Hebrew Language Program
A multi-tiered approach to teaching the Hebrew language at UCLA provides novice and advanced students alike with various opportunities to study one of the world’s seminal languages.
Published: Wednesday, September 22, 2004
The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures covers the strata of the language from Biblical to Rabbinic, Medieval and Modern Hebrew. The program is actively promoted by five seasoned Hebrew language and literature faculty members whose cross-disciplinary interests include Semitic philology, comparative literature, philosophy and religious studies.
Nancy Ezer provides the infrastructure for Hebrew learners by inculcating vocabulary, grammar and syntax, as well as conversational and listening comprehension skills. She uses Israeli feature films and the Internet in her teaching, as well as Hebrew songs, highlighting the works of Naomi Shemer, Daniel Broza and Shlomo Artsi, among others, to illustrate how Israeli society imagines itself through media and the arts. Ezer is the author of a three-volume Hebrew Workbook and numerous scholarly writings on modern Israeli Hebrew literature.
Advanced Hebrew and modern Hebrew literature are taught by Lev Hakak in courses such as Modern Hebrew Poetry and Prose, the popular Modern Hebrew Literature in Translation, and Modern Hebrew Literature Made into Film which incorporates the works of Amos Oz (My Michael, Black Box), Yitzhak Ben-Ner (Winter Games) and A.B. Yehoshua (The Lover, Three Days and a Child). An accomplished poet, Hakak is also Editor-in-Chief of Ha-Doar, the only Hebrew-language periodical in the US. His most recent book is on the Hebrew literature of the Jews of Iraq during the 18th-20th centuries.
Yona Sabar emphasizes philology and linguistics in his teaching and research, including the comparative study of other Semitic languages. He is especially interested in how an ancient language like Hebrew evolves to meet the requirements of modern life. His offerings include courses on Hebrew grammar, Biblical and Targumic Aramaic, and Syriac. As the senior Hebraist, he has published several books and many articles on the Hebrew and Jewish Neo-Aramaic languages and their traditional literatures, and comparisons of their features with those of other Jewish languages (Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, Ladino and Yiddish). His latest book is A Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dictionary (Harrassowitz, 2002).
The realm of rabbinic discourse, especially Biblical interpretation, is explored in the teaching and writing of Carol Bakhos who recently joined the NELC faculty. UCLA is one of only a handful of American universities that offer courses focusing on ancient rabbinic texts as primary sources, thus providing students with the opportunity to study this literature in the original and in an academic setting. Bakhos also teaches a course on the origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Her research on the rabbinic portrayal of Ishmael will be published in the near future.
Bill Schniedewind covers the ancient period in courses on the history of the Hebrew language, Hebrew Biblical literature, the Dead Sea Scrolls and early Judaism. A specialist in the Hebrew Bible, Northwest Semitics and Second Temple Judaism, his research interests include inner-Biblical and early Jewish interpretation and the sociolinguistics of the Hebrew language. His most recent work is How the Bible Became a Book: The Textualization of Ancient Israel. He is currently preparing an Ugaritic primer.
The study of Hebrew across the lands and ages is further pursued by the distinguished scholars and mentors, Emeritus Professors Herbert Davidson and Arnold Band. Davidson specializes in rabbinic and medieval Hebrew, with particular emphasis on Bible commentaries and medieval Islamic and Jewish philosophy. His study of Moses Maimonides: The Man and His Works is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Band is the author of Nostalgia and Nightmare: A Study in the Fiction of S.Y. Agnon, as well as numerous articles on the Hebrew essay and Hebrew and Israeli fiction. His Studies in Modern Jewish Literature was published in 2003 by the Jewish Publication Society, and a selection of his writings in Hebrew will be published in the near future by the Ben-Gurion University Press.
An extensive library collection built up over the course of half a century supports these teaching and research endeavors and the broader study of Hebrew, Israel and Judaism at UCLA.