About the Yekke

"The Yekke" (Jecke) is the stereotypical nickname for German Jews who were described as utterly punctual, polite, honest, correctly dressed, but at the same time having no sense of humour, very strict, very formal, inflexible….. Jeckes were considered arrogant and aloof, unwilling to participate in the general community. There are hardly any Jeckes any more in Israel - or they are very old - but the image is still derisive.

The etymology:

1) It may relate to the jacket (Jacke in German) that was worn by them. More formal German Jews never took off their suit jackets in spite of the high temperatures.

2) It is derived from the old German word Geck, which means "fool". In the Middle Ages, bishops an kings employed fools, who were allowed to tell the truth. In the area around Cologne, the word is pronounced "Jeck". This area is famous for a very special carnival, and everybody involved is called a "Yek".

3) Another theory is that "Yekke" is an acronym for "Yehudi K'sheh Havana" (Hebrew for "slow-witted-Jew").

4) Perhaps the most sophisticated explanation is the code indication via Proverbs 30, 1-2: "Words of Agur son of Yake from Massa… Surely I am the most ignorant man and have not the understanding of a man".

It also was hard for them to elbow their way to the top because many of them had the same mentality as the yekke who took the train from Haifa to Nahariya and sat in the seat facing the opposite direction. On arrival, he complained that it had made him dizzy. "Why didn't you just ask the person sitting across from you to switch places?" someone said. "The problem was that no one was sitting there," said the yekke. "I had no one to ask."

Some of the Immigrants from Germany saw in this nickname an insult and it came as an issue to the courts, but Justice Haim Cohen of the High Court of Justice dismissed the case ruling: "I myself belong to this species and I regarded this nickname always as a title of dignity. " What is the difference between a virgin and a yekke? an old joke asked. The answer was that a yekke remained a yekke.

Here the definition from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "Yekke is a term used to refer to Jews originating from Germany. Often used in a slightly derogatory or cynical manner, it refers mainly to their attention to detail and addiction to being punctual. Used as an adjective, a punctual person would be referred to as being Yekkish. The origins of this title are unclear, ranging from referring to their short jackets (as opposed to East European Jews who wore long coats) to a conjugation of the Hebrew DaYeK - to be precise. The new immigrants from Central Europe were, and still are, teasingly referred to as “yekkim”, for the “yekke”, the businesslike jacket the immigrant German doctors and lawyers wore even when working as laborers in the fields. Though the implied meaning of the term was “slow witted person”. Today it is associated with good citizenship, reliability, meticulousness, cleanliness, courtesy, volunteer spirit, and Cultural and intellectual creativity – the contributions of these dedicated citizens to the developing Israeli society. Some of the immigrants were offended by the nickname, while others took the joke amiably and even bore the appelation “yekke” with pride."

For further literature I recommend "The New Joys of Yiddish" by Leo Rosten, or the German edition "Jiddisch, eine kleine Enzyklopaedie".

-Ruben Frankenstein