Wednesday, February 20, 2013

No Tefillin, No Leah - San Francisco Jewish wit Maftir on yahrzeits, Rabbi Jacob Joseph and 19th century American Yiddish

The San Francisco correspondent for the American Israelite signed his dispatches Maftir, but he was actually Bavarian-born Isidor Nathan Choynski (c. 1835 - 1899). Here is Maftir:

His pieces were quite witty and irreverent. Here is one fascinating piece from December 21, 1888, where he tells of his attempt at getting an aliya in shul on his father's yahrzeit, only he had no tefillin, even though he did own a pair written by "the finest sofer of Vilna" - so  "No Tefillin, no Leah." (Leah = 'liyah = aliyah)

Worth reading. I included another little excerpt from elsewhere in his column, because he refers to Rabbi Jacob Joseph, newly brought to New York to be Chief Rabbi as "the chief Chariff of the nation, His Excellency, Reb. Joseffele Yankele." Rabbi Jacob Joseph was, of course, known as R. Yaakov Charif in his native Vilna, and being a charif, a sharp Talmudic dialectician was deemed hilariously irrelevant to those American Jews who could not fathom appointing a maggid from Vilna as an alleged Chief Rabbi of the Jews in New York, much less seeing him - or anyone - as a chief rabbi of the United States.

Also of interest to Maftir was the emerging Yiddish press in America, and he frequently pointed out what he thought were hilarious examples of American Yiddish. Thus, in one column from 1879 he refers to an expression by the editor of the Yudishe Gazetten:

1 comment:

  1. corbin (there's a corbin st in manhattan beach, brooklyn) was a notorious anti semite.



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