Culture, Language

Via Sepia Mutiny an article on Yiddish speaking Gujaratis in Antwerp:

In Antwerp, Jews and Indians are so embedded in each other’s lives that many of the Indian dealers speak Hebrew and Yiddish. It is common to see donation boxes for Jewish charities in the entrances of Indian businesses, and after a devastating earthquake in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2001, Jewish diamond traders raised thousands of euros for humanitarian aid. Jewish dealers know how to fix a good cup of chai, the sweet, milky tea drunk by the gallon by Indian traders. Most traditional Indian weddings have a special kosher section, and Mr. Mehta says he has lost count of the number of times he has been lifted up on a chair at a Hasidic wedding. A few years ago, there was even a marriage between an Indian girl and a Jewish boy — though such close ties are rare. We are not a very free society and they are not a very free society, so we have a lot in common,” Mr. Mehta says.

Here’s how they close a deal:

Bharat Shah inspects a small pile of rough gems. I don’t need a magnifying glass,” he brags, running his manicured fingers across what look like pebbles of glistening sand. I can feel the quality.” After haggling with a Hasidic broker, he writes a check and hands him a sealed envelope. Mazel,” Mr. Shah says — the Hebrew word for luck.” The expression is as good as a legal contract in the Antwerp diamond world — both Jewish and Indian — and signals that the agreed price is final and can’t be altered.

I’m not surprised. Shashwati seems to know more Yiddish than I do.