Culture, Global

Attention Yiddish Party People, Tonight, Sunday, December 9

Anyone else read that article in the Times recently by Natalie Angier? You know, the one where a neurophysicist teaches everyone at a symposium the steps to the Jewish hora and, OMG! Angier realizes how much fun it is to dance when, say… you know the steps. I know, I know, you don’t have to a brain surgeon (or neurophysicist) to know that participation in one’s own culture is actually enjoyable when you know the steps. Nonetheless, I’m applying for a grant to prove just that. But don’t hold your breath for my findings to be published in the Journal of Totally Fucking Obvious Things Jews Pretend Not To Know.
Anyway, that reminds me- there’s an amazing Yiddish dance party tonight, starting at 6:30, where, in conjunction with the big Yiddish dance symposium happening this afternoon, there will be something like 5 (million) Yiddish dance teachers leading and teaching Yiddish dances, along with a hot klezmer band.
It’s going to be held at the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant in the East Village 140 Second Ave. (between 8th and 9th Streets) Admission: $10.
(After the jump, find out why I’m changing my name to Old Dirty Jewess) 

And speaking of Ukrainian culture. Do you think it’s strange to hold a Yiddish dance party at a Ukrainian hall? I don’t. The interplay between Jewish and non-Jewish culture is a complex thing, with each culture influencing the other in a multitude of ways, some of which we’re only beginning to understand today. For example, I just read a scholarly paper by Wolf Moskovich (from The Politics of Yiddish, Dov Ber Kerler, ed.) about the influence of Yiddish on Belorussian and Ukrainian names. Did you know that Goy and Shaygets are traditional Ukrainian and Belorussian surnames? I quote Moskovich:

“Some Gentile family names are based on nicknames, derived from the Yiddish designation for non-Jews such as [goy and shaygets]… One may wonder why anyone would take words with pejorative connotations as family name. It should be realized, however, that people did not personally choose these names. Slavic peasants did not set out deliberately to choose their names, weighing an aesthetic or historical alternative. Instead, the names became attached to an individual and his family by customary usage. Other peasants called him by a nickname, the more pungent [heh, pungent] the better, and this stuck and became a permanent part of the family’s identity.”

Wow, right? It gets better. Some Yiddish first names were also used as pejoratives among non-Jews. If you got stuck with that nickname, it, too, may also have ended up as your surname at some point. Moskovich has a table with a number of common Yiddish names and their pejorative meanings. Let’s be real, most of them just mean dirty jew. A Shloyme was a dirty jew. A Leyb was a dirty person, a Rokhl was an old dirty Jewess [!] and a Borekh was a paramour or dirty person [Yumm, dirty Jewish paramour. Who says it’s a sacrifice only dating Jewish men? Oh wait, that was me. Anyway…]
So you’re an old dirty Jew or Jewess? Honey, it ain’t no thang. Come down to the Yiddish dance party tonight and party like it’s 1907 and meet the Borekh of your dreams (hey, that’s why I’m going). You want a Jewish family? Date Jews! You don’t have to be a neurophysicist to figure that one out. Wear your dancing shoes and bring money for pierogies (not included in cost of admission).
See all you Shloymes and Leybs there!!

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