The Hebrew Language Council of North America launched with a conference in Newark on Nov. 18-19.
A partnership of the World Zionist Organization and other organizations, the council is aiming to raise the profile of the Hebrew language and Israeli culture in North America.
Its plans include holding an annual three-day Hebrew language and Israeli culture conference, setting up a database and website, and establishing va professional organization for Hebrew teachers and educators in North America. They also have plans to raise funds.
“Our aim is to lead a movement of Hebrew speakers and Hebrew lovers in the United States and Canada, a movement that will connect people to the Jewish culture, religion, and language,” said Simcha Leibovich, representative of the World Zionist Organization Executive in North America and founding member of the HLC.
Other partners include the Israeli Ministry of Education, the Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem, Hebrew at the Center in Newton, Mass., the Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, and the Middlebury College-HATC Institute for the Advancement of Hebrew Language in Vermont.
The nondenominational council includes about 40 members representing schools, universities, colleges, yeshivot, centers for Hebrew language study, religious institutions, and rabbinical colleges.
“Judaism is not just a religion,” Leibovich said. “It’s a rich culture with a beautiful, ancient language that not only lives in the Torah and our prayer books, but is also the language that connects Jews all over the world, and we want to bring together everyone connected to the Hebrew language.”
Lawrence Kobrin, an attorney and a graduate of Camp Massad in Canada, the first Hebrew immersion summer camp in North America, is serving as the council’s inaugural chair.
Rabbi Dr. David Eliach, principal emeritus of the Yeshivah of Flatbush and a prominent Jewish educator, was honored at the opening ceremony at the Hilton Newark Airport, which featured guest speaker Moshe Bar-Asher, president of the Academy of the Hebrew Language in Jerusalem. Ido Aharoni, consul general of Israel in New York, also attended the conference.