Hebrew Pronunciations
Letters to the editor

Hebrew Pronunciations

In her essay, “The Lasting Lessons Of A Shuttered Temple” (Back Of The Book, Oct. 13), Lori Silberman Brauner displayed a disturbing bias toward the way in which Eastern European Jews have traditionally pronounced Hebrew, noting that she “winces when listening to the pronunciation of prayers in Ashkenazi Orthodox synagogues.”

I am sorry she feels Ashkenazic Hebrew is so grating. Nevertheless, the views she expressed should, at the very least, be recognized as inconsistent with the values of tolerance and inclusion she otherwise extols. Hebrew in all its pronunciations is the national heritage of the entire Jewish people — not just those who live in Eretz Yisrael. Whether it is Yemenite Jews who preserve the ancient pronunciation of a tav without a dagesh vowel as “th,” or Polish Jews who pronounce it as an “s,” they both represent facets of a vibrant Jewish culture worthy of being honored and preserved.

Ms. Brauner would not dream of disparaging an African-American from Chicago or a white man from rural Mississippi for speaking English differently than someone from the Bronx. I hope she will consider extending the same courtesy to her Ashkenazi brethren who wish to continue learning and davening (if you will excuse the Yiddishism) in the familiar words of their parents and teachers.



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