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Jewish Cultural Awareness Club

(photo by Julia Ferin)

Get to know a Buffalonian...

Joey Stern, David Zakalik, and Josh Finkelstein (pictured, left to right) comprise the Jewish Cultural Awareness Club, or JCAC, at the Nichols School. Each week, by means of educational skits, they teach their fellow upper school students a couple phrases in Yiddish and a little bit about Jewish culture. As the eight days of Hannukah come to a close on December 19, we thought we’d check in with these three cultural ambassadors to learn a little about the holiday and the club.

What do our Gentile readers need to know about Hannukah?

Finkelstein: It’s not that important.

Zakalik: Au contraire! We are compelled by our religion to treat each festival with respect.

What is the JCAC? What do you do?

Stern: The Jewish Cultural Awareness Club is a student-run organization to inform the Nichols School community about Jewish culture. The JCAC holds events such as the Hanukah Harry gift exchange, the Rosh Hashanah fruit feast, and other such meetings to inform the Nichols School student body about Jewish holidays, festivities, and culture.

Since you began this enterprise, have you noted an increase in the use of Yiddish among your classmates in conversation and writing? Is your work bearing fruit?

S: Most definitely. Every week, the JCAC makes an announcement to the entire student body, and each week we have a new “Yiddish word of the week.” Such a simple task actually has made an impact on our student body, and even while walking down the halls I often hear an “oy vey,” which is exactly what the JCAC is trying to accomplish.

Z: Yes. The phrases “oy vey” and “shmutz” are being integrated into the Nichols lexicon.

If you could teach all our readers three word in Yiddish, what would they be? And can you use all three in one sentence?

F: Oy gevalt! I’m shvitzing like a shmendrik!

S: I’d say the three classics: “Oy vey”—an exclamation of grief. “Klutz”—a careless and clumsy person. “Mazel tov”—an expression meaning congratulations.

Does the JCAC have any upcoming events we should know about?

S: The next Jewish holiday is Tu B’Shevat, the “new years for trees,” and the JCAC will be donating money to plant trees in Israel.

BONUS: Who, in the eyes of the JCAC, is the greatest Jewish-American hero? Why?

Z: Not Adam Sandler; he’s a yutz. Bernie Madoff is pretty high up there.

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