Henry Ford might have been one large, cuddly bundle of Jew-hatred–he did write the preface to my copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion–but he also helped to enrich the Jewish people with the one thing for which it had been yearning since the publication of the Bove Bukh, a verse epic about a Yiddish-speaking knight: Henry Ford helped give us armor. Not for us the clank of mail as we struggle vainly to mount some stupid horse; we’d rather climb into something with wheels and heat that can serve as weapon and refuge simultaneously. And now that air conditioning means that no car window need ever be opened again, we’ve embarked on a new golden age of in-car Yiddish artistry. “Why do the nations rage?” ask the Psalms (Ps. 2:1); what’s with the chases, the guns, the fisticuffs? Let them take a lesson from us. The car has done more than any other invention to insulate us from the pains of goles, of exile. Behind that wheel, every Jew is a tough guy, a shtarker, a street fighting man who takes crap from nobody and knows that in a car, as in space, no one can hear him scream. The air of many a Yiddish-speaker’s car is heavy with slurs and slights. A combative spirit takes possession of such a driver and departs just as quickly when he turns off the ignition and opens the door. King of the road becomes lord of antacids again.
This article originally appeared in The Jewish Week. Below are some items for sale from eBay for those of you with an interest in Yiddish.
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