So Jewy

So Jewy

“I am a Jewish mother. My dying words will be, “Put a sweater on” Amanda Craig,

My kids think that I have become so Jewy.  What does Jewy mean anyway? Does it mean too Jewish? Jewish seem to describe birth or upbringing. Jewy sounds like more of a choice.

I wasn’t observant but I did not want to raise my children without religion. It was important to me that they knew where they came from. I wanted them to have an understanding of the beliefs and identity of their great grandparents who escaped pogroms to come here and of all the Jews who died in the concentration camps. I believe in traditions and rituals—whether it was lighting the Hanukkah candles, going to temple on the High Holy days, the rite of passage of asking the four questions at a Seder, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, birthday parties, the Tooth Fairy or sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed after a nightmare. These things make up much of the fabric of our childhood memories and sense of family.

I did not go to Temple every week or celebrate the Sabbath.  Secretly I wish we had done that now, more for the family to get together than real Jewish study. I learned when my children were studying for their Bar Mitzvahs that our tradition comes with all sorts of advice about how best to behave in the world. What is a person’s obligation in this chaotic world? I could have used these life lessons.

And then there is the God thing. The Ten Commandments sound pretty easy yet it seems very hard for human beings to follow them. If you do not want to follow them, then it is easier not to believe in them. Are you a person of reason or a person of faith seems to be the dialogue. Why can’t you be both?

I thought that I had done everything right in terms of creating a religious background. But one of the most cherished myths of parenting is that parents create the child. There is no guarantee that your children will absorb everything you think they will. I believe that children are born more hard-wired than one would think. The nature/nurture debate goes on.

My job is done. I did my best to raise them that a little faith is important. It is understandable that young adults feel that celebrating the Jewish holidays is hypocritical (and boring) because it no longer goes along with their beliefs. Going along with family occasions as a respect to your parents without feeling defensive is a sign of maturity. A reality of modern life is that people get to decide for themselves what to believe, and emerging adults today feel they have not just a right but an obligation to make that decision on their own.

This year the events in Charlottesville make me feel the need to be more Jewy. My obligation in this chaotic world is to increase my good deeds, study,  go to temple on the Jewish Holidays and pray for a world that has gone insane.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

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Ten Immigrant Words That New Yorkers Use

Ten Immigrant Words That New Yorkers Use

“I like good strong words that mean something…” Louisa May Alcott

Whatever their ethnic background, New Yorkers are also all a little Jewish, Spanish and Italian.

In Spanish, the word bodega means warehouse. It is a word that Spanish immigrants brought with them and it transitioned into what would be called a convenience store. Originally owned by Puerto Ricans, it found its way into mainstream New York culture. In my mind I see red and black awnings, signs advertising cold cuts and beer, dusty groceries and  people speaking Spanish. They are not necessarily Spanish owned today,  but still called a bodega. It is used like this. I’m grabbing coffee at the bodega on the corner and then I’ll get on line for tickets. On line is New York for in line. A corner is the best location for a bodega.

Schlep is a word of Yiddish origin. It means to drag, haul, trudge. Schlep can be used as a noun or a verb. He is a schlep (jerk, loser, doesn’t pull his own weight). Move on, he is not worth your time. The verb usage can also include guilt. I schlepped downtown to see you.  This can sometimes translate to, I took two trains and had to stand the whole time.  Train is what New Yorkers call the subway. 

Agita (Ah-jita)  is Italian for heartburn or anxiety. It is something you give your mother. “Don’t tell me these things, you are giving me agita.  It is a common phrase heard by New York teenagers from their moms.

Schmuck is a Yiddish word which means idiot. Is it offensive to call someone a schmuck? Only if you are the person being called one. It definitely sounds a bit harsher than idiot which might make it the better choice. Another meaning is penis. We thought that was hysterical when we were kids. 

Prosciutt.  It is pronounced pra jute. When I was growing up I thought it was the Italian word for ham. Do you want “pra jute” on that?  I never saw it spelled until I was older. I learned that it was prosciutto, a particular kind of ham.

Schvitz is a Yiddish slang term for steam bath but also used to mean sweat. You will see many people schvitzing when they are riding on a subway or bus without air conditioning in the hot, muggy summer. It is not a good look.

Goombah is little confusing to me. I always thought it was an Italian slang word meaning best friend  – like family. Whenever someone introduced me to their goombah, it was always a big Italian guy that you wouldn’t want to mess with. Fuhgedaboutit.

Schmear. I have only heard the term when ordering a bagel in New York. I think it means the right amount of cream cheese to put on a bagel – not too much, not too little. “I will have a pumpernickel bagel with a schmear”.

Paesan is short for paesano and means a fellow Italian countryman. It’s supposed to be a compliment if an Italian calls you paesan. “You love pizza like a paesan.” It is often used like homie.

Klutz. The literal translation from Yiddish would be a block of wood but it is most often used to describe a clumsy person.  That would be me. I’m such a klutz.

Bahdabing, bahdaboom.

Fly safe,

JAZ.