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A False Dichotomy

In the April 13 op-ed “American Jews: Learn Hebrew!” David Hazony argues that American Jews have to learn Hebrew in order to connect themselves not only with Israel, but also with the future of “Jewish cultural life” worldwide.

As a second-year Hebrew student at the University of Washington in Seattle, I have to disagree. While Hazony is correct that learning Hebrew may play a role helping to solve the “inner cultural malaise” of American Jews — at the very least, it has helped me feel more connected to my Jewishness — the idea that Jews cannot really love Israel without learning Hebrew is absurd.

It is possible to love Israel without speaking Hebrew or without moving there, for that matter. Although one will not be able to get nearly as much of the culture, there is still plenty that can be absorbed.

The way Hazony lays it out, it is everything or nothing. One loves Israel and speaks Hebrew, or pays lip service to the idea of Israel while not really caring.

This is a false dichotomy. American Jews are perfectly capable of understanding Israel beyond our own “saucy dreams” of what the country is without learning Hebrew. Yes, Israel is more open to me with a working knowledge of Hebrew, but that does not mean that its culture is closed to everyone else.

Aaron Smith

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