Shvitz! My Yiddisheh Workout isn’t just a workout video where the instructions happen to be in Yiddish. And it isn’t just a visual gag (though you may pish yourself watching the exercise in which the instructors raise their shoulders and say, “Is it my business?”). And it’s not just attractive Jews (including Shifra Lerer, a veteran of the Yiddish theatre now in her 90s) doing exercises in tight clothing.
“Shvitz!” is all three—and an intriguing collaboration between Yiddish-speaking Jews of different generations. Producer Roland Millman, who’d never heard the language aloud until he overheard it at a wedding, soon became obsessed with spreading Yiddish. So, in the late 1990s, he produced this fun, quirky video.
In some alternate reality where Yiddish culture still thrived, this type of video might be commonplace. Watching it in America in 2010, however, it’s a whole different experience. You ask yourself: Who are these people? Where did they learn the language? Do they go out for herring and schnapps after exercising?
The answer to this last question might not be yes, but we can’t help wishing for that alternate universe where it could just happen.