Article Discussion: Jewish Greetings Cheat Sheet

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This topic has 7 voices, contains 10 replies, and was last updated by  Rabbi Maurice Harris 3 years ago.

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July 12, 2010 at 4:00 am #4851


Click here to read the article: Jewish Greetings Cheat Sheet

July 12, 2010 at 4:33 am #4852

Rabbi Larry Seidman

1) Beginners should know about the chet vs the hay. Nobody will say “tithadesh, may it renew you. ” hey should at least try to say “titchadesh, may it renew you.”
2) Beginners must understand that Hebrew is a gendered language. Cn we teach them to say “yasher co chah” and similar for other verbs. All phrase books for tourists recognize gender changes.

July 13, 2010 at 7:41 am #4858


There’s an Anglo-Jewish tradition of saying “I wish you a long life.” to mourners.

July 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm #4861

Debbie B.

Comments on reply #1:

1) I struggled with the sound of the Hebrew “chet” for over a decade and it was only after figuring out how to say it that my husband pointed out that I had no trouble with the Spanish “j” which is nearly identical. People often describe it as a guttural or as being made in the back of the throat, both of which are not accurate. Unfortunately, most English speakers will have difficulty with the sound. If you substitute an “h” sound, it will not be correct, but most people will understand what you are trying to say. I once heard a Jewish convert who substituted a “k” sound (pronouncing “chai” = life as “kai”), but that actually confused me until I figured out what he was doing.

2) Almost everyone uses “yasher koach” for both male and female, so I see no reason to teach people who don’t speak Hebrew about anything other than the most commonly used phrase. The rabbi with whom I studied for conversion and who was on the faculty of the JTS rabbinical school uses that phrase for women and men alike. It’s not like say “Ma shlomcha” (“How are you?”) which really does have to be “Ma shlomech” when addressed to a female.

July 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm #4907

Brooks Susman

This needs to be expanded regarding a funeral, when the deceased is Jewish but the majority of the surviving family is of another faith. They need to be included in the “Jewish” liturgy and philosophy. The language of “afterlife” needs to be inclusive and equivocal.

July 21, 2010 at 2:21 pm #4908

Ruth Abrams

Hi Brooks! We actually have better targeted resources for people in interfaith families around death and mourning–this is just a brief cheat sheet. Take a look at our resource guide: … lies.shtml

We don’t take a single position on afterlife there, but discuss how many different Jewish views there are. There’s so much to say about how non-Jewish relatives can mourn for Jews or Jews for non-Jewish relatives. One very sad yet potentially helpful article is here: … band.shtml

I hope this isn’t an active issue for you, but if it is, I’m sorry and I hope you are getting lots of support and comfort.

October 3, 2012 at 12:21 pm #7728


Even my 8 and 10 year year olds say this and they were both born in the mountains of China- when someone buys new clothes,especially if they’re happy about it (and my daughters and I almost always are) the appropriate response is always “Trog gezunterhait! ” Wear it in good health! I thought this was as common as chicken liver.
There is another similar good wish with “gezunterhait” as the basis but I can’t think of it! Again, my Dad used it a lot and as a result so do we.

September 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm #20392


Are there any special customs when visiting a Jewish cemetery? Next week I plan to visit the out of town grave of a friend who died several years ago. The cemetery seems to be part of, or very close to, the synagogue. Thank you.

September 5, 2014 at 3:44 pm #20395

Rabbi Maurice Harris

It’s thoughtful and caring that you’re trying to find out what customs, or “do’s and don’ts” there are when visiting a Jewish cemetery. A few simple ones to keep in mind: Jewish cemeteries are closed on the Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) and on most Jewish holidays. They’re also closed in the evenings. Jewish cemeteries generally ask visitors to refrain from smoking, eating, or drinking, walking over or stepping on graves, and of course people tend to dress modestly. When you’re at your friend’s graveside, you’re absolutely welcome to take all the time you need. You may notice lots of headstones with small rocks sitting on them. In Jewish tradition, the custom is for visitors to leave a small stone atop their loved one’s headstone, as a way of marking that someone has visited. We’re talking just an ordinary little rock, not a precious stone, but sometimes it can be hard to find one on the ground in or near the cemetery, so it’s a good idea to pick out a stone beforehand and bring it with you. I like to stop at a craft store or gardening store and pick up a shiny little smooth stone, or even a pair of them, so I can leave one on the headstone and keep one at home as a reminder. There’s a custom, upon leaving the cemetery, to wash one’s hands, and many Jewish cemeteries have stations where people can do that. You can also do it somewhere else if you can’t find a station there, or you can bring a bottle of water with you for that purpose. The essence of the hand washing is to mark the visitor’s transition from the sacred and mysterious space of the cemetery to ordinary space and time.


All of what I’ve written is from a liberal (or non-Orthodox) perspective, though much of it would apply at an Orthodox cemetery as well. If your friend is buried in an Orthodox cemetery, you may want to find out the contact info and just call and ask what their requirements are for visitation. Hope this was helpful! Feel free to email me at if you have any more questions.


Maurice Harris,
Senior Rabbi / Educator,

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