Yiddish Jeopardy at The University of Guelph

Written by Savannah Binder, Student

One of many reasons I love the University of Guelph is because of their commitment to diversity and acceptance. One of the ways they do this is by having an ‘Intercultural Awareness Week’; a time where student groups on campus have the opportunity to share and expose students to cultures they may not be ‘aware’ of through various events, panels, food tastings etc. Guelph Hillel didn’t want to miss out on such a great opportunity, so we all brainstormed on ways we could display Jewish culture during the culture fair that would be both fun and interactive. Our brainstorming led to what ended up being a massive hit- Yiddish Jeopardy! For those may not know, Yiddish was the main language spoken by Eastern and Central European Jews (where a lot of our Bubbies and Zaidies come from). It is a combination of German and Hebrew. Amongst Jews, it is often said that Yiddish is a dying language. However, I think it is safe to say that Yiddish is more relevant than any of us truly realize- and I thought this idea of Yiddish Jeopardy would be a perfect way to demonstrate that. For instance, the terms ‘schnapps’, ‘glitch’ and ‘klutz’ all derive from the Yiddish language! Enticed by the freshly baked challah (or as most Gryphons know it-sweet bread) set out on our table, people would come over to our Jeopardy-style board thinking they knew nothing about the so-called ‘dying language’. However, with no help from us, most people ended up proving themselves wrong! The majority of people actually knew almost every Yiddish word on the board! It was a crazy and fun way to bond with and relate to people that we had never met before. The whole ‘gesheft’ (business) was a great way to start conversations about Judaism, Hebrew, Hillel and of course, Yiddish. I’m sure I speak for a lot of Jewish people when I say that it is nice to know that the language spoken by many of our past generations still holds relevance today.  Props to the University for creating a space for everyone to learn about different cultures- I know I sure did!