Jewish words at the Spelling Bee

The 2013 Scripps National Spelling Bee featured a word of Jewish origin. Hannah Citsay, a student at St. Anne Catholic School in Lancaster, PA, correctly spelled “hesped,” the Hebrew word for eulogy at a Jewish memorial service, in the sixth round.

It’s not the first time a word of Jewish origin generated a buzz at the bee.


In 2006, contestant Saryn Hooks from North Carolina, stirred some broiges after her spelling of “hechsher” was initially rejected by judges before being overturned. (Another contestant’s brother showed some “chesed” by notifying the judges.)

In 2009, “kichel” was introduced to audiences with a definition sprinkled with basic Yiddishisms:
“The thought of someone kvetching about her kichel gave Meryl the spilkes.”

Despite correctly spelling “hesped,” Citsay was eliminated in a new portion of the contest, where contestants had to provide the definition of a word.

Hopefully, the accomplishment will still be deemed worthy of a K-I-D-D-U-S-H.

Adam Soclof is JTA’s Associate Director of Outreach and Partnerships and coordinates presentations and advertising/marketing opportunities for the news agency. A digital archives enthusiast, Adam has authored more than 300 blog posts for The JTA Archive Blog and was responsible for its social media presence and weekly newsletter, This Week in Jewish History. Adam has presented at several conferences in the form of game shows, interactive social media campaigns and Powerpoint presentations. Follow him on Twitter: @hypersem