Colin Powell spoke Yiddish

Colin Powell, who died on Monday, will be remembered as America’s first black secretary of state. He was also the first military chief to speak Yiddish as a second language, and he loved surprising Jews with his skill.

Powell, 84, died of Covid, although he was fully vaccinated. According to news reports, he had been undergoing treatment for blood cancer.

Powell brokered the “road map” to a two-state peace deal that still informs much of American policy in the Middle East.

The child of Jamaican immigrants who grew up in the Bronx, he was a hero in Vietnam who upon his return stayed in the military and rapidly rose through the ranks.

From when he was 13 until his second year in college, Powell worked for Sickser’s, a Jewish-owned shop in the Bronx that sold goods to new parents — many of them Jewish who spoke Yiddish as a first language.

To read more on this story, subscribe to our new e-edition. Go to

If you have a story or an issue you want us to cover, let us know - in complete confidence - by contacting, 0161-741 2631 or via Facebook / Twitter

Site developed & maintained by
© 2021 Jewish Telegraph