Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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I totally agree with Rabbi Joel Davidi Weisberger’s assertions in his article (A Response to ‘The Ashke-Sefard Dilemma,’ February 6, 2020). It is very sad to me that, in the melting pot that was the Yishuv in the pre-state era and in the early stages of Israel existence, we have lost the distinct pronunciations of the Hebrew consonants as were preserved in the Yemenite and Sefardi communities, and the distinct pronunciations of the vowels as were preserved in the Ashkenazi communities (and vowels distinction in the Yemenite and Sefardi as well.) We have lost all this richness in favor of amorphous amalgam that reduced the spoken Hebrew into a primitive language that uses approximately twenty consonant sounds (out of something between 27 to 29) and five distinct vowels (out of 13 or 14).

Unfortunately, the Israeli dialect of Hebrew is a sealed fact and is recognized by linguists as yet another Hebrew dialect in the long history of Hebrew dialects. Therefore, it is legitimate and probably practical to teach it in our schools. Yet, I hope that somehow the richness of the historical dialects would be preserved and maybe, sometime in the future, restored. We probably should aspire that the Torah and Haftorah leining would be done in the traditional pronunciation (Ashkenazi, Sefardi, Yemenite or otherwise, as is the tradition of the particular shul) and not in the Israeli dialect.

I give a Shi’ur in Hebrew grammar (all the dialects still share the same grammar until somebody in the Academia LeLashon ‘Ivrit, would decide to tamper with that—I see signs that this is coming!) in my shul. I use the Ashkenazi vowels and some Sefardi or Yemenite consonants to show the distinction.

Ze’ev Atlas