Articles by Isaac Kinek

The Ahmoliker Yid

Voss fahr ah (what kind of) title is that?” you may ask, Are you suggesting that we have Yidden who are Amalekites!? Chas vesholom – Heaven forbid! Let us therefore define the word “ahmoliker.”

Ahmoliker is the past, as in “a long time ago.” So, the translation of our title would be “The Once-Upon-a-Time Jew.” In our context, it refers to Yidden during the time of your bubbies and zaidies if you are a yunger mentch (young person), or your parents if you are a zoken (elder) or pre-zoken.

While “Jew of the past” is indeed the literal translation of the word ahmoliker, when you say that Yankel is an “ahmoliker Yid,” there are several possible interpretations. Nu, you may say, zog shoin – tell us already what you are talking about!

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Purim in the Good Old Days


“So how was Purim celebrated when you were a kid?” asked a friend. Now that’s an interesting question, because from the time I was a young kid until the time I became an old kid, things changed considerably – not to mention after that!
 My earliest recollection of Purim was from when we lived in East Baltimore. My father, a”h, was the cantor of a shul called Bais Hamedresh Hagodol. I recall his beautiful reading of the Megilla, when suddenly, Beryl Simowits (not his real name) brought in a huge gregger, which was actually a type of noisemaker that was used to announce air raid drills. Those were the war years, and the shul had a supply room that housed (in addition to the “greggers”) air raid warden helmets, gas masks, and stacks of a magazine entitled Death to Hitler. The magazine’s front cover featured a large imaginary photo of the Nazi beast hanging like Haman. The contents of the magazine included articles about what was occurring in Europe and photos of the horrors inflicted by the chayess (beasts). It was difficult to comprehend what was happening to our people. Purim was celebrated – but in reserved tones, because people began to realize that a crazed and dangerous Haman actually existed

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The Beauty of Chazanus


“What is chazanus?” asked my ainikle.

“Have you ever heard of Yossele Rosenblatt?” I responded.

He shrugged his shoulders – a gesture meaning ich vais nisht (I don’t know). I then wondered whether others had the same response, and found out that many people know little or nothing about chazanus. I therefore decided to educate them, beginning in my own backyard, so to speak. I asked my ainikle to listen to a vintage recording made by Chazan Rosenblatt singing, “Achainu Kol Bais Yisroel – Our Brothers the House of Israel,” a prayer pleading to Hashem for rachmanus (compassion) on the Jewish people.

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What’s Your Geduld Rating?


“Have geduld” is a Yiddish expression, usually told to folks who need additional geduld. Nu, you may ask, “voss hakst do ah cheinik, why are you blabbering”? Iz azoy, it’s like this: Without geduld, even things that are possible become impossible! Your response may be, “Zog shoyn, explain it already! What’s the meaning of the word “geduld”?

Nu, have geduld, and it will become as clear as the morning sky in Hawaii. The meaning of geduld is patience, and you have shown great geduld by following this little monologue.

Anyway, some folks have a tremendous amount of geduld, while others have as much gedul as a mahlpeh (monkey) in captivity. With geduld, you can drive all the way to California. Without geduld, driving to a nearby store is a problem.

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All You Need is a Little Mazel

mazel tov

The word mazel is a fabulous word that has been used vehr vais (who knows) how long! Mazel means luck, or good fortune – and mazel tov means good luck or, more commonly, congratulations.

Interestingly, mazel is not just for Jews any more. It has become a universal expression. But that must have happened in recent times, because when someone said “mazel tov” in the presence of the late Jackie Kennedy (wife of the late President Kennedy), her response was a shrug of the shoulders. If she had spoken Yiddish, she would have uttered, “Voss meint ess – what does that mean?” But the matter never got that far, so to speak.

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All about Shrek


Did you ever wonder about the meaning of the word “shrek”? European Yidden used it yeder Muntog und Dawnershtig! (every Monday and Thursday, i.e., often). Being constantly harassed by their “neighbors,” Yidden were in a state of shrek most of the time. Many books have been written regarding the terrible shrek experienced by Yidden during World War II because of the German chayess (animals) and their collaborators, which was beyond description.

By now, you have surely fathomed that the word shrek means fright, or fear. The former U.S. President F.D. Roosevelt put it this way: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” In Yiddish, the saying is similar but more expressive, as the word shrek is much more colorful than “fear.” It goes like this: Ess iz gornisht mit voss zich tsu shreken – oyser shrek.” Nu, you might disagree with his statement, especially after you take a hike in East Baltimore!

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