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A Biseleh (a little) Bit of Yiddish and Comedy Stars

9781439152829Yiddish for Babies, A Language Primer for Your Little Pitsel,

written and illustrated by Janet Perr (Simon & Schuster, $12.99, all ages) puts this language that is related to German and spoken by Ashkenazi Jews at your fingertips. Maybe you’ve heard some Yiddish words and expressions or perhaps you’ve even used them. Schlep(p), for example, a Yiddish word I use all the time which means to carry or to lug, as in I schlepped this heavy backpack around all day and now my shoulders hurt, has become part of the American lexicon.

When I was a kid and my parents spoke Yiddish in hushed tones so that my brother and I couldn’t hear, I would often catch snippets of conversation and if the word gelt came up, I knew they were speaking about money issues. Now with this humorous visual primer, parents and children alike can learn this rich language and begin using it immediately.

Bubbe – grandmother

Baby has so much fun when her bubbe comes to visit.

If the pictures don’t make you laugh, the sentences surely will!

Ferklempt (emotional, ready to cry), made famous by comedian Mike Meyers on Saturday Night Live, is demonstrated with a photo of a tired baby wiping its eyes.

It’s naptime and baby’s getting a little ferklempt.

Kvelling, a word my parents said frequently at bar mitzvahs, graduations and weddings means proud, bursting with joy.

Baby made in the potty, and mommy is kvelling.

Oy, it’s obvious I could go on and on about all the terrific Yiddish words included, the fab and funny photos and the apt descriptions, but I think you’ve got my drift so zai gezunt (be well, good-bye)!

978-0-8225-9942-5_medJewish Comedy Stars: Class to Cutting Edge

by Norman H. Finkelstein (Kar-Ben, $9.99, ages 11 and up)

You’ve heard the the line: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

Kids today may be familiar with Jon Stewart, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and Ben Stiller, but we need to jump back in time to the roots of comedy “shtick” to really understand how it’s evolved.

Tying into the book review above, it’s hard to talk about Yiddish and not bring up Jewish comedians going back almost a century. Jewish comedians have had a lasting impact on the entertainment industry and this easy-to-read primer on who’s who from the 20th through 21st centuries will introduce kids to a few a names they might not know and even more that they do. In over 40 mini biographies, author Finkelstein, explores the backgrounds of such luminaries as Fanny Brice, Molly Picon, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle +and so many more.

Kids will get a kick from reading about The Three Stooges’ slapstick humor to the original shock jock Lenny Bruce as well as the pre-Borat days of Sasha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G.). From Vaudeville, to Broadway and Film, TV to Comedy Central, the community of Jewish comedians is as rich and diverse as the jokes and stories they tell.

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