Dancing in my Mother's Slippers

Hebrew/Yiddish Glossary
and Pronunciation Guide

Note: “ch” is pronounced like a guttural h (kh), not like the “ch” in “cheer.”

aron (ah-ROHN). The Holy Ark where the Torah scroll is kept; burial casket, traditionally made of pine or another simple wood and without nails.

aliyah (ah-lee-YAH); pl. aliyot (ah-lee-OT). Literally, to go up; to be called up to the bimah to bless the Torah. To make aliyah: to become an Israeli citizen.

Ani baMakom (ah-NEE bah-mah-KOHM). I am in this place, I am within God.

bar/bat mitzvah (bar/baht MITZ-vah). Son/daughter of the commandments; celebration of the transition from childhood to adulthood within the Jewish tradition.

bikkur holim (bee-KOOR hoh-LEEM). The mitzvah of visiting the sick.

bimah (BEE-mah). The raised area in a synagogue where the Holy Ark is located and where the Torah is read.

bracha (brah-KHAH); pl: brachot (brah-KHOHT). Blessing.

chai (KHY, rhymes with “eye”). Life, equal to the number eighteen in the Hebrew numbering system. Gifts of money are commonly given in multiples of eighteen to signify a gift of Life. Pl. chayim (khy-IM). L’chayim: a toast, “To Life.”

challah (KHAL-lah). The ritual braided egg bread eaten by Jews on Shabbat.

Chanukah (KHAH-nu-kah). A Jewish festival of eight days commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple and the rekindling of the Holy Light.

chanukiah (khah-nu-kee-AH). Candelabrum (menorah) with nine lights used during Chanukah. Each of eight lights corresponds to one of the eight days of Chanukah. The ninth light is used to kindle the other eight.

charoses (Yiddish: khah-ROH-sis). A mixture of chopped apple, nuts, cinnamon and wine, used at the Passover Seder to represent the mortar used by the slaves in Egypt.

chevra kadisha (KHEV-rah kah-DEE-shah). Jewish burial society.

chevruta (khev-RU-tah). A traditional form of Torah study in partnership.

chutzpah (Yiddish: KHUTZ-pah [u, as in push]). Audacity.

erev (EH-rehv). Evening; the eve of a Jewish holiday. The Jewish Sabbath and holidays begin at sunset.

gimilut chasadim (gim-ee-LOOT khah-sah-DEEM). Acts of lovingkindness.

haftarah (hahf-tah-RAH). Literally means “conclusion.” Refers to the concluding part of the Torah Service, which consists of a reading from the Book of Prophets. The tradition began when Jews were not allowed to read Torah, so they read a portion from Prophets which reminded them of the weekly Torah portion.

haolam haba (hah-oh-LAM hah-BAH). The world to come.

HaMakom (hah-mah-KOHM). The Place, a name of God.

Imah, Imahleh (EE-mah, EE-mah-leh). Mama, little mama; an affectionate name.

Kabbalat Shabbat (kah-bah-LAHT shah-BAT). A late afternoon/early evening service of songs and psalms which welcomes in Shabbat.

Kaddish (KAH-dish). A Jewish prayer recited in community which glorifies God’s name; one version is the mourner’s prayer.

kavanah (kah-vah-NAH). Intent; one prepares to pray by gathering oneself and focusing intent.

Kibitzing (Yiddish: KIB-its-ing). Joking, fooling around.

koach (KOH-akh). Strength.

kugel (Yiddish: KUH-g’l [u, as in push]). Pudding, usually made of noodles or potatoes, also bread or rice; can be sweet or savory.

Magen David (mah-GEHN dah-VEED). Star of David, national symbol of the state of Israel.

matzoh (MAH-tsah). Crisp, thin unleavened bread used during Passover.

maven (MAY-vin). Expert, a knowledgeable person.

mazal tov (Hebrew: mah-ZAL tohv; Yiddish: MAH-zel tuhv). Congratulations. Good luck. Literally, good stars or, may your planetary influences be favorable.

menorah (meh-NOH-rah). The oldest Jewish symbol. A seven-branched candelabrum used in the Holy Temple.

met. The body of a deceased person.

mikvah (MIK-vah). Ritual and spiritual immersion in water from a natural source.

minyan, (Hebrew: min-YAHN; Yiddish: MIN-yuhn); pl. minyanim (min-yahn-EEM). Group of ten Jews who gather for formal communal prayer.

Misheberach (mee-sheh-BEHR-akh). “May the one who blessed....” The beginning words of special blessings done after reading Torah on occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, or when there is a need for healing.

mitzraim (mitz-RAH-eem). Egypt; narrow place.

mitzvah, (MITZ-vah) pl. mitzvot (mitz-VOHT). Commandment(s) required of Jews; a responsibility; a good deed or charitable act.

Modah Ani (MOH-dah ah-NEE). I am grateful.

Pesach (PAY-sakh). Jewish festival of freedom. Literally, to pass over. In English, known as Passover. The holiday lasts for eight days and commemorates Israel’s deliverance from enslavement in Egypt.

Rosh Hashanah (ROSH ha-shah-NAH). The Jewish New Year, one of the High Holy Days. Literally, head of the year.

seder (SAY-dehr). Literally, order. Passover service and ritual meal that tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Sefer Torah (SAY-fehr TOH-rah). Torah scroll.

Shabbat (shah-BAHT), Ashkenazi pronunciation (by Jews of central and eastern Europe): Shabbos (SHAH-bus). The Jewish Sabbath. A day of rest and renewal which begins Friday at sunset and lasts until three stars appear in the sky on Saturday night.

Shavuot (Shah-voo-OHT). Feast of Weeks. Jewish holiday commemorating the revelation of the Law at Mount Sinai.

Shehekianu (sheh-heh-kee-AH-nu). Jewish prayer of gratitude: You abound in blessings, Eternal One our God, Sovereign of all time and space, who has kept us in life, sustained us and allowed us to reach this moment.

shiva (SHIH-vah). The first week of the year-long formal Jewish mourning period observed in the home of the deceased, during which friends visit, pray with and comfort the bereaved.

shloshim (shloh-SHEEM). The formal thirty-day mourning period during which the bereaved begin to re-enter normal life, but with restricted activity.

shomer (SHO-mer). Guard.

shomrim (shohm-REEM). Members of the Chevra Kadisha who sit with the body, helping the transition from this world to the world to come. They also protect the body from any unnecessary disturbance.

shuk (u, as in push). Middle-eastern market or street of shops.

shul (Yiddish: shool; oo, as in food). Synagogue.

simcha (SIM-kha). Joyful occasion.

sukkah (SU-kah; u, as in push). A temporary structure made with leaves and boughs built by Jews during the fall harvest festival Sukkot to commemorate the dwellings used during the time in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.

tallit, tallis (Hebrew: tah-LEET; Yiddish, TAHLL-iss). Prayer shawl made with ritually-tied fringes at the four corners to remind one of God’s commandments.

tallit katan (tah-LEET kah-TAHN). A small fringed, four-cornered garment (see tallit) worn daily, often under the shirt.

Talmud (TAHL-mud; u, as in push). A collection of discussions and stories by the rabbis between 200 and 500 C.E. which constitute and elucidate Jewish religious and civil law.

tikkun olam (tee-KOON oh-LAHM; oo, as in food). The commandment to repair the world.

Torah (Yiddish: TOH-rah; Hebrew: to-RAH). Depending on the context, it may refer to the Five Books of Moses, to the sacred canon of Jewish religious writings, or to all Jewish holy writings. One could say one studies Torah to do Torah to be Torah.

vayikatz (vah-yee-KAHTZ). Awoke. From the Torah portion (Genesis 28:16), “Jacob awoke from his sleep.”

yad (yahd). The pointer used to hold the place while chanting Torah.

yahrzeit (German: YAHR-tzite; Yiddish: YOHR-tzite). Anniversary of a death, commemorated by the recitation of Kaddish.

yasher koach (YASH-er KO-akh). Go forth in strength, a way of saying, “Good job.”

yizkor (Hebrew: yiz-KOHR; Yiddish: YISS-ker). Memorial service conducted on Yom Kippur, Shavuot, Passover, and Sukkot.

Yom Kippur (Hebrew: yohm kee-POOR; Yiddish: yum-KIP-per). Day of Atonement or “at-one-ment.” A Jewish High Holy Day.

yontif (Yiddish: YUHN-tiff, u, as in sun; Hebrew: yom tov (o, as in home). Literally, good day. Holy day.

Copyright © 2006-2010 Fayegail Mandell Bisaccia. All Rights Reserved. Design by LightWerx Media.
Sunset photo © 2006 Benjamin Fisher. Portraits by Shianna Walker, Georgia King, and Lance Bisaccia.
Press Kit