Rachel Fraenkel Press Conference

Opinion // Israel: “Close to Perfect”

Rachel Fraenkel, mother of Naftali Fraenkel, one of the three Israeli teens whose kidnapping and murder started the current crisis, recently gave her first lengthy interview to Yediot Daily. It was clear that she is an impressive woman, wise, calm and sober, and that her tragedy has catapulted her into a yet-to-be-defined leadership position. But what people all around me are still talking about is the way this interview ended.

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Modern Hebrew by Norman Berdichevsky

Modern Hebrew: The Epic Transformation of a Language

While teaching modern Hebrew in England and the United States, Norman Berdichevsky got a shock. Many of his students, he found, “were unable to utter a sentence in the modern language”—despite having attended Hebrew school at their synagogues for four or five years. “In modern Israel, they would be functionally illiterate,” Berdichevsky says. The experience led him to write a book on the topic, which came out last month: Modern Hebrew: The Past and Future of a Revitalized Language. Stateside, many still equate Hebrew with its rabbinical counterpart, the purview of bar mitzvahs and synagogue prayer. In Israel, the story is different. In the 1880s, early Zionists sought to adopt a modernized version of the ancient biblical language. Most believed it couldn’t be done. Today, Israeli Hebrew has become the most successful language revitalization project in...

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Will the Real Shrek Please Stand Up?

Children love Shrek, the sweet green ogre and beloved cartoon character who starred, thanks to DreamWorks, in “his” first flick in 2001. What most don’t know—nor do their parents—is that the word shrek is Yiddish for terror or fear. Why would they? The word isn’t to be found in Leo Rosten’s 1971 classic, Joys of Yiddish, or any of its sequels and is rarely mentioned in other Yiddish-English compendiums. Still, it’s common Yiddish, entering the language from German. In Yiddish it is most frequently used as an adjective, shreklekh, as in shreklekh zach (a terrible thing) or shreklekh imgick (something horrible). Shrek foygl is a scarecrow. The chasm between the word’s actual meaning and today’s charming ogre can be traced to a 1990 children’s book, titled Shrek! by William Steig. Steig, who died in 2003, had...

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How Do You Say “Fail” in Hebrew?

by Rebecca Borison With technology comes the chance of errors, some more public than others... Ruta Kupfer of Haaretz recently revealed one such technology-related error on the television show “Episodes.” The British-American sitcom starring Matt Leblanc (a.k.a. Joey Tribbiani) embraced the modern age by apparently using Google Translate in order to translate an English epitaph into Hebrew. The English version simply reads "Beloved husband and father, dearly missed." Above that, however, the Hebrew goes awry. While they clearly used Hebrew letters, they initially don’t seem to contain any actual meaning. That is, until blogger Shahar Golan realized that the Hebrew writing was backwards. When read from right to left, the Hebrew actually says: בעל ואב אהוב, החמיץ ביוקר Which, unfortunately, translates to “Beloved husband and father, pickled at great expense.” This is the translation you'll get if you go to Google...

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