Blog posts about the Rabbi Aviva Cohen Mysteries and their author Rabbi Ilene Schneider

I can hear you now: “Why should I buy Talking Dirty – in Yiddish? After all, I already own the original Talk Dirty Yiddish: Beyond Drek. Okay, so this book bills itself as a ‘revised, expanded’ edition, but what’s different besides the title and cover?”

I’m glad you asked. Here is one reason per night of Chanukah:

First, the book is expanded – by an extra 100 pages.

Second, it includes alphabetical glossaries of Yiddish words, phrases, and sayings with their English translations.

Third, there are new stories, explanations, jokes, and anecdotes.

Fourth, where else will you find all the “Yiddish Curses for Republican Jews” in one place, compiled from various sources online (with proper attribution, of course)?

Fifth, it includes links to YouTube videos on such topics as the mangling of the pronunciation of such words as “chutzpah,” and of various people’s attempts to define Yiddish words.

Sixth, it includes real life examples of Yiddish words that are used and misused in casual (and not so casual) conversations and in mainstream media (newspapers, radio ads, TV shows, movies, comic strips).

Seventh, at some point in 2018, it will be available not only as a paperback, as it is now, but as a hard cover and on Kindle.

Eighth, it’s still perfect for a Chanukah gift, stocking stuffer, house warming present, and bathroom reader.



Have you wondered what the older generation was hiding when they spoke Yiddish in front of di kinder? Did you know that ‘glitch’ is a Yiddish word, but ‘kitsch’ is not? Have you tried to spell ‘tchotchkes’? Have you noticed all the Yiddish words that are part of colloquial English? This book, a compendium of useful, and sometimes off-color, words and phrases and how to use them to spice up your English conversations, explores these and many other questions. Although it may seem similar to other books on the Yiddish language which are lexicons of Yiddish words and phrases transliterated into the Latin alphabet and translated into English, Talking Dirty – in Yiddish? differs from them in that it goes beyond being a listing of words and phrases with their translations. Each phrase or word is followed by humorous examples of how to use them in English conversation. The introductory chapters and numerous sidebars contain trivia, little known facts, history, and background on Judaism and the Jewish people and their languages and culture, including Yiddish literature, music, theater, and movies. Rated X by the author’s parents and PG by her kids.


It’s about to happen. For real. In time for gift giving season. (But every season is the time to give gifts!) Watch this space for purchase links, coming soon.


Talking Yiddish cover

This afternoon I went to see “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” about how Charles Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol. I’m glad I ignored the mixed but generally mediocre reviews: I loved the movie.
It’s the second one I’ve seen recently about how a writer overcame inner obstacles and found the inspiration to create their best-loved works, classics that have lasted for generations. In Good-bye, Christopher Robin, A. A. Milne was blocked by PTSD. Dickens was blocked by three successive “flops” (the word used in the movie, although etymology dictionaries – I looked it up – say the word did not mean “failure” until 50 years after the events of the movie). Each man had lost the confidence to continue to write. Each man eventually found the spark that became their books.
What I enjoyed most about The Man Who Invented Christmas is what many critics, professional and lay, disliked: the weaving of reality, fantasy, dreams, flashbacks. But these scenes seemed to me to be a perfect visual metaphor for the writing process. Like Dickens, my characters speak to me, tell me what they want to happen. Dickens laments, as he is stymied about how to end the story, “My characters won’t do what I want!” He also is an observer, telling a friend “I am working,” when it appears that he is aimlessly wandering around a crowded market; but he is actually observing, eavesdropping, jotting down unusual names, finding material to incorporate into his story. And every writer can empathize with his despair at the sight of a blank piece of paper, although these days it’s more likely a blank computer monitor.
The cast was quite good. Dan Stevens as Dickens acquitted himself well against such seasoned actors as Christopher Plummer (as Scrooge) and Jonathon Pryce (as Dickens’ father). And I always enjoy character actors Simon Callow and Miriam Margolyse. It was also fun to see Annette Badland in a small background role as the jolly Mrs. Fezzywig, a departure from the only other roles I’ve seen her in, as an alien bent on world domination in “Doctor Who” and as the nasty Aunt Babe in “EastEnders.” (I’ve noticed that I am much more familiar with contemporary British actors than I am with American ones.)
The movie will not lose much on the small screen, but was definitely worth the price of the movie ticket.


Most people are aware of – and have probably indulged in – binge watching. I have for “Game of Thrones,” and “Grace and Frankie” and “Happy Valley” and “Red Dwarf.” Many weeks, I’ll save all four episodes of “EastEnders” to watch in one block. (The time commitment is the same as for a feature-length movie, but with fresh popcorn.)

I also tend to binge read.

I’ll read a positive review of the latest book in a series, think it sounds like something I would enjoy, and then realize I’ve never read any of the earlier books. So I start from the beginning. It’s not a problem when there are, for example, five earlier books. But when an author has been writing the same series for a couple of decades and now has over twenty books in print, the prospect can be daunting. Plus expensive, even with e-books. (And many libraries, because of space restrictions, cull older books from their shelves.) But I do it anyway. Sometimes, I’m rewarded by an author who is so good that I buy the next book in her series before I finish the earlier one, so I can continue to read without a break.

But there is a potential difficulty with binge reading. Not only can it become tedious (I generally take a break and read something else after Book #3. Or #4. Definitely by #12.), but the idiosyncratic, “charming” tropes an author uses, whether consciously or not, become, to put it bluntly, annoying.

When an author comes out with a maximum of one book every year, it’s easy to forget during the time lag that these writing quirks exist. One author, throughout all his books, describes, in detail, every trip, no matter how short, with names of streets and stores I don’t know, plus all the traffic and parking woes. When reading one or two books a week instead of one book every one or two years, it becomes painfully obvious that the technique is not only frustrating, but pointless. This author, whose books aren’t very long anyway, includes so much information about traffic jams that I began to suspect he was using the details as filler to make the books longer. The fact that the mysteries were pretty thin and not very complex or even interesting became obvious by the end of Book #2. I read the next one anyway, and then stopped when I realized he was repeating himself. I suspect he had discovered cut-and-paste.

Another author’s protagonist tends to have brilliant leaps of logic that help him solve mysteries that have everyone else – police, private detectives, family, friends – baffled. But he lacks the thoughtfulness and insightfulness of a Holmes or Poirot. He just suddenly knows what happened. And during the book he displays all the traits usually ascribed to TSTL (too stupid to live) females. Hey, if someone has just tried to kill your daughter, and is also targeting you, and you go with her to her apartment and notice right away the lock has been jimmied, what do you do? My protagonist (and I) would go back outside and call 9-1-1. What does he do? Enter the apartment, find the light switch doesn’t work, let his daughter precede him inside. Of course, both of them are attacked. To make things worse, in another book – come to think of it, in every book – he knows he shouldn’t be doing what he does and then isn’t surprised when he gets hit over the head or locked in an abandoned building. If he’s not surprised and expects it’s an ambush, you’d think he’d avoid the situation instead of walking into the trap, sometimes several times in the same book.

The time span between books also leads to a kind of amnesia. “Hmm,” I think, “I read the previous book last year. I think I enjoyed it.” So I’ll read the next one, and then part way through remember that I hadn’t particularly liked the protagonist or the setting or the mystery. I read it anyway, though, because I have a completion fetish. I avoid that mistake when reading one book in a series after another with no gap between them, and so I don’t bother reading another in which the protagonist has not changed or developed. Or worse, I don’t find her likeable or believable.

Fortunately, I’ve found the valuable gems – those books I can’t wait to download so I can continue reading without a break– far outnumber the plastic baubles. I’m so glad I have a Kindle.






I decided to google “Yom Killer reviews,” and am glad I did. I somehow had missed a great review of the book on Sept. 4 by the renowned Lelia Taylor of CNC/Buried under Books fame. Thank you, Lelia, for your “overall enjoyment of this lighthearted, intelligent mystery.”
You can read the review here. (Scroll down as it’s the 2nd one on the page.)


Review of YOM KILLER, by Rabbi Rachel Esserman, Executive Editor and Book Reviewer, The Reporter Group; appears in the August 25, 2017, issue of the Jewish Federation of Greater Binghamton’s The Reporter, located in Vestal, NY. (

“I’ll admit I feel an affinity for the main character in Yom Killer. After all, how could I not like Rabbi Aviva Cohen, a middle-aged, wise-cracking, liberal rabbi? In previous books in the series, Aviva not only had to deal with balancing the needs of different members of her congregation, but with an ex-husband who is now living in the same town. There were also phone calls and advice from her older sister and her mother, who fortunately don’t live in New Jersey, but who still frequently interfere in her life. In the current novel, Aviva faces a family crisis during the worst possible time for a rabbi: the High Holidays. When she learns her mother is in the hospital, Avivia rushes – with her ex-husband in tow – to Boston. Questions abound: If her mother only had a simple fall, why did the hospital place her in a medical coma? Why does the staff at the hospital and the assisted living facility act as if they are hiding something? Does the fact that a new company owns the assisted living facility and the hospital have anything to do with her mother’s injury? Aviva is willing to risk her own life to find the answer. 
“Aviva is an appealing character, partly because she’s honest about her own faults – and she does have several endearing ones, including not thinking before she acts. It’s also hard not to like someone who packs far more books than she can possibly read for the trip to Boston. The novel has the right balance of seriousness and humor, and the mystery was satisfyingly complex …. Yom Killer is fun, easy reading….a perfect book for the beach or relaxing after work.”


My thanks to Helen Chapman for the 5 star review of YOM KILLER she posted on Amazon: 
You should buy the book. Promise, no spoilers.

The third of the series about Rabbi Cohen. Funny, poignant, as it touches on too many things none of us really want to think about, and, on top of it all, a darned good mystery. 

No, it’s not necessary to read “Chanukah Guilt” or “Unleavened Dead” before Yom Killer, but it couldn’t hurt.


YOM KILLER won the David Award for best novel at Deadly Ink!

My thanks to Jim Callan for posting my 4th blog in as many weeks. I discuss my 2 favorite places to write.  Spoiler: They both have fattening snacks and drinks, plus lots of outlets for plugging in my laptop. 

Take a look at: