Speaking Yiddish in Acapulco

By Venetia Thompson, December 23, 2010
Follow The JC on Twitter

A strange thing about Jews is that we pop up all over the world, often in the most unexpected places, and seem to gravitate towards each other. I always seem to end up sat next to another Jew on flights, at dinner parties, or on trains, and a couple of days ago was no exception.

I found myself at a dinner party high in the hills above Acapulco, Mexico, trying to make sense of the somewhat eccentric barefooted man with a strange accent and impressive white tufts of hair, sat next to me.

He was rambling nonsensically about teaching English, and I had asked him what other languages he spoke.

The reply? Yiddish - although he went on to explain that, alas, the only time he got to speak it now was with his sister's German husband.

‘Ashkenazi? High five!’ I’d say, before embarking on my history

"Imagine, a Mexican Jew speaking Yiddish to a German. I really am the only Jew in the village. I keep telling him to learn Yiddish and he keeps telling me to learn German. But we understand each other fine, so I don't really see the point."

Suddenly this middle aged, slightly strange man who I was dreading being sat next to shone a little brighter, purely because he was a Jew.

Finding an old, wise, Yiddish speaking Jew in Acapulco is like finding a bald eagle: you'd never expect to see one, let alone find one sat next to you drinking tequila over dinner. But now here he was, in full flow, telling me he'd given up practising as there was no synagogue in Acapulco that he knew of, and the only place for prayers was a hotel owned by Jews, or an apartment block that only accepted Orthodox Jews, which he found distasteful. So he settled for speaking Yiddish to his German brother-in-law and let the rest go.

This is of course not the first time this has
happened.

Over the years, when my Jewish roots were terribly new and exciting, I have forgiven all manner of inexplicably strange behaviour purely on account of the discovery of a shared family history.

I would often get the sudden urge to shout "Ashkenazi? High five!" before embarking on telling the full history of my own family to the poor unsuspecting person.

The novelty factor has, of course, now worn off somewhat, but finding the Mexican Yiddish speaking man in the hills provoked a rare reoccurrence of my former puppy-like over-excitability.

However, by far the most exciting discovery to date during my Mexican voyage has been learning right at the end of a long-winded description of endless environmental and hygienic certifications, that Patron tequila is fully certified as kosher.

My ears instantly pricked up.

I don't keep kosher beyond ordering kosher meals on long haul flights (always the safest option) but, nonetheless, I now feel far less guilty about the endless margaritas and 'information gathering' trips to different distilleries in Jalisco.

Now I just need to work out how to replace the kosher wine with kosher tequila the next time I find myself at a seder…

    Last updated: 3:47pm, December 23 2010