“Senderl (Ayzikl) mayn man” Performed by Rose Serbin and Bella Cutler

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2020 by yiddishsong

Senderl (Ayzikl) mayn man / Sender (or Ayzikl) My Husband
Two versions Sung by Rose Serbin and Bella Cutler
Ruth Serbin recorded by Ruth Rubin in Patterson, New Jersey, 1956, from Ruth Rubin Archive at the YIVO Sound Archives. Bella Cutler recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1988, in Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home, Bronx

Bella Cutler version:

Rose Serbin version: Click here to listen to the Rose Serbin recording (at the Ruth Rubin Archive).

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Research into the one verse remembered by Bella Cutler (from Bolokhov, Galicia, today Bolekhiv, Ukraine) led me to a printed version of the song with music entitled “Senderle [sic] mein Man” in the collection Jewish Folk Songs from the Baltics: Selections from the Melngailis Collection edited by Kevin C. Karnes, 2014. (Scans attached – Karnes 1,2). According to Karnes, Melngailis possibly heard the song in Keidan (today Lithuania, Kedainei) in 1899. 

The innkeeper and his wife in Suchestaw, Eastern Galicia. (YIVO)

In the Ginsburg and Marek (GM) collection of 1901, Yidishe folkslider fun rusland, there are two versions, # 305, #306, one with 8 verses from Kaunas; one with 4 verses from Minsk.

In Der pinkes, ed. Shmuel Niger, Vilna, 1913, there is a version in the collection “Folklsider” of L. B-N  [Leyvi Berman].

Rose Serbin (1890 – 1974)  was born in Bohopolye, Podolia, Ukraine. In the Ruth Rubin Archive this song is entitled “Vi vel ikh nemen”.

All evidence indicates that it originates in Lithuania or other countries “up north”. Of the six versions of the song (all from the 19th century), three were written down in Lithuania, one in Belarus, one in Galicia, one in Ukraine. The important rhyme at the end of each verse “kroyn” and “aleyn” only rhymes in the “Litvish dialect” where “kroyn” is pronounced as “kreyn”.

The textual differences are also intriguing. Is the husband leaving? Is he dying? The question “Where should the wife get bread for the children?” is answered in four ways. In GM #306  and Serbin – “from the lord of the estate”,  in GM #307 “at the stall”, in Karnes “at the store”, in Berman ” from the baker”.

Serbin’s version is the most satisfying, not only because she is such a wonderful singer, but also because it ends with a wedding which is where many folk narratives conclude. 

Thanks for help with this week’s blog to: Paul Glasser, David Braun, Arun Viswanath, Philip Schwartz, Michael Alpert, Sergio Lerer and YIVO Sound Archives.

RUTH SERBIN: Transliteration and Translation

Oy, vi vel ikh nemen mayne kinderlekh oyf broyt,
Senderl mayn man?
Vi vel ikh nemen mayne kinderlekh oyf broyt,
Senderl mayn man?

Baym purits mayn tayer vaybele,
Baym purits mayn tayer taybele,
Baym purits, mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn. 

Where will I get bread for my children,
Senderl my husband?
Where will I get bread for my children
Senderl my husband?

From the lord of the estate, my dear wife.
From the lord of the estate, my dear dove.
From the lord of the estate, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone. 

Bam purits iz du hintelekh,
Senderl mayn man?
Bam purits iz du hintelkeh,
Senderl mayn man?

Mit a shtekele, mayn tayer vaybele,
Mit a shtekele, mayn tayer taybele,
Mit a shtekele, mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn.

On the lord’s estate there are dogs,
Senderl my husband.
On the Lord’s estate there are dogs
Senderl my husband.

With a stick, my dear wife.
with a stick, my dear dove.
with a stick, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone.

Mit veymen vel ikh firn mayne kinderlekh tsi der khipe,
Senderl mayn man?
Mit veymen vel ikh firn mayne kinderlekh tsi der khipe
Senderl mayn man?

Aleyn, mayn tayer vaybele
Aleyn, mayn tayer taybele
Aleyn mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn. 

With whom shall I lead my children to the marriage canopy,
Senderl my husband?
With whom will I lead my children to the marriage canopy
Senderl my husband?

Alone, my dear wife.
Alone, my dear dove.
 Alone, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone.

Bella Cutler’s version: translation and transliteration. 

Vos veln mir geybn di kinder esn,
Ayzikl mayn man?
Vos veln mir geybn di kinder esn,
Ayzikl mayn man?

Broytenyu mayn vaybele
Broytenyu mayn taybele
Broytenyu mayn kroyn 
Du veyst dos shoyn aleyn.

?סענדערל מײַן מאַן/ וווּ וועל איך נעמען
געזונגען פֿון ראָוז סערבין

,וווּ וועל איך נעמען מײַנע קינדערלעך אויף ברויט
?סענדערל מײַן מאן
וווּ וועל איך נעמען מײַנע קינדערלעך אויף ברויט
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,בײַם פּריץ מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,בײַם פּריץ מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,בײַן פּריץ מײַן טײַער קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

בײַם פּריץ איז דאָ הינטערלעך
.סענדערל מײַן מאַן
בײַם פּריץ איז דאָ הינטערלעך
.סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

,מיט וועמען וועל איך פֿירן מײַנע קינדערלעך צו דער חופּה
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן
,מיט וועמען וועל איך פֿירן מײַנע קינדערלעך צו דער חופּה
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,אַליין, מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,אַליין, מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,אַליין, מײַן טײַערע קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

 Jewish Folk Songs from the Baltics: Selections from the Melngailis Collection edited by Kevin C. Karnes, 2014:

Ginsburg and Marek Yidishe folkslider fun rusland, 1901 # 305 and #306, one with 8 verses from Kaunas; one with 4 verses from Minsk:

Der pinkes, ed. Shmuel Niger, Vilna, 1913, in the collection “Folklsider” of L. B-N  [Leyvi Berman]:

Harry Boens & Nathan Hollandar’s Song “Di Shpanishe kholere” Performed by Cantor Sam Weiss

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2020 by yiddishsong

Di Shpanishe Kolere / The Spanish Contagion
Lyrics by Harry Boens (Bennett), Music by Nathan Hollandar.
Performance by Cantor Sam Weiss.

Commentary by Cantor Sam Weiss

Around 15 years ago my friend Michael Bennett discovered his grandfather’s name (see Michael Bennett’s post about his grandfather, Harry Boens / Bennett) listed as lyricist on a piece of Yiddish sheet music about the 1918 Spanish flu. As there were no extant recordings or performances of the song, in 2010 he emailed me to see if I could arrange to get it recorded. I glanced at the lyrics and was quickly captivated by their colloquial directness and interesting vocabulary. In short order I printed out the file, placed the sheets on my electronic keyboard, ran through the song, and emailed the mp3 to Michael.

Image courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

The song remained our private little adventure until COVID-19 reared its head and Michael reached out to me again: “…Maybe it’s an appropriate time to release to the public your rendition of my grandfather’s lament.” I hesitated, not really thinking of that quick take as a “performance, “and his idea remained dormant. Right before the High Holidays, however, it occurred to me that the Yiddish Song of the Week website would be an appropriate vehicle for sharing this gem, and Itzik Gottesman agreed to host it along with Michael’s back story on his grandfather.

Cantor Sam Weiss by Robert Kalfus

As the song is equal parts humor and pathos, I adopted a theatrical singing style along with the “stage Yiddish” dialect suggested by the printed notation. The initial sound in the Yiddish word for “Spanish” is clearly intended to be pronounced “S” rather than “Sh,” being spelled here with a samekh in place of the standard shin, and that is how I sang it.

In the case of the word for “heart” I vacillated between the standard pronunciation harts and the printed word hertz. In these two cases the transcription reflects standard Yiddish spellings rather than the pronunciations heard on the recording; the remaining words are transcribed as sung. Although the notation indicates a repeat of the final phrase in the verses, these repeats were skipped in verses 3-6.

I was struck by an interesting word that occurs three times, neveyre, which I have translated as “plague.” Strictly speaking neveyre is simply the colloquial version of aveyre, meaning “sin” (the “n” resulting from conflating the two words an aveyre), but in this context neveyre implies a divine punishment that may have come about as a result of our sins. Although I have yet to find this particular meaning in any Yiddish dictionary or thesaurus, the usage is amply supported by Jewish lore from the Ten Plagues onwards. The song itself, moreover, expresses a plea for God’s compassion (to reverse the punishment, as it were) as well as the darkly comical idea of the Spanish flu as Woodrow Wilson’s vengeance for Germany’s role in World War I.

The title word kholere is especially noteworthy. Unlike the English word “cholera,” it has a much broader connotation than any specific type of illness. Indeed, the technical name of the disease appears only on the Yiddish lyrics back cover page as the title—but nowhere in the song—as Di Shpanishe influentsiye. In verse 5 kholere appears unmodified by Shpanishe; I therefore translate it as “contagion.” Kholere is found in a great number of Yiddish curses where the speaker is not particularly concerned with which krenk befalls the victim, as long as it is grueling and punishing. Indeed “punishing” is the word’s operative intention, as in the case of neveyre. Note the antiquated spelling of the word on the title page with a khes instead of the standard khof. This older Yiddish orthography hints at a presumed Hebrew origin, as if kholere were a retributive disease related to kadokhes (biblical kodokhas), which is always spelled with a khes. The back cover lyrics are below.

TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION by Cantor Sam Weiss

1. Ikh gey mir arim in strit fartrakht
Say bay tug in say bay nakht.
In mayn hartzn kokht dus blit,
Ze’endik vi mentshn faln in strit.

REFRAIN:

Vayl di gantse velt iz yetst in trobl,
In yeder eyner zikht dem knobl.

I walk the streets deep in thought,
Be it day, be it night.
The blood is seething in my heart
As I watch people collapsing in the street.

REFRAIN:

Because the whole world is now in trouble,
And everyone is searching for garlic.

2. Mentshn zitsn in hoyz mit der neveyre,
Zey hobn moyre far der Shpanisher kholere.
Nemt mayn edvays in seyft zikh fin dem trobl,
Trinkt a glezl vayn in est dem knobl.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Everyone is stuck at home with this plague,
They’re all afraid of the Spanish flu.
Take my advice and save yourself from trouble,
Drink a glass of wine and eat some garlic.

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

3. Der Daytsh iz oykh a groyser diplomat!
Er hot gevolt farnikhtn di velt vi a rats;
Wilson hot ober genimen zikh di ere
In geshikt dem Daytsh di Shpanishe kholere.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

The Germans are some diplomats…
Seeking to destroy the world as if it were a rat;
But Wilson stepped right up
And sent the Germans the Spanish flu!

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

4. Sobveys, kars, gepakt oykh fil mit mentshn;
Ikh bet bay dir, oy Got, di zolst indz bentshn!
Nem fin indz oykh di neveyre
In hit indz up fin der Shpanisher kholere.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Subways, cars, all packed with people;
I beg you, God, please bless us!
Remove the plague from us too,
And shield us from the Spanish flu.

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

5. Barbers loyfn arim azoy vi di nyankes;
Fin hoyz tsi hoyz shteln zey ayedn bankes.
Zey aleyn trugn arim di neveyre;
Zey danken Got es halt on di kholere!

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Barbers scurry about as if they were nurses,
From house to house, with cupping glass treatments;
They themselves are carriers of the plague,
Thanking God that the contagion perseveres!

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

6. Mikh tsi hern zingen is nisht kayn vinder;
Mentshn, past nor oyf of ayere kinder.
Di froyen in Eyrope zenen geblibn vi ofn yakor,
In di mener in Amerike brenen vi a flaker

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Don’t act surprised to hear me singing;
Folks, just watch over your children.
The wives are all marooned in Europe
While their husbands are ablaze in America

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

Below images courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

About Lyricist Harry Bennett (Boens) by Michael Bennett

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2020 by yiddishsong

I never met my paternal grandfather Harry Boens (pictured left, b. March 17, 1891, Odessa; d. August 9, 1943, Los Angeles), and practically nothing about him was revealed to my brother and me. Innocent childhood questions about family history were met with stoicism and the subject quickly changed. Eventually, I did learn quite a bit about Harry through discovery of hidden documentation and much research. The journey to those revelations began in 2004, weeks before my father’s death in the hospital.

Harry Boens/Bennett. Image courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

Originally admitted for a respiratory virus, my father had become infected with multiple strains of hospital-spread bacteria. Months into his illness, through an internet search for Harry Boens, I discovered a piece of Yiddish sheet music entitled Di Shpanishe cholera (The Spanish Influenza) for sale. The cover sheet featured a photograph of the composer Nathan Hollandar and the lyricist Harry Boens. My father’s younger brother Philip had years earlier told me that Harry had changed the family name from Boens to Bennett and shared with me an old, color-dyed photograph of Harry and my father taken in 1933. From that photograph I saw a strong resemblance to the Harry Boens featured on the cover of Di Shpanishe cholera. I purchased the sheet music, printed out a copy of the title page, and brought it to my father in the hospital for verification. “Absolutely,” my father responded when I asked if the picture was that of his father, and then he added, “I never knew about this,” before angrily handing back the picture. Nothing further was discussed about the topic. However, the fact that my father was dying from infectious diseases struck me as tragically ironic in light of the subject of Harry’s song and my discovery of it at that heart-wrenching time.

Image courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

My father’s last request to me before he passed on June 13, 2004, was to write a book about his life. And so began years-long research into my father’s life, which of course included an in-depth look into Harry Boens, including the circumstances of his writing and co-publishing Di Shpanishe cholera. I fulfilled my father’s charge and self-published My Father: an American Story of Courage, Shattered Dreams, and Enduring Love in 2011.

Harry Boens immigrated to America in 1907. In about 1913 he married a Bessarabian émigré named Dora Ladyzhensky, and settled into a 3-room tenement apartment in New York’s Lower East Side. Harry worked as a waiter and accordionist in a subterranean diner on the corner of Rivington and Allen Streets in the same neighborhood. Dora worked as a seamstress in a sweatshop. Their first child, Clara, was born in 1914, their second, Irving (who would become my father) in 1915. Three months after Irving’s birth, Harry left his family. He returned in early 1917 and later that year Dora gave birth to the couple’s third child, Philip. Shortly after Philip’s birth, Harry left his family again. He returned in August 1920, but the reconciliation lasted only six weeks. This time he left his family for good.

The problem of male abandonment was common amongst Russian immigrants at that time—so common that Jewish organizations formed the National Desertion Bureau (NDB). The NDB served as a Jewish FBI whose goal was to locate AWOL husbands and fathers and force them to reconcile with their spouses, or at least support their families. Dora reported Harry to the NDB after his first desertion, and it was at that time that Harry began to pursue a career in music. He partnered with Nathan Hollandar who had a small recording studio where would-be immigrant artists could realize their dreams. The two developed a strong friendship and collaborated on several musical compositions. When the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic emerged, Harry aptly wrote the lyrics to Di Shpanishe Cholera; Nathan composed the music. They filed copyright for the piece in 1919, when Harry was twenty-eight years old.

But Harry’s musical career did not generate income. Instead, he moved to Brooklyn, partnered in a liquor store business and bought an automobile. Dora, meanwhile, languished on the Lower East Side. The children eventually were placed in foster homes and ultimately became inmates of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum (HOA) due to Dora’s inability to care for them. My father was not yet six years old at the time and he remained in HOA for the next twelve years. Harry’s liquor store business folded with the passing of the Prohibition amendment. Harry then left New York and settled in Los Angeles (a common destination in those days for wayward husbands and fathers like Harry). His surname now Bennett, Harry married a wealthy California socialite who was decades his senior. He used her money to start a Yiddish newspaper, buy a gas station, and build a small real estate empire. He returned to New York to visit his children and financially supported them in the HOA. When his children reached the age of liberation from orphanage, Harry invited them to join him in California.

Spurred by his wealthy father’s promises of a college education and membership in an exclusive beach club, in 1933 my father eagerly boarded a steam ship headed for the California coast. Harry waited for him in his legendary Stutz automobile. Harry’s promises of a new life for his son never materialized, and he reneged on his commitment to pay for college tuition. Instead, Harry wanted his son to work for him managing his businesses. My father grew increasingly resentful, and eventually sued Harry for past child support and college tuition. Harry disinherited his son. After my father was drafted in to the United States Army and shipped overseas, Harry reinstated him into his will. Harry Boens died in 1943 at the age of fifty-two; his early demise likely brought about by his five-and-half-pack-a-day cigarette habit. My father’s angry reaction to seeing Harry’s picture on the cover of Di Spanishe Cholera in 2004 was certainly understandable in light of all that I later discovered. However, I believe my father reconciled those emotions when he said to me days before his passing, “I don’t hate anybody.” I too reserve judgement of my grandfather in favor of understanding him in the context of his times and circumstances.

In 2010, while completing the book about my father, I had a desire to hear what my grandfather’s song actually sounded like. So I asked longtime family friend Cantor Sam Weiss—an accomplished singer, musician, and specialist in Yiddish music—if he would get Di Spanishe Cholera recorded for me. Cantor Weiss obliged in short order by recording it himself, and sent me the MP3 file that you hear on this page. Fast-forward to 2020: During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a strange sort of way, the words and music of Di Spanishe Cholera provide some comfort in knowing that our ancestors—in fact the entire world—went through a similar experience. For that I thank the grandfather whom I never knew.

“Fin mitvokh in der fri (Hot a yid a vaybele)” Performed by Lifshe Schaecther Widman and Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2020 by yiddishsong

Fin mitvokh in der fri (Hot a yid a vaybele) / From Wednesday Morning (A Man Has a Wife)
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) and Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. LSW recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This popular song was copyrighted in the US in 1922 by Morris Goldstein, who is listed as composer and lyricist. But this is doubtful since Pepi Litman and Helen Gespass recorded a version in 1912/1913 in Budapest or Lemberg. Apparently even earlier, in 1907, Hungarian singers recorded it (see Bob Cohen’s comments below).

Here is LSW, recorded by Leybl Kahn in New York, 1954:

More recently LSW’s daughter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman recorded Lifshe’s version on her CD Bay mayn mames shtibele with Nigel Jacobs on violin, recorded live at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, November 9th, 1993. Her lyrics are basically the same as LSW, though I do prefer her word “badekn” to LSW’s word “dekn”.

Here is the Peppi Litman version:

And here is the Gespass version:

Since the instrumental version of the song on the recording Maramaros: The Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania of the Hungarian group – Muzsikas, made such an impression, I asked Budapest resident Bob Cohen, researcher of Roma and Hungarian and Jewish musical connections, leader of the pioneering klezmer ensemble Di naye kapelye, for his take on the song.

Bob Cohen writes:

“Hot a yid a vajbele” is definitely the most popular and widespread Yiddish song in the Hungarian language area. Almost everyone I spoke with in the early 1990s knew it, and it was a standard at our old-age home gigs. It remains in the repertoire of Roma bands in Transylvania as “the Jewish song” and some even sing along to it in macaronic yid-speak as “Itta, Itta Babele”. I’ve also heard it played by Roma orchestras in Slovakia.  What is interesting is the fact that knowledge of the tune seems to have completely been forgotten among the post WWII generation of Jews, given the popularity it had among older folks I met in around 1990.

A testament to its staying power is this recording by Zoldi Marton in 1907 (Most of Zoldi’s other songs are comical Hungarian nota style in Hungarian). Also a 1912 version by the Toll Jancsi Orchestra, or the same band in 1907.

The version I played on our (Di naye kapelye’s) first recording back in 1997 came from the Gypsy primas (lead violinist) Andras Horvath of Jankamajitis, near Csenger on the Romanian border. He learned his Jewish tunes from a Jewish musician family named “Markus” before the war. He became a Seventh Day Adventist in later life, and he called me over once to tell me his life story and his relationship to Jews.

Thanks this week to Robert Cohen and Martin Schwartz. Please note: though still performed today, the song’s dated humor is misogynistic.

Fin mitvokh in der fri
biz fraytik far nakht
hot Surele mayn vayb
deym kigl gemakht.

From Wednesday in the morning
until Friday twilight,
Surele my wife
made a kugel. 

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
Hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she gives him trouble,
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Vi s’iz gekimen
shabes tsim esn,
hot Surele mayn vayb
fin deym kigl gur fargesn.

When the Sabbath arrives
and  it’s time to eat.
Surele, my wife
forgot all about the kugel.

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man has a wife;
she gives him trouble.
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Hot er gekhapt 
deym grobn shtekn
Un hot ir ungehoybn 
git tsi dekn.

So he got
his thick cane
and started to 
beat [cover] her. 

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she gives him trouble,
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Hot zi gekhapt
di alte shkrabes,
tsim tatn iz zi 
avek deym shabes.

So she grabbed
her old worn-out shoes
and went to her father
for the Sabbath.

Hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures
hot a yid a yidene
hot er fin ir tsures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she is good for nothing.
A man has a wife
and she gives him trouble.

Hobn di shkeynim
ungehoybn shpekulirn
me zol dus porfolk
vider tsuzamen firn. 

So the neighbors
started to speculate/plan
how to bring the couple
together again.

Hot a yid a vabele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
and she gives him trouble.
A man has a wife
and she gives him trouble

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
געזונגען פֿון ליפֿשע שעכטער-ווידמאַן

פֿון מיטוואָך אין דער פֿרי
ביז פֿרײַטיק פֿאַר נאַכט
האָט שׂרהלע מײַן ווײַב
.דעם קוגל געמאַכט

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

ווי ס’איז געקומען
,שבת צום עסן 
האָט שׂרהלע מײַן ווײַב
.פֿון דעם קוגל גאָר פֿאַרגעסן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

האָט ער געכאַפּט 
,דעם גראָבן שטעקן
און האָט איר אָנגעהויבן
.גוט צו דעקן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

האָט זי געכאַפּט
די אַלטע שקראַבעס
צום טאַטן איז זי
.אַוועק דעם שבת

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ייִדענע
.האָט ער פֿון איר צרות

האָבן די שכנים
אָנגעהויבן שפּעקולירן
מע זאָל דאָס פּאָרפֿאָלק
.ווידער צוזאַמענפֿירן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.האָט ער פֿון איר צרות

“Geltenyu” Performed by Clara Crasner

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2020 by yiddishsong

Geltenyu / Money
Sung by Clara Crasner, recorded by Bob Freedman, Philadelphia, 1972

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A most unusual song about Jews oppressing (or “taking advantage”, in Crasner’s words), of fellow Jews.

Ukrainian Jews escaping pogroms and the Russian Civil War crossed over into Romania. 1919-1921.  This song documents the hard times these Jews faced, apparently because of the Bessarabian Jews who extorted money from them once they crossed the border.  The “Ukrainians” were forced to do manual labor and sleep in horrible conditions in order to secure passports. 

In an earlier post on this blog where Clara Crasner sings the song “Eykho” she mentions the Bessarabian town of Yedinitz (today in Molodova – Edinets); perhaps that is the town in question. There she refers to her fellow refugees as “yoridnikes”, impoverished ones. In the Yedenitz Yizkor (Memorial) Book, there is indeed a chapter that recalls the Ukrainian Jews who crossed the border to escape the violence and came to Yedinits (legendary klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, was one of these migrants).

Committee for Assistance of Ukrainian Refugees, Yedenitz, 1920-1921

The first two verses of the song are from the perspective of the money-hungry Bessarabians. The third verse is from the refugee’s perspective.

This is the fifth song sung by Clara Crasner from Shargorod, Ukraine, that we have posted. They were all recorded by her son-in-law, Robert Freedman in Philadelphia 1972. Freedman and his wife Molly Freedman are the founders of the “Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive” at the University of Pennsylvania Library, an invaluable resource in researching Yiddish song.

TRANSLITERATION

Crasner (spoken)

 “Ot di lid hob ikh gehert in Rumenye, Basarabye, in 1919, 1920. Nokh der ershter milkhume, ven di yidn fin rusland zenen antlofn, iz dus geveyn di neyvnste greynets far indz, fin vonen ikh kim un nokh mentshn. Kimendik kin Basarabye obn mir geheysn “Ukrayiner.” Di Basarbyer hobn genemen …zey hobn genemne “advantage’ fin indz. M’o’me nisht gekent aroysfurn finem shtyetl. M’ot indz nisht gevolt geybn keyn peser, obn di mentshn gemakht a lid. Ikh denk az s’iz a “satire”. In di lid heyst “gelt”. 

(sung)

Tsu indz keyn Besarabye kimen Ukrainer a sakh.
Zey shvimen in der blote, azoy vi di fish in takh.
Zey loyfn im, imedim nor vi a vint
ergets vi, nor tsi krign a dokument.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey:
Geltenyu, hot ir geltenyu?
Git indz gelt nor a sakh
Val mir viln vern rakh.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh.

In der Ukrainyer er lozt arop di nuz.
Er miz nebekh geyn in shlufn in kluz.
Dort iz fintster ,kolt un vist; nor azoy vi in der erd.
Zey hakn holts un trugn voser in horeven vi di ferd.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey: 
Geltenyu, hot ir geltenyu?
Git indz gelt mit beyde hent
krigt ir bold a dokument.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh. 

Ober es kimt a tsat ven di Ukrayner zey leybn hoykh a velt.
Ven es kimt zey un di pur daler gelt. 
Zey rasn zikh aroys fin donen nor vi fin a shtag.
In ale Beseraber yidn tsaygn zey a fag.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey:
Geltenyu, mir hobn mir oykh geltenyu.
Mir darfn shoyn mer nit nitsn [?] aykh.
Mir hern aykh vi dem kuter,
vayl ayer Got iz indzer futer.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh. 

TRANSLATION

[spoken]

“This song I heard in Romania, Bessarabia, in 1919, 1920. After the First War, when the Jews from Russia escaped, this was the closest border to us, from where I am from and others. Coming into Bessarabia, we were called “Ukrainians” and Bessarabians took advantage of us. We were not able to leave the town. We were not given passports, so the people created a song. I think it’s a satire and the song is called “Gelt” – “Money”

[sung]

To us in Bessarabia come many Ukrainians
They swim in the mud, as fish in a river.
They run around everywhere like the wind;
anywhere just to get a document.
So they ask – why do we deserve this?
And they are answered:
money, do you have money?
Give us a lot of money
because we want to become rich.
Money is a good thing.

And the Ukrainian, he drops down his nose.
He must, alas, go to sleep in the synagogue.
There it is dark, cold and deserted.
Just like being in the ground.
They chop wood and carry water
and work hard as a horse.
So they ask why do we deserve this?
And they are answered: 
Money, do you have money?
Give us money with both hands
and you’ll get back a document.
Money is a good thing.

But a time will come when the Ukrainians
will live in luxury when they get their few dollars.
They will tear out of here as if from a cage.
And at all Bessarabian Jews they will thumb their noses
at them. [literally show them the fig = finger]
So they ask why do we deserve this?
They are answered:
Money, we also have money.
We don’t need you anymore
we totally ignore you
because your God is our father.
Money is a good thing.

TRANSCRIPTION

אָט די ליד האָב איך געהערט אין רומעניע, באַסאַראַביע, אין 1919, 1920. נאָך דער ערשטער מלחמה, ווען די ייִדן פֿון רוסלאַנד זענען אַנטלאָפֿן, איז דאָס געווען די נאָענססטע גרענעץ פֿאַר אונדז, פֿון וואַנען איך קום און נאָך מענטשן. קומענדיק קיין באַסאַראַביע האָבן מיר געהייסן „אוקראַיִנער”. די באַסאַראַבער האָבן גענעמען פֿון אונדז. מ’ אָ’ מיר נישט געקענט אַרויספֿאָרן פֿונעם שטעטל. מ’האָט אונדז נישט געוואָלט געבן קיין פּעסער, האָבן די מענטשן געמאַכט אַ ליד. איך דענק, אַז ס’איז סאַטירע. און די ליד הייסט געלט

.צו אונדז קיין באַסאַראַביע קומען אוקראַיִנער אַ סך
.זיי שווימען אין דער בלאָטע, אַזוי ווי די פֿיש אין טײַך
.זיי לויפֿן אום, אימעדים נאָר ווי אַ ווינט
.ערגעץ ווי נאָר צו קריגן אַ דאָקומענט
?פֿרעגן זי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
?ענטפֿערט מען זיי ־ געלטעניו, האָט איר געלטעניו
גיט אונדז געלט, נאָר אַ סך
.ווײַל מיר ווילן ווערן רײַך
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

.און דער אוקראַיִנער, ער לאָזט אַראָפּ די נאָז
.[ער מוז נעבעך גיין און שלאָפֿן אין קלוז [קלויז]
,דאָרט איז פֿינצטער, קאַלט און וויסט
.נאָר אַזוי ווי אין דער ערד
זיי האַקן האָלץ און טראָגן וואַסער
.און האָרעווען ווי די פֿערד
?פֿרעגן זיי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
?ענטפֿערט מען זיי ־ געלטעניו ־  האָט איר געלטעניו
,גיט אונדז געלט מיט ביידע הענט
.קריגט איר באַלד אַ דאָקומענט
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

אָבער עס קומט אַ צײַט ווען די אוקראַיִנער
.זיי לעבן הויך אַ וועלט
ווען עס קומט זיי אָן
.די פּאָר דאָלער געלט
זיי רײַסן זיך אַרויס פֿון דאַנען
.נאָר ווי פֿון אַ שטײַג
און אַלע באַסאַראַבער ייִדן
.צײַגן זיי אַ פֿײַג
?פֿרעגן זיי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
:ענטפֿערט מען זיי
.געלטעניו, מיר האָבן  אויך געלטעניו
.מיר דאַרפֿן שוין מער ניט ניצן אײַך
,מיר הערן אײַך ווי דעם קאָטער
.ווײַל אײַער גאָט איז אונדזער פֿאָטער
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

“Bay dem rebn” Performed by an Unidentified Singer at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2020 by yiddishsong

Bay dem rebn / At the Rabbi’s House 
Unidentified singer, recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG] at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home, Bronx  1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song begins with the Hebrew song “Hayta tsira bikineret” (There was a Young Woman at the Kinneret), which is then followed by a Yiddish verse. which then returns to the Hebrew beginning and so on and so forth. Israel’s Kinneret (also known as the Kinnereth, the Sea of Galilee and Lake Tiberius) is the world’s lowest-altitude freshwater lake.

The melody is from a Ukrainian folk song “Тече річка” “The River Flows”, which you can listen to here:

The most common version of the Yiddish verse involves a cat. However the one we present this week tells of a goat that eats up the skhakh, the sukkah covering (a sukkah or suke is the temporary structure that Jews build for the Sukkot holiday); so we felt this was an appropriate post during the current holiday of Sukkot.

Photo courtesy the Treehugger Blog

A thorough look at the origins and development of the Hebrew song including the Yiddish variants (but not this one) can be found at David Assaf’s Hebrew “Oneg Shabat” blog.

A recording of the song with the more common Yiddish verse about a kitten can be heard in the collection of recordings made by ethnomusicologists Sofia Magid and Moshe Beregovski, Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin. In that recording, singer Rakhmil Grin (1910 – 1943)  sings it for Beregovski in 1941, probably in Kiev (listen below).

Inge Mandos, a Yiddish singer from Hamburg, released a CD entitled Waks  (וואַקס, 2005) in which she re-imagines old Yiddish field recordings and includes Grin’s recording of “Bay mayn rebn iz geven a ketsle”

The Yiddish words and music to Grin’s version (the more popular version) can also be found in Undzer gezang (Bina Steinberg, ed. 1984), and are attached.

This is the first of a number of Yiddish songs that BSG recorded at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home in the Bronx. She was asked to edit a monthly Yiddish journal comprised of memoirs and folklore that she recorded from the elderly Jews living there. Unfortunately on the original cassette recording of this song the name of the singer was not mentioned. His Hebrew words do not match up entirely with the usual lyrics, and he makes a grammatical mistake. 

Thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski.

TRANSLITERATION (Daughters of Jacob version)

Hayta alma bakineret
asher bigalil.
Kol hayom hayta shira [!]
lanu mishirey galil.
Kol hayom hayta shira [!]
Shir akheyr hi lo yada..
hey!

Bay dem rebn hot di tsig
far hinger ofgegesn dem skhakh.
Hot di rebetsin mit der kotshere
ir gemakht di zakh. 
Tse keyver yisrul hot men zi gebrakht 
in an ofshrift hot men ir gemakht, hey…

Hayta alma….

TRANSLATION (Daughters of Jacob version)

There was a young lady at the Kinneret
that was in the Galilee.
She used to sing for us of
the songs of the Galilee.
A whole day she would sing –
no other song did she know. Hey!..

At the Rabbi’s house the goat
got hungry and ate up the skakh.
So the Rabbi’s wife with a poker
put an end to her. 
[literally: did the thing to her]
They gave her a Jewish burial
with an inscription, hey!

There was a young lady…

TRANSCRIPTION (Daughters of Jacob Version)

הָיְתָה עַלְמָה בַּכִּנֶּרֶת
,אֲשֶׁר בְּגָּלִיל
!כָּל הַיּוֹם הָיְתָה שִׁירָה
,לָנוּ מִשִּׁירֵי גָּלִיל
!כָּל הַיּוֹם הָיְתָה שִׁירָה
שִׁיר אַחֵר הִיא לֹא יָדְעָה
!היי

בײַ דעם רבין האָט די ציג
.פֿאַר הונגער אויפֿגעגעסן דעם סכך
האָט די רביצין מיט דער קאָטשערע
.איר געמאַכט די זאַך
צו קבֿר־ישׂראל האָט מען זי געבראַכט
.און אַן אויפֿשריפֿט האָט מען איר געמאַכט

…הָיְתָה עַלְמָה בַּכִּנֶּרֶת

 “Bay mayn rebn iz geven a ketsle” from Undzer gezang (Bina Steinberg, ed. 1984):

“Erev-yon-kiper far der nakht”: A Yiddish Murder Ballad Performed by Yetta Seidman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2020 by yiddishsong

Erev-yon-kiper far der nakht / The Eve of Yom Kippur 
A Yiddish murder ballad sung by Yetta Seidman, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg for the Jewish Museum of Maryland, 1979.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Jews praying in the synagogue on Yom-kippur, painting by Maurycy Gottlieb

This is another variant of this once popular 19th century Yiddish murder ballad about a rejected lover shooting his beloved. We have previously posted a version “Erev yonkiper nokh halbn tog” sung by Yankov Goldman, from the YIVO Institute’s Ruth Rubin Archive. 

Seidman’s melody is basically the same, as is the plot, but the words differ in interesting ways. In all the versions the boyfriend takes out a revolver and shoots her, but it is unusual for the ballad to end at that point in the story as it does here. There is usually a different concluding verse or two. Also in this version we learn the name of the woman, Dvoyre, (the same name as in Goldman’s version) but not the name of the shooter.

This ballad often begins with the line “Tsvelef a zeyger shpet bay nakht” and has no connection to Yom Kippur. We will post additional versions of this ballad in the future.

Seidman said that she learned this song from her mother in Russia. Her Yiddish has features of both southern and northern Yiddish dialects.  She immigrated to the United States in 1910.  

TRANLITERATION/TRANSLATION

Erev-yon-kiper far der nakht,
ven ale mentshn tien esn geyn,
ven ale mentshn tien esn geyn.
Geyt a fraylen fin der arbet
in der gelibter antkegn ir. 

The eve of yom-kippur, before nightfall
when all the people are going to eat.
when all the people are going to eat.
Walks a young woman from work
and her lover meets her from the other direction.

Vi er hot ir derzeyn
azoy iz der o geblibn shteyn.
“Atsind, atsind mayn tayer zis leybn.
Di zolst mir zugn ye tsi neyn.”

As soon as he saw her
he stopped.
“Now, now my dear love
you must tell me yes or no”

“Ye tsi neyn vel ikh dir zugn
Az mayne eltern shtern mir.
Mayne eltern shtern mir.
Mayne eltern, oy, tien mir shtern,
az ikh zol far dir kayn kale nit vern.”

“Yes or no, I will tell you:
My parents prevent me.
My parents prevent me.
O, my parents prevent me
from becoming your bride.”

Vi er hot dus derhert
azoy hot es im fardrosn. 
Aroysgenemen hot er ayn revolver
un er hot Dvoyrelen geshosn. 

As soon as he heard this, 
he was peeved. 
He took out his revolver
and shot Dvoyrele.

Vi er hot ir geshosn,
azoy hot er zikh dershrokn.
Oysgedreyt hot er deym revolver
un hot zikh aleyn geshosn.

Right after he shot her
he became frightened.
He turned the revolver around
and shot himself.

TRANSCRIPTION

ערבֿ־יום־כּיפּור פֿאַר דער נאַכט
.ווען אַלע מענטשן טוען עסן גיין
.ווען אַלע מענטשן טוען עסן גיין
גייט אַ פֿרײַלין פֿון דער אַרבעט
.און דער געליבטער אַנטקעגן איר

,ווי ער האָט איר דעזען
.אַזוי איז דער אָ געבליבן שטיין
,אַצינד, אַצינד מײַן טײַער זיס לעבן„
“דו זאָלסט מיר זאָגן יאָ צי ניין

,יאָ צי ניין וועל איך דיר זאָגן„
.אַז מײַנע עלטערן שטערן מיר
.מײַנע עלטערן שטערן מיר
,מײַנע עטלערן טוען מיר שטערן
“.אַז איך זאָל פֿאַר דיר קיין כּלה ניט ווערן

,ווי ער האָט דאָס דערהערט
.אַזוי האָט עס אים פֿאַרדראָסן
אַרויסגענעמען האָט ער אײַן [אַ] רעוואָלווער 
.און האָט דבֿורהלען געשאָסן

ווי ער האָט איר געשאָסן
.אַזוי האָט ער זיך דערשראָקן
אויסגעדרייט האָט ער דעם רעוואָלווער
.און האָט זיך אַליין געשאָסן

“Ziser Got, vi dank ikh dir?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman and “Reboyne-shel-oylem vi dank ik dir?” Performed by Freda Lobell

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2020 by yiddishsong

Ziser Got, vi dank ikh dir? / Sweet God, How Can I Thank You?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, with another version, Reboyne-shel-oylem vi dank ik dir? / Master of the Universe How Can I Thank You? sung by Freda Lobell, and recorded by Ruth Rubin 1948

Freda Lobell’s rendition can be heard at the YIVO Ruth Rubin Archive website.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song, in which a mother gives thanks for the marriage of her mezinke (youngest daughter), is not the first time and not the last time that these two singers will be paired together. And it is not surprising: Freda Lobell came from Chernovitz, Bukovina (today Ukraine) and LSW came from a small town in the same Bukovina region and later lived in Chernovitz. In the song “Vus a mul brent dos fayer greser” previously posted on this blog, one can also hear their two versions of the same song.

A Wedding in Cuba

In addition to Lobell’s recordings in the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO, she can also be heard on Rubin’s Folkways record “The Old Country”. The printed collection “Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive” includes three of her songs, words and music, but not this one.

The melody of this song is used by the Breslover/Broslover/Bratslover Hasidim with the words “Mitsve gedola lehiyot besimkhe tomid” (מיצווה גדולה להיות בשׂימחה תּמיד).

Here is a version with a Middle Eastern beat:

In LSW’s joyous version I believe that part of the fun is trying to intentionally squeeze in too many words into one line. The line beginning with “Shnirelekh….” As you hear she does not succeed but laughs at the attempt.

The klezmer fiddler Ilana Cravitz found the nigun in Moshe Beregovski’s writings, No. 187 (Skotshne) in Jewish Folk Music Vol. 4 Tish-Nigunim. It is to be found in Part II – the section with dances (see attached). She adds, “Definitely pre-WWI. The background note in Beregovski about the source is: No. 187. Sound recording No. 268/1 from Sh. Kulish in the town of Lyudmir [Ukraine] on July 17, 1913. Alternative version:  auditory record K-888 from A.-I. Berdichevsky in the town of Bogopol [Ukraine] in 1913. The performer reported that he had borrowed this tune from the clarinetist, who performed it like a skotshne.”

Thanks this week to Ilana Cravitz, Jordan Hirsch, Hankus Netsky, Yelena Shmulenson and the YIVO Sound Archive. 

TRANSLITERATION – LSW’s “Ziser Got”

Ziser Got vi dank ikh dir
vus di host geholfn mir;
aza gedile tse derleybn. 
Di host mekh tse shtand gebrakht
haynt hob ekh khasene gemakht. 
Kh’ob shoyn mayn mezinke oysgegeybn.
Ikh o’ dekh mir ayngehandlt skhoyre:
Shnirelekh, blit in milekh, eydem fil mit toyre.
Mayn harts iz fil mit freyd
Di eyniklekh shlepn mikh baym kleyd.
in eykh tsishn zey in der mit.
Ekh bin dekh vi der keyser rakh.
Mir iz haynt keyner glakh.
Lomir tantsn ale drit. 

TRANSLATION – “Ziser Got”

Sweet God how do I thank you
for helping me;
to live to see such a big event.
You brought this about:
today to marry off
my youngest daughter.
I have obtained my wares:
Youthful daughters-in-law and sons-in-law full of Torah.
My heart is full of joy.
My grandchildren pull at my dress,
and I in the middle of them. 
I am as rich as the emperor.
Today no one equals me.
Let’s dance us three. 

זיסער גאָט ווי דאַנק איך דור
וואָס דו האָסט געהאָלפֿן מיר
.אַזא גדולה צו דערלעבן
,דו האָסט מיך צו שטאַנד געבראַכט
הײַנט האָב איך חתונה געמאַכט
.כ’האָב שוין מײַן מיזינקע אויסגעגעבן
.איך האָב דאָך מיר אײַנגעהאַנדלט סחורה
.שנירעלעך, בלוט און מילעך, איידעם פֿול מיט תּורה
,מײַן האַרץ איז פֿול מיט פֿרייד
.די אייניקלעך שלעפּן מיך בײַם קלייד
.און איך צישן [צווישן] זיי אין דער מיט
איך בין דאָך ווי דער קייסער רײַך
,מיר איז הײַנט קיינער גלײַך
.לאָמיר טאַנצן אַלע דריט

TRANSLITERATION – Freda Lobell’s Reboyne-shel-oylem

Reboyne shel-oylem vi dank ekh dir
vu’ di ‘ost geholfn mir
aza gdile tse derleybn. 
Az ikh ‘ob dus tsi shtand gebrakht
der [di] mezinke khasene gemakht.
nagidemlekh mit zey’r farmeyg.
ikh lakh shoyn fin der gantser velt.
ikh ‘ob mane kinderlekh tsufridn geshtelt;
negidimlekh mit zeyer farmeygn. 
Bin ikh mir a shviger
‘ob ikh mir an eydem.
tants ikh mir in intershtibl [hintershtibl]
shoklt zikh der boydem.

TRANSLATION – Freda Lobell’s Reboyne-shel-oylem

Master of the universe how I thank you
for helping me
to live to see such a big event.
I made this happen:
married off my youngest daughter
with Jews of wealthy means.
I can laugh at the whole world.
I have made my children happy.
Rich men with their possessions.
And so I am a mother-in-law
and have a son-in-law.
So when I dance in the backroom
the attic shakes.

רבונו-של-עולם ווי דאַנק איך דיר
וואָס דו האָסט געהאָלפֿן מיר
.אַזאַ גדולה צו דערלעבן
אַז איך האָב דאָס צו שטאַנד געבראַכט
,די מיזינקע חתונה געמאַכט
.ייִדעלעך מיט זייער פֿאַרמעג
.איך לאַך שוין פֿון דער גאַנצער וועלט
איך האָב מײַנע קינדערלעך צופֿרידן געשטעלט
נגידעלעך מיט זייער פֿאַרמעגן
,בין איך מיר אַ שוויגער
,האָב איך מיר אַן איידעם
טאַנץ איך מיר אין הינטערשטיב
.שאָקלט זיך דער בוידעם

No. 187 (Skotshne) in Jewish Folk Music Vol. 4 Tish-Nigunim, by Moshe Beregovski:

“Mentshn zenen mishige” Performed by Max Bendich

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2020 by yiddishsong

Mentshn zenen mishige / People are crazy
A 1930s Yiddish parody of  “Three Little Fishies” sung by Max Bendich. Recorded by Aaron Bendich in the Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman and Aaron Bendich

TRANSLITERATION/TRANSLATION
Max Bendich version, in brackets are a couple of suggested grammatical corrections

Mentshn zenen meshige                             People are crazy
Zey zingen nokh [nor?] fin fish.                They sing still [only] of fish.
Ikh bin a tsedreyter                                      I’m a nutcase
Zing ikh fin a heyser [heysn] knish.         So I sing of a hot knish

A knish mit potatoes                                    A knish with potatoes
un a teler smetene.                                       and a plate of sour cream.
Lek ikh mayne finger                                   So I lick my finers
vi a kleyn ketsele.                                          like a little kitten.

Hey! Um-bum petsh im, patsh im, Hey! Um-bum hit him, slug him
Vey iz mir!                                                 Wow is me!
Zol of Hitler                                               May Hitler
vaksn a geshvir.                                       Grow a tumor.

Di college-boys ale                                   All the college boys
zey shlingen goldfish, na!                      are swallowing goldfish. Here!
Ikh vil a heyser [heysn]  knish,             I want a hot knish.
Ahhhhhh! [opens his mouth as if to swallow a knish]

מענטשן זענען משוגע
געזונגען פֿון מאַקס בענדיטש

מענטשן זענען משוגע
זיי זינגען נאָך [נאָר?] פֿון פֿיש
איך בין אַ צעדרייטער
.זינג איך פֿון אַ הייסער [הייסן] קניש

“אַ קניש מיט „פּאָטייטאָס
.און אַ טעלער סמעטענע
לעק איך מײַנע פֿינגער
.ווי אַ קליין קעצעלע

,היי! אום־בום פּעטש אים, פּאַטש אים
!וויי איז מיר
זאָל אויף היטלער
.וואַקסן אַ געשוויר

די „קאַלעדזש־בויס” אַלע
!זיי שלינגען גאָלדפֿיש, נאַ
.איך וויל אַ הייסער [הייסן] קניש.
אַאַאַאַאַאַ

Aaron Bendich comments:

Max Bendich as a child (lower right)

My zayde Max Bendich was born on March 25, 1915 in New York City to hardworking, politically active, recent immigrants from Podolia, Ukraine. He grew up on 136th Street between St Ann’s and Cypress Avenues in the Bronx. From a young age, he submerged himself in literature, cinema and music from innumerable world cultures, but he always favored Yiddish. 

In 1941 he met Dorothy Matoren, whom he married weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack. He volunteered to join the army and served in Europe until 1945, fortunately missing the worst horrors of war. Back in the Bronx, Max purchased a laundry business which he managed until his retirement in his early 60s. On June 26, 1969 Max was shot on his laundry route in Harlem, and by a miracle survived. 

Dorothy & Max Bendich

Fifty-one years later, at age 105, he’s alive and well in the Bronx, where he’s visited by a loving family of three children, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Every weekend for the past four years I’ve spent hours with my zayde, singing old songs, watching movies and talking about his life. This song about the 1930s goldfish-swallowing fad is the only song he’s sang for me that I’ve been unable to track down. Someday I hope to figure out where he got it from, but in the meantime I’m happy to consider it his mysterious contribution to a culture he loves so much.

Itzik Gottesman comments: 

This is a wonderful example of Yiddish-American folklore capturing perfectly the late 1930s fad to swallow goldfish and growing hatred for Hitler.

The song “Three Little Fishies” was first released in 1939, words by Josephine Carringer and Bernice Idins and music by Saxie Dowell. It was recorded by the Andrews Sisters, Kay Kyser, and the Muppets (it is often sung as a children’s song) among many others. Here is a version by Spike Jones:

Here are the lyrics to the original “Three Little Fishies”:

Down in the meadow in a little bitty pool
Swam three little fishies and a mama fishie too
“Swim” said the mama fishie, “Swim if you can”
And they swam and they swam all over the dam
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
And they swam and they swam all over the dam
“Stop” said the mama fishie, “or you will get lost”
The three little fishies didn’t want to be bossed
The three little fishies went off on a spree
And they swam and they swam right out to the sea
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
And they swam and they swam right out to the sea
“Whee!” yelled the little fishies, “Here’s a lot of…

No fish were harmed during the writing of this post.

Gebirtig’s “Kivele” Performed by Jacob (Kobi) Weitzner

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2020 by yiddishsong

“Kivele” by Mordkhe Gebirtig, Sung by Jacob (Kobi) Weitzner
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Warsaw, 2017

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week we honor the memory of Yiddish writer, playwright, scholar and journalist Jacob (Kobi) Weitzner  (March 24, 1951 – September 20, 2018). His second yortsayt will be Sept. 29. 2020

Jacob (Kobi) Weitzner

I had known Kobi since the early 1980s in NYC and worked together with him for years at the Yiddish Forverts newspaper. On the Forverts radio hour, his comic imitations of Ariel Sharon and other Israeli leaders attracted a large following, particularly among the Hasidim in NY. 

We last met in Warsaw in August 2017 and at that time, he asked me to identify this song that his mother sang to him as a child. The one verse he sang for me was from “Kivele” by Mordkhe Gebirtig. Someone along Kobi’s chain of performance changed the name from “Kivele” to “Yankele” (the name of a different, more well-known Gebirtig lullaby) and reduced an eight-line verse to four. 

“Kivele” is not among the better known songs by Gebirtig and has only been recorded by a few singers – “The Bashevis Singers” of Australia, Barbara Suie, Mariejan van Oort among them. I could find only a couple of recordings in the 20th century: Max Reichart and Mascha Benya.  Benya’s, version can be heard at this link.

I have attached the original words in Yiddish and music from a 1942 edition of Gebirtig’s songs Mayne lider, published by Arbeter-ring. Gebirtig’s text transliterated with German translation can be found at the Virtual Klezmer link.

Kobi Weitzner sings this one verse:

Shluf zhe man neshumele, mayn kleyn yingele,
Hay-liu-liu-liu, shluf zhe mir.
S’iz finem tatenyu gekimen a brivele,
toyznter zise kishn shikt er dir.

 Sleep my dear soul, my little boy
Hay-liu-liu go to sleep.
From your father a letter has arrived
thousands  of sweet kisses he sends you. 

שלאָף זשע מײַן נשמהלע, מײַן קליין ייִנגעלע
הײַ־ליו־ליו, שלאָף זשע מיר
ס’איז פֿונעם טאַטעניו געקומען אַ בריוועלע
טויזנטער זיסע קושן שיקט ער דיר

For more biographical information on Jacob Weitzner see this obituary by Marek Tuszweicki in Gazeta, pp.58-59. 

Kobi dedicated his life to enriching and preserving Yiddish culture and he will be missed.

כּבֿוד זײַן אָנדענק

An interview with Kobi in Yiddish by the Linguistic Heritage Project in Poland can be seen below: