Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe Marjorie Wolfe
by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe

Poverty (“oremkayt”) is a huge issue in 2012.

  • Angela Glover Blackwell says that 39% of all black children are poor. 15% of Americans live below the poverty level. The safety net is not strong enough.
  • Barbara Perry says that “the situation since 2008 causes people to see themselves in a downward (“arunter”) spiral.”
  • 47% of daughters who are poor will remain there. As they say in Yiddish: “A kabtsn blaybt a kabtsn.” (A pauper remains a pauper.)

Mitt Romney said, “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich—They’re doing just fine.” (Note: The Yiddish word meaning to repair is “farrikhtn.”)

I grew up in Rockaway Beach, New York, hearing the following Yiddish proverbs/expressions about the rich and the poor:

  • “Orem un raykh, in bod zaynen zey glaykh.” (The poor and the rich, in the bath they are both equal.)
  • “Tsvey mol a yor iz shlekht dem oreman; zumer un vinter.” (Twice a year the poor are badly off: summer and winter.)
  • “Me zol zikh kenen oyskoyfn fun toyt, voltn di oreme layt gehat parnose.” (If the rich could hire others to die for them, the poor could make a living.)
  • “Dem oreman’s yaitzer-horeh iz a skorinkeh broit.” (The poor man’s temptation is a loaf of bread.)
  • “Az an oreman est a hun, is oder er iz krank, oder di hun iz krank.” (When a poor man eats a chicken, either he is sick or the chicken is sick.)
  • “An oreman vil oykh lebn.” (A poor man also wants to live.)
  • “Der oreman tracht, der nogid lacht.” (The poor think, the rich laugh.)
  • “Der oreman hot veynik faynt, der raykher hot veyniker fraynd.” (The poor man has few enemies; the rich man has fewer friends.)
  • “Es iz nit azoy gut mit gelt, vi es iz shlecht on gelt.” (It is not so much that it’s good to have money, as it’s bad to be without it.)
  • “Got hot lib der oreman un helft der nogid.” (God loves the poor and helps the rich.)


Marjorie Wolfe vividly recalls when Tevye (“Fiddler on the Roof”) said, “Dear God, you made many poor people. I realize there’s no shame in being poor… but it’s no great honor either. So what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?”

Marjorie Wolfe
  Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe