What We Talk about When We Talk about Hebrew (and What It Means to Americans)

Edited by Naomi B. Sokoloff and Nancy E. Berg

  • Published: August 2018
  • Subject Listing: Jewish Studies; Language
  • Bibliographic information: 256 pp., 0 illus, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies
  • Contents

Why Hebrew, here and now? What is its value for contemporary Americans? In What We Talk about When We Talk about Hebrew (and What It Means to Americans) scholars, writers, and translators tackle a series of urgent questions that arise from the changing status of Hebrew in the United States. To what extent is that status affected by evolving Jewish identities and shifting attitudes toward Israel and Zionism? Will Hebrew programs survive the current crisis in the humanities on university campuses? How can the vibrancy of Hebrew literature be conveyed to a larger audience?

The volume features a diverse group of distinguished contributors, including Sarah Bunin Benor, Dara Horn, Adriana Jacobs, Alan Mintz, Hannah Pressman, Adam Rovner, Ilan Stavans, Michael Weingrad, Robert Whitehill-Bashan, and Wendy Zierler. With lively personal insights, their essays give fellow Americans a glimpse into the richness of an exceptional language.

Celebrating the vitality of modern Hebrew, this book addresses the challenges and joys of being a Hebraist in America in the twenty-first century. Together these essays explore ways to rekindle an interest in Hebrew studies, focusing not just on what Hebrew means-as a global phenomenon and long-lived tradition-but on what it can mean to Americans.
Naomi B. Sokoloff is professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of Washington. She is the author of Imagining the Child in Modern Jewish Fiction and coeditor of Boundaries of Jewish Identity. Nancy E. Berg is professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at Washington University and the author of Exile from Exile: Israeli Writers from Iraq.

"Thought provoking and significant well beyond the group it represents. The volume takes a bold stand on both near-nativeness and authenticity."
-Esther Raizen, former president, National Association of Professors of Hebrew

"Makes a significant contribution to understanding the gap between the enthusiasm of what the editors call 'Hebraists by choice' and the apathy of most American Jews to Hebrew. A greater understanding of this phenomenon can shed new light on the study of modern Jewish culture, the relationship between language and culture, and the role of the humanities in contemporary society."
-David C. Jacobson, professor of Judaic Studies, Brown University