Kirk Douglas and The Forverts

Remember the movie “Hester Street”? It was based on the writing of Abe Cahan, who was editor of the Yiddish newspaper, The Forverts (The Forward).  The link above is to a funny story about it as told to my daughter…

Kirk Douglas

On this occasion of his passing, take a moment to hear Mr. Douglas in 2002 singing in Yiddish when he received a lifetime achievement award. The song is Mayn Yidishe Meydele, My Jewish Girl, link below. You won’t believe his eloquent speech and presentation despite suffering a stroke. Such a poignant reminiscence perhaps only a gifted actor could convey.

Olev hasholem.

Camp Nitgedaiget

If I didn’t have photos of this you would think I was making it up: During the depression my mother, poppa, my aunts and I went to a summer camp in Beacon, N.Y. called Camp Nitgedaiget. This was not a fancy place. In fact, it was originally founded by Communists! But what did I know? I was a kid. Here are some pictures, and to hear all about it, scroll down to play the audio where I explain it to my daughter.

Bottom row center, Aunt Goldie; bottom right, Aunt Anna


Aunt Goldie at the pool

Play the audio clip below to hear all about Camp Nitgedaiget…

My Mother’s Favorite Joke

You would not believe the week I just had. It was beyond belief.

But now back to the blog: Below you will see a very old photo of my mother and me taken on the rooftop of our building on 69th Street in Bay Ridge. I won’t reveal my age due to security reasons but this photo was taken in the early 1920s.

If you have moment, I also wanted to tell my mother’s favorite joke. Please click on the audio player below the picture…

The Definition of Chutzpah


I have just learned from an actual accountant that the IRS has been hacked and codes used for electronic filing have been compromised.

Now, is that chutzpah or what? How can they think they will get away with that?

I have a feeling this is not going to be pretty.

The Inaugural Explained in Yiddish


I am not going to spout my opinion of the President. I won’t politicize or pontificate. I will bite my tongue and not say a word. But my mother, if she were still here, would have said something in Yiddish at a time like this:

Es iz a lebedike velt.

Click the audio player below to hear me explain it as best I can…

“Senty” Claus

Photo: Charles Rondeau
Photo: Charles Rondeau

Jewish or not, as a little girl, I got a present every Christmas. I’d wake up in the morning–of course I didn’t want to sleep–and Poppa and Momma would be there and there would be a present on top of my feet. I always knew it would be there. Whatever it was, I was hocking them about it all year long and it would be on my bed Christmas Day, absolutely. And Poppa would be laughing his head off and he would always say, “Senty Claus was here!”

One year I drove them crazy. I drove them out of their minds. I only wanted this xylophone toy with a hammer to play. Sure enough, Christmas morning, there it was on my bed.

Donald Trump Explained in Yiddish

trumpA certain political candidate finds himself in hot water. Perhaps you know someone like this: They are unable to think before they talk. They have no “filter” and just come out and say whatever is on their “mind.” My mother had a Yiddish expression for this type of person:

Voss iz bei ihm afn ling iz bei ihm afn tzing.

What’s on his lung is on his tongue.



How My Husband Got His Name

A boy called "Wolf"
A boy called “Wolf”

Velvel (his Yiddish name), pictured above, was born in London in 1914. When his parents went to record his birth, they told the registrar his name was “Wolf,” the English for Velvel. The well-meaning bureaucrat advised, “He’s going to be a nice English boy. You don’t want to call him ‘Wolf’. Why not call him Walter?” And that is how my husband got his name.

Mind, you, Wolf is a perfectly good English name. Remember the writer Wolf Mankowitz who wrote “A Kid for Two Farthings?” It was made into a film with Celia Johnson and Diana Dors.

So there’s nothing wrong with a kid called Wolf.

When Harry Met Fanny

Harry, Fanny, Fanny, and Harry (left to right)
Harry, Fanny, Fanny, and Harry (left to right)

Pictured in the photo are two couples both named Harry and Fanny. On the left are my cousins from Providence, and on the right are my parents. At one time, the name Fanny was very popular for girls. You may remember the comedienne Fanny Brice who was the subject of the musical and movie Funny Girl.  I must have had at least six relatives named Fanny. It may have a lot of meanings and origins in names including Frances. But “Fanny” has fallen somewhat out of favor among English speakers. Click the player below to hear the Yiddish meaning of my mother’s name, “Fanny.”

Holy Shidduch!

A “shidduch” is a match made for an arranged marriage. Click the player below to hear it used in a typical sentence…