B’nai B’rith International strongly endorses Israel’s creation of National Hebrew Day. The celebration is slated to fall annually on the 21st of Tevet, the birthday of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew and an active member of B’nai B’rith Israel in its formative years.In a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin wrote, “Along with the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, the reestablishment of Hebrew as the common uniting language for all Jews, an initiative spearheaded by Ben Yehuda, stands as a pivotal evolution in the formation of Israel as a Jewish state.”
B’nai B’rith’s connection to the advent of Hebrew in Israel goes back further than even the first Zionist Congress. In the spring of 1888, a small group of idealistic and enlightened young men established the Jerusalem Lodge of B’nai B’rith, the first lodge in what was then Palestine. Principal among the goals was to promote the revival of Hebrew as the living vernacular of the growing Jewish community. Ben-Yehuda served as the lodge’s first secretary, and referred to the Jerusalem Lodge as “a center of visions.”
The Jerusalem Lodge became the first public body in Palestine in which Hebrew was the official language. In 1890, it founded and elected the Va’ad Ha-Lashon Ha-Ivrit (the Hebrew Language Committee), the precursor of the Academy of the Hebrew Language. A year later, it established the Midrash Abarbanel Library, which became the nucleus of the Jewish National and University Library.
Hebrew was the common denominator between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities, and the importance of maintaining its use at lodge meetings was constantly stressed. Molding it into the national language ensured that Israel would be a stronghold for all Jews, regardless of their ethnic, cultural, or religious differences.