Common verbal greetings in the Yiddish language are: “A gutn tog!”, which means “Good day” or “Hello”, “Gutn Morgen” (Good morning), and “Gutn ovnt” (Good evening). Observant Orthodox Jews do not commonly shake hands with those of opposite gender. Nonetheless, if a hand is offered, some may shake hands in order to avoid embarrassment to the other person.
Among Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, the style of communication is usually direct and may be more straightforward than people of western cultures are used to. Honesty is highly appreciated among these communities, that are usually regarded as genuine and welcoming.
Personal Space and Touching
Modesty and privacy are very important in Orthodox and Hasidic communities. Therefore, public displays of affection between people of different genders are not common. Additionally, observant Orthodox Jews do not usually sit between two members of the opposite sex.
Eye Contact and Gestures
Direct eye contact between men and women is usually avoided by members of Orthodox and Hasidic communities. As in all cultures, non-verbal communication carries a lot of meaning. Because we already know that members of Orthodox and Hasidic communities enjoy modesty and privacy, it is advisable that, when among observant members of these communities, body language should be modest and respectful.
Some readers may be familiar with the Vulcan Salute from Star Trek. Leonar Nimoy (or Spock from Star Treck), revealed that the famous gesture had its origin in a Jewish tradition. In fact, the gesture is a blessing, used by the Cohanim (a descendant of Aaron, Moses’s brother) to bless the congregation.
Yiddish Culture Reference Guide
Yiddish Population in the United States
Yiddish Interpretation and Translation Services
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Yiddish Language Solutions
Yiddish means “Jewish”. It is the language spoken by Ashkenazi Jews, a community originally from Central and Eastern Europe. The language originated in Germany around 1,000 years ago and it has German, Hebrew, Aramaic, Slavic and Romance influences. Even though it is not the national or official language of any country, it is still spoken today on a daily basis by some members of Orthodox and Hasidic communities worldwide.
There are two main branches of Yiddish. Western and Eastern Yiddish. However, all varieties of Yiddish spoken today have evolved from the Eastern Yiddish dialect, or modern Yiddish. The Eastern dialect is divided into northern and southern dialects. The southern dialect is then subdivided into two major dialects: Mideastern and Southeastern.
This dialect became extinct through assimilation and because of the Holocaust. Formerly, it was spoken in western Europe, mainly in Germany, Holland, France, Switzerland, and Hungary. Unlike Eastern Yiddish, the western dialect did not suffer Slavic influences.
Commonly referred to as Lithuanian Yiddish, it is spoken in the areas of Lithuania, Belarus, Latvia, parts of northeastern Poland, eastern Ukraine, and western Russia. The northeastern dialect has retained vowel sounds that are similar to the Germanic origins of the language. Those who speak this dialect are known as Litvaks. Literary and academic works are mostly written in this variety of Yiddish.
Also called Polish Yiddish, it is spoken in Poland, Galicia, and in parts of Hungary. Most speakers of Yiddish speak this dialect. Even though there are some differences in vocabulary and grammar, the biggest difference between this dialect, and all the others for that matter, is the sound of vowels.
This dialect includes Volhynian, Podolian, and Bassarabian-Romanian varieties. It can also be referred to as Ukrainian Yiddish. Standard Yiddish Theater’s sound system has its basis on this dialect. Ukrainian Yiddish, is said to be an intermediate dialect between northeastern and Mideastern dialects.
The title may be misleading, as Yiddish is not the official language of any country. Instead, it is the language of, primarily, some Orthodox and Hasidic communities. Before the Holocaust, between 10 and 13 million people spoke Yiddish.
Today, although the numbers may be unprecise, it is estimated that there are around 3 million Yiddish speakers worldwide. The most significant numbers of Yiddish speakers are found in countries such as the United States, Israel, Argentina, Canada, Belarus, Poland, and Latvia.
Countries Where Yiddish is the Official Language
There have been three major waves of Jewish population immigration to the United States. Due to ethnic and religious persecution, large numbers of Jewish people were forced to leave Russia and some European countries. Many, fled to the United States, arriving primarily to Ellis Island. As of 2013 it was estimated that around 160,000 Yiddish speakers lived in the United States.
Leading states with the highest Yiddish speaking population: