A PRAYER FOR CALIFORNIA WILDFIRE VICTIMS
(Original English by Antonio De Loera-Brust/ Hebrew Adaptation Draft by Idea School Students, Class of 2022)
PARTICULAR MEANS ALL OF US, UNIVERSAL MEANS ME.
Antonio De Loera-Brust is a first-generation Mexican-American writer and filmmaker, who graduated Loyola Marymount, a Jesuit university in 2017. A prayer he composed in English for the victims of the recent devastating fires in California served as the subject of one of the prelude discussions (“Tefillah Talks”) to the Idea School’s daily tefilah sessions. During their dialogue, students noted echoes of certain Jewish values and sentiments in the text. They soon came to realize that those same values and feelings were clearly shared by people of other religions and belief systems.
READY, GET SET, TRANSLATE →
Challenged to follow their instincts and try to translate the English prayer into a familiar Hebrew form and within an hour or so, students decided to recreate the mood and intent of the English prayer paragraph by paragraph, not word for word. They turned to computer apps and browsers and search engines, Google Translate and Sefaria, Safari and Jewish Virtual Library. They even consulted one weather- beaten siddur from off the library shelf and a pocket paper Tanach, Hebrew Bible, whose microprint couldn’t be zoomed in on. Some searched for particular biblical verses or Talmudic phrases or fragments of a psalm they recalled that reminded them of particular sentiments or images in De Loera-Brust’s original prayer. And they found them aplenty. Others, on the other hand, took key words and sentiments from the English prayer and made a stab in the dark, searching Yahoo, for example, for “fire in the Bible” or “homeless.” The entire English text was fed into Google Translate for a sense of what it might look like in what an artificially intelligent translator would consider contemporary Israeli Hebrew.
IT’S ALL ABOUT BEING HUMAN
The “final”product, actually still a draft, 5c, was proofread for correct grammar and by a native Israeli classmate to make certain it would fall as trippingly as possible on a Jerusalemite or Tel Avivi’s ears. The working draft results in Hebrew sounded very Jewish indeed. It echoed ancient writings and events but spoke of our very own day to a post-postmodern audience. Indeed, when translated itself into English, its universal message rings loud and clear. It’s all about being human.