This Israeli Influencer Helped Me Love My Accent – Kveller
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This Israeli Influencer Helped Me Love My Accent

Ruhama Shitrit proves that there’s such beauty to what some call “immigrant English”.


Images via @ruhamasfood on Instagram, assets via Canva

I have one party trick (just one, because I’m honestly not really good at parties and have very terrible social anxiety): I do a very convincing Israeli accent.

You’re probably thinking, “But Lior, I thought you were Israeli?” That’s true — I’m an Israeli-American immigrant, but I’ve been living in this country for over a decade and speak a fairly inconspicuous American English. People sometimes think I’m from the West Coast. But when I need to pull out my party trick — like when someone asks for my Israeli expertise on a matter —  I muster the heaviest of fake Israeli accents, and it gets a lot of surprised laughter. I’ve heard people say it’s genuinely convincing and pretty good. (I did take some acting classes in high school, I guess they paid off.)

I learned English early enough, and in an immersive enough environment that I never really had much of an Israeli accent. But I do have my moments — tells, if you will — certain words that I struggle to pronounce because they don’t exist in my mother tongue, or because I learned them first in French, which is another language that I speak (humblebrag). Words like “graffitti” and “comfort” and “suite” that I have to stop and think about before I say in case I pronounce them wrong.

For some reason, I’m really scared to expose myself as a foreigner — maybe because my work requires me to write in English, like a native speaker would. I think I’ve also unwittingly bought into the, let’s face it, xenophobic belief that speaking in perfectly unaccented English as an immigrant makes you a better one. (My lack of a pronounced accent has more to do with luck — when and where I got to learn English — than anything truly superior or special about me.) The words that trip me up feel like tender, vulnerable points.

That all changed the day I came across Ruhama. Somehow, she’s helped me not just understand that there’s nothing wrong with my Hebrew tells (which, cerebrally, I knew to be true) but also to love them.

Ruhama is Ruhama Shitrit, of course, the Israeli mother of four behind the extremely popular Instagram account @ruhamasfood. On her Instagram account, Shitrit, who lives in Boston, shares the most appetizing and easy of recipes, and delicious gluten free desserts. She puts wet parchment paper on her pan dinners to make them juicy and delicious. She knows how to mix her spices. She has tons of nostalgic Israeli recipes and scrumptious salads that are easy for busy parents. And most of all, she speaks with the most typical, heavy Israeli accent. The kind that I use for my party trick? That’s exactly it.

And Ruhama is perfect. I would lay down my life for her (OK, I have two young kids, so maybe not, but I would defend her muchly). I would definitely not change anything about her, especially not her accent. It fills me with such nostalgia and such warmth. I’ve loved watching the sound for her chicken arayes video become a mildly viral dancing sensation on TikTok. I love that her recipes are foolproof. I love that she’s a Hebrew teacher at a Jewish day school. I love that she makes me love the Hebrew accent in all its glory.

Because the truth is that there’s such beauty to what some call “immigrant English” — the heavily accented, sometimes grammatically flawed English that, depending on where we live, we hear all around us spoken by people who have come to America from all over the globe and made it their home, and made our country better and more full of deliciousness. It reminds us that we are a country of immigrants, and that is one thing worth celebrating, honoring, fighting for in these dark times.

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