Alan Mintz is the Chana Kekst professor of Hebrew literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary. His Ancestral Tales: Reading the Buczacz Stories of S.Y. Agnon will be published by Stanford in June. The present essay, in somewhat different form, will appear in What We Talk About When We Talk About Hebrew, edited by Naomi B. Sokoloff and Nancy E. Berg (forthcoming from University of Washington Press).
When people find out that I teach Hebrew literature, they invariably remark, “Oh, you must be fluent.” I’ve now been working hard at it for many decades, and I’m still not there.
Yehudah Leib Gordon lived long enough to witness the collapse of his dreams of Jewish acceptance in Russia but died just short of seeing Zionism become a real alternative.