Intro to Languages and Judaism
Essential Yiddish Words
Additional Studies

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There are 4 languages are associated with Judaism:
Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino (the language of medieval Spanish Jewry), and Aramaic (part of the Bible is written in Aramaic).

Getting information about Hebrew simply requires typing in the word and pressing "search" on any of the popular internet search engines. Considerable numbers of websites will become available offering every multimedia type of learning tool.

Aramaic and Ladino can be learned at colleges which offer courses in ancient languages.  Columbia University and UCLA should be checked for information.  There are websites for both Ladino and Aramaic if anyone is interested.

If Hebrew is the language of ancient and modern Israel, then Yiddish is the language of the heart and soul of the European shtetl (town). It is a language of great humor and pathos.  Many places offer courses in Yiddish but there doesn't seem to be any one listing.  This website encourages all Jews by Choice to get a feeling for this wonderful language. Many words pepper the media and the beginner should listen carefully for "yiddishisms".  Yes, you CAN learn Yiddish.  Colin Powell has! To start you off, here is list of essential words and meanings.

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Essential Yiddish Words

 1. oi vey - something to say when you have a headache.  It means Oh my.
 2. tuches-your behind
 3. tchachkes-dust collectors, like little statues around the house which
     have no purpose other than to collect dust.
 4. macheteniste-THE mother-in-law.  Make sure your house is dust free
     when she visits.
 5. farklempte-choked up
 6. yenta-a busybody
 7. a schmooze-an easy going conversation
 8. mensch- a person to be admired, someone who acts nobly as in
     "He's a real mensch."
 9.  schpiel-a long-winded story.
10. bubbie-grandma, zayde-grandpa
11. schtick-mannerism peculiar to a particular person.  
      For example "Mel Brook's schtick make me laugh."
12. tsores-troubles.  ''Oi, have I got tsores."
13. shanda-a disgrace.  ''She ran off with the baker. What a shanda."
14. hamish-warm and loving.  "He's a real hamish person."
15. schmutz-dirt
16. himmel-sky
17. gansa macha- a big deal. "He thinks he's a gansa macha."
18. balabusta-a great housekeeper
19. schmata- a rag
20. schlep-to drag, a person who lacks enthusiasm. "He's
      a real schlep or stop schlepping along."
21. chutzpah- nerve. "'He's got a lot of chutzpah asking me for money."
You're on your way to learning Yiddish.  Please practice using these words frequently and listen for yiddishism as they are said on TV and in the movies.  We thank Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn for his spelling and translations of some of these words.

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 1. - The web page for the Workmen Circle- information about Yiddish classes in various states.
 2. The University of Indiana (Bloomington) - recently recruited Dov-Ber Kerler to occupy the the new Alice Field Cohn Chair in Yiddish.
 3. The Oxford Institute For Yiddish Studies - Oxford, UK,
 4. On-line Yiddish Course, a project of the Dora Teitelboim Center for Yiddish Culture and Florida International University.  The course is taught from a Florida International University classroom
 5. The University of Texas, and Columbia University offer classes in Yiddish.
 6. The Rena Costa Center for Yiddish Studies at Bar-IIan University in Israel, (212) 673-3460
 7. The National Yiddish Book Center at
 8. YIVO Institute for Jewish Research -
 9. Moscow Jewish University
10. Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY. offers Summer Studies in Judaic Studies and some relate to Yiddish -
11. Vilnius Program in Yiddish-Vilnius, Lithuania
12. The Secular Yiddish Schools in America Collection at Stanford University www.FSYSA.ORG
13. For information about Yiddish-speaking groups of young adults visit,

If you think you cannot learn a language, please visit Baruch Gershom's web page.  A convert to Orthodox Judaism, Baruch translated a section of the Bible written in Aramaic

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Hebrew is the language of the Bible and of the Jewish people in Israel. It is essential to learn the language so that Biblical texts can be read in their original form. There is a huge reservoir of information to help people learn Hebrew.


The National Jewish Outreach


This organization offers free Hebrew classes. Allows you to learn Hebrew and Jewish prayer through the use of multi-media aids. The whole bible narrated in Hebrew and the Troupe Trainee for Bar/Bat Mitzvah are offered.




Hebrew with "Ulpan- Or" located in Jerusalem


Ulpan Akiva- A Non-profit educational center where modern Hebrew is taught against the natural background of the Bible in the land of Israel. Located in Netanya.


Ulpan center in Manhattan