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How Modern Hebrew Developed a Full-Blown Slang in Just a Hundred Years

Posted on July 24th, 2017
Philologos for Tablet Magazine  


In part, it borrowed extensively from the slangs and vernaculars of other languages. Consider the case of de la shmatte.


Adin Eichler writes:

My grandmother had a word takhlis. [Mr. Eichler spells the word in Hebrew/Yiddish characters as טאכלעס.] She’d use it in sentences like, “It’s time for takhlis,” which meant she was about to sit us down and give us a good talking-to. I never understood precisely what that meant. Do you happen to know?

Takhlis is Yiddish for practical matters or for the practical side of something, as in a sentence like lomir redn takhlis, “Let’s talk takhlis,” that is, “Let’s get down to business” or “Let’s get down to brass tacks.” Although, with the stress on its first syllable, it’s pronounced as Adin Eichler wrote it, following the rules of Yiddish spelling, you won’t find it spelled that way in a Yiddish dictionary. This is because it comes from the Hebrew word takhlit, spelled תכלית, with the stress on the last syllable. The rule in Yiddish is that all Hebrew-derived words retain their Hebrew spellings even if that is not how their sounds would ordinarily be represented in Yiddish. And yet in writing takhlis in Hebrew today, it is often Yiddishized as תכלעס (sometimes elided into תכל’ס).

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Jews in Comic Books

Posted on July 17th, 2017
BY ARIE KAPLAN for myjewishlearning.com 


How American Jews created the comic book industry.


Jews built the comic book industry from the ground up, and the influence of Jewish writers, artists, and editors continues to be felt to this day. But how did Jews come to have such a disproportionate influence on an industry most famous for lantern-jawed demigods clad in colorful tights?

First Comic Books
The story begins in 1933. During that year, the world experienced seismic changes in politics and pop culture. An unemployed Jewish novelty salesman named Maxwell Charles “M.C.” Gaines (née Max Ginzberg) had a brilliant idea: if he enjoyed reading old comic strips like Joe Palooka, Mutt and Jeff, and Hairbredth Harry so much, maybe the rest of America would, too. Thus was born the American comic book, which in its earliest days consisted of reprinted newspaper funnies. Gaines and his colleague Harry L. Wildenberg at Eastern Color Printing soon published February 1934’s Famous Funnies #1, Series 1, the first American retail comic book.

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The History of Yiddish

Posted on July 10th, 2017
BY MORDECAI WALFISH for myjewishlearning.com 


Yiddish originated in Germany, but was eventually spoken by Jews all over Europe.


In its 1,000-plus-year history, the Yiddish language has been called many things, including the tender name mameloshen (mother tongue), the adversarial moniker zhargon (jargon) and the more matter-of-fact Judeo-German.

What is Yiddish?

Literally speaking, Yiddish means “Jewish.” Linguistically, it refers to the language spoken by Ashkenazi Jews — Jews from Central and Eastern Europe, and their descendants. Though its basic vocabulary and grammar are derived from medieval West German, Yiddish integrates many languages including German, Hebrew, Aramaic and various Slavic and Romance languages.

The Origin of Yiddish

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Meet The Keeper Of Venice’s Forgotten Jewish Cemeteries

Posted on July 3rd, 2017
Jake Romm for The Forward


If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in Venice during the Biennale, there’s a piece, recently reported on by the New York Times, that seems especially worth your time – Israeli artist Hadassa Goldvicht’s “The House of Life.” “The House of Life,” “a multiscreen video installation that opened this month at the Palazzo Querini Stampalia Museum” focuses on the life of Aldo Izzo, a former ship-captain who now tends to the two Jewish cemeteries of Venice (one dates back to 1386, and one, still in use, to 1774).

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My Grandmother, the Undocumented Immigrant

Posted on June 26th, 2017
By Aaron Hamburger for Tablet Magazine 


On a recent trip to Cuba, I learned more about my grandmother’s journey to America—and the different ways my family has interpreted that piece of our history


In our family lore, we’ve regarded my grandmother’s year in Cuba as a bit of trivia in her heroic coming-to-America story, a peculiar intermezzo between the melancholy overture of shtetl life in rural Russia and the happy-ending crescendo of her American Dream. I hadn’t given it much thought until I decided to visit Havana myself in April, accompanying my husband, who was going there for work. It seemed like a rare opportunity to witness a country that had been off-limits to Americans for so long and was now going through a historic transformation.

We began preparing for the trip last fall, reading books and articles, filling out our visa applications, and loading up on essentials that our trip leaders had suggested we take along, like over-the-counter medications or extra rolls of toilet paper, which we were warned were not easily obtainable in Cuba because of the American embargo that’s still in effect.

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