Passion’s Tale: The love of Hebrew

by | Mar 22, 2013 | What’s Happening

This is the story of Idit Benmor, Israeli, Norfolk resident, adjunct professor at Old Dominion University and lover of the Hebrew language.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl growing up in Haifa, Israel. She spoke and read Hebrew like every other child in Israel. But, from an early age, she had a special relationship with her native tongue. She knew that Hebrew was unlike all other languages; it was the language of Moses, of Jeremiah, of Ezra, of Akiba, of Yehuda Hallevi, of Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto and of Eliezer Ben Yehuda.

Hebrew is the Holy Tongue and the only ancient language to be successfully revived in modern times to become the national language of a modern state. In all of human history, there has never been a language whose development can compare to Hebrew. Benmor knew all this about her language and fell in love with it for life. She studied Hebrew at university, becoming a mumhit, an expert, in Hebrew language and literature. As an editor for Israel’s preeminent academic publishing house, she improved upon the linguistic usage of some of the greatest scholars in modern Israel. After marrying Gordon Piltch, now cantor at Congregation Beth El of Norfolk, Benmor began a teaching career in the United States, working at private Jewish high schools and at universities. Eventually, she was engaged by The Jewish Theological Seminary of America to teach Hebrew to the future rabbis, cantors and educators of North America’s Jewish communities.

Widely recognized as one of the finest instructors of Hebrew in the country, Benmor has brought her expertise to Tidewater. In addition to her work at ODU where she is an extremely popular instructor, she has been teaching a group of adult students at Temple Israel for the past two and a half years. The make-up of the class is diverse. Students are members of various local congregations and from outside the formal Jewish community. Through the medium of their teacher, all have become lovers of Hebrew as their levels of Hebrew knowledge continually increase.

Now Benmor is opening a new class in beginner’s Hebrew at Temple Israel. A prerequisite for students would be at least a general knowledge of Hebrew phonetics (even if not able to read fluently, can still enroll). Those who want to commit to learning Hebrew from a master teacher are invited to contact the office at Temple Israel and enroll for a nominal sum. The plan is to begin in early May on Sundays, 11:15 am to 12:15 pm. This is a unique opportunity in Jewish intellectual and spiritual growth.