University of Colorado Jewish Studies Professor: Hebrew Should Be ‘Gender Inclusive’

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A professor at the University of Colorado Boulder is on a campaign to make the Hebrew language more “gender inclusive.”

University of Colorado Boulder Professor of Jewish Studies Eyal Rivlin has started a campaign, which was highlighted this week by Campus Reform, to make Hebrew more “gender inclusive” How exactly is Rivlin accomplishing this goal? Rivlin helped to found the Nonbinary Hebrew Project, which seeks to create a “nonbinary” gender category in the Hebrew language.

“The Nonbinary Hebrew Project essentially creates a third gender category by adding the ‘-eh’ suffix to most words,” a report from the University of Colorado Boulder’s website reads. “The novel construction can be used for nonbinary individuals as well as mixed-gender groups, which were previously referred to using the masculine plural.”

“We ended up creating a few basic rules that apply to the whole language and actually make sense within the grammar system of Hebrew,” Rivlin explained. “Native Hebrew speakers can intuitively, based on these few added rules, create this new language without any problems.”

Rivlin says the project has received overwhelmingly positive support from nonbinary people around the country who have connected with the project online.

One Jewish student at the University of Colorado Boulder who identifies as nonbinary says that the project has allowed nonbinary students to feel connected to others in the conversation. According to the student, unlike males and females, nonbinary individuals often do not have adequate language to describe themselves in conversation.

“If you don’t have a word to conceptualize your experience, then you can’t connect to others and you feel really isolated about it,” one student said. “When you don’t have the words to talk about an experience, it also changes the discourse in terms of who holds power and what conversations you get to have.”

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