Chicago Winters When I Was A Girl


January 2013


By Henya Chaiet

Yiddisheh kinderlach hert zich tzoo un ich vel eych dertzalen ah bissel vegn mineh yungeh yoren. (Yiddish lovers listen and I will tell you a bit of my life story when I was a little girl.)

Vinter is geven zayer kalt un greyleh shnayen in shtaut Chicageh. (The winters were very cold and snowy in Chicago.)

By unz in hoyz flegen mere brennen holtz in ahn ayven, nor dos haut alleh mol geven kalt. (We had no central heat only a wood burning stove, however we were always cold.)

Shabbes fleckt der tateh gayn frel in shul un dee mahmeh fleckt nemen alleh finif maydlach tzoo er in bet aryn. (On Shabbat papa went to shul very early and mama would take her five little girls into her bed to stay warm.)

Ich gehdenk nauch dee grayseh kishen un dee paraneh vos zee haut gebracht fun Europe. (She had these very large pillows and down comforter that she had brought with her from Europe.)

Mere hauben zich goot aungehvaremt. Zee fleckt unz lehenen dem Yiddisher zeitung der Forvetz. Ah Bintele Breve gehdenkich ich nach hynt. (She read the Jewish Forward to us. I especially remember the Letters to the Editor called, “Bintel Brief”. Some of the stories were very sad.)

Az der tateh iz geh coomen fun shul iz geven tzoo essen ah hayser cholent. Der cholent haut far shmeckt dee gahnsey hoyz. (When papa came home from shul we had hot cholent. The aroma from cholent permeated the entire house.)

Haynt ahz ich bin kalt, ken ich machen varem in ayn menute nor dos dervaremt nisht mein neshaumeh. (Today if the house is cold it only takes a few minutes to heat up, however it does not warm my soul.)

Zol ach zein varem in der neshaumeh. (May your soul as well as your body be warmed.)

Henya Chaiet is the Yiddish name for Mrs. A. Helen Feinn. Born in 1924 ten days before Passover, her parents had come to America one year prior. They spoke only Yiddish at home so that is all she spoke until age five when she started kindergarten. She then learned English, but has always loved Yiddish and speaks it whenever possible. Chaiet lived in La Porte and Michigan City, Ind., from 1952 to 1978 and currently resides in Walnut Creek, Calif. Email:

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