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William Chomsky

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William Chomsky

William Chomsky
Born (1896-01-15)January 15, 1896
Kupil, Volhynian Governorate, Russian Empire (in present-day Ukraine)
Died July 21, 1977(1977-07-21) (aged 81)
Nationality American
Occupation Scholar of Hebrew
Spouse(s) Elsie Simonofsky
Children Noam Chomsky
Relatives Carol Chomsky (daughter-in-law; deceased)
Aviva Chomsky (granddaughter)

William Chomsky (January 15, 1896 – July 21, 1977) was an American scholar of Hebrew. He was born in Ukraine (then a part of the Russian Empire) and fled to the United States in 1913 to avoid conscription into the army. He worked in sweatshops in Baltimore before gaining employment teaching at the city's Hebrew elementary schools, using his money to fund his studies at Johns Hopkins University. Marrying Elsie Simonofsky – a native of what is present-day Belarus who grew up in the United States – they moved to Philadelphia, where they both began teaching at the Mikveh Israel religious school, with William eventually rising to the position of school principal.

In 1924, he was appointed to the faculty at the country's oldest Jewish teacher training institution, Gratz College, where he became faculty president in 1932. In 1955 he also began teaching courses at Dropsie College. Independently, he was involved in researching Medieval Hebrew, eventually authoring a series of books on the language: How to Teach Hebrew in the Elementary Grades (1946), Hebrew, the Story of a Living Language (1947), Hebrew, the Eternal Language (1957), Teaching and Learning (1959), and an edited version of David Kimhi's Hebrew Grammar (1952).[1] Described as a "very warm, gentle, and engaging" individual, William Chomsky placed a great emphasis on educating people so that they would be "well integrated, free and independent in their thinking, and eager to participate in making life more meaningful and worthwhile for all", a view that would subsequently be adopted by his son.[2]


William Chomsky was born in Kupil, Volhynian Governorate, Russian Empire (in present-day Ukraine) in 1896. He taught as a professor at Gratz College. He became the faculty president of Gratz in 1932, a position that he held for 37 years. He also taught at Dropsie College, a graduate school for Jewish and Semitic studies from 1955–77. He was a renowned specialist of the history of the Hebrew grammatical tradition, before and after David Kimhi (1160–1235). His obituary (New York Times, 22 July 1977) describes him as "one of the world's foremost Hebrew grammarians".

Chomsky was married to Elsie Simonofsky. The couple had two sons: Noam, a well-known linguist and activist; and David, a physician.

Selected bibliography

  • Chomsky, William: How the Study of Hebrew Grammar Began and Developed; The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Ser., Vol. 35, No. 3. (Jan., 1945), pp. 281–301 JStor
  • Chomsky, William: How to teach Hebrew in the elementary grades; New York, The United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, XIV 295 p. 22 cm. 1946.
  • Chomsky, William: David Kimhi's Hebrew Grammar: (Mikhlol) Systematically Presented and Critically Annotated by William Chomsky; Bloch Pub Co, New York, for Dropsie College, XXXIV 427 p. 23 cm, 1952 (available in paperback as 2001 edition, ISBN 978-0-8197-0719-2)
  • Chomsky, William: Hebrew: The Eternal Language; Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1964, c1957, other edition: June 1975, ISBN 978-0-8276-0077-5



  1. ^ Barsky 1997. pp. 9–10.
  2. ^ Barsky 1997. p. 11.


  • Barsky, Robert F. (1997). Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent. Cambridge, MAS and London: The MIT Press.  

External links

  • New York TimesObituary in the
  • Link to an essay about his wife: (by Harriet Feinberg)Elsie Chomsky: A Life in Jewish Education
  • First chapter from the electronic version of (by Robert F. Barsky)Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent
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