Rabbi Julian Sinclair dips into the dictionary

By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, August 6, 2009

As you leave the town centre of Jerusalem and stroll north into the Charedi neighbourhoods, the wall-to-wall posters, white with black ink, covering the building facades are perhaps the most salient feature. These pashkevilim are the main means of mass communication in the Charedi world.

A pashkevil may announce the release of a new scholarly work or a lecture by a great sage, but to the outsider, pashkevilim are associated with the denunciation of some fixture of modern life, like mixed seating on busses or the use of mobile phones.

Pashkevil entered Hebrew from the Yiddish. However, the word dates back to 16th-century Italy, where a man named Pasquino used to post satirical notices for public consumption.

In a world that does not use the internet on a large scale and reads only its own newspapers, the pashkevil is a huge media and polemical tool. If you want to know the burning issues of the day in Israel’s Charedi community, just take a five-minute walk up Rechov Meah Shearim.

These days, sadly, the pashkevilim are replete with ugly conspiracy theories about Hadassah hospital and the welfare authorities. Although, to what extent the pashkevil speaks for its readers is debatable.

Last updated: 5:19pm, August 6 2009