Heimish (היימיש: pronounced by HAY-mish or HY-mish): Based on the Yiddish word heim, which means “home,” it describes things that are homey or familiar.

Make yourself at home: Going back to Abraham, the very first Jew, our people have always valued inviting others into our homes. This mitzvah is known as hachnasat orchim, “bringing in guests.” When inviting in guests, the host may say, mach zich heimish, “make yourself at home.”

Nice and Informal: If the guest finds that the home is the informal type, where everyone is welcome to just be themselves and no one stands on ceremony, he may say that it’s a heimishe type of place.

Home Cooking: Since heim means home, home-cooked food or baked goods can be referred to as heimish.

One of Us: Speaking broadly, Yiddish-speaking Jews can be divided into two groups: Litvaks on one end, and Poilisher Jews on the other end, each group having many subcategories and branches. Those of the Litvak camp will use the first pronunciation of HAY-mish, while the Polish Jews (and their Hungarian cousins) will say HY-mish. In fact, Hungarians will refer to their fellow Hungarian (chassidic) Jews as heimish, probably because they can trace their roots back to der heim (as the old country is known to first-generation immigrants). Thus a retail establishment belonging to a heimishe fellow (in which only kosher items are sold, of course) will be referred to as a “heimishe store.”

Note that in this context, only the Polish pronunciation of HY-mish is used.

Challah in a Pan: Challah is Hebrew for “loaf.” However, in Yiddish, it refers specifically to the braided loaves that grace festive Shabbat and holiday tables. These two loaves remind us of the double portion of manna that G‑d would provide for our ancestors in the desert every Friday. For reasons that are not clear to the author of this article, challah that has been baked in an oval pan with walls is called heimish challah (also limited to the Polish pronunciation).

Do you have something to add? Please make yourself heimish, and leave me a comment.