I share his sentiment all the way. One comment about his observation that our students (and thus the adults who grow out of these students) are basically am ha’aretz (amei ha’aratzot pl.). I grew up in a secular environment in Israel, with no yeshiva education whatsoever. I sit with rabbanim musmachim and I understand and render correctly basic texts (Rishonim, Acharonim and poskim) that these guys, who are considered to be morei hora’a, do not understand or understand grossly incorrectly. I encourage young rabbanim like that to improve, and some do listen to me. I give the positive, basic advice of using the Hebrew ArtScroll instead of the English; struggle and conquer. But too many would not admit their lacking and not even try, especially the older ones.

Well, if we as a community think it is great to have amei ha’aratzot as some of our rabbanim and we are satisfied with ourselves learning Torah with the narrow interpretation of other English speakers who do not know Hebrew, then that’s fine. I speak to those who understand or are open to understand how wrong that picture is. And I call to restore learning Hebrew, Ivrit B’Ivrit, as a major subject in all our schools.

Ze’ev Atlas
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