The JPS Dictionary of Jewish Words contains over 1,000 entries derived from Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, and English. The entries include words for and associated with Jewish holidays and life-cycle events, culture, history, the Bible and other sacred texts, worship, and more.
Each entry has a pronunciation guide and is cross-referenced to other related terms. It cites the “whys” behind some Jewish customs, practices and rituals; and offers further resources for the reader who is interested in a more comprehensive explanation. The introduction is an excellent primer on the history of Jewish words, their transliteration, and pronunciation. A category list is also included to help readers easily find the words they want, even when they don't know the exact spelling.
This accessible dictionary is an excellent resource not just for Jews, but for anyone who wants to check the meaning, spelling, and/or pronunciation of Jewish words.
mensch n. Yiddish (MENCH) Literally, "person." A caring, decent person-man or woman-who can be trusted. It refers in a much larger sense to acting in an honorable, proper way. The term is bestowed as a compliment on someone who has done the right thing without asking for thanks or credit. For example, "Larry is a real mensch. Before he returned Peter's car, he filled the tank with gas!”
Lekhah Dodi n. Hebrew (leh-KHAN doe-DEE) Literally, “come my beloved.” The song sung by Jews worldwide at dusk on Friday evenings to welcome Shabbat. The words of the first stanza are: “Come, my beloved, to meet the bride. Let us welcome the Sabbath.”
retzuot pl. n. Hebrew (ret-soo-OTE) The leather straps, about two or three feet in length, that are attached to tefillin. There are two boxes of tefillin; one rests on the hand, the other on the forehead. The strap for the hand is wound seven times around the arm and then three times around the hand and three times around the ring and middle fingers, forming the Hebrew word Shaddai, one of the names of God. The strap for the forehead is tied in a knot and then left to hang loose.
The Jewish Publication Society of America was founded in Philadelphia in 1888 to provide the children of Jewish immigrants to America with books about their heritage in the language of the New World. As the oldest publisher of Jewish titles in the English language, the mission of JPS is to enhance Jewish culture by promoting the dissemination of religious and secular works of exceptional quality, in the United States and abroad, to all individuals and institutions interested in past and contemporary Jewish life.
Over the years JPS has issued a body of works for all tastes and needs. Its many titles include biographies, histories, art books, holiday anthologies, books for young readers, religious and philosophical studies, and translations of scholarly and popular classics. It is perhaps known best for its famous JPS Tanakh, the translation of the Hebrew Bible in English from the original Hebrew. You can find more information about JPS by visiting their website.
Joyce Eisenberg is an author and editor of a number of travel books and a series of kosher cookbooks. She was the editor of special sections for the Jewish Exponent for over 20 years and continues to write on topics of Jewish interest.
Ellen Scolnic is a writer whose articles have appeared in magazines and newspapers nationwide. In addition to topics of Jewish interest, she writes about parenting, child development, and families for parenting newspapers and websites.
To learn more about the authors, visit The Word Mavens.