Hebrew Literacy

Hebrew Literacy

Erica Brown (“Taking Care of Our Own,” Jew By Voice column, Jan. 6) raises an important question about Jewish illiteracy among Jewish leaders, when she argues that no Jewish organizational official “should be intimidated by a Jewish text or not know the difference between a Mishna and Maimonides.”

The late Prof. Benzion Netanyahu (father of Israel’s prime minister) once described to me his first meeting, in 1940, with Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, the foremost American Jewish leader of that era. Netanyahu was surprised and disappointed that Wise was unable to carry on a conversation in Hebrew. Netanyahu mistakenly assumed that a leader of the Zionist Organization of America and the Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs would be able to converse in the language that the Zionist movement was working so hard to revive. One wonders how many of Wise’s successors are more familiar with Hebrew than he was.

Washington, D.C.

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