Some of the transliterations have been simplified to aid in pronunciation. Literal meanings given in brackets. (H) = Hebrew, (Y) = Yiddish

Adon Olam - (Lord of the Universe). A medieval poem recited daily but always sung at the conclusion of Shabbat services and having hundreds, if not thousands, of melodies. (H)

Aliyah - (Going up). Being called up to say a blessing over the Torah. (H)

B’chol dor vador - (In every generation). An important teaching from the Haggadah (see song notes). (H)

Bar Mitzvah - A Jewish boy’s coming of age at 13. (Bat Mitzvah for girls.) (H)

Barechu - (Blessed). First word of the ‘aliyah’ blessing. (H)

Ben Bag-Bag - Lessor known rabbi of the Talmud. (Hillel had a better press agent.) (H)

Beta Yisraeil - (House of Israel). The Ethiopian Jewish community. (H)

B’racha - (A blessing). (H)

Bubbies - Grandmothers (Y)

Cantillation - Strict system of melodies used to chant the sacred scriptures. (E)

Chad Gadya - (An only kid). Children’s song from the Haggadah. (Aramaic)

Chazzn - Cantor (Y)

Chazzones - Cantorial chant (Y)

Daven - To pray from the prayerbook in a soft but audible undertone, or, to lead a service in such a manner. (Y)

Eliahu Hanavi - Elijah the Prophet (H)

Empty Chair - Chair left empty for Elijah at the Seder and at a circumcision ceremony. Also refers to Rebbe Nachman’s throne.

Foomf - see ‘pfumpf’

Geshrai - Shout (Y)

Haggadah - (The telling). The book used at the Pesach Seder. (H)

Hakadosh Baruch Hu - (The Holy One praised be He).

Hava Nagila - (Come, let’s be happy). Sung at Jewish simchas. (H)

High Holy Days - Rosh Hashannah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)

Honi - (Pronounced ‘Choni’). ‘Honi the Circle Maker’, a rabbi and magician from Talmudic times who was able to bring rain.

Kiddush - (Sanctification). Refers to the blessing said over wine, or the light meal (Have Jews ever eaten a light meal?) for the congregation after a Saturday morning Shabbat service. (H)

Kol Nidrei - (All vows). Solemn and dramatic cantorial rendition of an important Yom Kippur prayer. (H)

Koussavitzky, Moshe - Famous cantor of the mid-20th century.

Koved - (Honor). (H/Y)

L’shalom - (For peace; To peace). (H)

Leyn - To chant verses of Torah. (Y)

Macher - A very important person. (Y)

Maimonides - Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon. Revered 12th century scholar and over-achiever, usually referred to as ‘Rambam’.

Mashgi’ach - Person in charge of making sure the kosher laws are strictly followed in a restaurant. (H)

Megilla - (Scroll). Refers to the Scroll of Esther, read on Purim. (H)

Mincha - The afternoon prayer service. (H)

Minyan - The minimum of ten adults needed before a service can begin, but can refer to any small group of worshippers. (H)

Mohel - The (one always hopes) well trained and experienced officiant at a ‘bris’, or circumcision ceremony. (H)

Nachman (Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav) - Renowned 18th century Chassidic leader and mystical teacher.

Oif der gantze velt - All over the world. (Y)

Oy vey iz mir - Oh, woe is me. Sounds better in Yiddish, doesn’t it? (Y)

Pfumpfing - Making mistakes (Y)

Pirkei Avot - (Chapters of the Fathers). Section of the Mishna (part of the Talmud) consisting of short bits of Rabbinic sayings. (H)

Purim - Over-the-top joyous holiday in the Spring celebrating the Jews’ victory (thanks to Esther and Mordechai) over the evil Haman in ancient Persia.

Pushke - Charity box. (Y)

Refusenik - Russian Jews who were denied (refused) permission to emigrate to Israel in the 1960s - 1980s.

Rosh Hashanah - (Head of the year) New Year’s Holiday (H)

Ru’ach - Spirit (H)

Ruth (Book of) - One of the Biblical Five Scrolls, but not the one read on Purim.

Seder - (Order). The Passover meal at which the Haggadah is read and special foods are eaten. (H)

Sedra - A portion of the Torah designated for public reading each week. (H)

Shabbat - Sabbath (H)

Shabbes - Shabbat (Y)

Shepping Nachas - Pride in the accomplishments of one’s children. (Y)

Shochet - Kosher butcher (H)

Shofar - Ram’s horn blown prior to and during the High Holy Days. (H)

Sholem - Peace. (Yiddish pronunciation of shalom.) (H/Y)

Shtieble - A small synagogue or room used for prayer services. (Y)

Shuckling - Swaying back and forth during davening. (Y)

Shul - Synagogue (Y)

Simchas - Celebrations (H/Y)

Tallis - Prayer-shawl worn by Jewish adults during morning prayers. (H)

Talmud - Multi-volume compendium of law and lore, passed down orally until it was compiled beginning in the 3rd century. (H)

Tefillin - Leather straps with boxes containing handwritten verses of Torah, worn on arm and head by observant Jews during morning prayers. (H)

Temple - Synagogue

Torah - Large and heavy scroll of parchment containing the Five Books of Moses in Hebrew. (It is an honor to be called to lift and roll up the scroll after the Torah is publicly read.) (H)

Trope - The funny looking symbols and melodic intervals making up the system of cantillation.

Tzitzit - Fringes of string which hang from the four corners of the tallis, tied a special way according to Jewish law.

Yiden - Jewish people (Y)

Yontiff - Holiday (Y)

Zol zyne - Let there be (Y)

Zuzim - Babylonian coins (Aramaic)



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