Wednesday, March 12, 2014

PBS or Heeb? Take This Quiz!!!

Dear PBS,

When your website content is almost indistinguishable from that of Heeb, it's probably time to stop farming out your website work to the unpaid interns.

PBS is promoting its new documentary The Story of the Jews, narrated by Simon Schama. So far, so good. It's the kind of thing my dad would TiVO so we could watch together and I would secretly roll my eyes at how they get everything wrong about Eastern Europe.

In any case, I haven't seen it. And if they want to make it appealing to snobs like me, this is probably not the best way. It's a quiz called How Well Do You Know Your Yiddish. It has 15 questions, testing your knowledge of well known 'Yiddish' words. Unsurprisingly, many of the Yiddish words are actually Yinglish, the 'translations' are mostly appalling, and the whole thing is mainly a quiz of how hard you can cringe through 15 mouse clicks.

The worst part is, it's not much better than Heeb's 2010 Test Your Jew IQ game. Remember that gem of American-Jewish cultural pride?
Know the lyrics to If I Were a Rich Man? Can you distinguish between actual Yiddish words and plain mumbo-jumbo? Heard of any Israeli cities besides Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv? If you’re not feeling nauseous by now, then this is probably the game for you!
Yes, because what self-respecting Jew doesn't feel nauseated by knowing common Yiddish words and Israeli cities??? 

PBS doesn't quite articulate it so clearly, but How Well Do You Know Yiddish quiz has the same self-hating minstrel vibe. Its mish mosh of Yiddish, Yinglish and fake definitions reeks of the same peculiar American Jewish shame.

A little side by side comparison of the games:


Futz is not a real Yiddish word. It is Yinglish.



The actual expression is 'hak mir nisht keyn tshaynik' and roughly translates to 'stop banging on about it.'



Shtik means piece. 

And it just goes on and on...

Honestly, if PBS can't do any better than Heeb, I don't have a lot of hope for mainstream Jewish pop culture. As the well known Yiddish saying goes, 'We're fucked on both ends.'


PBS has removed the Quiz from its website.


  1. Maybe my comment would be a bit off-topic, but every time I see Simon Schama's name (I actually quite like his book The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age ) this quotation comes to my mind:

    "(...) and the old masters - Hobsbawm, Thompson, Taylor, Samuel - of the 1970s were now all but silent. Their vogueish successors seemed to form a sub-sect of the celebrity cult, rather than enhance the profession. I could quarrell legitimately with Tom Devine; but with Simon Schama, Linda Colley or Niall Ferguson I - and I think most Scots historians - felt myself facing the spinmeisters not of British history but of London media politics."

    It's from: C. Harvie "Scotland and Nationalism...", Fourth Edition, p. 4

  2. Devastating (and funny.) Thanks for this!

  3. You're welcome :)
    BTW Have you already seen The Story of the Jews?

  4. My dad taped it but I fell asleep before we could watch. I'll catch it at some point, probably.

  5. A quite enthusistic review of the book version has been published recently in the New York Review of Books. So maybe it (the documentary) deserves a chance after all...

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