the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

*You say “haroset” and I say “charosis.” No matter how you spell it, the ingredients include apples, walnuts, cinnamon, honey and Passover wine. It’s more than a blob of stuff that sits on the Passover plate.

Yiddish is alive and well in New York. It’s “in” to be bilingual--English and Yiddish. In the largely Hasidic village of New Square, New York, nearly 93% of the 7,000 or so residents speak Yiddish at home.

Shown below is a list of common Yiddish terms:

1. “schlep” (to pull/to drag)
Cindy Adams (New York Post, 7/26/13), wrote about facial hair: “Hugh Jackman. His Wolverine’s movie nails are longer than Streisand’s. But why schlep around unshaven?”

Jordan Friedman (USA Today, 8/6/13) reports that some tech-savvy parents won’t be schlepping their kids to synagogue for the traditional one-on-one Bar Mitzvah lessons. Glenn Sherman, a cantor based in Delray Beach, Florida, gives Bar Mitzvah lessons online and then conducts the service at any location--or in any country--of the family’s choosing.

Yes, Skype has changed everything, and in the digital age, programs like Sherman’s are becoming common. Rabbi Monte Sugarman also offers Bar Mitzvah training online. Based out of Upstate New York, he also offers online learning. No prior knowledge of the Hebrew language is required, and he sends most of the material through e-mail.

2. “dire” (apartment)
Jewish comedian, Shmuel Breban, says, “We Jews believe that true wealth is defined as being content with your lot--but the lot needs to have lots of rentable apartments.”

3. “goyisha kop” (Used in Eastern Europe to imply slow-wittedness)
Claudia, a Christian, was in love with Izzy, a Jew, and wanted to convert. So she went to the rabbi for instruction.

The rabbi said, “You will learn how to light candles, keep two sets of dishes, keep a kosher home, learn to make gefilte fish, and many other simple things.”

“I can do that,” said Claudia.

“Ah, but the final thing you must do is to go to a MIKVA,” said the rabbi.

“What’s that?”

“A pool of water in which you must immerse yourself completely. We have one right here in Far Rockaway.”

“Uh-oh,” said Claudia. “Rabbi, I have a terrible phobia about putting my head under water! I’ll go in the MIKVA but only up to my head. Will that be all right?”

“Well,” said the rabbi, “you may be Jewish but you’ll still have a goyishe kop.”

4. “yoyvin” (celebrate)
Shmuel Breban, comedian, says, “I love America, but I just don’t feel comfortable celebrating Independence Day...because I still live at home with my mother and I wouldn’t be honest.”

5. “haymisha”/”haimish” (friendly; it’s like you’ve come home)
Amy Godine gave a talk at the 4th Annual History of the Catskills conference at the Sunny Oaks Hotel in Woodbridge, New York, titled, “From Haimishe to Highbrow: The Adirondack Alternative.”

Ruth and Bob Grossman (“The French-Kosher Cookbook”) defined “haymisha” as “that nice politician who, when he comes to your neighborhood, ate knishes and kissed the baby.”

The Kosher Gym on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, advertised:
for a “professional, though heimishe, environment” to work out. There are separate facilities for men and women (yah!), personal training, babysitting, and a Torah Tape library where you an borrow recorded lectures from a variety of rabbis. The Torah Tae library is especially important when you consider that the Kosher Gym doesn’t have any television set lest you catch sight of the secular world or a soap opera while you run on the treadmill.

6. “kelner” (waiter)
Sidney Poitier, who left school at 12 1/2, wanted to be knowledgeable. He didn’t know the word existed. He was working in Queens, NY, as a dishwasher, and one evening, while sitting in the dining room he was trying to read the “tsaytung” (newspaper). A Jewish waiter walked over, stood looking down at him and said, “What’s new in the paper?” He said, after hesitating, “I can’t tell you because I can’t read very well.” the waiter, whoever he was, said, “Oh, would you like me to read with you?”

That “nakht” (night) and every night, that man sat next to Poitier and taught him to read. He eventually had to go work elsewhere and never got a chance to go back and tell him what a gift he gave him. He never got an opportunity to say “a dank” (thank you).

7. “beygl” (bagel)
“If you’re applying for a new job, don’t eat a bagel with poppy seeds, because you can test positive for OPIATES,” reports Dr. Linn Goldberg. As a narcotic, opiates are banned from all athletic competition. A quarter teaspoon of seeds is enough to trigger a positive test reports Lesie Bonci. Bloomberg Businessweek (April 29-May 5, 2013)

8. “bale-boste”/”balebos” (housewife/efficient)
Passover is causing Jews to pass out. There’s often a surge in emergency room traffic and an uptick in total patient volume during Passover. It seems that the heavy cleaning leading up to Passover--intended to rid the home of chametz--is taking its toll.

9. “zind” (sin)
Elon Gold, comedian, discusses sins you’ve never heard of:

. The sin of using a begrudging eye
. The sin of googling naked Natalie Portman
. The sin of crossing myself that one time in turbulence...just in case
. The sin of texting pictures of my weiner

10. “oyfrikhtik” (sincere)
Shimon Rolnitzky of Der Shtern, a Yiddish-language magazine, said many fellow ultra-Orthodox Jews are planning to vote for Mr. [Eliot] Spitzer in part because they see his penance as more sincere than Mr. Weiner’s. Mr. Spitzer, a wealthy, assimilated Jew who never had a bar mitzvah, must now continue to ask for forgiveness from a group he never identified with much.” Jodi Kantor, “When Politics Catches Up With ‘Portnoy’” New York Times, Aug. 4, 2013

11. “nomen” (name)
Conan O’Brien said, “Barach Obama was speaking to a Jewish group, and he told them the name Barack is the same as the Jewish word ‘barach,’ which means one who’s blessed. That’s what he said, yeah. Obama had a harder time explaining his middle name, Hussein. Things got quiet there.” :-)

“Late Night” host, Jimmy Fallon, said of Weiner: “He sent them [sexually explicit messages] to a woman on Facebook using the code name ‘Carlos Danger.’ Which is still easier to believe than that other name: Mayor Weiner.” :-)

12. “shnorer” (cheapskate)
Elon Gold, stand-up Modern Orthodox comic, was asked, “Are there any Jews in the public eye who embarrass you on behalf of your people?” His answer: “What truly embarrasses me and makes me want to convert and get out of the Jew business is when the Bernie Madoffs of the world further fuel the anti-Semitic rants that, “Oh, the Jews control the money.” All those negative stereotypes. By the large, the Jews are pretty ethical people... But for the record, Gov. Spitzer did not embarrass me. I was proud of that...Spitzer spent $5,000 for one night with that woman. Is that a cheap Jew? I don’t think so.” Tampa Bay Times, Aug. 4, 2013

13. “tsuriktsien zikh” (to retire)
Funnyman, Mel Brooks, spoke about working and retirement: “Do I lift, do I drive, am I bagging groceries at a very busy supermarket. No, I sit with a little pencil and if I have an idea, I write it down. It’s light work. I can do that forever.”

14. “tchotchke” (trinket; Anglicized spelling)
Barry Dennis, a motivational speaker, defines a “tchotchke” as a trinket or knicknack. He uses it to mean “stuff that gets out of control.”

Leon H. Gildin (You Can’t Do Business (Or Most Anything Else) Without Yiddish) defines “tsatske”/”chachke” as a plaything or a toy. But when Mama says that sonny’s girlfriend is a “richtike tsatske” (a real plaything), it isn’t a compliment.

15. “tragedye” (tragedy)
“Every prominent Jew who falls from grace cannot be a tragedy, because we just have too many of them.” Alana Newhouse, Editor-in-chief, Tablet magazine

16. “vaser” (water)
Experts say there’s no science to back up the “akht” eight-glasses of water a day will keep “der dokter” (the doctor) away. Everybody’s requirements for fluid or water are different.

17. “zaftig” (having a full, rounded figure, usually of a woman)
Marilyn Monroe had a “zaftig” figure. So did Mae West.

18. “muzik” (music)
Heather Lende (“After 29 Years, It’s Nice to Know,” writes that she is a practicing Episcopalian and resides in Haines, Alaska. She doesn’t sing one of the most popular tunes from the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof”--”If I Were a Rich Man.”

She and hubby, Chip, are celebrating their 29th anniversary, and she will hum the short duet, “Do You Love Me?” They have as many children as Tevye and Golde and often dance at the Pioneer Bar past 1 o’clock. And just as Tevye and Golde sing at the end of the duet, their words won’t change anything, but after 29 years, it’s nice to know.

19. “shidach” (a match between a man an a woman arranged by a “shadkhen”)
Martha Stewart, the domestic dominatrix, 71, didn’t consult with a marriage broker or “shadkhen.” She signed up for JDate, of course. Her profile read: “seeking a youngish, successful and active male with whom to have sex.” (Note: More than 1,000 men have signed up for a date.)

20. “Vos iz geven iz geven” (What is gone, is gone.)
Remember the movie, “The Time Machine”? “Aktyor” (actor), Rod Taylor, sat in his time machine outside a store with a mannequin in a window, where her clothes changed rapidly as he passed through time.

21. “rukn” (anatomy, back)
David M. Bader (“How To Be An Extremely Reform Jew”), said, “Yiddish has no word for ‘golf’ but it has 273 different ways to complain a out lower back pain.

22. Yinglish (a combination of Yiddish and English)
Comedian, Jon Stewart, speaks “Yinglish” and Stephen Colbert once exclaimed “Holy Shtetl.”

23. “shuld” (guilt)
Lois Davis (Metropolitan Diary, July 4, 2005) write the following letter: Dear Diary:
Recently my husband and I went to the movies, something we don’t get to do too often with two young children. When the movie ended, we sat for a few minutes to discuss how disappointed we were in the film. When we stood up, an elderly couple, also discussing the film, overheard our conversation and turned to my husband. The man said, “For that we left the dog alone at home?”

In New York City, everyone’s guilt is truly his own.

24. “shlof” (sleep)
For the first time in 39 years, Al Roker overslept and missed a show. The show, ironically titled, “Wake Up with Al” is now known as ‘Rip Van Roker.’ :-)
Rabbi Anchelle Perl wrote, “Al Roker slept late. He was inspired by Harry Kemelman’s mystery novel,”It was on Friday the Rabbi Slept Late.”

25. “megillah” (the whole works; a long meaningless rigamarole)
Judy Woodruff used the word during the 2000 presidential race, saying, “We’re waiting for the vote from Florida. That’s the big megillah.” And, a 1995 Wheaties ad announced, “Wheaties...for over 100years. It’s the whole megillah.”
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe agrees with Isaac Bashevis Singer, who said, “Yiddish has not yet said its last word.”


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Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

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