International Hebrew Language Day is Celebrated Around HBHA

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda

Gabrielle Abrams

Eliezer Ben-Yehuda
Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is often considered to be the father of the modern Hebrew language. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The twelfth of January every year is International Hebrew Language Day, which is organized by Hebrew University’s Academy of the Hebrew Language. In the city of Rishon Lezion, Israel, there is a four day conference on the Hebrew language. At the conference, participants, which include celebrities and notable politicians, discuss idioms, phrases, and other intriguing aspects of the Hebrew language.

The day falls on the day of birth of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Ben-Yehuda is known as the “reviver of the Hebrew language,” according to Jewish Virtual Library. He was born in Lithuania in 1858 and moved to Jerusalem in 1881. Ben-Yehuda’s goal was to restore the dead language of Hebrew into one of the two official languages of Israel and spoken by many in the Jewish diaspora. Ben-Yehuda invented hundreds of Hebrew words that are still used today, including “doll,” “ice cream,” “jelly,” “omelette,” “handkerchief,” “towel,” and “bicycle.”

Hazzan Tahl Ben-Yehuda of Congregation Beth Shalom in Overland Park, Kan. is the great-granddaughter of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. At Taste of Shabbat (a tradition at HBHA that brings in the Sabbath with the entire K-12 school every Friday before prayers), Tahl Ben-Yehuda told a story of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda becoming sick with tuberculosis and staying in a hospital next to a Moroccan man. Both men spoke Hebrew but in different dialects. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda thought that the Moroccan man’s Hebrew sounded beautiful and wanted to incorporate his ancient Sephardic Hebrew into modern Hebrew. This experience was a huge inspiration for Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.

Also at Taste of Shabbat, the fifth and sixth grade students sang the song “Eliezer Ben-Yehuda” taught by Jewish Music Teacher Devra Lerner.

Hebrew Department Chair Edna Meltzer led her eighth through 12th grade students in activities to celebrate the Hebrew language. Her classes submitted entries to the University of the Hebrew Language website with their favorite Hebrew word, the root of the word, and why it was their favorite. Meltzer was thrilled with her classes’ participation,

“My class celebrated Hebrew Language Day just like children in Israel by picking their favorite Hebrew words. I was amazed by their beautiful choices.”

Hopefully, the celebration of this day will become a tradition at HBHA for years to come.