[Mendele] Mendele Volume 18 number 18

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Sat Jan 31 21:31:15 EST 2009

Mendele: Yiddish literature and language

Contents of Vol. 18.018
January 31, 2009

1) gembl (Yankl Levitow)
2) Luftmensch (Violet Lutz)
3) ashlekh (Yankl Berger)
4) ashlekh (Sam Millman)
5) ashlekh (Leonard Fox)
6) Information about Yiddish actress Betty Kaye sought (Larry Rosenwald)
7) plotke (Bob Rothstein)
8) plotke (Zulema Seligsohn)
9) Yiddish-Byelorussian dictionary (Leonard Fox)

Date:  January 20, 2009
Subject: gembl

Ot iz a frage vos mayner a bakanter hot mir geshtelt un vos ikh hob beshum
oyfn nit gekent entfern.  Der bakanter -- aleyn a rusisher yid fun odes --
fregt vos iz taytsh funem rusish-yidishn vort "gembl" (rusish:
ge-ye-em-be-ye-el-myerkiznak). Er git iber a dialog in a gemish fun rusish
un yidish vos er hot gezen oyf der internets:

"Nu, iz vus zhe?  Teper vsya Moldavanke (der yidisher gegnt in Odes) budyet
imet ay grose gembl?" "Oden gembl, tsvey gembl -- ot azoy nasha zhizn."

Oyf yidish:  "Nu, iz vos zhe? Itst vet gants Moldovanke hobn a groyse
gembl?" "Eyn gembl, tsvey gembl...ot azoy iz undzer lebn!"

A sheynem un a hartsikn dank in faroys.

Here is a question which an acquaintance of main asked me and which I
couldn't begin to answer. He - himself a Russian Jew from Odessa - asked me
for the meaning of the Russian Yiddish word, "gembl." He reported to me a
dialogue in a mixture of Russian and Yiddish which he saw on the internet:

"So, what do you think? Now all of Moldovanke will have a big gembl?'"
"One gembl or two gembls -- that's how our life is!"

The translation from Russian is my friend's. Many thanks to everyone in

Yankel Levitow

Date: January 20, 2009
Subject: Luftmensch in Nordau's writing

Responding to Lawrence A. Coben -- this reference may help you: Steven A.
Aschheim, in his book "Brothers and Strangers. The East European Jew in
German and German Jewish Consciousness, 1800-1923" (University of Wisconsin
Press, 1982, 1999), credits Nordau with popularizing the notion of the
Luftmensch in 1901 (see p. 87), citing the speech Nordau gave at the Fifth
Zionist Congress in Basel in December; it is in Nordau's collected Zionist
writings, "Zionistische Schriften" (1909, 2nd ed. 1923; "Kongressrede,"
1901). The 1902 "American Jewish Yearbook" (available on Google books)
gives a synopsis of the paper in English (p. 81), rendering the title as
"The Physical, Spiritual and Economic Elevation of the Jewish People."

Maybe it would interest you to know that the young Martin Buber -
undoubtedly influenced by Nordau's ideas - used the term "Luftmensch" in
his article "Ein geistiges Centrum" [A Spiritual Center] published in the
Oct. 1902 issue of the German-Jewish periodical "Ost und West" (pp. 665,
666) -- available in English in: "The First Buber. Youthful Writings of
Martin Buber" edited and translated by Gilya G. Schmidt (Syracuse UP,

At the same time that the idea of the "Luftmensch" was occurring in these
polemical writings, Martin Buber and other young Zionists in the German
milieu were giving Yiddish literature in translation a major role in their
German-language publications.

Violet Lutz

[Editor's note: Jordana de Bloeme provides the same citation for

Date:  January 19, 2009
Subject: ashlekh

I suspect it is derived from shallots. In Quebec it is called ?chalote.

Yankl Berger

Date: January 20, 2009
Subject: ashlekh

Responding to the inquiry by Perets Mett as to Yiddish words for scallions,
my recollection is that my parents used the word "tsibulkes." I don't know
its origin, or how prevalent was the use of this word. My parents were from
Bessarabia and, apparently, it was common usage in those parts.

Sam Millman

Date: January 19, 2009
Subject: ashlekh

This subject was discussed in Mendele Yiddish Literature and Language, vol.
4.210 and vol. 4.211.

Leonard Fox

Date: January 26, 2009

I'm posing a query for a friend; she's wondering whether any readers of
Mendele might have information about her grandmother, whose stage name was
Betty Kaye and who was active in the Yiddish theater in Philadelphia
somewhere around 1928. Her birth name was Bella Bloom, her married name
Betty Klein (she probably didn't use her married name in the theater). She
also had a radio program called something like "Dos khazente- meydl," in
which she sang a lot of cantorial tunes. Does anyone have information about
her or suggestions about where to get it?

A hartsikn dank,
Larry Rosenwald

Date: January 19, 2009
Subject: plotke

Polish "plotka" means "gossip." It is derived from a verb that means
"weave" but also "babble; speak nonsense," and that is etymologically
related to English "flax" and the Latin-origin combining elements "-plex"
and "-plect."

Bob Rothstein

Date:  January 20, 2009
Subject: plotke

Lillian Siegfried asks whether "plotke" is Yiddish, Polish or Russian. It
is in Harkavy's Yidish Dictionary, but he refers the word to the preferred
spelling "plyotke." There is a Polish word, "plotka," with the same
meaning: slander, rumor, etc.

Zulema Seligsohn

Date:  January 10, 2009
Subject: Yiddish-Byelorussian dictionary.

Readers who are familiar with the Byelorussian language may be interested
in the following book, which was just listed in the most recent MIPP
catalog of new publications in Judaica:

Idysh-belaruski slounik.
Yiddish-Byelorussian dictionary.

About 25,000 dictionary entries, 50,000 words, more than 5000 proverbs,
many idioms and quotations.

It can be ordered from: catalog at mippbooks.com

Leonard Fox
End of Mendele Vol. 18.018

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