Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Who (and what) is heimish?

I don't claim to know what the word heimish means, and fully acknowledge that context is everything. To illustrate the problem, I submit for your consideration the following usages. All of them are real.

(1) A guy in shul learns that the frum, black-hat wearing fellow sitting next to him speaks no Yiddish and has no Hasidic ancestors. "Really," he blurts out, "You don't have no heimish background?"

DEFINITION: Of  hasidic heritage

(2) The people in one shul are denigrating the shul next door. "I don't know how they can call that a sholashudis," someone says, "No herring, no singing, no hashem maylich (*) -- its not heimish at all.

DEFINITION: Having a hasidic flavor or style.

(3) A marriage broker is attempting to sell a set of parents on the merits of a prospective groom "He's a good learner and he comes from a heimish family."

DEFINITION: See 1 and 2 above, or: Our kind of person

(4) The members are very proud of their shul. One boasts: "We don't have a lot of rules here, and we're very loose about paying dues. It's a very heimish place

DEFINITION: Comfortable, warm and friendly.

(5) The store is bragging about it's kosher certification. "We have a very heimish hashgocha"

DEFINITION: Scrupulous and strict

(6) The store is bragging about its food "We serve a very hemish kugel"

DEFINITION: Delicious, old fashioned.

(7) A modern orthodox (**) shul bills itself in print and web advertisements as heimish

DEFINITION: Warm, but also, soulful or supportive. Also a way to indicate that the shul is considerate of the emotional needs of the congregants (blech).

(*) Hasidic places turn shalishudis singing into something approaching a prayer service, the highlight of which is the responsive reciting of HASHEM MAY'lech, HASHEM  MOO'loch, HASHEM YIM'loich, le'OY'lom VOO'aid (a) It is led by the rabbe/rabbi or some visiting senior citizen who happens to be wearing hasidic livush.(b)

(**)Why do I say they're MO? (1) They self-identify that way; (2) Natan Slifkin once visted as a scholar-in-residence; (3) They have a scholar-in-residence program; (4) They have a youth program; (5) They have a sisterhood, not a neshei. Most would never consider such a place to be heimish

(a) Transliteration provided by HH. Much better than what I had up earlier.

(b) We do this in my own shul. One of my (very few) grievances against the rabbi is that all of us, at times, bring our fathers and father-in-laws to sholashudis, but only men wearing shtreimals are invited to lead the performance; those who are dressed like someone who was born after 1850 are never given this honor. The Rabbi himself is a non-hasid, who wears an ordinary black hat. Perhaps he takes it for granted that the normals wouldn't see the invitation as an honor or (more likely) might not know what to do.

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