88 Friday, May 25, 1984
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
Hebrew may be the tongue of the prophets
but the language is an obstacle for most Jews.
Detroiter Irwin Shaw says help may be on the
BY TEDD SCHNEIDER
Irwin Shaw, whose proposal for the
reform of Hebrew is gaining attention in
the United States and Israel.
he will learn -- In: 1 2)
ptom -••• Dinnvo/
e all remember
Hebrew — that
language most of us
struggled with just long enough. to
The examples above illustrate some of the proposed changes in
parenthesis would separate the root and prefix in verbs (middle)
collect our bar and bat mitzvah gelt. - printed Hebrew called for by Irwin Shaw. A left parenthesis
and a solidus (slash) would indicate a word of non-Hebrew origin
preceding a word would denote a proper noun (top), the right
The language which reads from right
which has been "Hebraized"
to left and features an alphabet that
makes no diStinction between upper
the primary language of about 60
and lower case letters.
words with other grammatical func-
who claimed accurate comprehen-
of the world's Jewish popula-
Hebrew has been the official
language of Israel since the state was
The solidus would immediately
Although Shaw's plan is not the
than in America, where an over-
founded in 1948. But Jews in the
precede all foreign words, including
attempt to reform the language,
many idiomatic expressions that
Diaspora have long considered its
he feels the proposal is the most prac-
words awkward to read and difficult
have been lifted from other lan-
tical solution. "The purpose of this
nor read Hebrew fluently.
to comprehend. Help may be on the
and "Hebraized." The word
proposal was to overcome the eco-
Shaw cited the value of Hebrew
for "symptom," is 'pronounced the
nomic barrier to reform. Here you,
as a unifying force for the Jews of the
A new proposal by Detroiter
in Hebrew and English, for
a plan that would involve no
Irwin Shaw for the reformation of
example. The apostrophe serves as a
of printing equipment,a.
printed Hebrew is gaining attention
substitute for the English "w" and
in the United States and in Israel.
other sounds not duplicated in the
those of us in the Diaspora,". Shaw
mediately following its approval and
The proposal, Towards a Jewish Lin-
Hebrew alphabet while the colon
said. Changes in Hebrew's current
if it didn't work — it could be scrap-
gua Franca (Common Language),
would further clarify the syllabica-
ped at little or no expense.
has appeared inSh'ma magazine and
tion in many terms.
ference in our perception of that life,
"This system might not solve all
is the cause celebre of the recently
How great is the need for such a
the problems with present-day He-
formed, local Committee for an Au-
plan? Shaw claims the current sys-
The mechanics of the Shaw pro-
brew," Shaw said. "But it is do-able."
gmented Hebrew Orthography -
tem of Hebrew is "economically and
The author of the proposal
academically disasterous." He cited
of the existing symbols on the type-
claims any reforms in written He-
Modern Hebrew has been
the results of a study in the Israeli
. brew would serve as a boon to those
writer would be assigned additional
thought to be both inefficient and in
newspaper Maariv which found that
advocating aliyah. "I don't know of a '
sufficient for more than 50 years, ac-
while Americans• can read up to 800
thing that would be more cal-.
cording to Shaw, who is executive
words per minute in English, the top
ten Hebrew. The seven include the
culated to encourage aliyah than for ,
vice president emeritus of the Jewish
reading speed of their Israeli coun-
comma, the colon, the semi-colon, the
Hebrew to become the lingua franca'
Community Center. "People at oppo-
terparts was only 150 Hebrew words
of the Jewish people. The language
site ends of the political spectrum, . idus (slash) and the apostrophe.
per minute. "That kind of disparity is
itself is an inspiration. Becoming
from (Vladimir) Jabotinsky to
harmful in academia, in business and
fluent in the language, both reading
(Judah) Katzenelson have pointed
in all other facets of life," Shaw said.
text alongside a "problem" word or
and speaking, significantly increases
out that as a writing system, Hebrew
Shaw; who taught in Detroit
the chance for a successful aliyah.
presents more problems than any
public schools and at Temple Beth El
cise meaning. The left parenthesis,
"One of the tragic things is the ,
other Western tongue." In fact, ac-
before going to work full time at the
growing percentage of people who
cording to Shaw, Jabotinsky once de-
Center in 1951, feels the ill-defined
an adjective' derived from a proper
make aliyah and then come back.
cried Hebrew as being a language for
construction of Hebrew creates many
The language barrier is partially re-
stenographers rather than people be-
problems for students and teachers
difficulties caused by a lack of upper
sponsible for this."
cause of the lack of vowels.
alike. "I just had the experience of .
An added economic benefit for
If there is a common language in
interviewing four scholarship candi-
The right parenthesis, according to
Israel should such a plan be im-
the Jewish world today, it is English,
the former educator said.
Shaw, will separate prefixes from the
plemented, according to Shaw, would
Shaw writes in his prop9ial. English
"Each one had been enrolled in day
be the scaling down of the Ulpan pro-
has become the "new Yiddish" and is
school for a minimum of four years
semi-colon perform similar tasks for
gram. Fewer of the high-intensity
and each had at least two years of
Hebrew courses for new olim would
college Hebrew. Yet only one of them
be needed if more of those arriving in
could read a Hebrew newspaper from
the Jewish state could already speak
beginning to end."
the language fluently.
As with any academic skill, the
The Shaw proposal could be im
failure to master Hebrew at a young
plemented in stages, unlike others
age often leads to a disinterest in the
which advocate a wholesale
language as an adult. An informal
'NAT. TE!i RO1NAN, LIB:OklAP
changeover of the Hebrew alphabet
Jewish News employees
MnilrIAT!, (Plio •5!"n
This would give the current genera-
found 42 percent with the ability to
tion time to get used to a "new" lan-
P41 4141 #P?Pfife 60—
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