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Yiddish Clubs bring Jewish folklore, humor, language to Seabrook and Cedar Crest

Created date

August 24th, 2010

Once a month, Annie Metz does her shtick. She presents humorous anecdotes and old folktales from the Yiddish theaters she frequented as a child growing up in the Bronx to 70 or 80 of her Seabrook neighbors all members of the Yiddish Fun Club. [caption id="attachment_13893" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Cedar Crest s Mameloshen Language Club reads in Yiddish, pictured during an August 3 meeting. (Photo by Amy Helmer)"] rel="same-post-13875" title="NJ0910_YiddishClub">[/caption] When Evelyn [Thau] and I started it, we didn t want it to be a scholarly program; we literally wanted it to be fun, Metz says. As program director of the club, Metz incorporates all forms of Yiddish humor into its activities, while Thau manages the logistics.

A Hamish place

At their first meeting more than one year ago in a small classroom, Metz and Thau presented Yiddish tales to a tiny group. But by the second meeting, the turnout rocked us, Thau says. The second meeting had over 80 people. They quickly outgrew the classroom and moved toSeabrook sAtrium, a large room available for catering and events. We re so proud of the fact that our community is anxious to participate and be a part of the Yiddish community here atSeabrook, Thau says, adding that several non-Jews participate as well. It s hamish [ homey or cozy in Yiddish] it s an atmosphere in which people enjoy coming together, she says.

Part of community, life

Thau, who moved toSeabrookfrom Neponsit, N.Y., almost four years ago, belonged to the temple there and was active in the Jewish community. It was easy to become active in the Jewish community here atSeabrook, she says, adding that she s more active now than she ever was during the 40 years she lived in her house. When I heard there was a Yiddish Club, I was even more excited to move here, Thau says. By the time she moved, the club had disbanded, but she soon met Metz, and they started planning a revival. Now, they have the largest club atSeabrook. Metz grew up in the Bronx, speaking Yiddish at home with her parents, who owned a fruit and vegetable market. The youngest of four by ten years, Metz often accompanied her parents to the Yiddish theater so I wouldn t bother my siblings, she says. There, I accumulated the language, the music, and the humor, which she presents to the club atSeabrook. Recently, Herb Gissen joined the crew, playing his ukulele and singing Yiddish songs. Sometimes he brings sheet music, and everybody follows and sings along, says Thau.

Flexible language

AtSeabrook ssister community,Cedar Crestin Pompton Plains, N.J., Millie Eisenberg and her neighbors discuss topics like cooking, politics, and entertainment in the Yiddish language. Meeting twice a month, the group is known as the Mameloshen Language Club. Mameloshen is the Yiddish word for mother tongue, and it is most often used to refer to the Yiddish language itself. The point being that we don t want to forget the language, Eisenberg says. A lot of us grew up speaking it in our homes, and it is part of our heritage and our memories. Eisenberg, who studied Yiddish as a child growing up on Long Island, says she enjoys the language and will frequently toss Yiddish words into everyday conversation, words as common as bagel, lox, and mazeltov. It s a flexible language that can have varying meanings depending on your inflection, she says of why she likes it. The Mameloshen Language Club meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month in the music room of the Woodland Commons Clubhouse atCedar Crest.