Scripps National Spelling Bee by the Forward

The First Word Of The Day At The Scripps Spelling Bee Was ‘Yiddishkeit’

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The first word posed in competition this morning on the first day of the storied Scripps National Spelling Bee was “yiddishkeit,” a beloved phrase from Yiddish that sums up Ashkenazi Jewish culture in a manner akin to the term Americana.

More technically, the word means “Jewish character or quality,” “Jewish way of life” or “Jewishness,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The contestant who got the word asked its language of origin right away. “Yiddish,” was the answer, of course.

“I don’t know what I expected,” he deadpanned in response.

Yiddishkeit is used to refer to things that just ooze Jewishness — specifically Ashkenazic/Eastern European Jewishness — such as shtiebels, taking a whiskey break in the middle of Shabbat morning services, food from Russ & Daughter’s, etc.

But the word also gets ascribed to non-Jews on a fairly regular basis, for instance in these Forward articles on Pete Seeger and Nat “King” Cole.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at feldman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

Author

Ari Feldman

Ari Feldman

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. He covers Jewish religious organizations, synagogue life, anti-Semitism and the Orthodox world. If you have any tips, you can email him at feldman@forward.com. Follow him on Twitter @aefeldman.

Scripps National Spelling Bee Starts With ‘Yiddishkeit’

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The First Word Of The Day At The Scripps Spelling Bee Was ‘Yiddishkeit’

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