Commentary Magazine


Tsaylemkop

To the Editor:

The Litvak-Galitizianer exchange between Maurice Friedberg and Chaim Raphael [Letters from Readers, October 1976] was a lot of fun, but I suspect that the editorial hand that interpolated “casuist” as the translation for tsaylemkop in Mr. Friedberg’s letter was perpetrating Mr. Friedberg’s fallacy.

My father, M.Z. Frank, himself a Litvak from Rechitsa, near Homel, taught me that tsaylemkop referred to the Litvak’s inability to pronounce sh. He pronounces it s—and could not have said shibboleth. So one puts Judges 12, 6 with Genesis 48, 14.

I fear that Mr. Friedberg has gone farther. He seems to see in the meaning of tsaylem (cross) a basis for charging the tsaylemkop with an “attraction to medieval Catholic scholasticism.” If this is his logic, then all his claim to Galitzianer soul can be encompassed on the head of a pin.

Reuven Frank
Tenafly, New Jersey

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