Call to Join Holy Language Organisation, 1892
On the 1st Nissan we remind people about the language
In the month in which the Jewish People were redeemed because they did not change their language, with great joy we publicise that the number of members of the “Lashon HaKodesh Organisation” increases daily – thank God.
And justice and uprightness calls to all of our God-fearing brothers, lovers of our Torah, People, Land and Language: come and sign your names to be part of the Organisation of Lashon HaKodesh.
In Meah Shearim with Rav Joseph Epstein and Rav Tzvi Hersh Grosberg
In Mazkeret with Rav Shlomo Belazar
In the city with Rav Yisrael Leib Oritzer
In Achva with Rav Yitzchak Tzvi Rivlin
In Shaarei Tzedek with Rav Tzissel Hevesh
This poster was created by an organisation called the Organisation of Lashon HaKodesh (the holy language). Consisting of a number of Ultra-Orthodox rabbis, this organisation believed strongly in the rejuvenation of the Hebrew language in Israel. The first part of the poster references a famous Midrash which states that the Jewish People maintained their unique language when they were in Israel and that since the poster was being created in Nissan, the month in which the Exodusfrom Egypt took place, it was an opportune time to remind people of the importance of Hebrew.
According to the poster, the number of members of the organisation was increasing every day. The places for registration were all neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.
This poster provides us with unique insight into the spiritual battle that was taking place over the use of Hebrew in pre-state Israel in the late nineteenth century during the Ottoman Empire. The usual categorisation depicts the New Yishuv and the Old Yishuv (generally categorised as the Ultra-Orthodox leadership). However, the actual situation was more complicated.
The Ultra-Orthodox community generally believed that Hebrew, the holy language, should be restricted for use in the study of Torah study and prayer alone. Using it in everyday life was considered an abomination, and most religious Jews spoke Yiddish or other European languages. Some rabbis, however, used the Midrash mentioned above to prove that Hebrew was the only choice as the official language of the Jewish People.
The statement on this poster was signed by Rabbi Yitzhak Zvi Rivlin, who founded the Beit Yisrael neighbourhood in the 1880s. In 1892 he tried to establish a society of Hebrew-speaking Ultra-Orthodox Jews and established an agricultural association called Bnei Zion for the purchase of land in Eretz Yisrael.
This poster can be used in Jewish History lessons on the revival of Modern Hebrew, the demographic situation, and the ideological cultural battles taking place at the end of the nineteenth century in Ottoman Palestine.
Hebrew teachers can use this document to explore the development of Modern Hebrew.
Jewish Studies classes can use it to explore the centrality of Hebrew to the Jewish People as a nation and not just a religion.
Try to read the poster.
Can you find any familiar words?
What was the purpose of this poster?
Who were the authors of this statement?
Who were the authors of this statement hoping to win around to their cause?
When was this letter written?
Reading Between the Lines
Why would these Ultra-Orthodox rabbis be in favour of using Hebrew in day-to-day conversations?
Why did the rabbis include a Midrash in their statement?
What language is spoken by Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel today?
Make a poster explaining why Hebrew must be the national language of Israel.
Bonus: translate it into Hebrew, or illustrate it using Hebrew words!