For decades, Israel engagement in North America hewed to a narrow narrative line. If not overtly political, the methods of engagement frequently had politics just beneath the surface. Engagement meant understanding Israel’s importance to the world Jewish community as well as its right to exist — both in a general sense and in relation to the events of the day. This often turned engagement into a reactive enterprise — how the community could shore up support for this policy or for that war, and how Israel’s actions could best be presented and explained.
On its surface, Hebrew might seem to be irrelevant to the American experience. Despite America’s status as a beacon to immigrants from all parts of the world, the nation was born and persists in the English language. Even recent efforts towards bilingualism focus naturally on Spanish, the language of the country’s largest contemporary immigrant population. Hebrew would seem to be peripheral to the idea of America.
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