These Jewish Summer Camps Are Pioneering A Trans-Inclusive, Gender-Neutral Form Of Hebrew

Seven Jewish summer camps across America are rolling out a more trans-inclusive gender-neutral form of Hebrew.
The new form of Hebrew will be rolled out across the Habonim Dror summer camps..

All seven sites across North America will use the form, which includes words like “chanichol”, which is a gender neutral form of the Hebrew word “chanich” for boys or “chanichah” for girls, meaning camper.hebrew1

Traditionally, there is no gender-neutral form of Hebrew and nouns are divided into genders, much like many other languages like Spanish, French and Russian. Hebrew is more of a challenge than most gendered languages because you cannot speak in the first or second person, without indicating a gender. For example, the English phrase “I want a drink” would be literally translated into Hebrew as “I female-want a female-drink”.

“It really reinforces the impact of summer camp as a safe space,” Sara Zebovitz, the North America director for Habonim Dror told the Washington Post.

“Camp has always made it okay to say, ‘I can be myself here.’”

The new form of Hebrew also includes cheers of each child’s age, typically heard in group settings.

As opposed to the masculine noun ending im, or feminine noun ending ot, groups of boys and girls end with the blended ending imot.

An example is the 15-year-old age group formerly Bogrim will now be the Bogrimot.

The 80 campers will learn the new form of Hebrew which, according to Zebovitz, came up at a conference of Jewish camps.

Out of the other 50 camps, Zebovitz, none had thought to update the language to be more trans-inclusive.

Some LGBT communities in Israel have already adopted the imot plural ending, but it is neccesary, Zebovitz says, to come up with a non-binary singular form.

“They’re talking about it. But no one’s coming up with a solution yet,” Zebovitz added. “We can’t wait around.”

So the singular form at Habonim Dror will be -ol, meaning “all”.

This form can be used by any camper who does not wish to use he or she.

One camper, 14-year-old Zev, who came out as non-binary this year, tells the Washington post: “People are accepting… [but] they really suck at remembering and using my correct pronouns all the time.”

 

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