2017-01-04 / Voice at the Shore

Margate resident starts local Yiddish Club

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor


The first two Yiddish club meetings were so much fun that no one wanted to leave, said Mona Ozlek (seated at center, 4th from left). The first two Yiddish club meetings were so much fun that no one wanted to leave, said Mona Ozlek (seated at center, 4th from left). Kum un redden Yiddish un hobn a gut tsayt!

If you already knew that the Yiddish phrase above means “Come and speak Yiddish and have a good time!,” you probably would have a zeyer gut tsayt at the upcoming meeting of a new Yiddish club, formed by Margate resident Mona Trocki-Ozlek. The meeting will be held at Ozlek’s home on Sunday, January 15, at 3:30 p.m.

Started this fall, the club now has about 20 members and has met twice. About 12 people attended each meeting, with some schlepping all the way from Cherry Hill and Vineland. Those who came stayed for hours, said Ozlek.

“We had so much fun; no one wanted to leave. Everyone smiled the entire time! All of us there had some kind of bond. I felt like we were cousins,” she said.


Mona Trocki-Ozlek currently runs the new Yiddish club, which meets monthly, out of her Margate home. Mona Trocki-Ozlek currently runs the new Yiddish club, which meets monthly, out of her Margate home. “It’s a way to connect with our ancestors who aren’t here any longer,” said one club member, explaining the warm feelings that the club meetings inspired. “It reminds us of when we were younger, hearing people speak Yiddish. It brings back beautiful memories.”

Ozlek said the club would likely meet once a month or every other month. Most members, whose average age is about 60, either grew up speaking Yiddish with their parents or hearing their parents speak it.

“Not everyone comes to speak Yiddish. Some people just come to listen to it,” said Ozlek, noting that for many people, just hearing Yiddish is a way of keeping the memory of their parents’ voices alive. She also stressed that the club’s purpose is not to teach Yiddish, although there are a few mavens who will help other club members when they can’t remember a certain Yiddish word or phrase.

“It’s amazing how the words come back to you when you are with other people speaking Yiddish,” said Ozlek. “My mother used to talk to me in Yiddish all the time. Being around other people who speak it evokes memories and good feelings,” she added. “When I hear Yiddish, I feel good.”

Ozlek said she modeled the club after a local club led 15 years ago by the late Henry Sher (z’l). “He was Mr. Yiddish!” she recalled.

She was inspired to restart the club after a moving performance by Yiddish singer Paul Zim at an annual Intergenerational brunch for Holocaust Survivors and their families. The luncheon, which took place at Beth El Synagogue in Margate, was sponsored by Stockton’s Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage, the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center and Jewish Family Service. Hearing Zim perform, Ozlek became totally verklempt, overcome with emotion, by the memories his songs evoked.

She wasn’t alone. “Someone said: ‘Why don’t we revive the Yiddish Club,” Ozlek recalls. So she did.

The first meeting in October laid the groundwork, with everyone introducing themselves; at the next meeting, Ozlek handed out fun Yiddish quizzes. For this month’s meeting, she’s asking people to come prepared with a joke or story in Yiddish (or else come prepared to listen to other people’s jokes and stories).

For more information about the Yiddish club or the upcoming meeting on Sunday, January 15, at 3:30 p.m., contact Stockton’s Holocaust Resource Center at (609) 652-4699 or email Ozlek at dollitsmona@aol.com. 

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