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The term Yekke (adjective: Yekkish) (alt: Jecke or Yecke) is a generally jovial, mildly derogatory term used to refer to Jews originating from Germanymarker or adhering to the Western-European minhag.

Today, very few Yekkes are proper German residents, but they remain in regions such as Switzerland, Eastern France (Alsace and Lorraine), and Luxembourgmarker. A significant community managed to escape Frankfurtmarker after Kristallnacht, and relocated to the Washington Heights region of New York City, where they still have a community, K'hal Adass Jeshurun, which punctiliously adheres to the Yekkish liturgical text, rituals, and melodies. Also a group established kibbutz Chofetz Chaimmarker in the Gedarim region of Israelmarker just south of Tel Avivmarker. Recently a few new Yekkish communities have been opened in Israel by "Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz", and one of the leading communities is K'hal Adas Yeshurun of Jerusalem, which is running a "Nusach Project", a project of preserving the special Yekkish melodies.

There are a number of theories regarding the etymology of the word. The most famous is that it originates from the cultural differences in dress that developed between the more westernized Western European Jews who traded in the more traditional long coats for shorter "jackets" ("yekke") while the outer clothing worn by the Eastern European Jews was typically "longer" (such as bekishes). Another theory is that the word derives from "Yekkef", the Western pronunciation of the name "Jacob" or "Jack", which is different from the Eastern European pronunciation, which is 'Yankef" or "Yankev".

The term is often used in a slightly derogatory or cynical manner, although it is also used as a badge of honour. It is used mainly in reference to the German Jews’ legendary attention to detail and punctuality. This sense for detail extends into the strict adherence to minhagim (religious customs, especially when pertaining to the synagogue service). Oberlander—Jews originating from parts of Austriamarker, the Czech Republicmarker, and Slovakiamarker—are often confused with yekkes due to similar minhagim.

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References

  1. Frankfurt on the Hudson: The German Jewish Community of Washington Heights, 1933-82, Its Structure and Culture, by Stephen M. Lowenstein. Wayne State University Press. 1989.



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