Mark Jr.
Mark Jr. asked:

I'm very interested in finding a book that will relate the history of modern Hebrew in the admittedly entertaining but intellectually stimulating style of Arika Okrent's "In the Land of Invented Languages." In fact, it was that book that made me want to read more about Ben-Yehuda and, especially, about the organic way Okrent says modern Hebrew developed among Israeli children. Is this that book?

Norman Berdichevsky YES
reviews of "Modern Hebrew - The Past and Future of a Reinvigorated Language" (McFarland, 2014)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews

This brilliant and insightful tome on the Hebrew language is unique ...
By KENNETH L HANSON on September 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
This brilliant and insightful tome on the Hebrew language is unique in its class. The author has adroitly produced a concise volume written equally for those who have familiarity with Hebrew, having studied it to some degree, and those who have no background whatsoever. Even those who know or have endeavored to know the language are often unaware of its "trajectory" of development, over the course of the last 130 years. As the author points out, this is the only time in history when a language has come to life after many centuries of dormancy, to become the spoken tongue of a modern nation. Of course, with revival have come multifaceted challenges and dilemmas, sufficient to captivate the attention of linguists and casual observers alike. It takes a special talent to bring such a subject to light in a compelling and accessible fashion, and this book succeeds in telling the story of Hebrew, its past and its future, with clarity and insight.

Dr. Berdichevsky adroitly presents the remarkable progress made by modern Hebrew in the face of determined opposition by the ultra-Orthodox and the power of intimidation as well as outright persecution by Soviet authorities to retard and eradicate the instruction of the language. The study of Modern Hebrew became a dynamic movement that projected hope and gave inspiration to a generation of Jewish youth encouraging them to look towards the future during the desperate years of the 1930s when many Jews were paralyzed by despair and the fear of growing Nazi power.

readable and fascinating history of the evolution of today's Hebrew language
By solarsarge on October 11, 2014
Format: Paperback
This little book is a gem. The author presents modern Hebrew as a reconstructed spoken language after some three millennia as a religious language only. Of particular interest is the chapter on “How Hebrew Became a Modern Language”, which details the struggles between the Hebraists and the Yiddishists, in which the Hebraists ultimately triumphed. Also of special historical interest are the sections on the treatment of Hebrew in particular and Jews in general in the Soviet Union.

During the early years of the Soviet Union the teaching of Hebrew was either prohibited or frowned upon, which attitude persisted well after the establishment of the modern State of Israel. Likewise of course Zionism was denounced as bourgeois and reactionary. As a Communist alternative to Israel, Stalin established the Jewish Autonomous Region within the eastern USSR, named Birobidzhan, adjacent to Mongolia. The region struggled along through WWII and eventually recovered some of its population when Soviet migrants to Israel returned when they were unable to find suitable employment in the new Jewish state.

The book provides an outstanding overview of the creation of modern Hebrew in interesting and easy-to-understand text. I recommend it for both scholars and lay readers interested in the evolution of this fascinating and intricate language.

By Sion Jobbins on November 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
Excellent book. Informative and authoritative but accessible to any intelligent and inquisitive reader.

I was particularly interested in learning about the Canaanite movement and modern Hebrew culture. As a Welsh speaker I was also obviously interested in the 'heroic' period of the revival of the language.My only issue was that a explanation of the Hebrew alphabet would be useful and the diacritics used by the author (based on Esperanto orthography?) would be unfamiliar to many readers (including this one).

But certainly a valuable book for any Jewish person, or anyone interested in Israel and languages. I only wish there was a similar book about other lesser-known cultures, nations and languages.

This is an excellent book not just for linguists but for those interested ...
By Ann Wertheim on January 1, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book not just for linguists but for those interested in Israel today and how it developed. There are many aspects covered by the author who is able to adroitly pull it all together into a cohesive story. I don't speak or read Hebrew but found the topics very interesting. It is smoothly written and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to dive below the surface of his current perception of the country and the culture.

By Gabriel Ross on September 26, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whatever one’s connection is to Israel and to modern Hebrew who would not be amazed by the creation of essentially a new spoken language and its becoming a nation’s vernacular. How did this occur? Are their counterparts to this revival of a language in human history? The author wonderfully describes, with just the right amount of detail, this incredible achievement. But then he goes on to describe the implications of modern Hebrew for both non-Jews in Israel and for Jews in the diaspora. Berdichevsky is exceptionally insightful and always thought provoking. A book well worth reading.

Ben-Yehuda’s vision of a modern Hebrew eventually came to animate a large part of the Jewish world, and gave new confidence and pride to Jewish youth during the most difficult period of modern history, infusing Zionism with a dynamic cultural content. This book examines the many changes that occurred in the transition to Modern Hebrew, acquainting new students of the language with its role as a model for other national revivals, and explaining how it overcame many obstacles to become a spoken vernacular. The author deals primarily with the social and political use of the language and does not cover literature. Also discussed are the dilemmas facing the language arising from the fact that Israelis and Jews in the Diaspora “don’t speak the same language,” while Israeli Arabs and Jews often do.

About the Author
Norman Berdichevsky is a professional translator, writer and lecturer for several major cruise lines. Formerly a lecturer of Judaic studies at the University of Central Florida, he is the author of several books, lives in Orlando and is available for talks accompanied by a power-point presentation on this and other subjects; see his website at
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments    vi
Note to the Reader    viii
Preface    1
1--Hebrew in American Popular Culture    7
2--The Magnificent Heritage of Hebrew    15
3--Modern Hebrew’s Inspirational Example    30
4--The ­Three-Thousand-Year-Old Treasury    43
5--How Hebrew Became a Modern Language    49
6--Do the Israelis Speak Hebrew or Israeli?    64
7--The Worldwide Rivalry with Yiddish    75
8--Negation of the Golah (Exile) and Hebraic Identity of a New Nation    87
9--Baltic Rebirth and the Zionist Staging Ground for a Jewish State    107
10--The First Modern Hebrew Textbooks Set in Palestine    117
11--The Soviet Persecution of Hebrew    124
12--­Arab-Israeli Use of Hebrew    136
13--From Jewish State Toward a Hebrew Republic?    157
14--Slang and Profanity in Spoken Hebrew    172
15--The Current Assault on Hebrew at Home    178
16--Outlook for Hebrew Education in the
United States and the United Kingdom    184
Epilogue    190
Chapter Notes    201
Bibliography    215
Index    223

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by Norman Berdichevsky (Goodreads Author)
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