At Jewish Summer Camps, Hebrew Language Goes Transgender Friendly

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A graffiti of the Habonim Dror symbol.
A graffiti of the Habonim Dror symbol. Credit: Wikicommons

North American summer camps of the Habonim Dror movement are experimenting with gender-neutral nouns in Hebrew for transgender campers.

A case in point is Habonim Dror’s Camp Moshava in Street, Maryland, where Zev Shofar, 14, is being referred to as a "chanichol" rather than a "chanich" or a "chanicha" as classical Hebrew would have it, The Washington Post reports.

The 15-year-old age group at camp, formerly the Bogrim, is now the Bogrimot.

A group called the Nitzavim have amended a chant referencing  Zionist leader Theodor Herzl’s line: “We are the Nitzavim! If you will it, it is no dream!” Now they holler that they're "Nitzavimot, If you will it, there is no dreamboat!"  

Hebrew, as many other languages, such as Spanish, French and Russian assigns a gender to each noun. 

Sara Zebovitz, the North America director for Habonim Dror says the issue was raised at a conference for Jewish camps.

But only Habonim Dror thought of revising words to resolve the problem.

Some LGBT communities in Israel have adopted a similar "imot" plural to get around gender identity, but not a gender-neutral singular.

Habonim Dror decided that –ol would be its singular, based on the word kol, which means “all.”

Some camp alumni have criticized the made up words, arguing that the kids are chanting words they won't otherwise be able to use.

But time will tell whether that proves to be the case or whether Habonim proves its mettle as a linguistic and not only social pioneer.  

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