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What the heck does Heimishe mean

Upon moving to Monsey I discovered that pretty much everyone uses the term Heimishe to describe someone or something that is dressed in black and white. I understand that the true meaning of the word is “homely or warm,” but there is something distinctively wrong with that term- since I feel that Monsey is the exact opposite, everyone is rushing and not very friendly- this has nothing to do with the fact that Monsey is Heimishe, it has to do with a general non-homely atmosphere that pervades the New York metropolitan area and east coast in general. Ask anyone from the hinterlands of the Midwest or far west and they will tell you that folks who live along the eastern seaboard are “anything but homey” so why is this term Heimishe used so much to describe anything that is of the ultra orthodox sect.

Big Fleishigs a meat restaurant in Brooklyn has something called the Heimishe Hoagie- it is warm but does that make it Heimishe. Heimishe hotels, heimishe car dealers, heimishe insurance agencies all exist in Brooklyn, Lakewood and Monsey- the bermuda triangle of frummies. Glance through the classified sections of the Jewish Press, Yated, Hamodia, Yeshiva World News or Luach and you will see that made of the ads run by Heimishe offices looking for heimishe salesladies. Why couldn’t they just say Chassidish- is that not politically correct or did they want to include all of the other people who aren’t chassidish but are still ultra orthodox?

My first Monsey in shabbos I stayed by a family that considered themselves Heimishe- I asked what that meant. They told me that they have Chassidic minhagim (traditions) but they have a yeshivish lifestyle- which means they go to college and read secular books and go to yeshivish yeshivas. They happened to be very warm and homely- but its not the general rule.

I know that Heimishe in BP will give us a good explanation of what its supposed to mean- but obviously it isn’t being used for what its supposed to be used for. Even frum punk tried to figure out the meaning and couldn’t.

Whenever I hear the word heimishe to describe something I actually think the opposite, I think low quality, ghetto and unfriendly unless you fit the look- which is bad because the term has been bastardized similar to the term Liberalism which was the original philosophy of the group we now call Republicans, how on earth did heimishe come to mean the complete opposite for me.

{ 55 comments… add one }
  • Chana July 3, 2008, 9:53 AM

    Every time I’ve seen ‘Heimeshe” used (at least in association with businesses) it meant that it was a chassidishe store. Like it’s ‘homely’ in that, since chassidim are all one big family (literally and metaphorically), its owned “by the fam.” Thats my take on it, but I really have no clue why someone would call a hoagie heimishe???

  • A23 July 3, 2008, 10:06 AM

    By homey, heimish really just means you’ll be comfortable here. Not comfortable in the sense of great customer service or extra attention to guests, but more like, you’ll be comfortable enough that you won’t see women’s elbows or collarbones, won’t have to worry about hashgacha, etc. The ‘heim’ in heimish comes from the alter heim i.e. antebellum Eastern Europe.

  • A23 July 3, 2008, 10:11 AM

    Also, it’s interesting that you write it as homely more than you write homey. Is that a Freudian slip? Although homely and homey can be synonyms, homely also has many negative connotations. You might say that a girl is very heimish, but you don’t want to say she is homely.

  • heshman July 3, 2008, 10:26 AM

    A23 I made many typos because I didn’t realize I had written homey and homely- but you are always the stickler for my spelling issues. But as a modern orthodox guy I am never that comfortable in heimishe environments.

  • BEN July 3, 2008, 10:44 AM

    If a young lady is described as “heimush” it means….er well…to say the least she’s nothing to look at. It certain neighborhoods in the NY area there used to be signs which proclaimed “PUT IT BACK…BUY BLACK same thing

  • Anonymous July 3, 2008, 11:00 AM

    Once you buy black….

  • Lion of Zion July 3, 2008, 11:04 AM

    i can’t define it, but i know that a heimush restaurant will have filthy floors and tables, serve greasy food and have rude service. i also agree with ben.

  • Ari July 3, 2008, 11:26 AM

    The family that hosted you had a pretty good definition: chareidi and/or chassidish, but not stridently ideological.

    It has become associated with warm, friendly and affordable commercial services as well. It champions a more relaxed, “good-enough” approach. However, this is often at the expense of consistent and meticulous professional polish, somehow turning a deficiency into an attribute.

    Commercial heimeshe = lowered standards :

  • heshman July 3, 2008, 11:48 AM

    If good enough is how the Lion of Zion described it I need better then good enough.

  • Meg July 3, 2008, 11:54 AM

    I think the perception of East Coasters not being warm and homey interesting. Your blog is not the first place I’ve encountered it.

    I grew up in a family where life was very home-centered and where we baked our own bread, quilted, had and fed many guests, gardened and in many ways lived a very homey life.

    I distinctly remember how very strange and quaint most people I met thought our lives were. You’re right. East Coasters, on the whole, do not prize the idea of being homey.

    It doesn’t mean that they don’t love and raise their children well. But the concept of creating a home and home-centric life, with a family that is focused inward instead of on outward pursuits (work, sports, clubs, school). The value of building, cultivating a maintaining the home as a place set apart from the outside world, as a place for people to build their lives and grow, is much NOT a part of my culture.

    It’s viewed as almost weird of deviant to be a homebody. (College students in particular seem to think this. I hope they grow out of it with age.)

  • s(b.) July 3, 2008, 11:58 AM

    I’m going to be a language dork for a moment and point out that if it’s a male object (’cause everyone speaks German and Yiddish, right? lol), you call it heimish. If it’s referring to a female word, or a woman, you stick an E on the end, and call it heimishe.

    Hence, Heimish in bp is a dude, and you might see a personal ad describing someone as a heimishe balabusta. And then you might run. ๐Ÿ˜† The E at the end of a female word is also why it’s schoene (shayna) maidel.

  • Left Brooklyn and never looked back July 3, 2008, 12:35 PM

    I always think of the term longing for pre-shoah eastern Europe. You know, those homey shteitels, with the muddy roads and ready to pounce on you goyim.

    But what I find most entertaining are ads or signs for “heimish” restaurants or “take-home” food stores but don’t mention kosher! LOL

  • Chaimke der Heimischer July 3, 2008, 1:25 PM

    Achhh, soch a misnagged!

    Heimisch (pronounced with a chassidish “a i” as opposed to a misnagged’s or yekisch “e i” as written) is a state of mind. Ve (heimische yidn, det is) speek and write a gutt English, read serious sekelar books and even go to kellege. Me, for ixemple, I got a Masters in Englische Literatur as you ken see by de depth of mine thought, mine superb toirn of a phrase, and mine impekebble spelling.

    Seriously, the explanation given by your hosts is correct. For example, I attended YU and Bar Ilan Universities (I did tshuvah for that!) – not quite known as bulwarks of chassidus. I got a graduate degree, work in IT, and during the week I’m a regular yeshivish black hat. On Shabos and yom tov I keep my black hat but I wear a bekische and a tisch bekische for the meals as well as for mincha/maariv.

    Most “heimische” act similar. I guess it’s a case of… identity crisis?

  • frumgirl1 July 3, 2008, 1:38 PM

    Yeah, Heimish means homey.

    It means that “we do not stand on ceremony here, it’s just like your home! So be as rude as you like, we’re not judging!”

    It means to be chilled about what one is, as opposed to the Yeshivish game of catch up. It is the difference between calling someone “shtark” and “ehrlach”.

  • heshman July 3, 2008, 2:11 PM

    Frumgirl maybe you can tell us the difference between ehrlich and shtark since most of my readers have no idea what on earth you are talking about including me.

  • heimish in bp July 3, 2008, 2:33 PM

    I could write a whole long winded comment about the word heimish. But most points I would raise have been mentioned. If Hesh wants to look for it, if he can make a search for it, I have once written a long comment about it.

    But in short, to me, and why I call myself Heimish, is that Heimish is a ballbark discription of my wherabouts for those who read my comments. To get a better understanding of what pesrpective I have on yiddishkeit. And it falls somewhere in the middle. Not Chasidish, although its chasidish leaning. Meaning, I speak a good chasidishe yiddish, but neither me or my wife shave their heads. In my neck of the woods, it means someone who comes from an ultra-orthodox familty, but isnt necesarily that ultra, but still retains strong ties to the community. Kind of a code word for all to know that I am still part of our little world.

    But it is used in many different contexts. So go figure.

    After writing this short definition, I realized that it is so much more, and I feel that I am doing a disservice to Hesh, especially since I got an honorable mention by Hesh, and by s(b.) (well maybe not that honorable by

  • s(b.) July 3, 2008, 2:44 PM

    I mean you no dishonor, even if I don’t always agree with you on every topic. Your use of the word as a screen name is an accurate example of it as a male adjective (you’re a guy, right? right.).

  • heimish in bp July 3, 2008, 2:52 PM

    I was just cheppening = kidding around

  • s(b.) July 3, 2008, 2:55 PM

    What’s cheppening? Wasn’t that that 1970s TV show? No Roger, no Rerun, no rent! lol (yeah, me, too) ๐Ÿ™‚

  • heshman July 3, 2008, 2:57 PM

    Hiemishe in BP I will find that lon winded comment and post it again because I remember it.

    My upstairs neighbors must be heimishe. The father has peyos but they are short, he trims his beard but wears a long coat, but he wears a bend down. His wife wears a shietle and today she was wearing a rather short skirt without stockings- oh and she’s hot as well.

  • utubefan July 3, 2008, 3:11 PM

    HaHaHa. Yes, Hesh, that last description must be the epitome of Heimish. I explained Heimish in a previous post. It is one of those words that has two meanings like (bore–she bore children, he is a bore). Heimish means the following:
    a. warm and friendly (when used to describe a shul or a community)
    b. frum (when used in want ads)
    c. a subset of Orthodox Jews who are from Chasidic background, follow Chasidic Minhagim in davening and food and stuff–gartel, peyos behind ears, but do not wear full Chasidic garb and follow a specific Rebbe “religiously.”

  • utubefan July 3, 2008, 3:12 PM

    multiple meanings not two

  • utubefan July 3, 2008, 3:14 PM

    c is used for Shidduch purposes primarily. God Forbid a Misnagid would marry a person from a Heimishe family. The keegel would definately not be as good. And there would be potatoes in the Cholent!!!

  • Chaimke der Heimischer July 3, 2008, 3:17 PM

    If we put heimish in bp and utubefan’s words together I think we get a good and concise definition

  • utubefan July 3, 2008, 3:36 PM

    Ehrlich= straight and honest (so it applies more to Midos/character traits than learning ability)
    Shtark= extremely committed to a Yeshivish lifestyle, lots of learning, good learner (i.e. not a slackoff who will learn for a year or two until mommy and tati buy him a house in Flatbush where he can hide his T.V.)
    Neither of these have anything to do with Keegel so it doesn’t much matter to me.

  • heshman July 3, 2008, 3:36 PM

    Yes but definitions and underground meanings are different- it seems that chassidish and heimishe are the same.

    How did it come to mean ghetto?

  • utubefan July 3, 2008, 3:40 PM

    Heimish anecdote: My “Misnaged product of Baalei Teshuva out of town” husband never understood my family’s obssession with a good keegel. He also never understood why we eat it fresh on Thursday night, taste on Friday afternoon, hot on Friday night, overnighted on the blech for Shabbos lunch. This seemed completely ridiculous and unhealthy to his butternut squash/whole wheat challah/grilled chicken raised self and his family. Until…he got a full-fledged Chasidish business partner and then…he came home one day exasperated because his partner was obssessed with how he was going to get good Keegel at the Vegas trade show… and he finally got the picture. His words:
    “You two deserve each other!”

  • utubefan July 3, 2008, 3:52 PM

    Ok. Chasidish and Heimish are not the same. Chasidish is straight up Chasidish. Heimish is “sort of” Chasidish. And I don’t think it means ghetto at all. The hottie that lives upstairs from you could be a Yeshivish hottie just as likely. The whole bummy thing is equally a part of the Yeshivish and Chasidish world at this point. As to friendliness, Heimish people will always be friendlier to other frummy people than Yeshivish people. In Monsey and Boro Park where most of them reside, they will still be a bit cold to the Modern Orthodox because they don’t know quite what to do with them nor do they care. On the positive, they will also be more likely to be chill with different kinds of Shabbos guests and they will be much more comfortable in their own skin religion-wise and less likely to run after the Chumra of the week.

  • utubefan July 3, 2008, 4:15 PM

    Some examples of the difference between Heimish and Yeshivish:
    Indian Hair Sheitel Fiasco:
    Yeshivish–throw out the Shaitels and wear snoods for three months so everyone knows you are strict until the other Yeshivish women start going back to the good Shaitels
    Heimish–put the Shaitels on the dresser for a couple of weeks until the Shteeble Rebbe says it’s ok. Likely, he will say it’s ok way before the guys in Lakewood.
    Treif Chicken fiasco:
    Yeshivish people–throw out all your pots and dishes, ask questions later.
    Heimish people: Ask your Shteeble Rebbe again. Good news, Kasher the stuff over at Belz and you’re good to go
    Taharas HaMishpacha:
    Yeshivish People–lots of no’s and lots of guessing of no’s
    Heimish People–If the minivan is rockin’, don’t come a knockin’
    Cholov Stam:
    Yeshivish People–No way!
    Heimish People–What, you’re gonna say no to Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins?!
    Yeshivish–herring and crackers, some kugel if you’re lucky, women do not get Shnapps
    Heimish–Keegel, Cholent, multi herring, gefilte fish, real white fish, cake from Williamsburg–the realll log cake, major good Shnapps and Vodka, women get a Shnapps table, of course.
    Singing during Davening:
    Yeshivish: Apikorsus–you may repeat words
    Heimish: Of course! Bring it on!

  • heimish in bp July 3, 2008, 4:26 PM

    utubefan, I am very impressed

    in yiddish they say “dee hust aros de parsha”

  • heimish in bp July 3, 2008, 4:29 PM

    and the funny thing is, that what you mentioned about the shteeble rebbe, is kind of what made me a rebel, for i felt they lacked the authority on alot of the stuff you mentioned, and they adversely joined the chumra bandwagon too quickly on other stuff.

  • utubefan July 3, 2008, 5:04 PM

    Heimish, A Shein Em Dank and I get why you made the choice you did. The reality is that MO saved my Yiddishkeit, but I still get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I’m in a Heimishe Shteebel with some good Niggunim and a Rebbe that Klops Tish every once in a while to harangue the masses about stuff.

  • New Fan July 3, 2008, 9:22 PM

    Do I smell a shidduch brewing

  • Shelomo from FB July 3, 2008, 10:34 PM

    I saw cookies in Shoprite that said “Heimish” on them. I said, what the hell is that? Some sort of Ashkenazi codeword?

  • KnoBrainz July 3, 2008, 11:24 PM

    Long time reader, first time poster.
    When I saw this I decided I had to post bec thus was bugging me for some time now.
    I think utubefan sums it up real nicely.
    The heimeshe guys are usually also the hockers in the shul.
    The real kicker is the ‘tuna bagels. ‘ I don’t know how many of you have heard this term but youve definitly bumped into one. A tuna bagel is an ex-chosid who tries to hide his childhood. You see him hanging out, usualy the guy is in construction with slicked back hair that little sued yarmulka, looking all cool till he opens his mouth and starts talking…….. With that heavy Yiddish accent “Haalloo”

  • ConservativeSci Fi July 3, 2008, 11:34 PM

    I have a Waaay off topic question that came up in my study group tonight (we study Rambam) that I am hoping someone here can answer. Where, about, does the rule for having two nights of yom tov kick in? Is it the Shmita boundary for vegetables (wherever that is, but I think Eilat would fall outside)? Is it the borders of the state of Israel, (so Gaza and maybe even parts of Judea and Shomron would fall outside)? Is it the original tribes locations (so parts of Jordan would fall inside)? Something else?


  • Jonathan July 7, 2008, 9:06 AM

    Conservative – I don’t know if the following has bearing on one or two days of Chag, but look at the mishna in Tractate Gittin 2b to see what the different rabbis thought about the outer boundaries of the Land of Israel.

  • utubefan July 7, 2008, 10:02 AM

    Conservative, I see that YU Torah.org has a few lectures on this by Rabbi Sacks, Rabbi Flug, etc. Go to the site and search “Two Days of Yom Tov”
    I am curious too, but don’t have the time just now.

  • ConservativeSci Fi July 7, 2008, 12:12 PM

    Thanks for the help.

  • jennthejewess July 7, 2008, 12:18 PM

    i was always under the impression esp in regards to shidduchim when describing a family as Heimish its usually ppl living in Boro park who are not really Chassidish but maybe have chassidish netiyus (backround and some traditions) and they are not yeshivish. Usually like hungarian or similar.

  • utubefan July 7, 2008, 2:01 PM

    That’s it, Jenn. Except they don’t have to be Hungarian. We are Galitzianer in our family (from parts of Poland) and we are Heimish, although I don’t particularly like the label.

  • Mikeinmidwood September 4, 2008, 6:09 PM

    When I think of Heimish I think of these guys behind the counter in any jewish (of course jewish) minimarket or bakery that never seem to be paying attention to the fact that you want to pay.

  • Frum Satire September 4, 2008, 8:16 PM

    Well unless you scream in Yiddish…

  • Devorah May 8, 2009, 7:18 AM

    Around here we use heimishe to mean a kosher business with poor customer service, cleanliness, etc., you know, the usual

  • heimish July 25, 2009, 1:48 PM

    heimishchat.com real heimish

  • heimish July 25, 2009, 1:49 PM

    Jewish Chat Room, Heimish Yiddish Phone ChatOwners:…Professor…Shaifeleh…BeNice…Jake…Dimp…Kingdavid… Moderators:…Stan…Josh…Nisht… Lovey

  • Ben September 22, 2009, 10:53 AM
  • Between2worlds January 17, 2010, 8:17 PM

    Reading your blogs has given me confidence that you may be able to help in our logistical dilemma of where the hell we are supposed to be normal frum Jews amongst communities filled with such difficult, boring and materialistic people.

    My husband ffb and myself more bt (but more ffb in spirit) are originally from England and moved to Cherry Hill, S Jersey then we moved a little further south to Highland Park, NJ. We are so perplexed as to where the Jews with some personality go as to us it seems that they are far and few between. We just want to find a community with at least a handful of young people who are normal and have some personality – that is that they can talk about something other than their blackberries or whether the whiskey is blended and can have a laugh here or there.

    We were thinking of Monsey – but now after reading your blogs we are not too sure – were there any black suede, non-hat wearing people or women that semi-covered their hair/ or not at all in the vicinity or in the surrounding areas that seemed potentially interesting? Or are all Jews in America so painfully boring – please shed light on our dilemma.

    • ModiinMan November 7, 2010, 8:36 AM

      Between2worlds – if you are still looking, check out West Orange, NJ. Lots of warm, orthodox people, FFB and BT, 1 very large shul that tries to keep everyone in a communty spirit, good schools, daf yomi and other shiurim, hats/no hats, sheitels/tichels/no covering, dressses/skirts/pants, lots more

  • Mendy November 28, 2014, 6:34 AM

    I think that you mean “homey,” not “homely.”

  • Eli March 13, 2018, 9:15 AM

    Truthfully, heimishe means geshmack.

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