Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Why does the Conservative Movement pronounce Hebrew in a quasi-Sephardic pronunciation, even though their engagement in Wissenschaft Des Judentums would have led them to embrace the Yemenite pronunciation?

share|improve this question
2  
By the way, Matthew, I have to question your premise. Were the Wissenschaft folks even aware of the Yemenite pronunciation? I thought they considered the Sephardic one the "purest" form of Hebrew. –  Alex Nov 24 '10 at 0:57
add comment

7 Answers 7

1) Jimmel is for Sana3anis (צנעני) Gimmel Deghusha NOT Refuyya (i.e. גּ - its gimmel with a dagesh) 2) The Americanized 'sephardic' pronunciation is not 'israeli' either (and it is by no means limited to Conservative Jews) , it has a dipthongized Ssere(צֵירה - tzeyrey) and cholam (חוֹלם - Choe-lam), Israeli only maintains ashkenazi pronunciation ssere in a few words like 'teysha' and even then that varies on speaker. 3)Qamass (קָמץ - Kamatz) is indeed pronounced correctly by many Ashkenazim from Europe, but the americanized pronunciation of it by American Ashkenazim as an o (like israeli cholam) is not quite it, it should be an ɒ(aw in newyork accent) sound like swedish å or persian long a. This sound is preserved in some dialects of modern aramaic btw.

share|improve this answer
1  
Could you explain what you mean by "Sana3anis"? It seems to have been a typo, and I'm not familiar enough with Hebrew grammar to be able to figure it out –  b a Sep 14 '12 at 20:28
1  
@ba, 3 is often a placeholder for 'Ayin (as in 3ayin) in transliterated Hebrew. Beyond that, I still don't know what he is talking about. –  Seth J Sep 14 '12 at 20:39
2  
@ba I wonder if it's related to "Sana`i" from B.BarNavi's above comment judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/4163/… –  Double AA Nov 13 '12 at 19:06
    
Source???...... –  Adam Mosheh Nov 14 '13 at 1:21
add comment

This is not consistent. A couple weeks ago I went to a Conservative congregation for kabbalat shabbat and it was Ashkenazi all the way. On the other hand, another Conservative shul I'm familiar with is mostly led in Israeli pronunciation. On the third hand, many individuals in that congregation, when called for aliyot, use Ashkenazi.

I think this answer is correct with respect to what's being taught in the schools. In terms of what you hear in shul otherwise, it's a mix and will presumably be so until most attendees are products of the current curriculum (or imports from other Israeli-Hebrew traditions).

share|improve this answer
add comment

The "quasi-Sephardic pronunciation" you refer to is actually Israeli Hebrew which the Conservative movement (and Modern Orthodox movement and Reform movement) have lately been teaching.

The traditional Conservative movement was built off of the Reform movement which was built off of German minhag - thus a boy wears a tallis when he turns 13, regardless of marital status, and people spoke in the Hebrew of their parents. Even my parents, growing up in Conservative shuls in Brooklyn (1950s-60s), pronounce G-d's name with an "oy" not an "ai" and learned to soften their savs.

Here's an interesting piece on the rise to prominence of Israeli Hebrew in America - not limited to the Conservative movement. (Though it's simplified a bit for the audience, the links therein are good sources.) The main point apropos your question is that in America, it was easier to find Israeli Hebrew teachers, the movement is Zionist, and that this pronunciation was more desirable due to its perceived modernity.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Why should Wissenschaft lead them to the Yemenite pronunciaton?

Isn't Wissenschaft about finding the "most authentic" ancient pronunciation. Wouldn't the presence of the Jimmel (an affricate) make that claim to authenticity suspect when a Ghimmel (a fricative) seems to better fit a consistent pattern for בגד כפת, namely that these letters should all be fricatives when the dagesh is absent, and stops when the dagesh is present?

share|improve this answer
    
OK, but they could attribute that one to local Arabic influence (since indeed, in most dialects of Arabic, original /g/ became /j/). They'd still have figured that it's better than most other Hebrew pronunciations, which don't make any distinction between the two pronunciations of gimmel (offhand, the only other one I know of that does is the Egyptian). –  Alex Dec 21 '10 at 18:56
2  
Adeni (southern Yemenite) Jews use gimel and quf. It's only due to the popularity of the northern Yemenite (Sana`i) pronunciation that "jimel" and "guf" became associated with Yemenite Jewry in general. –  B.BarNavi Aug 10 '11 at 2:24
add comment

@Alex

Were the Wissenschaft folks even aware of the Yemenite pronunciation?

Not until Even Sapir by Rabbi Yaakov Sapir was published in the 1860s.

As far as whether they considered Sefaradit most pure, it's not monolithic. Shadal, for example, believed that the Ashkenazic qomatz followed the Tiberian masorah. He also pointed out that in Syriac there are two pronunciations, one which has a qomatz pronounced like the Ashkenazim, /o/, and the other which pronounces those vowels as /ah/ which is similar to the Sephardim. Thus, to the extent that we are obliged to follow the Tiberian masorah, the Ashkenazim were correct here. But to the extent that language develops naturally, both are correct and have an internal logic.

To a certain degree the issue was not which was more correct, but which was more aesthetically pleasing. It was more immediately obvious that the European pronunciations were European and thus, in their view, corrupted. It was difficult for a Galician maskil, for example, to see his native pronunciation as equally correct and equally pleasant as Sefaradit. Furthermore, the Sefaradit was accepted academic convention, so it made sense to conform with it, at least in writings which were meant to be academic.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Very simple. Due to the influence of Zionism and the state of Israel, where such pronunciation was adopted, the conservatives copied it at some point.

share|improve this answer
    
Makes sense, especially since the Conservative movement and the revival of Hebrew both started within a few years of each other (in the 1880s). –  Alex Nov 26 '10 at 1:43
1  
The Conservative movement's philosophy doesn't draw from one single source. They take elements from a lot of different (possibly incompatible and conflicting) places. Wissenschaft Des Judentums is one of them, but secular Zionism is another. –  Chanoch Dec 21 '10 at 17:09
    
This is true in a broad sense in that after the rise of the State of Israel, there were many people who were raised with Ashkenazic pronunciation that made a conscious choice to teach their childern a Sephardic pronunciation, but the Ashkenazic substrate is still noticeable in American Conservative synagogues. For example, in America the vowel tzere is usually pronounced "ay" whereas in Israel, that vowel is shortened to "eh". –  Mike Dec 6 '13 at 3:31
add comment

Maybe just because a true Yemenite pronunciation would be pretty difficult for most Ashkenazic Jews? It uses several phonemes that are common in Arabic, but rare in the European languages. (I seem to remember a similar reason for why Israeli Hebrew, while officially Sephardic in pronunciation, in practice uses the least common denominator among the Ashkenazic and Sephardic consonantal values.)

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks. Could anyone find anything on the web or in books about the Conservative or perhaps the Reform movements decision to switch their pronunciation –  Matthew Miller Nov 24 '10 at 1:23
    
Indeed this is interesting, because there was clearly a switchover at some point. Was there a decision from a central body at some definite point in time, or was it more organic? –  Yosef Nov 24 '10 at 2:06
    
What do you mean by "switch"? Did they start with Ashkenazic pronunciation? –  Isaac Moses Nov 24 '10 at 2:27
2  
I have a friend who grew up in the Reform movement in the 60s and he lived through an explicit switch in the schools -- they'd been teaching Ashkenazi and then it switched to Israeli. I assume this was a change in the common curriculum that rolled out to the congregations, not necessarily all at exactly the same time. –  Monica Cellio May 15 '12 at 22:31
1  
However, the CCAR resolved the following in 1976: We have both a stake and a responsibility in building the State of Israel, assuring its security, and defining its Jewish character. –  Adam Mosheh May 16 '12 at 23:48
show 5 more comments

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.