Rabbi Sruli Dresdner and Lisa Mayer will perform a free program of music and storytelling for families Sunday at the Maine Yiddish Culture Festival. Photo courtesy of the Maine Jewish Film Festival

Most of us know a lot more Yiddish than we think.

The language of Jews in central and eastern Europe steadily has crept into mainstream American English for decades. So much so that even the most goyish (non-Jewish) among us have been known to kibbitz, schmooze or kvetch. Many of us have schlepped our stuff from place to place, declared ourselves a klutz or celebrated someone for their chutzpah.

So when the first Maine Yiddish Culture Festival takes place in Portland on Saturday and Sunday – featuring music, film, food and stories – just about everyone who attends likely will know more about the subject than they realize.

Author and humorist Michael Wex will give a talk Sunday in Portland based in his book “Born to Kvetch.” Photo courtesy of the Maine Jewish Film Festival

“A lot of Yiddish words are so entrenched in the mainstream that people don’t even know they’re Yiddish,” said Michael Wex, a Canadian humorist and writer who will give a talk at the festival based on his book “Born to Kvetch.” “I think my favorite is glitch, which in Yiddish is like a slip on the ice. In the 1960s it started being used by some students at MIT, and now it basically means a slip in the system.”

The culture festival is being put on by the organizers of the Maine Jewish Film Festival, which is entering its 23rd year. This year’s film festival, held in March, featured more than 30 films screened in six Maine communities. The film festival has sponsored other events over the years, including concerts and food events. So the cultural festival seemed like a logical next step.

“We appeal to a very broad audience, about half of them are not Jewish, and we just saw an opportunity to connect this very American story with even more people,” said David Scholder, president of the Maine Jewish Film Festival. “We have this common Jewish culture on the East Coast, from Europe, that has brought us a rich culture of Yiddish language, food and music.”

The festival kicks off Saturday at One Longfellow Square in Portland with a klezmer music concert. Klezmer is the term for special occasion bands in Jewish communities in central and eastern Europe. The concert features Hankus Netsky and Eden MacAdam-Somer of Klezmer Conservatory Band, based in Boston, plus the Casco Bay Tummlers, who have been performing klezmer around Maine for 30 years.

The festival’s other events are Sunday at the Jewish Community Alliance (JCA) of Southern Maine in Portland. Wex will give his talk about Yiddish language and phrases at 10:30 a.m. He says the Yiddish language – which has roots in several different languages, including German – is filled with words and phrases that come from a particular way of looking at life, as a struggle, a struggle softened by humor.

“Having a self-depracating and ironic take on just about everything is very much tied up with Yiddish,” Wex said.

The film “Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal” will screen Sunday at the Maine Yiddish Culture Festival. Photo courtesy of the Maine Jewish Film Festival

Other Yiddish words we’ve all heard at some point include maven, as in “style maven,” which means expert; nosh, which means to nibble or snack lightly; schmaltzy, overly sentimental; schlock, meaning something that’s cheap or shoddy; and spiel, a long and complicated explanation or sales pitch.

After Wex’s talk, there will be a free family program at the JCA with Rabbi Sruli Dresdner of Auburn and his wife, Lisa Mayer, who travel and perform Jewish music and stories for kids and families. At 2 p.m. in the same building there will be a lecture and dance party featuring Yiddish and Hassidic songs, and klezmer dance tunes, featuring Netsky and MacAdam-Somer from the Saturday concert.  Closing out the festival at 4 p.m. will be a screening of the film “Chewdaism, A Taste of Jewish Montreal” followed by a reception catered by Rose Foods and Tin Pan Bakery. The film is a historical and cultural tour of Jewish Montreal focused on food, starring a Yiddish comedy team known as YidLife Crisis – Jamie Elman and Eli Batalion.

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