The novelist Dara Horn recently chided American Jews for their reluctance to learn their ancestral tongue, arguing that they are daunted by an unspoken assumption that it is somehow unlearnable. Responding, Michael Weingrad takes a different tack:
The stubborn American Jewish refusal—even by many Jews who are active in Jewish life, and who mouth Hebrew words as sounds week after week in the synagogue—to treat Hebrew as a language that can be learned, spoken, and used is nothing short of bizarre.
What we see in this is not an absence . . . of confidence or resources. It is a presence: the active pressure of the American Jewish psyche. American Jewish identity is based on feeling outside, on the threshold knocking at the door but never quite entering. Knocking at the door of Jewish identity, knocking at the door of American identity. To enter fully would be to lose one’s identity and become something different, unthinkable for most American Jews. For them, the front stoop has become home.