who's in the kitchen: judy joszef

Our parents were ‘greenas,’ but we understood


This past Shabbat, my husband Jerry and I were invited to shalosh seudos at our friends, Howie and Meira Lasky, along with the Goldsmiths, Hacks and Markowitzs. Out of the ten at the table, six had parents born overseas, or as they are referred to by most, “greenas.”

Although, my mom was born in Romania, she came to America in the 1930s as a young girl and by the time she was 14 she spoke perfect English without an accent, so I never considered her a “greena,” and my dad was born in New York. None of my grandparents were in the Holocaust, all four of them arriving before the war. That being said, at times, I think of myself as a Holocaust survivor’s child. You see, having been married to Jerry for eight years and knowing him for 12, I actually feel as though I am.

Those of you who know Jerry, understand. Those of you who don’t, let’s just say he has at least 40 to 50 books about the Holocaust and hundreds of articles, testimonies, etc. He’s seen every Holocaust movie at least twice and has almost every book written about anti-Semitism. 

At the table, the subject turned to our parents, and Jerry spoke of his parents’ mispronunciation of certain words. One by one, those with parents not American-born, regaled us with classics. Among them:

Tenor, for tenant (I actually thought my mother-in-law had operatic tenors living upstairs, when I first met her), Top and Center Bridge for Tappan Zee Bridge, Fridgidaire for refrigerator, tangerines for dungarees, drucks for drugs — as in Jerry’s mom saying, “You’re wearing a turtleneck Friday night to go to the coed social after dinner? Before you know it, you’ll be on drucks!” — blood clock instead of blood clot.

And then there were the customized sayings — go with the flood instead of the flow, fire camp instead of camp fire, playing broken phone instead of phone tag, chungum instead of chewing gum, silver foil instead aluminum foil, absorbing instead of observing, George instead of a judge, and my personal favorite: nose drill instead of nostrils.

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