the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: Yiddish


Neil: “Maybe I should kill off the “Neilochka” name.”

Sophia: “Why would you do that? Everyone knows you by that name.”

Neil: “That’s the problem. It would be better branding if eveyone knew me as “Citizen of the Month.” I notice that real bloggers are known by the same name as their blog. Like Redneck Mommy or The Bloggess. It is confusing that I call myself Neilochka, but the blog Citizen of the Month.”

Sophia: “You can call yourself Tuchus (*Yiddish for rear end) and it wouldn’t matter. Your blog still doesn’t make any money.”

Posted on iPhone, one minute after conversation, from passenger seat in Sophia’s Prius, on the 405

The Wealthiest Man in Town

(Mayer Kirshenblatt’s “Purim Play: The Krakow Wedding”)

(translated from the Yiddish by Neil Kramer — ok, not really)

The wealthiest man in town went to the village Rabbi and said, “All my life, I worked hard. I have become rich and successful. But now everyone in town feels jealous of me, and I feel like a stranger in my own village.  What should I do?”

The Rabbi pondered this question, like Rabbis tend to do, and then replied, “You need to convince the others, that despite your great wealth, you are the the same as they are, a man of flesh and blood, a man who laughs and cries.”

The wealthiest man in town nodded, understanding the Rabbi’s wisdom.

So, on Shabbos, the wealthiest man in town went to the home of the poorest family in the village and shared their humble Sabbath dinner.  He ate their radishes and bread.  He shared stories, and he laughed and he cried, and after the meal, he announced, “I am just like you,” and then he called his horse and carriage to take him back to his palatial  home on the hill.

The next day, the wealthiest man in town returned to the Rabbi and said the plan was as unsuccessful as getting a donkey to carry a bucket of water with his teeth.  The minute he returned to his home on the hill, everyone hated him again.  Not one person in town believed that he was “just like them.”

The Rabbi stroked his beard and thought and thought, analyzing the situation.  Finallly, he spoke.  “I think our villagers are a insecure bunch with self-esteem issues,” he said.  “Rather than telling others that you are “just like them,” which doesn’t impress them, since they don’t think very highly of themselves anyway, it is better if you say “You are just like me,” so that they will feel ennobled and inspired that you — the wealthiest man in town — see them as equals.

So, that Shabbos, the wealthiest man in town invited as many villagers as could fit into his dining room and offered them a grand feast of duck and beef and exotic vegetables, all brought in from Prague, served on his best Polish dishware.  After the meal, he toasted the group with a glass of wine and said, “You are just like me,” and then the villagers returned home, on foot, down the hill, along the dusty, rocky road, their faces souring like Kosher pickles with each step closer to their dingy village.

The next morning, the Rabbi was already stroking his beard when the wealthiest man in town arrived at the shul.   The Rabbi had already heard the not-so-favorable gossip about his grand announcement of, “You are just like me,” which was as pleasing to the town as the off-key singing voice of the butcher’s wife, who could sometimes be heard warbling Yiddish lullabies as she chased the chickens in the yard before they were killed.

The wealthiest man in town was desperate, and Rabbi was determined to find the answer.  “This appears to be a problem that even King Solomon would struggle with in solving.” he said as he opened the Talmud.  “The villagers were offended when you said, “I am just like you.”  And they were insulted when you said, “You are just like me.”  Perhaps the only solution is NOT to make any announcements at all.  True?”

The wealthiest man in town nodded, and left the rabbi, but in all honesty, he was dumbfounded by the Rabbi’s vague wisdom, but since he was the only Rabbi in town, the wealthiest man in town was stuck with his advice, and figured he better follow it.

So, on Shabbos, the wealthiest man in town suggested that the entire village throw a dinner in the center of town, with each family bringing a dish of their choice.  It was a beautiful sunset and as the darkness covered the sky like a warm blanket, the stars opened their eyes and flickered like candles.   The villagers dined on the large selection of food, from simple beans to expensive fish, which was all spread on one enormous table covered in a pearl white cloth, and the wealthiest man in town ate and drank and danced and flirted and prayed with all of the others until the next morning, and never once did he say, “I am like you” or “You are like me,” and for the first time in years, he felt like he was part of the village, and they accepted him.

Jokes in Yiddish

Humor is very important. I’d rather hear good jokes than see a naked woman in my bedroom. Of course, if the naked woman was the one telling the jokes, I wouldn’t complain. Especially if she was also carrying a corned beef sandwich.

You see, that was sort of a joke. Not a good one, but then again, you didn’t pay to come to this blog.

Sophia likes to laugh. That’s one of things that keeps us together. Tonight, we watched Bruno and Carrie Ann’s Dance Wars. The song and dance routines were so bad, that we were laughing it up. The show was like a bad high school production, and you couldn’t even blame the writer’s strike. Thankfully, it put us in a happy mood. Who said TV couldn’t couldn’t have a positive effect on personal relationships?

Since I’m on the subject of humor — how many of you have heard a guy tell a real joke in Yiddish? Probably not many of you. I don’t know Yiddish, but I imagine every joke to be much funnier in that language.

Here is a guy telling some jokes in Yiddish. I’d like to imagine that I would be like him if I was born during his generation. Eh, I probably would be too shy. It is much easier writing a blog.

(Mom, if you want to watch this, remember to turn the sound ON)

Stars of David (or My Mother Will Find This Funny)


On Wednesday, November 15, 2005, the 92nd St. Y, one of the premier cultural institutions of New York, presents a special program titled "Stars of David" — Jason Alexander, Leonard Nimoy and Kyra Sedgwick:  Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish.

Jason Alexander, Leonard Nimoy and Kyra Sedgwick:  Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish.  The "Stars of David," some of America’s most prominent Jews talk about their Jewish identity (or lack of one) and reveal how they became who they are today. Jason Alexander played George Costanza in Seinfeld. Leonard Nimoy, most famous as Mr. Spock in Star Trek, directed Three Men and a Baby and The Good Mother. Kyra Sedgwick is known for her film roles in Born on the Fourth of July and Something to Talk About and stars in TNT’s Closer. Celebrity guests subject to change.

As one of the premier Jewish bloggers in the Blogosphere,  Citizen of the Month was invited to sit down and have a pre-program discussion with the three prominent Jewish celebrities.

Neil:  Hello, all.

Leonard, Jason, and Kyra:  Hello, Neilochka.


Neil:  Let me start with you, Leonard.  What was it like playing Spock, the only Jew on the Starship Enterprise?

Leonard:  Spock was a Vulcan, not Jewish.

Neil:  I always heard that the Vulcan hand sign was a Jewish thing?

Leonard:  It’s actually based on a special priestly blessing gesture I once say in temple with my father…

Neil:  Interesting.  So, what was it like being the only Jewish actor on the set?

Leonard:  Actually, William Shatner is Jewish.  Every year on Passover, I throw this celebrity seder and…

Neil:  Is Chekhov Jewish?

Leonard:  Yes, Walter Koening is…

Neil:  Thank God he wasn’t a Russian Russian.  They’re a bunch of anti-Semites. 

Leonard:  Walter is not really…

Neil:  I was wondering about this recently — do you think there will be anti-Semitism in space?  Wherever we go, there always seems to be.  With our luck, the Jews will be blamed for every meteor shower.

Leonard:  I don’t know, but like I was saying, every Passover at my celebrity seder, Bill and I…

Neil:  Bill doesn’t really use Priceline, does he?  Because it just feeds into that "Jews are cheap" thing.

Jason:  Excuse me, Neil, if I can step in for a sec.   I really think we should focus more on the positive issues of Jewish identity.


Neil:  Yes, yes, thank you, Jason.  Actually, I was always wondering, was George Costanza Jewish?

Jason:  Well, Larry and Jerry never really specified…

Neil:  But they’re both Jewish, right?

Jason:  Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld are both Jewish, yes.

Neil:  So, why didn’t they specify that George was Jewish?

Jason:  I think NBC was too worried that the show was too Jewish.

Neil:  I see.  I guess Jerry was Jewish.  And Elaine was Jewish.

Jason:  No, Elaine was Catholic.

Neil:  Yeah, right.  Elaine was like totally Jewish.

Jason:  In the show, she was supposed to be Catholic.

Neil:  Sure.  But you know and I know that she was really Jewish.   (to Leonard)  Just like we all know that Sulu was always gay.  Right, Leonard?  You could see it in the way he held his phaser.

Leonard:  Actually, I didn’t know about him.  But I have this very funny story where one Passover, George Takei came over to my celebrity seder and he never had gefilte fish before and…

Jason:  I throw a celebrity seder, too.  A lot of Jerry’s friends come over.  Comedians.  You should hear Bob Saget read the Four Questions!  Kyra, you were once at my celebrity seder, right?

Kyra:  Yes, I was, Jason.  It was a wonderful celebrity seder.


Neil:  Kyra, I had no idea you were Jewish.

Kyra:  I am.

Neil:  You have one of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood.  But remind me again, what have you been in?

Kyra:  I’ve been in many films, including…

Neil:  But basically, you’ve most famous for being Kevin Bacon’s wife?

Kyra:  Well, maybe is some circles, but I’ve also…

Neil:  Don’t you find it ironic that someone Jewish marries someone named Bacon?

Kyra:  I think that comment is a little rude.  Kevin deeply respects the Jewish people.

Jason:  Kevin attended my celebrity seder, also.

Leonard:  Your little shindig sounds very nice, Jason, but my celebrity seder recently got a write-up in Los Angeles magazine where they called it the A-list celebrity seder.

Jason starts laughing.

Leonard:  What’s so funny?

Jason:  I’m sorry, Leonard, but George Hamilton is just not A-list any more.

Leonard:  Listen, shmendrick, how kosher are those KFC drumsticks you hawk?

Jason:  At least I’m not a pervert.  I’ve seen those sick photos you call art of naked Jewish women wearing prayer shawls.

Leonard:  My photos have been displayed in museums, you shlemazel! 

Jason:  Do you know who you’re talking to?  I’m friends with Jerry Seinfeld!  Jerry Seinfeld!

Leonard:  Like I’m scared of your scrawny nebbish friend.  And, by the way, how many failed sitcoms are you going to be in before you realize that you’ll always be George Costanza.  And he wasn’t even Jewish!

Jason and Leonard stand, ready for a fight.  Kyra runs in between them.

Kyra:  Men!  Men!  Please!  We’re all mishpocha here!

Jason:  How would you like a Vulcan hand sign in your eyes, Nimoy?

Leonard:  Your last sitcom was awful, you little pisher!  Awful!

Jason:  I spit on you, you alter kakher.  I spit on your celebrity seder!

Leonard picks up a chair, threatening Jason.

Leonard:  I’m going to break your head in half, like the afikomen!

Jason:  (in Galican Yiddish)  Sie haut gevain a courva in de momma’ s bouch.

Leonard: (in Lithuanian Yiddish)  Shainera menchen haut me gelicht in drert.

Jason wrestles Leonard to the ground and they start fighting.  Kyra runs away screaming.

Kyra:  Kevin, Kevin, help me.  A farbisener and a kvetch.  Get me away from these crazy Jews! 

Neil:  (to you, my dear readers)  Remember  —  Wednesday, November 15, 2005, the 92nd St. Y — "Stars of David" — Jason Alexander, Leonard Nimoy and Kyra Sedgwick:  Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish.

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