the schmooze
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Syosset, New York

Actor and singer, Mandy Patinkin, was asked the following question by the Forward on Oct. 21, 2011:  “You weren’t brought up in a Yiddish-speaking household.  How did you come to sing in Yiddish?”

His reply:  “Joe Papp asked me if I would sing a song in Yiddish.  When I told him I didn’t know any, he said, “It’s time you learned one.”  He sent over “Yossel, Yossel.”  When I sang that song, it hit me in the kishkes in a way that I can’t explain.”

Shown below is a Yiddish Guide to Mandy Patinkin:

“alter kaker/”alta kucker”   (old man)
Patinkin told actress, Nazanin Boniadi [kindly], “You can go slower.
Remember, I’m an old man.”

“arbeter” (worker)
“Well, I’m not a critic, I’m just a worker.  So, I’m always grateful for anything the critics say--good or bad.”  (quote)

“dire-gelt” (rent)
“You rarely pay the rent by doing Shakespeare or Ibsen.”  (quote)

“dokter” (doctor)
In Chicago Hope, Patinkin played the role of Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, for which he won an Emmy.

“er zogt” (He says)
Patinkin wrote, “On my tombstone, I’d like it to say:  He tried to connect.”
He told Esquire in 2012:  “If there’ one wish that I have in life, it’s to connect, to connect to my children, connect to my wife, connect to my friends, to connect to you.

“farbrekher” (criminal)
In 2005, CBS made Patinkin the lead in “Criminal Minds,” a series about F.B.I criminal profilers.  After the second season he went AWOL.  Mandy voluntarily left the set of the TV show saying, “It’s (violent TV) a curiosity, I don’t get it.  People love it, that show remains very successful.  My mind has to be in that place to play those parts, that very dark place.  It was destroying my heart (“harts”) and soul (“neshome”).  I’ve very disturbed. This is what people go home to. They watch horrible (“groylik”), misogynistic, violent activity.”

Patinkin wrote a personal apology note to his cast mates, wishing them luck and actually returned to film a final scene.

FYI:  In Yiddish, the words meaning “to apologize” are “betn mekhile.”

“froy” (wife)
Patinkin is married to Kathryn Grody.  They have two sons, Isaac and Gideon.

“kontsert” (concert)
Before a Broadway concert in 2002, Patinkin ingested so many Klonopin, under a doctor’s supervision, that he went blank 20 minutes in and had to start over.

FYI:  CLONOPIN is prescribed to treat seizures and panic attacks.

“harts-brenenish” (heartburn)
Mike Nichols fired Patinkin from the movie, “Heartburn.”  He was replaced by Jack Nicholson as Meryl Streep’s co-star.  Nichols said: “I loved Mandy then, and I love him now.  It was awful (“shreklekh”) to have to replace him, but on film I couldn’t see the chemistry I wanted. I don’t know how many days it was, but to save the damn thing, I had to move fast to get Jack.  Mandy was, of course, devistated, and I’ve felt awful about it all of my life.”

Patinkin has described himself (“zikh”) as “Jewish with a dash of Buddhist” belief.  On a Canadian radio program he describes himself as a “JewBu” because of this mix of beliefs and “spiritual, but not religious.”

“kokhbikher” (cookbook)
Patinkin’s mother wrote, “Grandma Doralee Patinkin’s Holiday Cookbook:
A Jewish Family’s Celebrations.”

“krank” (sick)
“If you’re sick, watch funny movies.”  (quote)

“more-shkhoyre” (depression/sadness)
Patinkin has spoken openly about his depression.  He’s had therapy and has had bad experiences treating the symptoms with medication (“meditsin”).

“muzik” (music)
“Sondheim is the Shakespeare of the musical theater world.”  (quote)

“nomen” (name)
Mandy was born Mandel Bruce Patinkin.

Patinkin played Inigo Montoya in Rob Feiner’s 1987 “the Princess Bride,” which Patinkin considers his favorite role.  His iconic line:  “HELLO, MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA.  YOU KILLED MY FATHER.  PREPARE TO DIE.”

Patinkin plays the role of the best swordsman in the country.

“otem”  (breath)
“I’m a Jew.  I’m fascinated by our culture and our history, by what made us the people we are.  It influences every breath I take.  It informs and guides me.  Without it I’d just be a vacuum.”  (quote)

“ovnt” (evening)
Patinkin and Patti Lupone performed their concert, “An Evening with Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin on Broadway in 2011 at the Barrymore Theatre (“teater”). 

“rak” (cancer)
Patinkin has survived Prostate cancer at age 52, the same age his father, Lester Patinkin, died of pancreatic cancer.

“shmaltz”/”shmalts” (animal fats)
Bennett Muraskin wrote, “He [Patinkin] is the King of Shmaltz.”

“skore”  (crust)
“When I was your age, I used to treat the crust like it was just there to hold the good stuff in.  I used to leave the whole back-end of it on the plate (“der teler”).  As I got older I learned to appreciate the crust.”  (quote)

“tsedreiter” (eccentric man)
“tsedreiteh” (eccentric woman)
Alex Gansa, the co-creator of “Homeland” said of Mandy:  “Look, he’s an artist and all artists are eccentric in some way.”

“universitet” (college)
Patinkin attended Juilliard, but never graduated.

“vayn” (wine)
“My wife will tell you that if you feel my hands before I walk on for a performance, you could chill a bottle of wine.” (quote)

“vort” (word); Yidish vort (Yiddish word)
“I would go to war with words not weapons.  I would die talking before I lifted a weapon.”  (quote)

“Yizroel” (Israel)
“Isaac and I are going to Israel to ride for peace, enviromental justice and a safer world for all of us.”  (quote)

“zekhtsik” (60) Minutes
Bob Simon profiled Mandy Patinkin on the 11/16/14 episode of 60 Minutes.

“zingen” (to sing)
“Singing in Yiddish was a great thrill for me and came about through Joe Papp, the founder of The Public Theater.”  (quote)

“I have never been asked to be in a movie musical.  Other than ‘Yentl,’ which I didn’t sing in.” BTW, “Yentl opened to mostly mixed reviews, with a few devastating pans and a fair number of raves from influential critics such as Roger Ebert, who applauded its ‘special magic.’  It was a modest box office success, eventually grossing $60 million.  The only Oscar it won was for Michel Legrand’s musical score, with songs by Alan and Marilyn Bergman.”
Source:  “The 50 Greatest Jewish Movies - A Critic’s Ranking of the Very Best” by Kathryn Bernheimer.

“zuntik” (Sunday)
Mandy starred in the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, “Sunday in the Park with George.”

MARJORIE WOLFE will be speaking at the Syosset Library on Thursday, May 28.  Her topic:  “The Bintel Brief in 2015.”


Search for Stories Beginning with the Letter
N O P Q R S T U V W   Y Z
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of
two books:
yiddish for dog and cat loversbook
"Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers" and
"Are Yentas, Kibitzers, & Tummlers Weapons of Mass Instruction?  Yiddish
Trivia."  To order a copy, go to her

NU, what are you waiting for?  Order the book!

Yiddish Stuff
Jewish Humor
Schmooze News
More Majorie Wolfe
Jewish Stories
All Things Jewish
Jewish Communities of the World
Site Designed and Maintained by
Haruth Communications