Hebraists of America Conclude Three-day Convention in Philadelphia

(Jewish Daily Bulletin)

Measures to strengthen the Hebraic movement among American Jewry were considered and plans for extending this work were adopted at a three-day convention held here by the Histadruth Ivrith, an organization devoted to popularizing Hebrew as a spoken language and the promotion of Hebrew literature in the United States.

Ben Rosen, educational director of the Philadelphia Federation of Jewish Charities and David Weber welcomed the delegates on behalf of the Philadelphia Jewish community. The sessions of the convention were held at Dropsie College and at the B’nai Jeshurun Center.

Various phases of the Hebraic movement and the activities of the organization during the past year were reviewed in the reports and addresses delivered by Abraham Goldberg, president. A. Speishaendler, Menachem Rybalow, editor of the “Hadoar”, the organ of the Histadruth Ivrith; K. Whiteman, Dr. S. Bernstein and Z. Scharfstein.

Rabbi M. Berlin on behalf of the Mizrachi, Louis Lipsky on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America and Dr. S. Margoshes on behalf of “The Day” greeted the convention.

The financial report submitted at the convention shows that the organization had during the past year an income of $28,788.29. The expenditure amounted to $28,979.20, leaving a deficit of $191.

Much interest was caused by the address of Dr. Max L. Margolis, head of the Biblical department of Dropsie College on “Hebrew as a Spoken Language.”

Dr. Margolis explained why Hebrew has survived the tragic vicissitudes of thousands of years.

Whereas more dominant languages such as the original Greek and Latin have vanished as spoken tongues, Hebrew has survived, according to Dr. Margolis, for two reasons. The first, and probably the principal one, is that the race that has always used the language has survived.

“The other reason,” said Dr. Margolis, “is one that goes back beyond the middle ages. Long after the dispersion of the Jews messengers came periodically from Palestine to the Jewish colonies in Europe. These messengers, of course, spoke only Hebrew. In each Jewish community they were certain to find men who spoke not only the local idiom, but also Hebrew. Since the custom of sending messengers back and forth to Palestine has continued throughout the ages, Hebrew has thus been kept alive.

“The history of the Hebrew language from its beginning to the present time is still to be written,” Dr. Margolis said. “The documents surviving from antiquity are literary and their language is somewhat artificial.”

Dr. Margolis criticized Hebrew as it is spoken in Palestine now as “being too uniform and possessing too few synonyms.” He said the building of the national home would be meaningless without the use of Hebrew speech.

Among the resolutions adopted was one calling for the award of a prize for the best literary production in the Hebrew language during the year. A jury of eleven Hebrew writers of America, Palestine and Europe will be the judges. During the debate which occupied the major part of the last day’s session, the demand was put forward that more emphasis be laid in the Hebraic organization and its paper on the purely American aspects of the movement.

A prolonged debate was caused by the proposal made by Mr. Whiteman that the organization change its method of work and extend us activities not only among the Hebraists but among Jews generally.

Abraham Goldberg was re-elected president of the organization. K. Whiteman was chosen vice-president and William Z. Spiegelman, honorary secretary. M. Rybalow, Z. Scharfstein, Dr. S. Bernstein and Dr. P. Churgin were elected to the administrative committee.

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