Oy Gevalt! New Assembly Speaker John Perez — Yiddish He Speaks, Too?


john-perez-speaker-of-the-california-assemblyNanette Asimov reports in the San Francisco Chronicle: So this Latino politician is chatting up a Jewish scholar, when the scholar suddenly breaks into Yiddish: “Es iz a shandeh…” Interrupting himself he begins to translate, but his companion holds up a hand.

Ich darf es ahf kapores,” says the politician. No need.

Is this the start of a joke?

Nope, it’s the nearly verbatim account of the first meeting between Mark Yudof, president of the University of California and Yiddish speaker, and John Perez, Speaker of the California Assembly and, yes, Yiddish speaker.

“I picked up a few words from my mother. She spoke a bissel Yiddish,” Perez said, chuckling “that Mr. Yudof outed me.”

Yudof credits Perez with speaking better Yiddish than he does.

“But I’m definitely not conversational,” Perez said, which is perhaps forgiveable given how few Yiddish-speaking lobbyists and legislators work in Sacramento. “I probably have 100 words, maybe more.”

His Yiddish mentor was a mama, not a mamah. But that mama grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles and absorbed Yiddish from the Jewish families that lived in the melting pot that was Boyle Hts. before World War II.

Perez inherited her talent for languages. Besides Yiddish and English, he speaks Spanish and enough Hebrew not to get lost in Israel.

But he loves Yiddish because “it’s the mamaloshen,” or mother tongue. At one time if you spoke Yiddish, “it didn’t matter if you were Hungarian, Polish or German. It was a common language that transcended borders,” he said.

It might also come in handy over the next several months as Perez and other lawmakers argue about how to close the state’s $20 billion budget gap.

Hub rahmones! Es vet helfen vi a toiten bahnkes!” he might tell the Republicans, tossing them two of his favorites.

Translation: Have pity. That won’t help at all.

{SFGate.com/Noam Amdurski-Matzav.com Newscenter}