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Notes on Haimish

What is and what isn’t

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A hamish thing of post-its.(Wikipedia)

In a Semitic twist on the traditional August rite of mining your vacation for a column, David Brooks expounds today on the difference between the bare-bones places he and his family stayed while on safari and the nicer ones: “I know only one word to describe what the simpler camps had and the more luxurious camps lacked: haimish.” He continues: “It’s a Yiddish word that suggests warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality. It occurred to me that when we moved from a simple camp to a more luxurious camp, we crossed an invisible Haimish Line. The simpler camps had it, the more comfortable ones did not.” He notes that restaurants, neighborhoods, and hotels can be haimish or not. He says Hillel Houses are not haimish but Chabad houses are. He reports that contemporary sociologists believe the concept of haimish evolved as a way for Jews to regulate and systematically justify spending less money (okay, I am making that up, but that has to be it, right?). For the perplexed, a guide by example follows.

Haimish: Tennis.
Not haimish: Golf.

Haimish: The Upper West Side.
Not haimish: The Upper East Side.

Haimish: A good internist.
Not haimish: A good specialist.

Haimish: Gin.
Not haimish: Poker.

Haimish: Catholics.
Not haimish: Protestants.

Haimish: Sending your kids to summer camp.
Not haimish: Letting your kids have TVs in their rooms.

Haimish: Italy.
Not haimish: France.

Haimish: French.
Not haimish: German.

Haimish: Post-its.
Not haimish: Stationery.

Haimish: Wine.
Not haimish: Liquor.

Haimish: Bill Clinton.
Not haimish: Barack Obama.

Haimish: The Chicago Cubs.
Not haimish: The New York Yankees.

Haimish: Navy blue.
Not haimish: Teal.

Haimish: Club Med.
Not haimish: The Bahamas.

Haimish: Commentary.
Not haimish: The Weekly Standard.

Haimish: Decaf.
Not haimish: Regular.

Haimish: Tom Hanks.
Not haimish: Richard Gere.

Haimish: Backpacks.
Not haimish: Briefcases.

Haimish: Law and Order.
Not haimish: The Wire.

Haimish: The Catskills.
Not haimish: The Hamptons.

Haimish: Re-using tea bags.
Not haimish: Not re-using tea bags.

Haimish: New Jersey.
Not haimish: Connecticut.

Haimish: iPhones.
Not haimish: Macs.

Haimish: San Francisco.
Not haimish: L.A.

Haimish: The Harry Potter books.
Not haimish: The Harry Potter movies.

Haimish: The New York Times.
Not haimish: The Wall Street Journal.

The Haimish Line [NYT]

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Wine is haimish will liquor is not…but gin is haimish? And yeah, the Shoah and all, but I mean…Yiddish is Germanic! Many Yiddish dialects sound more like German than Klal Yiddish does!

Zhenya says:

Wait, how’s French haimish but France isn’t?

Daniel says:

This should have mentioned that its really an update/homage (though not too bad of one) of an old Lenny Bruce routine on Jewish and Goyish.

Moran Lowiq B. Eeghuzzar, aka King Vacuous I says:

Haimish: Chia Pets
Not Haimish: the word ‘Haimish’
Haimish: not wasting time on the internet on blogs, postings, etc.
Not Haimish: thinking posting on the internet means anything but blah, blah, blah

Ruth B says:

Protestants not haimish? Clearly you’ve never met any Minnesota or North Dakota Lutherans. They make everything a pot-luck.

Episcopalians are a different matter though…..

Jay Lunzer says:

Decaf – Haimish? c’mon…

Let me please compare this to chicken soup;
Orthodox CS – kosher chicken (the real thing); meat, greens, and lokshen
Conservative CS – kosher chicken or stock (plain)
Reform CS – treif (non-kosher) chicken (you can dress it up but it’s still treif)
Reconstructionist CS – Pareve chicken flavored powder (no additives)

Haimish is the real thing – the rest is ‘ersatz’!

JCarpenter says:

some of my best friends are scotch-drinking Protestants . . . .

MaroonJew says:

some hillels are haimish. David Brooks should have actually visited the UofC hillel when he was there – plenty haimish

jacob arnon says:

“Haimish: Catholics.

Not haimish: Protestants.”

Or the other way around.

Since when has poker become non-Kosher?

Wolfmara says:

when i saw the article title- this is where my mind went first:

Haimish – Meaning of the name
[ syll. hai-mis(h), ha-imi-sh ] The baby boy name Haimish is pronounced as HHEY-Mih-SH †. Haimish’s origin is Scottish. Haimish is a form of the Scottish name Hamish.

Haimish is infrequently used as a baby name for boys. It is ranked outside of the top 1000 names

—– instead of decaf vs reg coffee- why not a nice glass of tea vs reg coffee?
and San Frisncisco Haimish?! srsly? – were you not following the news when they made an all out assault on circumcision? they tried to criminalize parents for giving their son a bris… sooo not Haimish.

west coaster says:

Haimish: the real thing, authentic to place
not haimish: NYer’s who think their definition of reality is true for others.

And PS, what’s your problem with booze and caffeine?
PPS: Tennis is about as WASPY as one can get. How is that Haimish?

Haimish: feeling of haimishness
Not haimish: Lists of haimishisms

artcohn says:

Neither the upper west side, nor the upper east side of Manhattan are haimish. Bensonhurst and Flatbush in Brooklyn, and Kew Gardens Hills and Rego Park in Queens are haimish.

Dr. Zier says:

Feh!

David Brooks has been a consistent ideological voice calling for & supporting policies that have created a society that oppose those who wish to live a hamish life. Policies that have encouraged & exalted individualism, consumerism, inequality & alienation from one’s fellow citizens, & have made the kind of working-class neighborhood life that he pines for in his column into a Sisyphusean struggle, with less & less time available for either family or community. Brooks has in truth made his career supporting everything that has made American life increasingly anti-hamish.

So is Brooks column yet another tract of faux-populist truisms, is it a veiled argument for govt. spending cuts, does it mean to tell Americans who are struggling in this neoliberal economy that their ‘staycation’ is as enjoyable as the Brooks family’s luxurious African adventure to 7 safari resorts?

Answer? It is a shanda. Not hamish in the least.

Haimish: Hadassah Magazine
Not Haimish: Tablet

I also wrote a blog article on Brooks column, but focused on why the Yiddish word had a connotation that only those who absorbed the essence of the language could understand.

Here’s the link:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/30/1011987/-The-Haimish-Line?showAll=yes&via=blog_792381

Michael says:

Yankees not Hamish? Ever been to the Stadium on a Sunday? Hamish!!! The Cubs? Please…

Haimish. Two Jews three opinions, not that you have to agree with me. If curious go to http://www.carolinebock.com for more truth … and lies.

student says:

well that article made absolutely no sense, i too can take a dump and convert it into html code

student says:

liquor… but i just met her!?

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Peter W. says:

L.A. not haimish and San Francisco haimish? Obviously the author has not lived in either place. L.A. has identifiable Jewish neighborhoods where you meet your neighbors on shabbes while walking back from shul. In my neighborhood, Pico-Robertson, there are just two types of restaurants Kosher and Chinese — what else does a Jew need? San Francisco is smoked salmon, L.A. is lox. L.A. is “Zay Gezunt”. San Francisco is “please sign me up for a colonic”. L.A. is Langers, Brents, and Canters — delis with deli men. San Franicsco is ironic versions of delis where 20 something hipsters grow beards and sell smoked meats and “salumi”. Oy!

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Notes on Haimish

What is and what isn’t

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