Thoughts on Yiddish and Yiddishkeit

I find it interesting that so many Yiddish words have crept into the English language in recent years. Years ago, it was a novelty to hear the word chutzpah come from the mouth of a movie or T.V. personality who you were certain was not Jewish Not anymore! Today, words such as schlep, tush, kibitzer and even goniff are commonplace.

On shows like The Nanny which was quite popular a few years ago,you expected to hear Yiddishisms, because Fran Fein and her family played Jewish characters. As a matter of fact, the writers used her Jewishness as jumping off points to add what they considered humor to their scripts. It seems that her softig mother (played by Renee Taylor who is Italian) frequently said such things as fancy-schmancy (not Yiddish but certainly identified with the language) and schmegeggie. She, it seems, was interested in only two things - getting her daughter married off and eating. Talk about stereotyping!

In his show, Jerry Seinfeld never hid the fact that he was Jewish and usually had at least one Yiddishism in every episode. Not only did he use the words, but also featured Jewish life cycle events including a wedding, bris, and Bar Mitzvah. Sometimes I laughed at his schtick: other times I found myself cringing when the Jewish characters appeared to be money hungry, status hungry or just hungry. Perhaps I'm a bit too sensitive about such things, but frankly, I wish they would feature Jews who care about other people, who help preserve the environment or who just have menschlikite qualities. There are sure plenty of those kinds of folks around. I know because some of them are my best friends.

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