8 Yiddish {Jewish} Words All Moms Should Master

There is no Christmas in our house. No tree, no Santa. Our family is Jewish, which for us means December 25th is a peaceful day where we eat Chinese food and enjoy an otherworldly quiet while most of the country celebrates Christmas.

Like many religions, Judaism puts a big emphasis on doing good deeds {in Hebrew, mitzvah}. If you’re gearing up for or stressing out about the holidays, let me do a mitzvah by teaching you some Yiddish.8 Yiddish {Jewish} Words2

What is Yiddish?

I especially like this quote about Yiddish (a mix of Hebrew and German) from ThoughtCatalog.com: “Yiddish is unparalleled as a darkly comic language of complaint, a way to look on the dark side of life and laugh at it.” Most of the Yiddish I use regularly, I first heard my favorite, much missed grandma {bubbe in Yiddish} speak, or more like squawk, in her loud Charleston by way of Brooklyn and Miami accent.

1 & 2. Let’s start with the very common and useful, oy vey, for when you’re exasperated or in a “woe is me” kind of mood: “Oy vey, how can it be time for the winter holidays when everyone in New Orleans is still schvitzing {sweating}?”

3. Schlep {to carry or pull with difficulty} is already in most of American’s lexicon in the post-Seinfeld age: “I schlepped all over the city wearing the baby while looking for the perfect Menorah/New Year’s Eve outfit/Elf on the Shelf!”

4. A word that seems safe to say (at least for now) around my young kids, the meaning of which needs no explaining, is facocta, aka, f*$#ed up. “The construction Uptown is so facocta, it took me twice as long as last year to drive to the Menorah lighting at the Riverwalk/Celebration in the Oaks!”

5. Meshugana {crazy person}: “My meshugana toddler ate all the chocolate out of the Advent calendar/all of the Hanukkah gelt … she’s just like her mom!”

6. Shanda {shame}: “It’s a shanda that Christmas is only one day when Hanukkah is eight!”

7&8.  My favorite Yiddish word is keppelah {head}, which has a sweet, loving ring to it. When I was growing up, my grandma would say something like, “Come here, let me kiss your keppelah,” which made me feel even more loved than usual.

When I think about the first time I kissed each of my daughters on their keppelahs, I get verklempt {overcome with emotion}. That’s another Yiddish phrase made indelible by pop culture.

As Linda Richman, aka Mike Myers, on Saturday Night Live’s Coffee Talk might say, “I”m a little verklempt! I need a moment. Talk amongst yourselves, and happy holidays, New Orleans Mamas!”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here