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What's A Yenta?

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What's A Yenta?


What's A Yenta?

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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And now, a correction. Yesterday, we brought you a story from our Planet Money team about a man whose job is to help Spanish banks merge with one another. He told NPR's Chana Joffe-Walt that he brings together the heads of various banks, and sits them down.

ANGEL BORGES: see whether there is - um, we call here in Spain, chemistry.

CHANA JOFFE-WALT, BYLINE: Angel, do you know the word yenta?

BORGES: Yenta?

JOFFE-WALT: Yenta - it's somebody who arranges marriages.

BORGES: Yes, yeah, something like that.

GREENE: That was from yesterday. Today, Chana has asked for a chance to follow up.

JOFFE-WALT: My mom listens to all my stories, and she often calls to share her thoughts.


JOFFE-WALT: I have never opted to share any of my mother's feedback on the air before. But I think this time, she is deserving of a larger audience.

CHANA'S MOM: The one thing that I noticed immediately was the use of the word yenta, because yenta doesn't actually mean a matchmaker. It means like, an old woman; an old, gossipy woman. A shadchan is a matchmaker. So give me a call. OK? Love you sweetie, bye.

JOFFE-WALT: I was wrong; my mother is right. A yenta is not a matchmaker - although I did think maybe my mom was the only one who noticed it. Wrong again. To the many, many of you who have also corrected my mistake, I am sorry. The correct term for a Jewish matchmaker...

JUDITH GOTTESMAN: A shadchanit is a matchmaker.

JOFFE-WALT: And that, by the way, from a woman who actually is one. Judith Gottesman helps love-seeking Jews in California find their soul mates.

Do people ever call you a yenta?

GOTTESMAN: Yes. Just the other day, I met somebody who - when I said, I'm a matchmaker; he said oh, you're a yenta. And I said, actually, no, I'm not a yenta. To me, a yenta has a negative connotation. It's the character in "Fiddler on the Roof." And she was kind of thought of as sort of a nosy, busybody type - not necessarily the best skilled at matchmaking.

JOFFE-WALT: Judith is a professional - although she does say she can behave a bit - just a little bit - like the yenta in "Fiddler on the Roof," if she thinks she's got a fantastic match.

GOTTESMAN: So I definitely will call them, or email them; remind them, it's really important; I have a very strong sense these people should meet. And I've never been wrong. I mean, every single person I had that feeling about, got married. Every person who's married through me, married the very first person I set them up with.

JOFFE-WALT: The happy couple can then say they were set up by a matchmaker, dating coach, shadchanit - anything but a yenta. Sorry.

And now, a name that suggests I really should know what a yenta is - Chana Joffe-Walt, NPR News.

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