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Meet The Word Mavens

Two Philadelphia ladies who know the difference between a dreidel and a draykop.

Joyce Eisenberg and Ellen Scolnic are the co-authors of the Dictionary of Jewish Words (A JPS Guide), a user-friendly guide to more than 1,200 Hebrew, Yiddish and English words related to Judaism. Their book is ideal for modern Jewish families, intermarried families and anyone who wants to learn more about Jewish holidays, foods and traditions. The JPS Dictionary, arranged in an easy-to-use A to Z format, has been hailed as an informative and indispensable reference. As you browse through the book, you’ll find out what to expect at a friend’s baby naming, right after nachas and before narrishkeit.

The Word Mavens are on the lookout for reminiscences of family holiday celebrations, favorite recipes from your bubbe, and examples of Yiddish words that are misused in daily conversation. If you have a story to share, please write to us: info@thewordmavens.com

In the years since their book was first published, Ellen and Joyce have shlepped around the country to shmooze with audiences and share their experience of researching and writing the book. Running the gamut from fun facts about bagels to the history of the brit bat, their entertaining Book Talks celebrate Jewish words. As part of their presentation, Joyce and Ellen describe variations in Jewish observances around the globe, new traditions that usher words into existence, and funny stories of how Yiddish words are mangled in daily conversation.

Audiences are always eager to share their childhood memories and favorite words with the authors – such as the woman who recalled the embarrassment she felt in kindergarten when she was asked to name a word beginning with the letter K. While her classmates contributed “kite” and “kitten,” she chimed in with “knish” and was reprimanded for “making up a nonsense word!”

Joyce and Ellen also write an informative and entertaining column – “Shmoozing With The Word Mavens” – that delves into some lesser-known facts about their favorite Jewish words. When they are not working together, they both pursue independent projects. Joyce is an expert editor who also tackles various writing projects; Ellen writes feature articles and personal essays. Both do marketing and public relations work. After all, they do have to bring home the babka.