By Rabbi Julian Sinclair, March 6, 2009

On becoming a Jewish grandparent today, you have to decide how you want to be addressed. (Or more accurately, on becoming a grandparent of children who are able to address you, but of course that is almost immediately in the case of your grandchildren, right?)

There is a range of possibilities. You can go for the conventional, English Grandma and Grandpa, the Germanic Oma and Opa, the modern Hebrew Saba and Savta (if you are lucky enough to have Israeli grandchildren, they will probably call you this without consulting your opinion), or the full-bloodedly Yiddish, Bubbe and Zeide.

There is much to be said for being called Zeide. It conjures up images of homely smiling old men in carpet slippers making kiddush on Friday night, as celebrated in sentimental Yiddish songs.

The Shpola Zeide (Rabbi Aryeh Leib of Shpola) wasa famous Chasidic Rebbe of the eighteenth century, so called apparently because of his warm, kindly grandfather-like nature, (although he had a long-running controversy with Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav).

One of my readers, Millie Donbrow from Jerusalem, has wondered for years about the etymology of Zeide. It is from the Polish, dzadiek, meaning grandfather. This looks like Dad, but the OED tells us Dad is an imitation of a babys first sounds. Perhaps that is the origin of dzadiek, too.

Julian Sinclairs book, Lets Schmooze: Jewish Words Today, is published by Continuum

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 6 2009