Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Notes on Haimish

What is and what isn’t

Print Email
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]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

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:


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:

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 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!?

win123 says:

I am so glad this internet thing works and your article really helped

me.Might take you up on that home advice you!At same time,you can visit

my website:         

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!


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Notes on Haimish

What is and what isn’t

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree