“Dos iz azoy shtots!”
That’s how you say “That is so fetch!” à la Gretchen Wieners in Yiddish.
“Shtots is a slang word used in the Hasidic community by kids and teenagers that was in style roughly around the time the original ‘Mean Girls’ movie came out. It means ‘cool’ or ‘stylish,'” filmmaker and actress Dylan Seders Hoffman tells me.
I’m telling you this because Dylan recently made “shtots” happen in an amazing way.
Released yesterday, Seders Hoffman’s short film “Yiddish Mean Girls” takes the iconic four-way phone call scene from the 2004 cult classic movie and translates it completely into the Ashkenazi Jewish language. What’s more, the film also takes the Plastics (played by Dylan and three of her cast mates from the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene) out of their suburban Chicago setting and reimagines them as a bunch of young NYC yentas.
I cannot stop kvelling over every aspect of this film: the seamless, authentically-pronounced dialogue; the extremely Yiddishkeit soundtrack; the incredibly fun performances, especially by Maya Jacobson, who so expertly captures Karen’s energy; the more fleshed-out Jewishness of Gretchen Wieners, who famously had to give up a pair of white gold hoops she got for Hanukkah; and, of course, the spinning wheel of Jewish treats. It’s absolutely perfect.
“I’ve always been excited about the intersection of pop culture with Yiddish, a language that most people associate with their grandparents and older generations,” Dylan said in a press release, adding, “I wanted to create something in Yiddish that’s contemporary, exciting and fun and that could resonate especially with the younger generation that’s learning Yiddish today.”
Though Seders Hoffman and her team make translating a scene from a cult classic American film into a different culture look easy, a lot of work went into “Yiddish Mean Girls.” The English script was translated into Yiddish by native speaker Benna Kessler, Yiddish Book Center alumnae Sarah Biskowitz and Dylan Seders Hoffman. (Seriously, what can’t she do?!)
“It was a fun challenge to translate English slang and ensure our dialogue was just as snappy and idiomatic in Yiddish,” Biskowitz said.
Additionally, the only Yiddish-speaking actress on the project was Dylan — Maya Jacobson (Karen), Raquel Nobile (Regina) and Lorin Zackular (Gretchen) all learned their lines via Yiddish coaching by Kessler and Seders Hoffman. (Maya Jacobson, who is Jewish and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, did grow up hearing Yiddish in the home.)
It’s hard to fully describe what it means to see such a memorable scene from an already memorable movie translated into a once-dying Jewish language with such love, care and chutzpah. But what I can say is thank you and mazel tov to Dylan and the entire “Yiddish Mean Girls” team. I cannot wait to see what Yiddish projects you do next and can only hope that someone will be inspired to translate “Mean Girls” into Ladino very soon!