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Yiddish Culture in American Jewish Life
Yiddishania: The Gantzeh Cholent

This course was offered in Fall, 2017.

In this four-session course produced by KlezCalifornia, we will explore different facets of Yiddish Culture in American Jewish Life. We'll cover a basic introduction of Yiddish language and history, look at family, food, holiday practices, klezmer music, painting, photography, and more. Sessions are organized thematically. More details below.

  • Session 1: Intro to Yiddish Language & History
    What is Yiddish and where did it come from? Listen to and learn a simple Yiddish song, a few Yiddish words and phrases and see how Jewish values are conveyed through songs. Learn a bit about 1,000 years of Jewish history that was lived in Yiddish. Yiddish words in English, simple Yiddish phrases, holiday names, how words in other languages made their way into Yiddish.

  • Session 2: Yiddish Culture in American (Jewish) Life
    In Your Family. Participants look at their roots, including where their ancestors came from, sources of their family names and personal names, foods, holiday practices.

    In American Jewish Life. Religious practices and home practices, such as Torah chanting trope, kol nidre melody, dreydls, klezmer music at simkhes, Yiddish phrases, what we mean by Ashkenazi Jewish food.

    In American Life. Yiddish words in English, food, humor, American institutions created by Yiddish-speaking Jews, klezmer influences on jazz.

  • Session 3: Klezmer & Yiddish Music
    Klezmer was originally Jewish wedding music. It tells us about the lives and celebrations of many of our ancestors. Prepare to listen, learn, and maybe to dance! Jewish lives in Yiddish song: Listen to, sing and discuss a few Yiddish songs to find out about the lives and history of Yiddish-speaking Jews

  • Session 4: The Gantzeh Cholent
    Yiddish Life in Painting & Photography. Explore paintings and photographs from or about Eastern Europe for clues to Jewish history, and today’s customs and practices.
    The Language Debates: What Languages “Should” Jews Speak? What languages have you studied and why? We explore these issues through historical Jewish debates about language.


# Sessions
Date & time

Thursdays, October 19 - November 9
7:00 - 8:30 pm

$75 for the public
$60 for members
Session Time Days Location Instructors
Oct 19 7:00 PM–8:30 PM Thu JCCEB Ken Blady
Oct 26 7:00 PM–8:30 PM Thu JCCEB Tsvi Bar-David
Nov 02 7:00 PM–8:30 PM Thu JCCEB Gerry Tenney
Nov 09 7:00 PM–8:30 PM Thu JCCEB Tsvi Bar-David


JCC East Bay

1414 Walnut Street

Berkeley, CA 94709



Tsvi Bar-David

Rabbi Tsvi Bar-DavidRabbi Tsvi Bar-David was raised in an American Yiddish-speaking household. Both his parents (aleyhem ha-sholem) were native speakers of Yiddish from Eastern Europe. Reb Tsvi is known to frequently pepper his English with Yiddish phrases, some common in American culture, such as, “Their politics are a complete mishegas!" Some he learned from his parents, notably his mother, who just passed away at the age of almost 101, such as, "If you look too closely everything is treyf (not kosher)!" He enjoys reading Yiddish texts, especially when they include a lot of Hebraish (Hebrew-derived words). Reb Tsvi, fluent in more than one language (English), will use his linguistic skills to create classes that are a real fargenign - a real pleasure - for his students.

Ken Blady

Ken BladyKen Blady is a Jewish educator, author and translator of seven works from Yiddish. He was born in Paris, France, and grew up in Chassidic Brooklyn, where he attended yeshiva and rabbinical seminary. A San Francisco Bay Area resident since 1972, Ken has a B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley, and an M.A. in Clinical Counseling from California State University, East Bay. He is the author of “Jewish Communities in Exotic Places,” among other works. Ken has been featured on a number of radio and T.V. talk shows, including The History Channel documentary, “Operation Magic Carpet,” about the airlift of the Jews of Yemen to Israel.

Gerry Tenney

Gerry TenneyGerry Tenney is a musician, recording artist, children’s entertainer, leader of the bands California Klezmer and The Lost Tribe, and president of KlezCalifornia, a Bay Area organization supporting Yiddish culture. He directed the local Jewish Music Festival in its early years and organized the first klezmer camp in California. He performs in the musical comedy duo of the Kvetchy Cowboys with Arje Shaw. He composed music for “Rebels with a Cause,” a 2000 documentary film about the Students for a Democratic Society.