Ode to the Yiddish Language



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Opinion & Society

Yiddish: Objective

By Linda Reck

Yiddish, it's not a
Subtle language,
An immigrant's tongue used
By greenhorns pouring
Into New York ghettoes
To live in
Overcrowded tenements.
Black and white words
In counterpoint;
Uncompromising, they spill
Out dramatically,
With unrestrained emotion.
Yiddish, it's a harsh language
Fit only for the street,
A gutter tongue tossing
Out hard
Hail pellet words.
Listen to the 'k's,
Shnook, trombenik, shtunk;
They cluck and peck at you.
Chutzpanyik, nudnik, clutz,
In staccato cadence they
Beat a raw tattoo.
Yiddish, how contemptuous
It sounds;
Strident as a pushcart
Vendor's shouts,
Attacking both Jew and non-Jew:
Gonef, finagle, fegin,
And the worst of all
Goy: The Goyim:
God forbid you should marry one!
It's a shande-
A slap in the face.
Yiddish, it's the coarse
Cry of the yentes
Raucously clamoring
To be heard.
Schlemiel, shnorrer, dumpkopf:
It snipes at the whole mishpocheh.
Such a momza; stop kvetching;
You believe that fekokteh story?
I'll give you a kayn aynhoreh!
The yente
She's got chutzpah!
Yiddish, it's a soft rhythmic
Cradle, full of 'l's, rolling
Out like dough.
Bubbeleh, ketseleh, maydeleh,
A soothing lullaby, warm
As a baby's blanket;
Mazel, qvell, shayne kinder
Have some ruggelah.
Smell the challah.
Inviting kitchen words 
Come, meine kinder,
Yiddish, it's such a
Flurry of commotion,
Ongepotchket, full of schmutz
And tchotchkes.
Hurry, dust, hurry, hurry!
Cook the cholent,
Bake the babkah, the kugel.
Sizzling potato latke sounds
Pepper the house
In preparation for Shabbat,
A day of quiet
Yiddish, it's a tongue
Of contrasts: a dichotomy.
It's intolerant, emphatically so,
Flamboyant and schmaltzy,
A blaze of firecrackers;
Yet gentle as a confetti rain,
Warm and cinnamon-scented
A strudel.
So there you have it 
The language of
My ancestors.


Linda Reck is a retired 6th Grade Teacher from the Bronx


from the August 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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