Take the 2-minute tour ×
Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Literally it means "homey."

But I'm asking about the sociological meaning of the group of people who call themselves "Heimishe." My best guess is that it means "midway between Hassidish and Litvak." But given that differences between Hassidim and Litvaks, though they surely exist, are not what they were during the heyday of the Misnagdim, what is the difference between Litvak and Heimishe?

Does "Heimishe" also suggest that these people go to university? That they speak English rather than Yiddish? There are no Heimishe organizations per se, but are there organizations which everyone identifies with Heimishism?

(Some webpages discussing this: 1 2 3.)

share|improve this question

5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Having grown up "heimish" I will do my best to explain.

The first thing I tell people that ask me to define Heimish, is "mixed up". From the outside looking in, our accent in davening is typically that of chassidim, yet we (For the most part) are clean shaven (which is a huge no-no in the chassidish world). You might see us wear a gartel on shabbos (chassidish) while wearing a suit and tie (not-chassidish). Heimish people also frequent going to rebbes. So, yes we're sort of mixed up.

From my experience, there are really two kinds of backgrounds to Heimish ppl.

1) After the war, many people who were brought up full-on chassidish, when they moved to various parts of Europe, or came to the states, they either weren't comfortable wearing the chassidish get-up or whatever their reasons were, they decided to shave and wear the more litvish style of clothing. These people, while all their minhagim and traditions were all Chassidish, they didn't dress the part anymore. However, the chassidish way of life was really all they knew.

2) Back in Hungary, there were many towns and shtetls that bordered around the bigger chassidish towns and these people all gravitated towards the rebbes in the larger towns, but they themselves weren't full on chassidish. Litvish however they were not, as all the customs they followed were from the chassidim around them.

In our generation though, the whole concept of Heimish is really dying out. Growing up, there were many yeshivas that were chassidish yeshivas, where the rebbeim spoke Yiddish, and half the class was actually chassidish (think of Yagdil Torah, Veen etc) however the other half of the class had payis behind the ears (litvish style) and were considered "Heimish". What happened over the years though was that most started to feel this "mixed up" feeling and sort of chose a path. Many went to litvish yeshivas for high school/beis midrash and started acceping the litvish way of life, while the other half went to more chassidish yeshivas, and started growing a beard and put on a shtreimel when they got married. Our kids generation therefore is pretty well defined. There are very few if any (Veretsky in brooklyn being the exception) yeshivas that have chassidish yiddish speaking rebbeim, with the parent body being clean shaven (Montreal still has a little bit of that as well, however in Brooklyn/Lakewood etc it's pretty much over).

For me personally, to this day I feel mixed up. I speak a fluent Yiddish, have a chassidish havara, yet I live in Lakewood in a total litvish environment. I don't fit into bp anymore as that became very Chassidish (I'm clean shaven and not chassidish at all) but I feel like an outsider here in Lakewood as well since at my core, all my customs, my whole upbrining was very different than that of the Litvish folks I live amongst.

Feel free to ask further questions in the comments....

share|improve this answer
    
Thanks, that makes a lot of sense. But how does hardcore Litvish differ from Heimish? I think that the hardcore Litvish speak Yiddish, right? So what other differences are there? I was recently in an environment which definitely identified itself as Heimish, but almost all of the men had beards, a few had streimels, and there was lots of Yiddish floating around, though they were primarily English speakers. University was definitely out for the new generation thought most of the older generation had degrees, whether as BT or because that's how it was in the last generation. –  Joshua Fox Apr 2 '12 at 20:58
    
Can you give me a few specific characteristics of Heimish? I know that nothing is 100%, but for example: Beards, going to university, streimel, speaking Yiddish, or whatever else would let me distinguish Heimish from Chasidish on the one hand and Litvak on the other. –  Joshua Fox Apr 2 '12 at 21:02
    
Many years ago, in New York, I saw an OU pareve dried fruit + nut tray that had the following sticker affixed to it: "דאס איז אונטער אַ היימיש השגחה" (This is under a heimish hashgacha). I always wondered; why would someone trust a unsigned assurance that the hashgacha is "heimish", but wouldn't trust the OU that was already on the package? –  user1095 Apr 3 '12 at 11:35
    
@JoshuaFox It really is hard to nail down specifics because in spite of what I said earlier that most people these days have chosen a path, they will still identify themselves to some degree as "Heimish". So you could have a clean shaven guy that wears jeans & would go to college, and a guy with a beard and shtreimel that speaks only yiddish, both call themselves Heimish because of the way they were brought up and because of their background. It really isn't its own entity anymore and it depends on their current circles and environment. –  BFree Apr 3 '12 at 14:52
    
@JoshuaFox One more thing, here's a way you can identify some heimish people: If you see a guy that's clean shaven, and looks totally litvish, yet he has a chassidish havara and goes to rebbes, he'll typically be heimish. –  BFree Apr 3 '12 at 14:55

Heimish is used by both the hard-core Chasidish AND by the (for lack of a better term) Chasidish-lite (i.e. Chasidic background and customs but not dress.) It is not used by the Litvish (or the Yekkes for that matter) in the same context.

share|improve this answer
1  
Thanks for your input and welcome to the site! If you don't add in your source for saying this, then we have only your word to go on (and, no offense, but none of us know you). –  msh210 Mar 18 '13 at 3:09

I've always heard this used as a synonym for "frum". If it has a more specific connotation, based on the usage I have heard, I would interpret it as having the following characteristics: very traditional (i.e. not modern), black hat, and linguistically the environment would be yiddish/english.

Update: I discussed this question with our Rabbi at shul today, and I think I understand some of the ambiguity now. The answers which already stated "comfortable, homelike, friendly" capture the basic meaning of the term. The ambiguity arises from the fact that different types of Jews describe different types of environments as "heimisch". So while our shul would not be accurately perceived as "heimisch" by readers of Yated, it would be perceived that way by others.

Also, according to one of the participants in today's discussion at shul, the phone directory for the Lakewood, NJ, Chasidic community is called the "Heimisch" directory (or something like that), implying something like "our folk". The Rabbi said that Litvaks would not typically use the term in that way.

share|improve this answer
    
Right, it does mean something like "our folk," and indeed, Litvaks, Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, and Chassidic wouldn't use it. Similarly, a certain American Indian group calls themselves Dene, which means "people," but of course doesn't refer to just any people. So, Heimish is a term used as an endonym by a certain group, which I am trying to identify. –  Joshua Fox Apr 3 '12 at 18:29
    
I think "our folk" or "our type" is correct. Some people will consider consider a Litvak as a "heimishe" guy since they want to convey that the guy is frum and keeps to the same code of conduct as you do. Others would only call another Chassid "Heimishe" since there is enough common ground to make him OK in the eyes in the other. Think of it like the classic mafia intro of "friend of mine" vs. friend of ours" Yiddish is a live language and varies from place to place and community to community so there are many words that are hard to pin down an exact meaning to –  eramm Oct 20 '13 at 16:58

I'm surprised to read the other answers provided, not to mention the direction of the question leading to those answers. I didn't know what to expect when I clicked on the title, but it wasn't that.

I have personally never heard the word in any context other than, simply, "friendly". As in: "This is a Heimish Shul" (not as a denomination, but just generally friendly, welcoming, and warm, usually on account of being fairly small); "This is a Heimish restaurant"; "The staff at that Judaica store are so Heimish".

share|improve this answer
1  
+1; this is similar to Gershon Gold's answer (which I also +1ed). –  msh210 Apr 2 '12 at 16:43
    
@msh210 Yup.... –  Seth J Apr 2 '12 at 17:52
    
Seth, actually, I originally thought the same as you. However, once our program director advertised our Shabbos services as "heimisch" (in Yated), and the Rabbi told him it wasn't accurate. Although our shul is very friendly, the Rabbi intimated that people who read Yated would not associate our kind of shul with "heimisch". (We are best described as "eclectic" as group - he wasn't making a statement about our friendliness.) –  Sam Goldberg Apr 2 '12 at 19:36
    
Sure, Heimish originally meant comfortable and still means that. But there is a more specific meaning, having to do with a specific subsector for ultra-orthodoxy. –  Joshua Fox Apr 2 '12 at 20:58
2  
@JoshuaFox, apparently. I've just never heard of it before reading this question (and some of the answers). –  Seth J Apr 2 '12 at 21:20

The word Heimish means comfortable. So to a Litvak another Litvak is Heimish and to a Chassid another Chassid is Heimish.

share|improve this answer
1  
Sure, Heimish originally meant comfortable and still means that. But there is a more specific meaning, having to do with a specific subsector for ultra-orthodoxy. –  Joshua Fox Apr 2 '12 at 20:56

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.