ashkenaze

Jewish Etiquette: Visiting a Shiva House

  1. Do not ring the doorbell when visiting a family sitting shiva. Mourners should not be prompted to act as hosts. The door will likely be unlocked. Just walk in. If the door is locked; knock lightly, or consider that they may not be open to visitors at that time.
  2. If there are a lot of visitors, try not to stay too long. The shiva home should not become crowded, nor should it be treated as a social function.
  3. Upon entering the shiva home, it’s sometimes customary to take your shoes off (not every community does this,) and keep your voice low and soft. Simply sit with the mourners, and let them set the tone.
  4. Avoid asking how they’re doing. You already know the answer, and they shouldn’t be made to feel the need to pretend they’re okay.
  5. Do not bring flowers; symbols of life are an affront to both the mourning and the deceased. Instead, bring gifts of kosher food. They don’t have to be homemade; store-bought is fine. Also do not bring wine or other types of alcohol; mourners are not to drink during shiva. (Gifts are Ashkenazic; Among Sephardim, visitors do not usually bring gifts.)
  6. Donate (if you can) to a charity or cause the deceased cared about. If you’re unsure of what that might be, ask the family. They may already have a donation fund set up.
  7. Plant a tree in honor of the deceased. There are many websites where you can have a memorial tree planted in almost any location in the world, and they often also send a notification card or email to the family.
Writing gay romance between Jewish characters with two differing levels of observance

I’m writing (or, right now, more planning/outlining, with occasional writing of small scenes that I can’t get out of my head) a novel about two Jewish men who fall in love in a very Xtian, conservative town. The older of the two (late thirties) is more closeted, reclusive, and is somewhat separated from his Jewish identity as a result of a combination of assimilation and intermarriage further back in his family. The main character (mid-late twenties) on the other hand is very involved with his synagogue, works at a Hebrew summer camp, keeps shabbos, etc.

My issue is that I’m very observant (conservaform) and so is my family; I know a few folks who go to my synagogue who are “high holy day Jews”, or might also come for a wedding or bris or bar/bas mitzvah, but not many who are non-observant to the degree of this character (hasn’t set foot in synagogue since being a child, didn’t have a bar mitzvah, has a pair of somewhat observant grandparents and some cousins/etc who are observant, but most of his immediate family isn’t observant). So I’m not sure how to portray the secondary character without someone going “why not just write a Jewish guy in love with an Xtian guy” or something, because even if his relationship to Judaism and Jewish culture are somewhat distant, they’re still there. I’m also afraid that someone is going to say “why are you bashing Xtianity” about some of the subject matter (as someone who has lived in a small town, I have a decent bit of material from personal experience on Xtian antisemitism), but really the main point is that I want to portray two Jewish men loving each other.

I want to write this but don’t want goyim in particular to try to argue that I should have just made my MC’s romantic interest Xtian in the first place, because one main theme I want to explore, which I haven’t seen explored much in fiction, is being gay and Jewish. Specifically, one concept I had for the second character is how his being closeted comes largely from a place of being raised in a Xtian-secular household in a very Xtian town, and homophobia being very religiously where he lives, and so him sort of being reluctant to explore religion at all; but then seeing how the MC is Very Jewish and somewhat-openly gay, and feeling both nostalgic for the parts of his grandparents he sees in the MC (speaking Yiddish, cooking traditional Ashkenazic food), as well as longing to be as comfortable with both his sexuality and to have a relationship with G-d as the MC does.

I don’t know if this is a weirdly specific character/plot concept, but it just came to me I guess and it’s been at me long enough that I’ve started to try to outline writing it. I just want to see more gay fiction with religious, specifically Jewish, characters. Thanks for any advice you can give.

Thank you for submitting a question so close to my heart! Looks like I need to break this down into several parts: 

1. How to portray secular Jews as something distinct from Christians, secular or otherwise - this may not be as hard as you think it is because you’re Jewish and your factory settings, your defaults, your unexamined ideas, may already be different from the Christians around you. Like, I was in my 30’s before I found out that gentiles don’t do the chair dance. I thought everyone did that. Give The Upside of Unrequired by Becky Albertalli (review here) a read – her main character tells the audience that “we’re the kind of Jewish family who eats bacon” and religion itself isn’t really a presence in her life, but she still finds it meaningful that the boy she’s working with at her new job turns out to be a fellow Jew.

Other possible markers of secular Jewishness:

  • Finding Jewish representation/acknowledgment of our existence in fiction (or the Jewishness of celebrities) meaningful
  • Casual use of the most common Yiddishisms (maybe not entire curse phrases, but, like, using the word ‘kvetch’ in ordinary conversation)
  • General feeling of alienation or otherness around super overt displays of Christianity
  • Foods like matzo ball soup or latkes (for your Ashkie characters, anyway; this might be different for other subgroups of us.) 

In my new release Knit One, Girl Two, the main character Clara is a secular Jew and one of the details I used to illustrate that is that her first kiss involved sneaking off with another girl during a friend’s bar mitzvah reception. She also refers to her grandparents as Bubby and Zayde and has strong opinions about which Jewish foods she does and doesn’t like. She’s slightly awkward around the love interest’s higher level of observance, which is something secular Jews might feel out of self-consciousness—if the character cared. A secular Jewish person and a gentile person don’t approach an observant Jewish person’s observance in the same way. The gentile may misunderstand or have misconceptions; the Jewish person might feel self-conscious for not participating. Or feel nostalgic for observant people in their past (like “oh, my grandma used to –!”) 

2. How to portray your own marginalization without sounding like you’re bashing the privileged group. Now, you’re not really obligated to watch out for the feelings of a group that has hurt you by having power over you… but at the same time I 100% understand not wanting to step on toes just to save your own peace of mind. Some suggestions for this:

  • Having some of the Christians in the town be nice, but powerless to stop the jackwagon ones.
  • Flat-out having your character say “I’m not mad at Christianity; these people don’t even seem like they’re following Jesus in the first place”
  • Cut down on the more painful elements and focus on your main characters’ reactions to their hurt rather than describing the bigotry itself. That will cut down on how much your bigoted characters hurt your RL readers, so they’ll be mad at them for your main characters’ sake but not for their own sake and it’ll give them a little distance. (Example: “OMG, I can’t believe how much of a jerk Todd was being, saying all that garbage about Jews and gay people.” Instead of “Todd walked into the room and shouted that Jews are X and gay people are Y!”)
  • Try to cut down on having the most bigoted characters belong to groups marginalized along another axis. You’re going to perpetuate fatphobia if your most bigoted character is also your only fat character, and if I were reading this story I’d be uncomfortable if the homophobic/antisemitic characters were Black unless a Black author was writing it because from a white pen this could easily be read as blaming those two -phobias on Black people instead of white supremacy where it belongs. 

3. I don’t think you’re going to get “you might as well have made him Christian” coming from outsiders because you’re a Jewish person writing Jewish characters. Just speaking from personal experience.. In any case, a secular Jewish character is not a Christian character. Sometimes they can come off that way when gentiles write them, because they won’t know what kind of details to add to make their being Jewish not seem arbitrarily pasted on, but I doubt that would happen from a Jewish writer. 

4. “One main theme I want to explore, which I haven’t seen explored much in fiction, is being gay and Jewish.” 

I have several recommendations for you! 

First of all, Jordan S. Brock’s just come out with a m/m novel called Change of Address based on her own experiences with PTSD and a service dog—it’s even dedicated to the service dog. Like her, the love interest is a Jewish adoptee, and the character’s observance mirrors her own – he and his father don’t allow bacon in the house but they’ll eat pepperoni as long as it’s somewhere else, for example. 

Out of print but easy to find in libraries through ILL is The Dyke and the Dybbuk, Ellen Galford’s paranormal f/f comedy about a demon who possesses a Jewish lesbian cab driver and makes her get a crush on an Orthodox woman as a prank. (Review)  

I also collected this list of free queer Jewish SFF short stories, which includes nonbinary representation. As far as my own works go, I really tried to infuse the Tales from Perach collection with all the joy and gratefulness both Judaism, Jewishness, and queerness have brought to my life – there’s a lesbian’s grateful prayer of thanks for her relationship with her wife, an elderly trans woman and her husband attending services, and a royal family with two moms and two dads putting on an exceptionally lavish Purimspiel that includes a scripted swordfight. 

I’m glad you’re writing something to add to this and expand the body of LGBT Jewish literature, especially something where both members of the couple are Jewish.

–Shira

theatrix-the-goddess  asked:

hey, if i were to write a jewish character, how should i go about it?

WHOOO BOY

Fair Warning: This is going to be a long post.

Personally, I’m an Orthodox Ashkenazi, so most of my characters are Ashkenazis who are at least Modern Orthodox. HOWEVER, not all Jews are Ashkenazi so…. 

Religiosity:

 **CRASH COURSE IN JUDAISM TIME** 

I’m going to use Christianity as an example because I assume the majority of people who will read this are Christian. In Christianity there are different sects that believe different things (Catholic, Lutherans, Irish Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Mormons, etc). 

In Judaism there are also different sects only most of them don’t believe in something different than the others unless they’re an offshoot of Ashkenz (which I will get into in a moment). Each of these sects is mainly based on where you or your family are from geographically. If you’re from Spain you are most likely a Sephardi or Anusim Jew. If you are North African (Moroccan, Libyan, Tunisian) then its likely you are also Sephardi. (For anyone interested, Sephardi means in English “of Sephard” Sephard is Spain in Hebrew). If you are from Ethiopia, you are most likely an Ethiopian Jew. From Iran you are most likely a Persian Jew. Anywhere else in the Middle East you are most likely a Mizrachi Jew. If from Yemen then you are a Temani Jew. These are just usual rules to live by. 

If you are from anywhere in Europe (Mainly France, Germany, or Russia) besides Spain then you are most likely an Ashkenazi Jew. The reason that Ashkenazi Jews are a little different than other sects though is a simple reason. 

***CRASH COURSE IN JEWISH HISTORY TIME*** 

In the 1800s European Jews got Emancipated. This meant that Jews were allowed to leave their gated communities (shtettles, though there were plenty ghettos too) and join in with regular society. Since (and @ jumblr correct me if i’m wrong) this only happened in Europe during modern times (1400s) only the Ashkenazi Jews were really affected. So as Jews began to integrate into society many of them began to lose their religiosity. So the Ashkenazi community freaks out because they have Jews who are suddenly not being religious and they create two communities. Reform and Orthodox. The Reform believed that Emancipation was good and it slowly morphed into what everyone knows as Reform Judaism today. The Orthodox Movement thought that Emancipation was ruining Judaism and they later morphed into what is now called Ultra-Orthodox. Then you had two offshoots of those–Conservative and Neo-Orthodox. I know more about Neo-Orthodoxy so I’ll tell you about that, Neo-Orthodoxy believed that unlike Orthodoxy Emancipation was both good and that mitzvot were good. They ended up becoming the Modern Orthodox Movement (sorta like I am!!). 

The difference between the geographical sects and the Ashkenazi offshoot sects are that the geographical sects don’t necessarily have belief differences (differences in tradition and halacha, sure, but not belief) and the other sects do. Since then there have been other offshoots of Ashkenaz (mainly) that have a slightly different belief system as well (Reconstructionist, Renewal, Hassidic, etc). But each of these are different in tradition and halacha because of their belief not because of their teachers. 

Now, friendly reminder that geography doesn’t always work for identifying a Jew’s denomination. I have friends who are Sephardi and have no relation to Spain. There are Jews who do have Spanish decent and are Ashkenazi. It is a good base, but not a law. 

When creating a character figuring out what denomination of Judaism they are is important, as figuring this out is an added character trait and usually very important to the character themselves. 

After you figure out how religious you want them to be I suggest working on their character and seeing how the religion and the rules or miztvot that they follow merge. Remember, Jews are people too and if you are writing a Jew just write a person only with like… Kosher and Yom Kippur (or not if your character doesn’t keep that… whatever).

Traps Writers Fall Into:

There are two big ones:

  • Christian Influence
    • This one is a lot more prominent if the character is in a non-Jewish majority country–which I assume your characters will be, be it America or Britain. 
      • Why, you ask? Well because Secular countries are actually a lot less secular and a lot more Christian than most Christians think. It’s not necessarily a criticism but it is a thing. 
    • Do not, I repeat, do not write your Jewish character like a wannabe-Christian. We are not Wannabe-Christians. If we were then we wouldn’t be Jewish. Not every Jew grows up wanting a Christmas Tree or dressed up for Halloween. Not every kid secretly wants to eat a cheeseburger or go into a church.
      • Jews complain when they don’t get representation, they may love the twinkle lights during the Holidays but they are annoyed that there are no Hannukah decorations in the stores or that every chocolate in Spring is a bunny. We are not Wannabes.
  • Over using Yiddish
    • NOT!!! EVERY!!! JEW!!! SPEAKS!! YIDDISH!!
    • And certainly not every Jew speaks the amount of Yiddish that non-Jewish writers use. Most Ashkenazi Jews speak a mixture of Hebrew and Yiddish slang with a base of English. We’ll say “shelp,” “spritz,” and “gavult.” We’ll also say “stam,” “davka,” and “baruch hashem.” But our base language is usually English. We don’t all have Yiddish accents, we aren’t all New Yorkers. 
    • Also, Yiddish is not the only Jewish language!
      • There is another one called Ladino which is a mix of Spanish and Hebrew, and while it is dying out there still are some speakers. If you have a Jew of Hispanic decent you might want to use that instead of Yiddish. 

Now Let’s Talk Pet Peeves:

I have many Pet Peeves about Jews in Media so let’s start with the most obvious.

1. Jewish Holidays are ignored when they don’t fall out on Christian Ones

It sucks and it’s true. Most of our holidays when not Hannukah and Rosh Hashana are almost never mentioned. Jews have many more holidays than just those two. Like…

  • Jews have like… six fast days. All of them are important but most Jews ignore some of the shorter ones because they fall out on regular work days and it isn’t good to fast while at work.
    • fasting also means fasting. We do not eat unless necessary for health, we do not drink unless necessary for health. And for two of those fast days we have four other restrictions as well. 
  • We have Purim. Purim is a pretty cool holiday with a backstory like most Jewish holidays, someone tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat. 
    • Which contrary to popular belief is not Halloween only Jews.
  • Sukkot
    • A great holiday in which we eat outside and shake a bunch of leaves and a nice smelling fruit (which the TSA must be informed about every year so they don’t hold Jews in Airport Jail for carrying a bunch of palm leaves. I shit you not, this happens every year and it gets funnier every time). There’s other stuff to but that would take longer to explain. 

etc…

2. Jews almost never marry Jews in Media

This actually happens a lot more than in real life. You have a Jewish character, doesn’t matter if they’re religious or not, they almost never marry Jews. I have only ever watched two shows where two Jewish characters married (or were close to it). These are Will & Grace (Grace and Leo), and a show called Saving Hope where the lesbian Jew gets with a lesbian Jew and moves to Tel Aviv (Doctor Katz). 

3. Women and Jewish Marriage

These two topics are treated very badly in media. People tend not to understand what a K’Tuba (Jewish Marriage licence) is, and what it means to Jewish Women. It means we more or less have all power in the relationship. Where Saving Hope is good on the non-intermarriage issue, it sucks on a heterosexual marriage issue. Women are allowed to say no to sex, they are allowed to incite sex, if they do not want sex with their partner their partner cannot have sex with them

Alternatively if either partner wants a get (a Jewish divorce) then the partner must give them one. Something usually ignored is that if the woman wants a get not only does her husband have to give her one the Jewish community is obligated to alienate him from them, personally and business-wise, and treat him as though he has a contagious disease. A Jew is allowed to do almost anything to the unwilling partner to get them to sign the get (the Torah even says that you can stone him. We don’t obviously because killing is wrong and etc. There is a lovely story that I heard about a man who wouldn’t give his wife a get and her angry brother and a matza factory but I won’t get into that). This is exemplified in an episode of a show called In Plain Sight (Episode Aguna Matatala), I really like this episode and the Rabbi character. Personally I believe this is one of the best ‘Jew Episodes’ out there. 

4. Not knowing a character is Jewish until it must come up because of a holiday or a death in the family

If your character is Jewish they are Jewish all the time. Only bringing it up when it’s suddenly Christmas and you want diversity is stupid and quite frankly annoying. You cannot erase our Judaism because it does not benefit your plot. 

FRIENDLY REMINDER: ALL JEWS ARE DIFFERENT. 

An Israeli Jew acts differently than a Diaspora Jew, and a Hollywood Jew acts differently than a New York Jew. We aren’t just stereotypes we are people, and if you are making a character be realistic you must keep that in mind. 


That’s it for now. I may add on more guidelines in the future, and if anyone reading this has a Pet Peeve about Jews in Media I urge you to add yours. But please keep this thread respectful. The ask was respectful and I actually really appreciate you asking. 

needed to get some thoughts written out before i start the day

as a mostly Ashkenazic Jew living in America, i benefit from white privilege

i grew up in a society that, if i did not say or do anything to mark myself as different, categorized me as white and afforded me the societal preference and silent benefits of racist hierarchy, even while it swore that that wasn’t how it was up here in the north

i grew up among other Jews who identified their own selves and thus me as white, if sometimes a different class of white

i grew up in a society that instilled racist values in me and taught me to regard myself as white and insisted through media and “jokes” that this meant that i was somehow superior.

i grew up with a father who managed to evade the Holocaust and survive life in Eastern Europe in the Forties, whose life experiences said that the identification of Jews as something other than White or European or whatever category, something other than the dominant Christian culture, was an element of Nazi propaganda. 

we grew up as part of Jewish cultures that clung to whiteness or Europeanness or being a particular Volk as a survival tactic, that had faced the notion that we might be anything other than that as a blood libel, an accusation of evil conspiracy.

cultures that clung so desperately to this because it could be stripped away at any instant. The town in Orange County, NY where my grandparents were stopped at the border and forbidden entry once identified as Jews. The flight of my great-grandparents from the lands of their birth. The “jokes” about putting me in an oven. The friend who was asked in confused yet serious tones what had happened to her horns and if she’d gotten them surgically removed.

clung so desperately to whiteness because often enough, the alternative wasn’t “other ethnicity”, but “not human”.

it was a mistake, as far as i am concerned. We should have allied with Romani, we should have sided with black and Hispanic people, should not have marked even other Jews as something removed from us as we hid behind this.

as a mostly Ashkenazic Jew living in America, i’m white until i am not. I count in the eyes of my fellow Jews, i count in the eyes of white goyim until they’re safe behind a mask or a computer screen displaying their favored online forum. I count against my will, lumped into agendas of “Judeo-Christian values” that are clearly just Rich White Christian values.

i do not believe that i am white; my ancestry is almost exclusively diasporic middle eastern. But i recognize that, when i don’t show any other sign of it, i pass as white. Even when i do, if i wear a kippah or tichel, if i speak Yiddish or Ladino or Hebrew, i am still (at least conditionally) white.

Until the next Neo-Nazi in a position of power decides to act on their bigotry, until the next time some vays sheygetz realizes that i’m not complicit in their agenda.

i do not believe i am white, but i have been brought up in a society that layered whiteness over me, like a thin coat of paint. So, to live as a decent human being, i must conduct myself with awareness of this; awareness of the perception of me and the privilege i receive regardless of its conditional nature. I must do what generations before me failed to do, and not overtly ally myself with whiteness, even where i am forced into that category.

whiteness is ultimately a historically recent social construct; there is no strict, scientific reality to it. But it is still a construct that i must engage with, and with recognition of how it has benefited me and my family.

livingwithgoober  asked:

Hi! I'm writing a mystery series and one of my main characters is a Jewish woman who's non praticing? (like shes like "Yeah I'm Jewish but I really only show it during *inserts Jewish holidays here * (I haven't done my research yet but I am planning too)) Would having her be a doctor interfer with her faith in any way? Also how can I show her faith with making her seem really religious? Are there any stereotypes that are easy to forget about? Anything in specific I need to know? Thanks xx

Non Practicing Jewish Doctor Character

First of all, here are some earlier WWC posts that may help you:

Writing Secular American Jewish Characters

Establishing a Character as Jewish Through Actions

I think you have a little more research to do before you write if you’re even asking if being a doctor would interfere with our faith, because one of the biggest stereotypes we have within the group is that all of our mothers want us to become doctors. 

I think you have a little more research to do before you write if you’re even asking if being a doctor would interfere with our faith, because one of the biggest stereotypes we have within the group is that all of our mothers want us to become doctors. Like, there are jokes about how conservative Christians believe life begins at conceptions and Jews believe life begins after medical school. The phrase “my son, The Doctor”, as if it was all one word. You get the idea. Also, I’m having trouble reconciling “nonpracticing” with a question if something contradicted her faith because if someone is devout enough to avoid a profession or behavior on account of halacha, that’s not nonpracticing. But I believe in you – I think you’ll be fine once you read some of our own lit that we’ve written ourselves, about ourselves. Plus the Jewish and Judaism tags here on WWC.

Your question about stereotypes: please read the tags – we’ve worked hard on putting this site together and many times these questions have already been answered and all we end up doing is linking to the old post. If you click on the Stereotypes & Tropes link in our header, you’ll get a great page that answers exactly this question, for many groups. Here’s the link for the Jewish one specifically: 

Writing Jewish characters, and what to avoid

People like your Jewish character are very common. There are a lot of us who are “culturally” Jewish only, whose ethnoreligious identity is very strong but to whom the actual faith components of the tradition aren’t the main focal point. I wrote a book called Knit One Girl Two that stars a woman like that, who calls her grandfather by the Yiddish word for grandpa, who loves eating Jewish deli food, who probably lights candles on Chanukah and goes to her parents’ house for seder on Passover, but who hasn’t been to temple since she was young enough to have friends being bar mitzvah'ed, who feels vaguely awkward around the woman she’s flirting with who actually goes to temple and keeps kosher-lite, etc. So, those are some things? Also, since I’m Ashkie, I’m hoping that Jewish Tumblrs from other backgrounds will weigh in on the notes with suggestions for other cultural, secular markers of Jewishness that are either specific to their subcultures or aren’t as universally Jewish as I thought.

Secular Jewishness has a way of popping up not just during holidays, by the way. It’s in the movies that make us feel at home. It’s in our cultural awareness of feeling like outsiders in many places. It’s food. It’s slang. It’s the way we feel in the face of rising (sigh) anti-Semitism. I think some of this will come across as you start to explore our writing. (By the way, this is a good rule for any marginalized group someone wants to write about, if they don’t belong to that group. Read the fiction by the group, first. Read the way we write about ourselves.)

As far as your character specifically, if she’s a doctor, if you’re looking for something that will add authenticity then dropping a line about how proud her parents are of her being a doctor will sit well with your Jewish readers. That will seem completely natural to us, for the most part.

Shira

tfw you are doing research on the national origins of the surname “novak” for a fic you will probably overthink but never write and ancestry fucks you up

Novak Name Meaning 

Czech and Slovak, Croatian and Serbian, Slovenian, Hungarian (Novák), and Jewish (eastern Ashkenazic): from Slavic novy ‘new’, denoting a newcomer to a place. Compare English Newman.

Originally posted by weallneedcastiel

denoting a newcomer to a place

denoting a newcomer to a place

denoting a newcomer to a place

or the English equivalent, “Newman,” for a character whose vessel literally becomes a new man. A vessel which becomes intimately bound with an angel who becomes a new man, his own man, over the past decade.

Originally posted by mishacolins


I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING

4

1. A Decorated Ketubbah from Herat, Afghanistan, 1898

2. A Magnificent decorated Esther Scroll, from Bahgdad ca. 1850

3. An Important Ketubbah from Teheran, 1870

4. A Richly Decorated Marriage Contract from Bukhara, late 1800s

angelicfiresign  asked:

i have an ashkenazic jewish oc (who i recently made jewish bc i switched his faceclaim to someone who was jewish) and i was wondering a few things that i couldnt find straight up answers to: hes ethnically french and nationally british so would it be common for him to incorporate some yiddish words into his english or would he speak hebrew more likely than yiddish? (1)

and what are some small cultural things i can just casually put in to make it clear hes jewish bc in the universe, his friends already know hes jewish and have for around 5-6 years so it wouldnt make sense for him to just say it i wouldnt think? what do yall think. also, i think it would make sense for him to be more secular, but i do like the idea of him avoiding things that arent kosher. i just need some advice, thanks! (2)

Establishing a character as Jewish through actions, and would a secular Ashkie include more Yiddish or more Hebrew into his English?

Of the random Jewish-language words that Ashkenazim in the United States – I’m speaking from that perspective so I wanted to provide a disclaimer – use in their English on a regular basis, Yiddish comprises a greater proportion than Hebrew unless one is specifically using Hebrew words there aren’t English equivalents for, like talking about names of blessings (kiddush) or temple equipment (yad.) In other words, he might kvetch about this schmendrick at work being a total schmuck, because he had the chutzpah to steal the other half of the biscuits your poor OC bought from the snack machine when he needed a nosh. (There, I said biscuits. Does it look British now? lol)

…so, my example was a little unnatural, throwing them all in there together like that, but those are all words that were basically English if you grew up in my family, when they’re actually Yiddish. You’ll get a feel for how they fit into sentences – and how often – if you start reading our fiction about ourselves.

Some words wind up being either/or: for example, yarmulke (Yiddish) vs. kippah (Hebrew), or Good Shabbos vs. Shabbat Shalom.

If I saw a character using Hebrew slang instead of Yiddish slang and Hebrew serious-words in their English, my first guess would be that they were Israeli, not European Jewish. Not sure how accurate that is, though.

Since there are so many variations on our practices, it would be reasonable to have a secular Jewish character who still avoids pork and shellfish, or cheeseburgers (mixing meat and dairy), especially if that’s how he grew up. 

Other ways to show someone’s secular Jewishness are listed on this earlier post about secular Jewish representation, although it was specifically written by an American for an American character so there are probably some differences since your character is British. [Writing Secular American Jewish Characters

Personal preference: please remember to include some of these other things besides just kosher/kosher-lite, because it can sometimes be frustrating to feel like gentiles only see our culture as “no pork” and not all the things we are. (Some secular Jewish characters written by Jewish authors you can read to get a feel for how it looks on the page are Molly from Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequired and Clara from my new release Knit One, Girl Two.)

Hope this helps! And hoping to hear from some Jewish folks in the UK or who have lived there for an extended period, with any further suggestions or adjustments.

–Shira

anonymous asked:

i'm a jewish girl interested in witch stuff and i'm really curious about how you reconcile your faith with wicca? i thought the torah looked down on those kinds of things?

hi, so a few answers to this: 

- I don’t practice wicca and I think it’s often a very appropriative practice. wicca is often very hierarchical and gatekeeps knowledge, while often perpetuating cultural appropriation (eg. encouraging non-indigenous practitioners to burn white sage) and patriarchal and transphobic (eg. association of uteri with concept of womanhood with little room for exploration of gender and identity. Often portrays dualities in terms of gender which is a very European/white concert that doesn’t allow for a fluidity of gender expression and identity. and lastly, reaffirming patriarchal gender roles re: men as militaristic, crude and violent, women as nurturing, domestic and maternal, again with little to no room for a diversity of expressions). 

- we can’t use white, Christian ideas of witchcraft to understand what the Torah is talking about. White Christian supremacy has used the term “witchcraft” as a catch all term for anything feminine, non-white, non-christian and lgbt. Witches burned at the stake were often just poc, herbal healers, midwives and/or lgbt but their practices and rejection of the church located them inside of the umbrella of “witchcraft” so they were persecuted. 

- Witchcraft within our understanding of it as codified by white christian supremacy refers to a diverse array of religious, cultural and spiritual beliefs, ranging from anti-colonial cultural preservation to herbal healing to dividiation practices, to literally anything that isn’t related to the christian church. That being said, we don’t have to keep using shitty christian understandings of “witchcraft” and definitions to create a spiritual-cultural practice that works for us. Not everyone coded as a witch identifies as a witch. We can understand the way terms like “witch” and “witchcraft” are used and also not apply them to people who reject those terms, and we can empower people who choose to reclaim those terms.

- When we look at spiritual practices and beliefs of Judaism, we find a lot of practices that can be defined as “witchcraft” such as essentially all of the kabbalah, Jewish mystic beliefs like the evil eye, superstition, folklore, prophetic dreams etc.  When we take those practices like kabbalah that are traditionally reserved for middle-aged cis/het men, and practice them in bodies that don’t fit that narrative arc, it becomes subversive and *some* of us call that witchcraft to link it back to centuries of gender and sexuality based oppressions and as a rejection of patriarchal shit coming from within our own communities. 

- I don’t follow nor believe everything the Torah says because some/a lot of it is really fucked up. So if I, like most Jews, am already rejecting pieces from the Torah then what is the difference of rejecting passages telling me to not practice divination. Aside, most passages have to do with not interfering with the dead, eg. don’t practice necromancy, which I don’t, so looks like I’m all good on that point. 

- I have also found it really healing and helpful in my own understanding and growth in decolonization to understand my own roots and where I come from, including those aspects that are not ashkenazic. A lot of people appropriate indigenous practices as a way to fill a void in their own connection to their own histories. Pre-Roman empire, many European practices were matriarchal, earth based, non-urban and non-straight. There’s a lot of surviving beliefs and traditions people can pull from that are not appropriative. If you go this route, be careful because a lot of those traditions have been subverted into upholding whiteness and patriarchy. It’s usually easy to tell what practices are oppressive and what ones are good.

So, there’s a lot more I could say about witchcraft as spiritual cultural practice, witchcraft of anti-capitalist and anti-imperial, and witchcraft as a fundamentally political label for patriarchal resistance, but I’ll stop for now. One book I’m reading that I recommend (and you can find online for free) is “Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture” but Arthur Evans and another good one is “Witches Midwives and Nurses” by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, which is both a book and a zine. Silvia Federici also writes on this topic, but I’ve only ready passages and excerpts from her. 

Hilchos Pesach Part 1

This post and those following it are based on shiurim given by Rabbi Moishe Yoselevitz at Shearim prior to Pesach 5774. Unfortunately they won’t be quite as neat as the Purim ones I did because those were given out exactly as I typed them up, whereas what you’ll see here is my personal notes taken on outlines handed out by Rabbi Yoselevitz (edited for clarification as I type them; brackets indicate a more recent insertion). Also, note that Rabbi Yoselevitz (an Ashkenazi Litvak rabbi in EY) very rarely mentions where there are alternate opinions on things, so if you have heard something else from your personal rabbi, go with that or ask for clarification.

I. Nissan a special month

  • First month because it’s when Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim
  • Mishkan also inaugurated in this month
  • No tachnun all month
  • Birkas ha’ilanos: if you see a fruit tree with flowers but no fruit from Rosh Chodesh on, you make the bracha [בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁלֹּא חִסַּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת לֵהָנוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם]
  • Shabbos before Pesach = Shabbos HaGadol - rabbi gives a big speech - mainly halacha. Minhag Ashkenaz is to say the Haggadah until R. Gamliel that afternoon.

II. The prohibition of chometz

-Chayav kares for breaking
-Can’t even have benefit - not even of smell

-The Mitzvos related to chometz [these were in Hebrew and English on the sheet but eliminating Hebrew for tumblr formatting issues]

  1. Destroy chometz before Pesach day
  2. Eat matzah the night of Pesach [at the seders]
  3. Tell the story of going out of Mitzrayim that night [at the seders]
  4. Not to eat chometz starting at halachic noon before Pesach
  5. Not to eat chometz during Pesach
  6. Not to eat mixtures with chometz
  7. Chometz not seen on your property
  8. Chometz not found on your property (it can’t even be someone else’s that you’re in charge of)

-What is chometz?

  • Flour from the 5 types of grains [wheat, barley, oats, spelt, rye] mixed with water and not baked within 18 minutes
  • Chometz nukshe: dough that didn’t reach full fermentation, or was mixed with a liquid other than water. Ashkenazim are strict not to eat this because we don’t know how fast fermentation goes - but a sick person could eat it.
  • Must be something edible - if even a dog wouldn’t eat it, it’s not food/chometz anymore. Exception: if you consider it food (because you are weird) it’s prohibited d’rabbonon to eat it.
  • Ethyl alcohol is mamash chometz - must get rid of it. Isopropyl alcohol is fine for Pesach. Many companies, though, just write “alcohol” in the ingredients.

-Some practical applications

  • Medication: pills sometimes contain chometz, but usually it’s considered inedible and it’s not taken derech achila [in the normal way of eating] and you don’t consider it food. Pills are fine. Capsules are a machlokes but mostly permitted. Liquid medicines often contain alcohol. In EY, doctors can tell you if it’s ok for Pesach.
  • Things that aren’t problematic: nail polish, hand lotion, creams, shampoo, conditioner, shoe polish, paint, baby powder, eyeshadow, blush, eyeliner, bar soap (except for dishes)
  • Machlokes: spray deodorant , perfume, hairspray, toothpaste
  • Mouthwash needs to be kosher for Pesach, and you should get a new toothbrush
  • If using lipstick, need to rub off the top layer in case there’s chometz on it

III. Minhagim of Pesach

-Kitniyos 

[Note: really misleading that the rabbi put this under the heading of minhagim. It is mandatory for Ashkenazim.]

  • Ashkenazim and Morrocans don’t eat
  • Rice, beans, peas, corn, etc
  • Machlokes: cottonseed oil, sesame oil, peanuts, quinoa. Rabbi Yoselevitz is fine with all of these on Pesach.
  • Don’t eat, but you can have it in your house, and a sick person can eat it
  • A mixture of kitniyos and other stuff is nullified in the majority (51% not kitniyos) in case of an accident
  • Can be eaten up until halachic noon Erev Pesach
  • Three reasons for the extra prohibition: 1. Fields often near fields of real grain - hard to clean. 2. Can make dishes similar to those with real grains. 3. You can make real bread with them.

-Gebrokts

  • Some have the minhag not to eat matzah dipped in liquids, and no baking with matzah meal

-Other minhagim [non-binding if not the custom in your community]

  • No dry fruits without Pesach supervison
  • General idea of being more strict on Pesach
  • Not eating chicken because they eat wheat
  • Not eating fish
  • [Not eating processed foods]
  • [Not eating unpeeled fruits and vegetables]

IV. The mitzvah of destroying chometz

-D’oraisa [Torah law] chometz must be destroyed by chatzos [halachic noon]. D’rabbonon [rabbinically], can’t eat chometz from the beginning of the 5th hour, or benefit from it from the 6th hour. [These times vary from place to place; let me know if you need help figuring out the times for your location.]

-Two ways:

  1. Taking out all crumbs and destroying it
  2. Nullifying importance/ownership of the chometz
  • We do both ways. We don’t rely on nullification because we eat chometz throughout the year and don’t get freaked out when we see it. We might accidentally eat it. Also, we might not really internalize the nullification.

V. Bedikas chometz [checking for chometz]

[Note: This section…wow. Not nearly enough space was provided on the outline I was filling in, so I have all these boxes drawn in random other places on the paper, and various references to “above” and “below”…and I can’t quite put together the order everything is supposed to be in. I’ve done my best.]

-d’rabbonon

-This is a double check, not the initial cleaning

  • any place that sometimes has chometz needs to be cleaned
  • or a place that is USED with chometz, eg. a wine cellar - no one eats there, but people go down in the middle of the meal
  • kitchen, dining room, bedroom if you bring food there, purse/backpack, suitcase, car
  • if there are children in the house, need to check EVERYWHERE because they take food everywhere
  • if there is a large piece of furniture you can’t move reasonably, you don’t have to check even if there is likely to be chometz

-to prevent us from having chometz, and do the mitzvah of destroying
-night before night of seder, immediately at nightfall
-men who daven maariv, because they do it more often than bedikas chometz, should do that first
-half an hour before that time, don’t start a meal or long bath

-checking books:

  • Chazon Ish: people commonly eat while learning, so have to check them. The bookshelf is a kli that unites all the books, so even though only a full k’zayis or more of chometz matters, there might be a k’zayis in all the books in total. Or, you can sell the bookshelf for Pesach.
  • R. Moshe Feinstein: because there’s not a k’zayis in any single book, you don’t need to check them. But don’t bring books to the table at Pesach.
  • [Some have the custom of being very careful not to put books on the table during the year, and only check those books which they know were on the table.]

The mitzvah:

-Take a candle with single wick - ideally wax

  • Can use a flashlight - maybe even better because you won’t be worried about dripping.
  • Some people still do a candle to start, then switch later to a flashlight - that’s better.
  • Candle is for corners and crevices - lights can be left on.

-Feather and spoon [for gathering chometz crumbs] traditional but not necessary
-Wash hands before the search
-Bracha: Baruch Atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Asher Kidishanu B’Mitzvosav Al Biur Chometz
-No talking between the bracha and the beginning of checking. Shouldn’t talk during the checking except ABOUT checking.

-Because there is one opinion that you don’t have to check a place without chometz, we put 10 wrapped pieces of chometz in the house to “find”. One should have a k’zayis, the rest not. The person who hides the pieces should write the locations. Traditionally the wife hides and the husband checks.
-Any chometz found or being kept for later should be wrapped and put in an obvious place so it won’t be forgotten

-Bitul chometz [the nullification of the chometz] should be said immediately after the search is finished

  • The text is in Aramaic, but you need to know what you’re saying [it is a legal declaration, not a prayer]. If you don’t understand Aramaic, say it in English.

-If you won’t be home the normal night of bedikas chometz and are home within 30 days of Pesach, you need to check the night before you leave. If leaving more than 30 days before Pesach and not coming back during Pesach, you don’t have to check. But if coming back right before or during Pesach you need to check. If you search early, you do not make the bracha.

-In a shared apartment [i.e. shared by unrelated people, not a family unit]:

  • Each person checks their own things
  • Divide common areas
  • One person should make the bracha for all, but each person searches and nullifies their chometz on their own
  • Only the person saying the bracha needs to wash before the search

-If you didn’t check that night for some reason, check in the morning
-If you didn’t check in the morning for some reason, check on yontiff. If you find chometz, cover it with a vessel and burn it after yontiff.

VI. Bitul chometz [nullification of chometz]/Biur chometz [burning chometz]

  • Should be burned before beginning of the 6th hour
  • Only need to burn a k’zayis; rest can be thrown out and become ownerless [so if you see people bringing all kinds of boxes of cereal and stuff to a communal chometz fire, this is not necessary, and could be a problem because it takes forever to burn]
  • Once burned, nullify chometz again
  • One person in the household can burn on behalf of everyone, but all must nullify individually

VII. Selling chometz to a gentile

  • First source for this is a Tosefta
  • It is a REAL, legally binding sale. In the contract it doesn’t say we are buying it back - we only say that orally.
  • Ideally, the chometz should be in the non-Jew’s house (once upon a time, but this isn’t really done nowadays)
  • It is better for a Torah scholar to do the selling - so the rabbi does it for everyone. You have to make the rabbi a legal shaliach before Pesach. [If you do not have a rabbi to help facilitate such a sale, chabad.org has a form you can fill out.]
  • We rent the location of the chometz
  • There is an estimated value of the chometz, and the non-Jew gives a deposit
  • Because we don’t give him a key to the house, some people don’t sell chometz gamor (e.g. bread, pasta, crackers - as opposed to food that just isn’t certified kosher for Pesach)
  • Pots and pans should be washed and put away, but we sell only the chometz on them - otherwise we would have to toivel everything again after Pesach.
  • Everything being sold needs to be in a specific, closed-off place
  • Can’t sell someone else’s chometz without their knowledge
  • Generally give a small amount of money to the rabbi who does the sale
  • Different opinions whether you have to check an area you’re going to sell.

If you have any questions on the content of this post, please ask your LOR or me and I will do my best.

(Coming up later: kashering a kitchen for Pesach, and the seder.)

anonymous asked:

I 100% unfollowed fast/brit/waiting/french over their gross ass au but I've seen people tell them how it's extra gross bc mercy is Jewish-coded. I'm not super understanding how she is Jewish-coded and I'd like to know so I can be more conscientious of it

Okay so this is very similar to an ask I received on my main, so I’ll give a more in-depth explanation there at some point, but the long and short of it is:

  • Ziegler is an Ashkenazic surname
  • Her motivation to save lives, no matter the cost, is in keeping with Pikuach Nefesh–basically, the idea that preservation of human life is more important nearly all other considerations
  • Operating under this assumption, you can see why she would have believed it ethical to save Genji, despite the affect upon the quality of his life
  • This is backed up by the assertion (by Michael Chu) that she is an ethical person–nevermind what you think of her decisions, she has made them for what she believes are ethical reasons
  • Following such a code also explains why she finds being a soldier to be wrong, but carries her own weapon.  Because she is carrying it reluctantly, and for self defense only, this is not in anyway premeditated (unlike enlisting or ordering someone on a mission) and is, therefore, in the eyes of her religion, not murder (NOTE: not all Jewish people feel this way, but it is in line with what I was taught)
  • Her sense of guilt/responsibility over/for the fallout between Jack and Gabe feels very Jewish to me, as do her interactions with Reinhardt (who also has a Jewish name, and is Jewish coded for many of the same reasons as she is)
  • I have seen people argue that angel imagery is Christian, but I’ll add here that Judaism had the concept of the angel first, so it should in no way be read as proof of Christianity.

There is more, but unfortunately this is all I can remember off of the top of my head right now.  If any other Jewish people want to add to this, let me know!

- Mod Rory

Hebrew Alphabet Chart Frankfurt am Main (Germany), Circa 1650

This broadside served as a pedagogical tool to enhance the education of young children learning the Holy Tongue; it is one of the earliest charts of its kind. The center panel presents various combinations of Hebrew vowels and consonants and a series of morning prayers, including the blessing recited for hand washing as well as the text of Psalm 23 and other biblical verses. The border is embellished with bold woodcuts, including a depiction of David with his sling, a variety of animated animals, and a rendering of Jerusalem as it will appear in the messianic era. This image of Jerusalem is based on the description from a vision of the Prophet Ezekiel (Ez. 48:30–34). The very same woodcut of Jerusalem is also printed on the title page of an appeal for charity sent by the Ashkenazic women of Jerusalem to be published in Frankfurt am Main circa 1650.

[ID: A screenshot of a Google result. It reads, “Last name: Jacobi. This most interesting surname is an Ashkenazic variant of “Jacob”, itself coming from the Latin name “Jacobus”, from the Hebrew given name “Yaakov” (aqob) meaning “supplanter” or “following-after”.” /end ID]

Daniel Jacobi is Jewish pass it on

anonymous asked:

hi! do you have any recommendations for fiction by/about jewish characters, especially by/about jewish women? goodreads lists are littered with books by christians so i'm wary of diving into those lists. i'm not too picky about genre!

I must painfully admit I don’t read fiction as much as I used to. (ADHD problems? Oof.) I have a few books on my own shelves, which I’ll list out, then a few wishlist books I haven’t read.

But before all that, my big recommendation for finding good Jewish books?

The Jewish Book Council! http://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/books/
You’ll be able to find lots of stuff there, and it’s a good way for me to make sure the book in question is actually Jewish and not actually Christian. Their reading lists are a good place to start: http://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/books/reading-lists

That page actually shows “Sonora” which I was tempted to buy recently – it’s set in Arizona (where I’m from) and so I saw it featured in a Tucson bookstore back in February. It’s a more “literary” read though, I didn’t pick it up. But maybe I’ll read it someday!

My bookshelf contains:

- The Two Mujeres (Lesbian Mexican-Jewish women with a good ending.)
- The Red Tent - Anita Diamant (Classic that everyone reads it feels like, haha.)
- How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (Graphic novel about a trip to Birthright, followed by visiting Palestine. It’s really good. Nuanced.)
- The Golemn and the Jinni
- I recommend any of Maggie Anton’s books - I only own Rashi’s Daughters Book 1: Joheved. She writes lots of books about Jewish women and they’re ooofftteeen like the one Jewish fiction book shelved in B&N in the Jewish section, haha. Aside from maybe “The Red Tent.”

AND: I suggest Shira Glassman for all your LGBT Jewish fantasy needs. :) Actually Shira is lovely and will probably also have a million recommendations to add here.

Oh also!!! it’s a kid’s graphic novel series called “Hereville” the first one is “How Mirka Got her Sword.” (I think?) but it’s super duper cute so I have to mention it - all about an Orthodox little girl being a super hero, sort of? And her step-mother is *not* a villain and it’s just. Good!!! Also “The Rabbi’s Cat.” might be fun.

Other books on my to-read someday maybe list:

- The Fruit of Her Hands: The Story of Shira of Ashkenaz by Michelle Cameron
- The Color of Light by Helen Maryles Shankman (Jewish lit + Vampires maybe??)
- Jerusalem Maiden: A Novel by Talia Carner
- Dropped from Heaven: Stories by Sophie Judah
- The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi; Anthony Berris, trans.
- Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese
- Saint Mazie by Jami Attenberg

I could keep listing books I’d like to give a try, but I mostly have just named a few things I found off the Jewish Book Council website anyways! 

Someone like @shiraglassman or maybe @kuttithevangu would have way more personal Jewish fiction book recommendations. I think they both read way more than I do and also more fiction. (A lot of my current reads are non-fiction, because I can set the book down and forget it for a week or two and not be too lost…haaha.)

ETA: 

shiraglassman

I will! I’m on this, it just might take me a day or so because of other commitments. In the meantime I have a “Jewish books” tag you might could check out and reblog anything that looks like Anon would enjoy? It’s usually reviews or recs lists.

Thanks!!! I figured they could just look through but I’ll also reblog some stuff. Hopefully anon will see this….? I accidentally let this message sit for a bit. 

antisocialarchives  asked:

Hello, Sleuth! I'm sorry if you've been asked this before, but I recalled that many ASOUE fans thought that the S in S. Theodora Markson, but stood for Sunny, but aren't the Baudelaires named after dead Snickets? Which in case, Thedora is a) a Snicket b) dead?

And a good morrow to you, @antisocialarchives​!

It’s never said that the Baudelaire orphans are named after dead Snicket. What they say specifically is that their family names children after dead people and that the Snickets do that too. This is actually an echo to a number of Ashkenazic traditions.

“I could not ask for better,” Kit said quietly. “Name the baby after one of your parents, Baudelaires. The custom of my family is to name a baby for someone who has died.” “Ours too,” Sunny said, remembering something her father had told her when she had inquired about her own name. “Our families have always been close,” Kit said, “even if we had to stay apart from one another. Now, finally, we are all together, as if we are one family.
[The End, Chapter Thirteen]

Technically the Baudelaire orphans are named after Arlene Violet, Claus von Bülow and Sunny von Bulöw, the main protagonists of the von Bülow case. Beatrice and Bertrand had considered naming Violet after Lemony Snicket if she had been born a boy, but that was only because they thought him dead at the time (and also, theoretically, because some doubt remained about Violet’s biological father).

anonymous asked:

also like.... as someone with german jewish lineage and eastern european/balkan/sephardic-assimilated-ashkenazic lineage uhhh..... im just saying yall german jews seem more prone to being upset by the mention of palestine wrt the holocaust in general and i just want to say like.................... ur the ones who kinda produced zionism and spread it east and its sorta telling the way u take it more personally. Maybe im just jaded by west jewish perspective but its tiring to have to talk likethis

publishing this one because it’s funny that this person is so bad at pretending to be a jew that [a] they think german jew - ostjuden tensions exist in 2018 even though neither category exists anymore (“jaded by west jewish perspective”?), [b] they’re assuming i’m a german jew because i’m upset about holocaust memorial desecration? lmao, [c] they have no idea about how zionism worked (”spread it east”?), not to mention the rest of the messages about why goyim rightfully hate us and the holocaust was divine punishment for zionism

anonymous asked:

Good resources on how to play a Jewish character without falling into negative sterotypes and learning more about the culture ?

I am not Jewish myself, but as far as I know these are all accurate and were written by people who are Jewish, so I think these could be some good sources on Judaism for you.

anonymous asked:

When people say they are Jewish does it mean they are ethnically (does that also mean ancestry from Israel?) or religiously? Also why do some people who say they are Jewish have German, Polish, Russian, Spanish, etc surnames? Were their ethnically Jewish ancestors forced to adopt a surname from the language of the ethnic groups from the country they moved to?

It can be both religious and ethnic. There are ethnic Jews who practice Judaism, ethnic Jews who don’t practice (like me), and concerts who have no Jewish blood. All three are considered Jews. Ethnic Jews all have blood ties to Israel.

There can be several reasons for the surname issue:

1. They’re matrilineal Jews with their gentile father’s surname (like me)

2. They’re married and took their gentile spouse’s name

3. They’re adopted

4.They changed their names for various reasons. A lot of Jews did change their names to assimilate.

5. Compared to other ethnic groups, European Jews adopted the concept of surnames much later. They were forced to take on last names by the authorities, mostly for tax-related purposes. Therefore, a lot of Ashkenazi Jewish last names are derived from German and Slavic words, place names, topography, occupations, etc. More information can be found here: http://jewishcurrents.org/the-origins-and-meanings-of-ashkenazic-last-names/