Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps


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What can Hebrew's usage in Jewish summer camps teach us about the American Jewish experience? "Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps" Winner of the 2020 National Jewish Book Award in Education and Jewish Identity Each summer, tens of thousands of American Jews attend residential camps, where they may see Hebrew signs, sing and dance to Hebrew songs, and hear a camp-specific hybrid language register called Camp Hebraized English, as in: “Let’s hear some ruach (spirit) in this chadar ochel (dining hall)!” Using historical and sociolinguistic methods, this book explains how camp directors and staff came to infuse Hebrew in creative ways and how their rationales and practices have evolved from the early 20th century to today. Some Jewish leaders worry that Camp Hebraized English impedes Hebrew acquisition, while others recognize its power to strengthen campers’ bonds with Israel, Judaism, and the Jewish people. Hebrew Infusion explores these conflicting ideologies, showing how hybrid language can serve a formative role in fostering religious, diasporic communities. The insightful analysis and engaging descriptions of camp life will appeal to anyone interested in language, education, or American Jewish culture. Sharon Avni is Professor of Academic Literacy and Linguistics at BMCC at the City University of New York (CUNY). She is also a research affiliate at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis. Her current project funded by a Mellon/ACLS fellowship examines contemporary Modern Hebrew culture in the United States. Sarah Bunin Benor is Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (Los Angeles) and Adjunct Professor in the University of Southern California Linguistics Department. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Linguistics in 2004. Her books include Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism (Rutgers University Press, 2012) and Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps (Rutgers University Press, 2020). Dr. Benor is founding co-editor of the Journal of Jewish Languages and creator of the Jewish Language Website and the Jewish English Lexicon. Jonathan Krasner holds the Jack, Joseph Morton Mandel Chair in Jewish Education Research at Brandeis University. He received his Ph.D. in Jewish History from Brandeis in 2002. Jonathan is a two-time recipient of the National Jewish Book Award for The Benderly Boys and American Jewish Education (2011) and Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps (2020).

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