At least once a month, someone, usually a business acquaintance who doesn’t know much about my private life, will ask what my 14-year-old daughter is up to at her Hebrew day school, and then go on to let me know in no uncertain terms that I am a traitor to every aspect of the Yiddish language and culture from which I make most of my living, from the fondly remembered labor movement to the Yiddish-speaking Orthodoxy in which I was raised. They’re upset that someone like me, who spends so much of his time writing and lecturing about Yiddish, has been sending his kid to an Ivrit b’Ivrit (Zionist Hebew-language) day school in which the study of Yiddish is, quite literally, not an option.
Annoyance and botheration are never as well expressed as in Yiddish. Here are a few useful idioms.
Our previous installment looked at how Yiddish will often use the third person as a sign of respect. Day-to-day use of the third person in addressing male strangers is pretty much restricted to der yeed, “the Jew,” which is sometimes used instead of reb yeed, “Mister Jew,” in addressing strangers.
It all starts with TAteh, MAmeh, Dad, pa, Mom, ma
It’s a case of life imitating rhetoric. The original meaning of the phrase “Jews don’t drink” was not that Jews abstain. It didn’t even mean that Jews don’t get drunk. It meant that Jews don’t stay drunk: they don’t drink to the exclusion of all else, and such drinking as they do isn’t an end in itself but an accompaniment to other activities, often quite pious in nature. The synagogue kidesh is a perfect example — first you pray, then you refresh yourself with a drink.
Since we’ve already had a glimpse of the main categories of Yiddish food, today we’ll look at everything you need for a balanced meal: vegetable, grains, main courses, a few uniquely Yiddish side dishes and something to wash it all down with.
Categories of Kosher: Jewish law divides permitted food into three main categories: MILkhiks (dairy), FLAYshiks (meat), PARveh (neither)