You may recall that I recently returned to Chicago after three years in Israel. During my time away, Hebrew became an important facet of my life. From not knowing how to order off a menu to being able to navigate Israeli bureaucracy with ease, learning Hebrew has been an evolving process. Never would I have imagined myself being able to become fluent in a language that I was not surrounded by most of my life.
The title of this blog post, pronounced “Ayzeh Amerikai”, is a phrase I heard all too often throughout my army service. The direct translation of this term is, “What an American”. Whether in reaction to what I would say or what I would do, the response would always be the same: “what an American!”
While I was in Israel, I developed two identities. To my Israeli friends, I couldn’t be more American, and to my American friends and family, I couldn’t be more Israeli. My Israeli friends thought I spoke Hebrew with a strong American accent, and my American friends and family say I now speak English with an “Israeli style”. Being “The American” or “The Israeli” were two roles that I learned to embrace.
Every memory I have associated with my time in Israel in one way or another relates to Hebrew: engaging in conversation with a local in Hebrew, wrongly translating something by mistake (which happened often), or simply listening to people speak. The Hebrew language was an integral part of my time in Israel. Although my Israeli friends would often joke about my Hebrew, I gained proficiency, and in some ways, became more fluent in Hebrew than I am in English. For example, because of my military service, I can tell you all about the parts of a gun in Hebrew, but I have no idea what they are in English!
To some, Hebrew is meaningful because it is the language of our people’s most sacred texts. It is a language over 3,000 years old. But to me, Hebrew has nothing to do with religion or my Bar Mitzvah. It is my connection to Israel, and to one of the greatest accomplishments I have taken away from my service in the IDF and process of making Aliyah. Everything I learned in the Army and from life in Israel was in Hebrew, and that makes it even more meaningful. Since moving back to Chicago, I have made it a point to find ways to keep Hebrew a relevant and important part of my life. It is Hebrew phrases that pushed me forward and that motivated me to be better. I am channeling that motivation as I adjust to my new life in Chicago. It may sound strange, but coming home has made me even more aware of “The Israeli” who speaks English with an “Israeli style”.
The work I am doing with Springboard and Hebrew in the High is personal. It’s another tool that allows me to share my passion for Hebrew and the way it became an important part of my life.
Stay tuned for more examples of how I’m using my Hebrew to support Springboard and the Hebrew in the High program.