Israeli Chronicles — Connecting Israel & Cincinnati
A Poem on the Road: Hebrew Poetry Brought to Life at Mayerson JCC
“רק מילה בעברית חודרת אל עורקי אל נשמתי”) אין לי ארץ אחרת, אהוד מנור)
“Only a Hebrew word penetrates my veins, my soul” —Ehud Manor
I am in love with the Hebrew language. I feel privileged to know Hebrew, to have it be my native language.
I know that for many people, the Hebrew language is frightening. It is that sacred language that they had to learn for the Torah portion of their bar or bat mitzvah. It’s that language with all those “ח” and “ר” that are so hard to pronounce. It’s that thing you give up on, because it is just so foreign and so difficult to learn.
But Hebrew is an amazing language. It has roots that connect different words together, and that connection reveals a new meaning. It’s a language that echoes back. Everyday slang can be found in the Torah and Talmud.
I remember when I was studying for my M.A. in Judaic Studies at the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem. My favorite part of the day was studying all of the great prophets’ stories and finding all those great idioms that we use daily hidden between the lines.
It’s been a little more than three years since I started living, working, and writing in English. I’ve gotten better at writing emails, writing my classes and teachings, and communicating and lecturing in English. It is a beautiful and rich language, and I wish I knew many more adjectives that could inspire me and enrich my own native language.
However, even after three years, the words of Ehud Manor, a famous Israeli songwriter, are still true: “Only a Hebrew word penetrates my veins, my soul.”
Loving both Hebrew and the written word, I fell in love at a young age with poetry and literature.
Poetry has always been, and forever will be, my go-to place for inspiration and comfort. Poetry has the unique ability to give words to feelings and thoughts that I lack the words to express. It has the ability to frame an experience or hold within it a memory forever.
When packing our house to come to Cincinnati from Israel, my husband Amit and I were going through our library, deciding which books to bring with us and which books would be left behind. When we got to the poetry shelf, I told him, “Sorry, these are all coming with us. This is about identity; it’s a necessity.”
From the literature shelf came all the books of Meir Shalev, Amos Oz, and Eshkol Nevo. I have read them all, and I need them close by.
As Israel turns seventy, and our community here also celebrates the seventieth year and the “70 faces of Israel” through the arts, I am lucky to be able to share both these loves with you.
I am pleased to invite you to a private tour, over a glass of wine, of a live, interactive exhibit named A Poem on the Road, which will feature six Hebrew poems brought to life in surprising and unexpected locations around the Mayerson JCC. The tour begins at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 30 in the lobby of the JCC. Throughout the tour, I will share with you the biographies of the poets and the backgrounds of the selected poems.
After the tour, we will move to the Amberley Room for a talk with one of my favorite Israeli authors, Eshkol Nevo. He will talk about what inspires him to write, the Israeli society that comes to life through the pages of his books, and his latest page turner, Three Floors Up. (I read it in Hebrew. It’s a great book.) If you are interested in buying his latest book, we have copies for sale at the JCC, which Nevo can sign that evening.
I hope to see you at this great celebration of Hebrew and the written word. (And don’t worry, the tour and the talk will be held in English.)
Follow Maia Morag on Facebook, read her bio, or find out more about our Israeli emissaries to Cincinnati.
The emissary is funded by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, after being trained by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati: We look at the whole picture, taking into account the diverse needs of the entire community. Together we can do almost anything.
Thanks to you, Maia Morag is in Cincinnati making connections and expanding awareness of everything Israeli.