You would think that one of Canada’s major banks would use someone who knows Hebrew to design the artwork aimed at its Jewish customers—or at least give the artwork to a Hebrew speaker before approval.
It’s a common refrain in Jewish synagogues throughout the English-speaking world:
—and it drives me (and no doubt every Israeli) around the bend every time I encounter it.
In Steve Carell and Tina Fey’s amusing comedy Date Night, there are two scenes where they visit Mark Wahlberg (who plays some kind of secret agent who helps them out), and he exchanges a few words in Hebrew with his girlfriend in the background, who is an Israeli Mossad agent. The actress playing the Mossad agent is indeed Israeli, but Wahlberg himself does a very credible job pronouncing the few words that he says, and with almost no accent. (Although I agree with Carell’s character: For the love of God, please put on a shirt!…)
But he’s the exception to the rule. 99% of the time, whenever Hebrew is presented in American films or TV series, something is wrong.
You can get most of the gist of the Hebrew Bible without knowing biblical Hebrew, but you would lose out on many subtleties—such as:
- The meaning of names
- Hebrew cognates (related words)
- The brevity of biblical Hebrew
- Poetic structures