Mastering Hebrew and Ḥutzpah at Camp Massad

Memories of my 1950s summers at America’s first all-Hebrew sleepaway camp.

Jewish youth dancing the hora at Camp Wel-Met, October 1948. Heinz H. Weissenstein/Center for Jewish History/Flickr.

Jewish youth dancing the hora at Camp Wel-Met, October 1948. Heinz H. Weissenstein/Center for Jewish History/Flickr.

Observation
Oct. 13 2015
About the author

Josiah Lee Auspitz, an independent scholar, lives and works in Somerville, Massachusetts.

“The man just lacks hoozpoh.” That’s how I heard a Boston dowager explain why she wouldn’t support an otherwise qualified candidate for political office. Her charmingly mangled rendition of ḥutzpah was thoroughly in tune with Anglo-American usage, accented on the first syllable (ḥutzpah) in the Yiddish/Ashkenazi manner and carrying the positive connotation of an endearing audacity, a disarming brashness. Leo Rosten in The Joys of Yiddish (1968) offers the apocryphal example of this character trait: the young man convicted of murdering his parents who petitions for leniency on the grounds that he’s an orphan.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew, Jewish camp