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Jewish Camps Make Hebrew ‘Gender Neutral’ Because Camp Is ‘A Safe Space’

REUTERS/Baz Ratner

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Amber Randall Civil Rights Reporter

A group of Jewish summer camps is changing the Hebrew language to be more gender neutral.

Seven Habonim Dror camps located throughout North America will be implementing a gender neutral version of the Hebrew language, reports the Washington Post. Habonim Dror is a Progressive Labor Zionist Youth Movement dedicated to building a relationship between young North American Jewish people and Israel.

“It really reinforces the impact of summer camp as a safe space. Camp has always made it okay to say, ‘I can be myself here,'” Sara Zebovitz, the North America director for Habonim Dror, told the Washington Post.

Camp Moshava, a Habonim Dror summer camp in Maryland, re-wrote some of its cheers to be more gender neutral. In the Hebrew language, feminine nouns end in -ot and masculine nouns, including groups with just one man, end in -iom. Now, both are referred to with -imot, a blend of the masculine and feminine endings.

Some of the camp’s alumni have spoken out against this change, saying that this teaches the children a made up language they can’t speak anywhere outside of camp.

Habonim Dror also created a singular non-binary term; they use -ol to represent a non-binary person, which is based on the Hebrew word “kol,” meaning “all.”

In the past couple of years, other Jewish summer camps have implemented policies for their transgender campers. Camp Ramah in the Berkshires had staff training by Keshet, a Jewish organization that advocates for gay people. The director of the camp, Rabbi Paul Resnick, now tries to change his language in order to be more neutral.

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