Grapevine: Gettysburg address in Yeshivish

February 12 is the birthday of outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Ehud Barak Gestures 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Ehud Barak Gestures 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
FOR THOSE Israelis who keep track of the birthdays of public figures, February 12 is the birthday of outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak and of MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. On a somewhat more elevated scale, it is also the birthday of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, who were both born on February 12, 1809 – Lincoln in America and Darwin in England. Rabbi Aaron Adler, the spiritual leader of the Ohel Nechama Congregation who was guest speaker at the annual Friday night dinner of neighboring Hazvi Yisrael Congregation (known as Hovevei Zion), made a point of mentioning both Lincoln and Darwin to explain their different perceptions; in traditional Jewish fashion, he used self-deprecating humor to introduce a very serious subject.
Adler, who is both a protégé of Rabbi Joseph Soleveitchik and a graduate of Yeshiva University in New York, makes a point whenever he’s in America of lecturing YU graduate students to tell them about job opportunities that are available to them in Israel. But he also cautions them before they come that they must learn to speak Hebrew well enough to deliver a lecture and not to rely on whatever Hebrew they have gleaned from biblical and talmudic studies. Once, when discussing this with Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, the chancellor and former president of YU, the latter remarked, “I hope you told them that they have to learn English too.” It was not a facetious comment.
Many YU students speak neither Yiddish nor English well, but engage in a hybrid of the two, which is known as “Yeshivish.”
Adler translated Lincoln’s iconic Gettysburg Address into Yeshivish, and every YU graduate in the room roared with laughter, as did other people who understand Yiddish. Once the humor had died down, Adler was able to deliver his message about the equality of man in which Lincoln believed, rather than survival of the fittest, which was Darwin’s philosophy. Disturbed, as many other Israelis are by the rising phenomenon of racism, Adler knew that if he started with a ribtickling version of the Gettysburg Address, every American in the room would be muttering the authentic version under his breath.
And indeed, that was exactly the way it happened, adding strength to what Adler subsequently had to say.
TWO HOLOCAUST survivors will be among the speakers at the sixth annual evening of study and inspiration hosted by the Department of English and the Holocaust Studies Center at Michlala Jerusalem College. Rose Stark, a survivor of Auschwitz who has spoken and written extensively of her experiences, and Rena Quint, who was a child survivor of Bergen-Belsen and who frequently guides and lectures at Yad Vashem, will join guest speakers Rabbi Dr.
Emanuel Feldman and Rabbi Nahum Seltzer on Monday in a session titled “Descent into Darkness, Ascent into Light.”
ALTHOUGH WOMEN seem to take a back seat in the haredi community – and not just on buses – in Chabad, women are honored.
Especially Chaya Mushka, the wife of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, who died 25 years ago last Saturday and whose memory was honored in Chabad congregations around the world. Rabbi Yisroel Goldberg, the head of Chabad Rehavia, explained that a few years after Chaya Mushka’s death, the rebbe decided that in the anniversary week of her death there would be an annual mega-conference in New York of Chabad women emissaries from all over the world. It was entirely appropriate that this year it should coincide with the Torah portion of Yitro, said Goldberg. When God told Moses to tell the Jews to prepare to receive the Torah, He commanded him first to speak to the House of Jacob. In Jewish tradition, the “House of Jacob” is synonymous with women.
Goldberg said that the gathering of women emissaries in New York gave fathers an opportunity to bond more closely with their children while their wives were away. This year, more than 2,900 Chabad women emissaries came together in New York. The banquet that was the culmination of their five-day conference was broadcast live at the beginning of this week via the Internet.