Home Living Jewish A Jewish way with words – Part two

A Jewish way with words – Part two

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein

“My father never lived to see his dream come true of an all-Yiddish-speaking Canada.”
David Steinberg

At least Mr. Steinberg gave us David – and many other Jewish parents gave us sons and daughters who have been able to help us crack a smile or make a serious point with a handful of well-chosen words. Today, more Jewish sayings to ponder, amuse and share. (Bookmark these sites for next time you’re called upon to deliver a speech and are looking for just the right line.)

First some words of wisdom from Jews about being Jewish:

  • Herman Wouk: All the prophecy of Israel turns on one simple but extremely effective idea: namely that all Israel, living and dead, from Sinai to the present hour, stands in its relation to God as a single immortal individual.
  • Albert Einstein: If relativity is proved right, the Germans will call me a German, the Swiss will call me a Swiss citizen, and the French will call me a great scientist. If relativity is proved wrong, the French will call me a Swiss, the Swiss will call me a German and the Germans will call me a Jew.
  • Elie Wiesel: A Jew can be Jewish with God, against God, but not without God.
  • Larry David: “Well I do hate myself, but it has nothing to do with being Jewish.” – in response to being called a “self-loathing Jew”, in Curb Your Enthusiasm.


MemorableQuotations.com presents wisdom from a diverse assortment of Jewish personalities, including:

  • Anne Frank: “I have often been downcast, but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time.
  • Lillian Hellman: “I like people who refuse to speak until they are ready to speak.”
  • Oscar Levant: “Strip away the phoney tinsel of Hollywood and you find the real tinsel underneath.”

And of course, from the Marxes:

  • Groucho: “Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old. All you have to do is live long enough.”
  • Karl: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”


Are you a Jewish quotes maven? Then it’s time to test your mettle. I came across several quizzes based on Torah or as they put it “Old Testament” quotes. They start off pretty easy and then get challenging. Sample question: Who made the following statement to God? “I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” To find the answer, take the quiz (or check out Exodus 4:10.)

You, of course, are familiar with Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. But did you know about its sister website, WikiQuote, “a vast reference of quotations from prominent people, books, films, proverbs, etc.”? So how quotable are Jews? Very! If you have some time on your hands, you can get lost in its quotes with 22 pages devoted to Canadian Jews (including Leonard Cohen, Irwin Cotler, and Drake), 48 pages for Israeli Jews, (Moshe Dayan, Gal Gadot, Natan Sharansky, and more.), 169 for British Jews (Sacha Baron Cohen, Oliver Sacks, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, etc.) and a whopping 602 pages of quotes devoted to American Jews (just about anybody you can think of.)

Finally, they may call it the “Mamaloshen” but brother can Yiddish dole it out when it comes to nasty (yet clever) quotes like these doozies:

  • A groys gesheft zol er hobn mit shroyre: vus er hot, zol men bay im nit fregn, un vos men fregt zol er nisht hobn. (He should have a large store, and whatever people ask for he shouldn’t have, and what he does have shouldn’t be requested.)
  • Migulgl zol er vern in a henglayhter, by tog zol er hengen, un bay nakht zol er brenen. (He should be transformed into a chandelier, to hang by day and to burn by night.)
  • A kleyn kind zol nokh im heysn. (A young child should be named after him.)

And you’ve got to hand it to the members of Congregation Kehillat Israel in Lansing, Michigan who have amassed an incredible 1,180 Yiddish sayings. Here are three:

  • A kind’s treren reissen himlen. (A child’s tears reach the heavens.)
  • Fun glik tsum umglik iz a shpan; fun umglik tsum glik iz a shtik veg. (From fortune to misfortune is a short step; from misfortune to fortune is a long way.)
  • Ven me zol Got danken far guts, volt nit zein kain tseit tsu baklogen zikh oif shlechts. (If we thanked God for the good things, there wouldn’t be time to weep over the bad.)

I started this column with David Steinberg’s Canadian dream. Let’s conclude with a Jewish quote from south of the border. “The time is at hand when the wearing of a prayer shawl and skullcap will not bar a man from the White House, unless, of course, the man is Jewish.”– Jules Farber

Next time, what they have said about the Jews. (Don’t worry. It’s nice.)

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