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This category contains articles originally published in the Jewish Week.

Feh and fnyeh

Summer, when people who have been dragging themselves from exile to exile for nearly two thousand years inexplicably betake themselves to airports, where they seem surprised to find themselves chanting, almost compulsively davening, the Yiddish monosyllable of universal disapprobation—feh.

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The rules of mourning

Now that Shavues has put an end to the enforced sobriety of the omer period, my relatives––many of whom still dress in leisure suits designed in eighteenth century Poland-–are getting their glad rags out of mothballs in preparation for Jewish wedding season. A man who is overdressed for any occasion, let alone the one at […]

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Staying on the dairy bench for Shavuos

In anticipation of Shavuos, my favorite Yiddish idiom this week is blaybn af der milkhiker bank, “to stay [be left] on the dairy bench.” A bank, literally “bench,” was what would now be called a counter or food preparation area, and every kosher home had both a milkhike and a fleyshike bank. To be left […]

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Shlok this way

I received an e-mail recently from a reader who says, “My parents both came from Russia and I grew up in Brooklyn. I spoke nothing but Yiddish at home and I like to think that I can still speak it pretty well. My question is about the word schlock. I know what it means in […]

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Too much matzo on Pesach

The idea crops up periodically, generally on Passover, when the khomets-starved brains of certain West Coast executives––addled, some say, by a surfeit of matzoh-brei––go into overdrive and begin to smell money where the rest of us see nothing but Nyafat: “Why don’t we do a Jewish version of The Godfather?”

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Passover – the breaking of unwanted bonds

Passover is all about the breaking of unwanted bonds: three different people have e-mailed me this week about an idiom that likens the dissolution of a business relationship to the breakdown of a marriage. If things go wrong between partners or associates, you can say that they are oys mekhutonim, “no more relatives-by-law.” The image […]

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Passover, roller derby and khad gadye

It happens every year. The lines in the Passover-shopping section last night awakened long dormant memories of Roller Derby and kheyder. There was plenty of shoving in both, but the Roller Derby players made a better living than my rebbes, even though they all engaged in behavior that would have landed them in the Haggadah […]

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Michael Wex and the Kosher Easter bunny

I saw it. I bought it. I ate it after Pesach and I loved it. I’d dreamed of it for years and it didn’t disappoint. A chocolate Easter bunny with a hekhsher is exactly the sort of thing that led my family out of Europe: full participation in general society without any sacrifice of Jewish […]

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Hernias in Yiddish

I’ve been lifting weights like a madman lately, trying to work off the winter’s tsholnt before bikini season hits, and so far all I’ve got is a kileh, the most-beloved Yiddish word for “hernia.” Old school Yiddish-speakers will be quick to tell you that the two afflictions that once characterized Yiddish and were apparently endemic […]

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Lacrosse at Jewish Summer Camp?

The list of what to send to camp with my daughter arrived this week. They want her to bring a lacrosse stick. Tsaytn derlebt, as my parents used to say, “Look what we’ve lived to see”: a Jewish camp where they play lacrosse, a sport that exists only in order to realize all of my […]

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