“Kale lebn, kale lebn” A Badkhn Parody Performed by Dora Libson

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2021 by yiddishsong

Kale lebn, kale lebn
A badkhn parody sung by Dora Libson
Recorded by Lionel Libson, 1977

Transcribed by Eliezer Niborski, English translation by Itzik Gottesman.

Kale-lebמ, kale-lebn
Kale-lebn, kale-lebn,
Meyn darfsti veynen un shrayen.
Az zolst hobn aza velt azoy zis
vi borsht fun klayen.
Un zolst darfn geyn borgn un layen.
Un zolst keyn mol nit aroys
funem rov un funem dayen.

Dear bride, dear bride,
You should cry and scream some more.
You should have a world so sweet
as borsht made with bran.
You should rely on borrowing and lending.
And may you never get out from 
the rabbi and his assistant.

Oy, a ber un a shver un a shlimazelnitse 
zenen dokh oykhet darbay.
A ber hot a langn veydl 
un a shver hot lib a sheyn meydl.
Un az a shlimezalnitse geyt in mark – 
fardripet zi dus kleydl.

Oy, a bear and a father-in-law and an unlucky woman
are also present. 
A bear has a long tail,
and a father-in-law loves a pretty girl.
And when an unlucky woman goes to market
she spatters her dress

Oy, a bukher un a meydl un a shlimezalnitse
zenen dokh oykhet darbay.
A bukher az er geyt avek heyst men zikh im nit (h)aylen.
un a meydl, az zi geyt avek heyst men zikh ir nit zamen.
Un az me shikt a shlimezalnitse nokh fleysh 
brengt zi plyamen.

Oy, a young man and girl and an unlucky woman
are present as well. 
A young men when he leaves is told not to hurry
and a girl, when she leaves is told not to wait.
And when you send an unlucky woman to buy meat
she comes back with stains. 

כּלה־לעבן, כּלה־לעבן
,מיין דאַרפֿסטו וויינען און שרײַען
אַז זאָלסט האָבן אַ וועלט אַזוי זיס
.ווי באָרשט פֿון קלײַען
,זאָלסט דאַרפֿן גיין באָרגן און לײַען
און זאָלסט קיין מאָל ניט אַרויס
.פֿונעם רבֿ און פֿונעם דיין

אוי, אַ בער און אַ שווער און אַ שלימזלניצע
.זענען דאָך אויכעט דערבײַ
אַ בער האָט אַ לאַנגן וויידל
.און אַ שווער האָט ליב אַ שיין מיידל
–און אַ שלימזלניצע גייט אין מאַרק
.פֿאַרדריפּעט זי דאָס קליידל

אוי, אַ בחור און אַ מיידל און אַ שלימזלניצע
.זענען אויכעט דערבײַ
אַ בחור, אַז ער גייט אַוועק, הייסט מען זיך אים ניט אײַלן, [אַרויסגערעדט „הײַלן”]
,און אַ מיידל, אַז זי גייט אַוועק, הייסט מען זיך איר ניט זאַמען
,און אַז מע שיקט אַ שלימזלניצע נאָך פֿלייש
… ברענגט זי פּליאַמען 
[“וואַריאַנט־מערצאָל פֿון „פּליאַמע“ = „פֿלעק]

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In the spirit of Purim this week, we present a parody of a badkhn’s bazetsns.  Before the ceremony of veiling the bride, the wedding entertainer, the badkhn, used to address the bride, reminding her of the youth that she leaves behind and how to lead an observant Jewish life with her husband. Sometimes the rhymes would be a stretch, almost non-sensical  and that is at the heart of the parodies.

I believe the repeated lines in our parody “…are also present” are mocking the lines of the badkhn when he reminds the bride that although her parents or grandparents may have died, they are with her today at this happy occassion. 

The badkhn parodies are usually of the bazetsns, the seating, and the badekns, the veiling; two emotional moments before the marriage under the khupe/canopy. The bazetsns is strickly a women’s ceremony, except for the badkhn, and a time of much weeping. I have added below two pages from Hayyim Schauss’s work The Lifetime of a Jew (1976) in which he discusses these moments at the wedding. Schauss was a Litvak from Lithuania so much of what he describes is particularly true of his region. It is worth reading.

This is a link to a “real” badekns, not a parody, as sung by Majer Bogdanski, born 1912 in Piotrkow-Tribunalsky, Poland, from the CD Yiddish songs / Yiddishe liders:

One can also see the badkhn perform in such Yiddish films “Yidl mitn fidl” “Uncle Moses” and “The Dybbuk”. The badkhn tradition has made a comeback in today’s Hasidic world and many examples can be found on YouTube. As far as I can tell, they have become mainly comics, and do not paricipate in other wedding ceremonies.

To get a feel for the type of music that might be played at the bazetsn, here is violinist Jutta Bogen playing an example (from Pete- this one has the structue of a Romanian doina):

Many such bazetsnbadekn parodies were recorded on 78 RPMs in the 1910s- 1930s, and even later. Here is Henri Gerro’s Kolomeyer badchn. The badkhones parody begins at 1:00.  

Further reading on the badkhn:

1) Article by Joel Rosenberg “Badkhones in Life and Cinema” on the website In geveb
2) “Badkhonim” in the YIVO Encyclopedia by Jean Baumgarten.
3) Book: הבדחן (in Hebrew) by Ariela Krasney

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski who transcribed the recording. 

Excerpt from Hayyim Schauss’s work The Lifetime of a Jew (1976):

Badkhn Toyvye Birnbaum’s Improvisation of “Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2021 by yiddishsong

Badkhn Toyvye Birnbaum’s  Improvisation  of  “Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn”
Recorded in Brooklyn circa 1982 by Itzik Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Birnbaum sings the refrain of the popular song “Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn” and then improvises the verses in the tradition of a badkhn, the Jewish wedding entertainer. Birnbaum referred to these improvisations as “shtey gramen“, rhymes created at the moment, while standing. 

Toyvye (Tobias) Birnbaum was born in Nowy Sacz, Poland, (Yiddish = Tsanz) in 1916. I met him in 1981 in Brighton Beach, NYC in the street. I was was walking with Yiddish actor Zvi Scooler, and Birnbaum recognized Scooler and came over. When he told us that he was a badkhn in Eastern Europe, I took his phone number and we became friends. 

Toyvye Birnbaum, Collection of the Museum at Eldridge Street

The song “Yiddish redt zikh azoy sheyn” was written by Isidore Lillian and the music composed by Maurice Rauch. The original text and music were printed in the Mlotek collection Songs of Generations and we are attaching those scans. But it seems that just about no one sings the words as originally written. This is also reflected in this performance during which the guests sing along with different words.

Among those who have recorded this song are Ben-Zion Witler, Henri Gerro, Johnny Grey, and more recently Myriam Fuks, the Klezical Tradition, Clarita Paskin, Harold Goldfarb and Mirele Rozen. The texts of their versions vary, especially in the verses. Witler’s and Gerro’s versions were particularly popular and Birnbaum’s way of singing owes quite a bit to them. His punctuation of  the word “Yiddish” in the refrain is a nice touch.

Here is a link to Gerro’s version:

This song was recorded at a “fraytik-tsu-nakhts” (friday night, sabbath eve) at my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, approximately 1982.  Among the people at this event that I recall or can be hear are Michael Alpert, Joshua Waletzky, Zwi Kanar. One of Birnbaum’s rhymes refers to two Germans in attendance that evening who had come to study Yiddish (at YIVO/Columbia). I do not remember who that was. 

The Yiddish scholar Vera Szabo interviewed Birnbaum, and her papers and recordings are at YIVO. Klezmer musican and researchers Joshua Horowitz and Michael Alpert have also worked or interviewed with Birnbaum.

Thanks this week to Joshua Horowitz and Vera Szabo.

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn

Ikh gedenk di kinder-yurn,
sheyninke kinder-yurn.
In hartsn ayngekritst zenen zey bay mir.
Di yinge zikhroynes, di sheyne khaloymes
leygn in hartsn bay mir.

I remember my childhood
wonderful childhood. 
They are inscribed in my heart.
The memories of youth, the sweet dreams
lay deep in my heart.

Freyg ikh aykh tsi besers iz den farhan?
Ven di khaveyrim fun Itziklen kimen zikh tsuzam?
Men est, me trinkt, keyad hameylekh,
der oylem fraylekh.
Vil ikh aykh, zayt zeh azoy git,
Lernt aykh os dus lidele un zingt zhe mit mir mit.  Vus?

So I ask you, is there anything better?
When friends come together to Itzik’s place?
We eat, we drink, as if we were kings.
The people are happy.
So I ask you please,
learn this song
and sing along with me. What?

REFRAIN
Yidish redt zikh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing
Yidish redn ales
Zaydes, tates mames
Oy, adarebe, zug oyf goyish
“Git shabes”.
Yidish iz dekh azoy sheyn
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes, fun fremde zikhroynes.
Az yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.

Speaking Yiddish is so easy.
Yiddish is easy to pronounce.
Yiddish is spoken  by everyone
Grandfathers, fathers, mothers.
Just try to say in any foreign tongue – 
 “gut shabes” [good sabbath]
Yiddish is so beautiful
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
What do I need languages from other memories
When Yiddish sounds so sweet. 

Tsi iz den epes besers farhan,
ikh miz aykh zugn nokh a mol ven me kimt zikh tsizam, 
Durkh deym vil ikh aykh nisht dertserenen
un ikh vel aykh a lidele oyslernen
zayt zhet ale azoy git, lern akykh oys dus lidele
zingt zhe mit mir mit.

Is there anything better,
may I repeat, when we all get together?
With this I don’t want to make you angry
and I will teach you a song.
So please learn the song and sing along.

Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Yidish redn ales”
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zug af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes fun andere mikoymes.
Az Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in another language. 
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places. 
Yiddish sounds so sweet. 

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn
yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
yidish redn ales
zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
vus toygn mir leshoynes fun andere mikoymes.
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places.
When Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Oy az yidn redn yidish,
vus iz den du der khidesh?
yidish vet azoy sheyn klingen,
say bam redn, un shener bam zingen.
Duz iz klur vi der tug.
Duz beyt’ ekh der batkhn 
un hert zhe vus ikh zug.

Oy, that Jews speak Yiddish,
what’s the big deal?
Yiddish will sound wonderful
both when you speak it, and evern more so when you sing it.
This is clear as day.
So the badkhn asks you
and hear what I say.

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Yidish redn ales,
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”.
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes
fin andere mikoymes?
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places, when Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Di gantse velt zugt az yidish hot azoy fil kheyn.
Ven yidish i’ nisht geveyn git, volt yidish nisht gekimen tsu Itziklen tsi geyn. 
Un nokh deym vil ikh aykh nisht dertserenen.
Ir mizt dokh hobn a fink fin yidish, vus ir vilt zikh yidish oyslernen. 
S’iz nisht keyn kharpe, s’iz nisht keyn shand.
Tsvay mentshn zenen gekimen zikh lernen yidish
azsh fin Daytshland. 
Nokh deym vintsh ikh aykh ale du, hatslukhe un a shir.
Dus letste zug ikh  zingt zhe mit mit mir.

The whole world says that Yiddish has so much charm.
If Yiddish weren’t good, then Yiddish would not come to Itzik.
And after all I don’t want to enrage you.
You must have a spark of Yiddish to want to learn it.
There’s no shame, no disgrace.
Two people came to study Yiddish
all the way from Germany.
So after all, I wish you all success without end.
For the last time, sing along with me. 

Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn. 
Yidish redn ales
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes
fin andere mikoymes?
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places, when Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Az ikh hob aykh du gezugt gramen
s’hot aykh afile farshaft a bisele tamen. 
Her zhe Itzikl tsi zikh tsi mayn shmis
der mentsh iz shoyn geveyn in der gantser velt
un oykhet in Pariz.
Lomir nor zan gezint in shtark. 
Men iz gekimen hern a yidishe drushele 
keyn Prospekt Park. 
Mit deym vil ale zugn aykhץ
Un zayt aykh matriekh
un dus lidele lernt zikh oys vus gikh.
Dus hob ikh ale simunim 
ven ir zingt yidish keyn-hore laytish
shaynt af ayer punim. 
Atsindert vil ikh aykh tsvingen
Dus letste mul, beyt ikh aykh, 
nokh a mol mit mir mittsuzingen.

And so I have said some rhymes here.
It even gave you some pleasure.
So listen Itzik to my converstion.
He has gone all over the world, and also Paris.
Let us all be healthy and strong.
People came to hear my talk to Prospect Park. 
And with this I say to you.
Please try to learn this song quickly.
For this I have all the signs:
when you sing Yiddish right, no evil eye,
your face shines. 
So now I demand of you all
to sing for the last time, I ask you,
to sing along with me. 

דער בדחן טובֿיה בירנבוים זינגט 
„ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין”
רעקאָרדירט פֿון איציק גאָטעסמאַן
 אין ברוקלין, אַן ערך 1982

.איך געדענק די קינדעריאָרן, שיינינקע קינדעריאָרן
.אין האַרצן אײַנגעקריצט זענען זיי בײַ מיר
די יונגע זכרונות, די שיינע חלומות
.לייגן [ליגן] אין האַרצן בײַ מיר
?פֿרעג איך אײַך, צי בעסערס איז דען פֿאַרהאַן
?ווען די חבֿרים פֿון איציקלען קומען זיך צוזאַם
,מען עסט, מע טרינקט, כּיד־המלך
.דער עולם פֿריילעך
,וויל איך אײַך, זײַט אַזוי גוט
לערנט אײַך אויס דאָס לידעלע און זינגט זשע 
?מיט מיר מיט.  וואָס

:צוזינג
.ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
ייִדיש רעדן אַלעס
,זיידעס, טאַטעס, מאַמעס
.אַדרבא, זאָגט אויף גוייִש  „גוט שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות, פֿון פֿרעמדע זכרונות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

.צי איז דען עפּעס בעסערס פֿאַרהאַן
.איך מוז אײַך זאָגן נאָך אַ מאָל, ווען מע קומט זיך צוזאַם
דורך דעם וויל איך אײַך נישט דערצערענען
.און וועל אײַך אַ לידעלע אויסלערנען.
,זײַט זשעט אַלע אַזוי גוט, לערנט אײַך אויס דאָס לידעלע
.זינגט זשע מיט מיר מיט

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

,אוי, אַז ייִדן רעדן ייִדיש
?וואָס איז דען דאָ דער חידוש
,ייִדיש וועט אַזוי שיין קלינגען 
.סײַ בײַם רעדן, און שענער בײַן זינגען
.דאָס איז קלאָר ווי דער טאָג
דאָס בעט אײַך דער בטחן
.און הערט זשע וואָס איך זאָג

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַנדערע מקומות,
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

.די גאַנצע וועלט זאָגט, אַז ייִדיש האָט אַזוי פֿיל חן
ווען ייִדיש וואָלט נישט געווען גוט, וואָלט ייִדיש נישט געקומען צו 
.איציקלען צו גיין
.און נאָך דעם וויל איך אײַך נישט דערצערענען
איר מוזט דאָך האָבן אַ פֿונק פֿון ייִדיש, אויב איר ווילט זיך
.ייִדיש אויסלערנערן

.ס’איז נישט קיין חרפּה, ס’איז נישט קיין שאַנד
צוויי מענטשן זענען געקומען זיך לערנען ייִדיש
.אַזש פֿון דײַטשלאַד
.נאָך דעם ווינטש איך אײַך אַלע דו, הצלחה אָן אַ שיעור
.דאָס לעצטע זאָג איך זינגט זשע מיט מיט מיר

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

,אַז איך האָב אײַך געזאָגט גראַמען
.ס’האָט אײַך אַפֿילו פֿאַרשאַפֿט אַ ביסעלע טעמען
.הער זשע איציקל צו זיך צו צו מײַן שמועס
דער מענטש איז שוין געווען אין דער גאַנצער וועלט
.און אויכעט פּאַריז
.לאָמיר נאָר זײַן געזונט און שטאַרק
.מען איז געקומען הערן אַ ייִדיש דרשהלע קיין פּראָספּעקט־פּאַרק
מיט דעם וויל איך זאָגן אײַך
טאָ זײַט איר מטריח
.און דאָס לידעלע לערן אויס וואָס גיך
.דאָס האָב איך אַלע סמנים
,ווען איר ייִדיש, קיין עין־הרע, לײַטיש
.שײַנט אויף אײַער פּנים
,אַצינדערט וויל איך אײַך צווינגען
דאָס לעצטע מאָל, בעט איך אײַך
.נאָך אַ מאָל מיט מיר מיטזינגען

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

From Eleanor and Joseph Mlotek’s, Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song (NY, Workmen’s Circle, 1995):

“Di zin fargeyt far nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2021 by yiddishsong

די זון פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט / Di zin fargeyt far nakht / The Sun Sets at Dusk
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn, NYC 1954.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman at a NY bungalow colony, 1950s

TRANSLITERATION

Di zin fargeyt far nakht. Dus meydele shteyt in drosn.
Di bekelekh vern ir nas.  Di koykhes geyen ir os.
Zi shteyt in vart af deym ort,vi zi fleygt im tumid zeyn.
Itst shteyt zi azoy lang in vart du aleyn. 

Du vi ikh shtey in mayne trern tien gisn.
O du, o du iz dus ertele vi mir fleygn mir beyde shmisn. 
Ot du o iz do iz dus ertele vi mir fleygn beyde shteyn.
Itstert bin ikh nebekh geblibn aleyn. 

Mamenyu getraye, vus eksti mir mayn leybn.
Di ‘ost bay mir tsigenimen mayn khayes, mayn gold.
Host bay mir tsigenemen mayn rekhte hant.
Host im farshikt in a fremd land.

Sheyn bisti lyube af deym tuvl tse muln.
Se nishtu aza keyser dayn sheynkeyt tsi batsuln.
Sheyn bisti lyube tsi sheyn iz dayn numen.
Dayne sheyne bekelekh vi di sheyne blumen.

Mamenyu, ikh beyt ‘ekh breng im tsirik.
Breyng mir mayn leybn breng mir mayn glik. 

TRANSLATION

The sun sets at dusk. The girl is standing outside.
Her cheeks are getting wet. Her strength is weakening.
She stands and waits at that place where she always saw him. 
Now she stands, alas, so long waiting alone.

Here where I stand and my tears gush.
Oh, here is the place where we always used to talk.
Here is the spot where we used to stand.
Now I , alas, am left alone.

Mother dear, why do  you shorten my years?
You took away my life, my gold.
You took away my right hand.
And sent him away to a strange land.

Beautiful, you are my love to paint on the tablet.
There is no emperor who can pay for your beauty.
Beautiful, you are my love, too beautiful is your name.
Your beautiful cheeks, like the beautiful flowers.


Mother, I beg you, bring him back.
Bring me my dearest, bring me my happiness.

די זין פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט
געזונדען פֿון ליפֿשע שעכטער־ווידמאַן
רעקאָרדירט פֿון לייבל כּהן, 1954, ניו־יאָרק

.די זון פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט, דאָס מיידעלע שטייט אין דרויסן
.די בעקעלעך ווערן איר נאַס, די כּוחות גייען איר אויס
.זי שטייט און וואַרט אויף דעם אָרט, וווּ זי פֿלעגט אים תּמיד זען
.איצט שטייט זי אַזוי לאַנג און וואַרט דאָ אַליין

.דאָ וווּ איך שטיי ־ און מײַנע טרערן טוען גיסן
.אָט דאָ אָ דאָ איז דאָס ערטעלע, וווּ מיר פֿלעגן מיר ביידע שמיסן
.אָט דאָ אָ דאָ איז דאָס ערטעלע, וווּ מיר פֿלעגן ביידע שטיין
.איצטערט בין איך, נעבעך, געבליבן אַליין

.מאַמעניו געטרײַע, וואָס עקסטו מיר מײַן לעבן
.דו האָסט בײַ מיר צוגענעמען מײַן חיות, מײַן גאָלד
.האָסט בײַ מיר צוגענעמען מײַן רעכטע האַנט
 .האָסט אים פֿאַרשיקט אין אַ פֿרעמד לאַנד

.שיין ביסטו ליובע, אויף דעם טאָוול צו מאָלן
.סע נישטאָ אַזאַ קייסער דײַן שיינקייט צו באַצאָלן
.שיין ביסטו ליובע, צו שיין איז דײַן נאָמען
.דײַנע שיינע בעקעלעך, ווי די שיינע בלומען

.מאַמעניו, איך בעט דיך, ברענג אים צוריק
.ברענג מיר מײַן לעבן. ברענג מיר מײַן גליק

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Di zin fargeyt far nakht is among Lifshe Schaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) most moving performances– and that ending!

I have found 3 other variants of the song which I am attaching: one from Zhitomir (Ukraine) in Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153;  one from the Kovensk region in Lithuania in the Ginzburg and Marek collection Yidishe folkslider in Rusland (1901) p. 168; and one in Nukhem (Natan) Shakhnovskiy’s Lider gezungen funem folk (1948) p. 20. Shakhnovsky was from Kremenchuk in the Ukraine and it seems most of the songs were heard there. In Shakhnovsky is there a printed melody similar to LSW’s. The texts of the two versions from the Ukraine are quite similar while the Lithuanian one has a refrain not found in the others. All of these variants are attached below.

The folk poetry of this song is quite striking and I believe it is quite old. I translated “tovl”, which usually means blackboard, as “tablet”, but “slate” or “board” are also possible translations. The emphasis on the place where they met and spent time together is beautiful in its simplicity. 

Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153:

Nukhem (Natan) Shakhnovskiy’s Lider gezungen funem folk (1948) p. 20:

Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153:

“Shikhelekh” Performed by Gertrude Singer and Manya Bender

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2021 by yiddishsong

“שיכעלעך/Shikhelekh/Shoes” – An early American Yiddish theater song that crossed the Atlantic and came back. First version sung by Gertrude Singer, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg, Baltimore 1979 from the archive of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Second version sung by Manya Bender, recorded by Ruth Rubin 1950, NYC, found at the Ruth Rubin Archive, YIVO.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

“Shikhelekh” a song about a boy in an immigrant family desperate to get a new pair of shoes, is interesting because there are two versions: one with a sad ending and one with a happy ending.

The older version, 5 verses long, with the sadder ending was first printed in the 1897 compilation Di yidishe bine, ed. J. KatzenelenbogenNY. (A scan is attached). In this version the boy complains he cannot go to school barefoot and asks his father to buy a pair of shoes in the store next to his school. The song concludes with the father, “powerless”, crying together with the boy. This version was reprinted with the title “Papa mit dem shikhele” no date, in American Yiddish Penny Songs edited by Jane Peppler, 2015. (scan attached). We have not yet found recordings of this older version.

The newer version ( approx. 1916) with a “happy ending” concludes with a verse that relates how that young barefoot boy is now a lawyer and the girl he is with, playing “fortepian”, is his bride. The final refrain is:

Nu, Papa do you remember how eight years ago,
when I cried and begged you to buy me a pair of shoes.
Now I am a lawyer, and will make you happy for all of your years.

The singer, Gertrude Singer (1900 – 1979), recounts how she sang it often on the ship coming to America from Warsaw. In the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO, Manye Bender who learned the song in Bessarabia  “on the way to America.” also sings the new version.  Click here for her performance, beginning with the line “In droysn iz fintster”. 

The transcription, translation and Yiddish of both versions follows below.

It is not clear who the composer is of the older “unhappy” version. The Mloteks point out in their Forverts newspaper column that in the collection “Di yidishe bine” it is placed right after Morris Rosenfeld poems but it does not appear in his collected works. In the column on June 20, 1976, the music as remembered by a reader is also printed.

The later-adapted revision with the happy ending was the work of the singer Josef/Joseph Feldman around 1916. On a song sheet for “Shichalach” as sung by Moishe Oisher (no date), the words are credited to singer Joseph (Josef) Feldman (scans attached). But on page two, it is written “Version by Jos Feldman”, acknowledging his text as a revision of an earlier song. On a 78 rpm record (1916) Josef Feldman recorded it and one can hear it at the Florida Atlantic University “Recorded Sound Archives”

In 1938, Joseph Feldman published the Joseph Feldman’s Yiddish Theaterical Magaizine. The verses and music are published here.

The happy vs. sad ending of “Shikhelekh”  brings up an interesting point: could the generation after the original 1890s version no longer accept such a sad ending, and thus inspire the happy, nostalgic song conclusion of 1916?

Thanks this week to Jane Peppler, Steven Lasky and his Museum of the Yiddish Theater, the YIVO Sound Archives and the Judaica Sound Archives at Florida Atlantic University. 

TRANSLITERATION, TRANSLATION and YIDDISH

Shikhelekh sung by Gertrude Singer, recorded in 1979.

1 ) In droysn is fintster, in droysn iz nas,
un du gey ikh borves, ikh ken nisht geyn in gas.
Papa, ikh beyt mir far dir azoy fil mul.
koyf mir a pur shikhelekh. Ikh ken nisht geyn in “skul.”
Oy papa, di zolst dir oysbeytn a git yur.
Koyf mir, papele, shikhelekh a pur.  
Oy, koyf mir, papele, shikhelekh a pur.

2) Der papa blaybt shteyn mit a troyern [troyerik] geveyn
biz zayne trern faln afn kind aleyn.
“Kind mayns, du veyst vi azey ikh hob dikh lib.
Tsulib dayne shikhelekh vel ikh farpanen a kishn fun shtib.
Oy kind mayns, mir zoln shoyn nisht hobn mer keyn noyt.
Tsulib dayne shikhelekh hob [iz nishto] ikh nishto keyn broyt.
Orem mayn kind iz nokh erger vi der toyt.”

3) In di tsayt flit avek un es iz shoyn akht yur
Kik on [?] dem boychik, er vert shoyn a “loyer.”
Dort zitst a meydele vos zi shpilt pian.
Me zugt az dos meydele vet dem loyer’s kale zayn.
Nu, papa, gedenkstu tsurik mit akht yur
ven ikh hob dikh gebeytn far shikhelekh a pur.
Yetst bin ikh loyer un ikh makh dikh glikekh 
af ale dayne yor.

1) Outside it’s dark; outside it’s wet,
and I am walking barefoot; I can’t go in the street.
Papa, I’ve asked you so many times
to buy me a pair of shoes. I can’t go to school.
Oy papa, may you succeed in praying for a good year.
Buy me, papa, a pair of shoes
Oy, buy me, dear papa, a pair of shoes

2) Papa remains standing with a sad weeping,
until his tears drop on his child.
“My child, you know how much I love you:
because of your shoes, there is no bread.
To be poor is worse than death.”

3)  Time flies and it’s eight years later.
Look at the boy [?] – he is soon to be a  lawyer.
There sits a girl who plays grand piano.
They say that she will be the lawyer’s bride.
So, papa, remember eight years ago
when I begged you for a pair of shoes?
Now I am a lawyer and I will make you happy
all of your years.

שיכעלעך 
געזונגען פֿון גערטרוד זינגער
רעקאָרדירט פֿון גערטרוד ניצבערג
.אין דרויסן איז פֿינצטער, אין דרויסן אין נאַס

.און דאָ גיי איך באָרוועס, איך קען נישט גיין אין גאַס
,פּאַפּאַ, איך בעט מיר פֿאַר דיר אַזוי פֿיל מאָל
.קויף מיר אַ פּאָר שיכעלעך. איך קען נישט קיין אין סקול
.אוי, פּאַפּאַ, דו זאָלסט דיר אויסבעטן אַ גוט יאָר
.קויף מיר, פּאַפּעלע, שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר
“.אוי, קויף מיר, פּאַפּעלע, שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר

דער פּאַפּאַ בלײַבט שטיין מיט אַ טרויעריק געוויין
.ביז זײַנע טרערן פֿאַלֹן אויפֿן קינד אַליין
.קינד מײַנס, דו ווייסט ווי אַזוי איך האָב דיך ליב”
.צוליב דײַנע שיכעלעך, וועל איך פֿאַרפּאַנען אַ קישן פֿון שטוב
.אוי, קינד מײַנס, מיר זאָלן שוין נישט האָבן מער קיין נויט
.צוליב דײַנע שיך איז נישטאָ קיין ברויט
“.אָרעם, מײַן קינד, איז נאָך ערגער ווי דער טויט
און די צײַט פֿליט אַוועק און עס איז שוין אַכט יאָר

.קוק אָן דעם בויטשיק; ער ווערט שוין אַ לויער
.דאָרטן זיצט אַ מיידעלע, וואָס זי שפּילט פּיאַן.
.מע זאָגט, אַז דאָס מיידעלע, וועט דעם לויערס כּלה זײַן
,נו, פּאַפּאַ, געדענקסטו צוריק מיט אַכט יאָר”
?ווען איך האָב דיך געבעטן פֿאַר שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר
יעצט בין איך איצט לויער און איך מאַך דיך גליקלעך 
.אויף אַלֹע דײַנע יאָר.

TRANSLITERATION, TRANSLATION AND YIDDISH

Shikhelekh by Manya Bender

1) In droysn iz fintster, in droysn iz nas.
“ikh hob nit kayn shikhelekh tsu geyn oyf der gas.
Papa, ikh bet dir, azoy fil mol.
Koyf zhe mir shoyn, koyf zhe mir shoyn shikhelekh a por.
Koyf zhe mir shoyn, koyf zhe mir shoyn shikhelekh a por.”

2) S’iz avek gegangen a lange tsayt,
Dos kind iz gevorn a groyser advokat.
Er zitst mit zayn meydl, zey shpiln beyde pian.
di meydl zogt, zi vil zayn kale zayn.
“Papa, gedenkstu mit azoy fil yor tsurik.
Ikh hob dir gebeytn shikhelekh a por?
Un itst makh ikh dir gilklekh af ale dayne yor.” 

TRANSLATION of BENDER

1) Outside it’s dark, outside it’s wet
“I don’t have a shoes to go out in the street.
Papa, I’ve asked you so many times  
Buy me, buy me a pair of shoes.”

2)  A long time had passed.
The child became a big-time lawyer.
He sits with his girlfriend; they both are playing piano.
The girl says she wants to be his bride.
Papa, do you remember many years ago?
I asked you to get me a pair of shoes.
And now I will make you happy the rest of your days.

שיכעלעך 
געזונגען פֿון מאַניע בענדער
פֿון רות רובין-אַרכיוו, ייִוואָ

.אין דרויסן איז פֿינצטער, אין דרויסן איז נאַס”
.איך האָב ניט קיין שיכעלעך צו גיין אויף דער גאַס
,פּאַפּאַ, איך בעט דיך, אַזוי פֿיל מאָל
קויף זשע מיר שוין, קויף זשע מיר שוין
.שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר
קויף זשע מיר שוין, קויף זשע מיר שוין
“.שיכעלעך אַ פּאָר

.ס’איז אַוועק געגאַנגען אַ לאַנגע צײַט
.דאָס קינד איז געוואָרן אַ גרויסער אַדוואָקאַט
.ער זיצט מיט זײַן מיידל, זיי שפּילן ביידע פּיִאַן
.די מיידל זאָגט זי וויל זײַן כּלה זײַן
פּאַפּאַ, געדענסטו מיט אַזוי פֿיל יאָר צוריק”
?איך האָב דיר געבעטן שיִכעלעך אַ פּאָר
“און איצט מאַך איך דיר גליקלעך אויף אַלע דײַנע יאָר

Di yidishe bine, ed. J. Katzenelenbogen, NY (1897):

American Yiddish Penny Songs edited by Jane Peppler, 2015:

“Bay indz azoy fil kodres grine”, a Doina Performed by Anna Esther Steinbaum

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2021 by yiddishsong

Bay indz azoy fil kodres grine (“Doina”)
A Romanian poem adapted into a Yiddish song.
Sung by Anna Esther Steinbaum, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Jerusalem 1997.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The singer, Anna Esther Steinbaum (also known as Anna Rauchwerger Steinbaum), was from Chernovitz, Romania, and was active in the Yiddish cultural life there before the war. After the war, in Israel, she remained close to the Chernovitz intellectuals and translated Itzik Manger’s ballads into German.

Romania’s Mureș River

What makes this week’s song extraordinary is that though the text was written by an anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist Romanian poet, whose politics were well known, a Yiddish poet found his poetry moving enough to adapt into a Yiddish song.

I met with her several times in 1997-98 in her apartment in Jerusalem. At this particular meeting my mother Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman was also present and occasionally can be heard as Steinbaum sings. Steinbaum found this song in a written notebook she had kept where she wrote down the songs she remembered. 

In her notebook the song is entitled “Doina” but it is  an adaptation of a Romanian poem “Noi” [“We”]  by Octavian Goga (1881 – 1938), a virulent fascist Romanian nationalist and anti-Semite, who was briefly the Romanian Prime Minister in 1938, when he stripped the Jews of their Romanian citizenship  

The Yiddish reworking of the song was done, according to Steinbaum, by the Romanian Yiddish writer Herts Rivkin, the author of the song “Nakhtishe lider” previously posted on the Yiddish Song of the Week

Here is a link to the longer original poem by Goga recited in Romanian with an English translation. 

Bay indz azoy fil kodres grine 

A Romanian poem by Octavian Goga, adapted in Yiddish by Hertz Rivkin. 

Bay indz azoy fil kodres grine [kodres=codri ]וועלדער 
velder fil mit korn. 
Bay undz azoy fil blumen, lider,
in shtiblekh fil mit tsorn. 

We have so mayn green woods,
forests full of rye.
We have so many flowers, songs,
in homes that are full of rage.

Kimen feygelekh fin vaytn
indzer doina hern. 
Bay indz azoy fil shmeterlingen
in taykhn trern, trern.

Birds come to us from afar
to hear our doina.
We have so many butterflies
in rivers of tears, tears.

Umet flist in shtiln muresh [Murăşul = Romanian river]
troyer rint in ovnt.
Es dertseylt fin indzer benkshaft
yeyder boym in vald.

Sadness flows quietly into the Murasul river;
Sadness runs in the evening.
Our longing is told by
every tree in the forest.

Zitsn mames gantse nekht,
shpinen layvnt, veybn. 
Tates, mames in oykh zin 
baveynen dus zeyer leybn.

Mothers stay up all night
spinning linen, weaving. 
Fathers, mother and sons too
lament their lives. 

Benkt zikh indz azoy nukh freyd.
Der vald iz undzer eydes.
Oysgevaremt hot di benkshaft
zeydes, elter-zeydes.

We yearn so for joy;
the woods are our witness.
This yearing was hatched 
by our grandfathers and their fathers. 

Un biz haynt iz ot der khulem
mekiyem nisht gevorn:
felder oysgebet mit veyts
shtiblekh fil mit tsorn. 

And till today this dream has
not been realized:
fields covered with wheat,
homes full of rage.

בײַ אונדז אַזוי פֿיל קאָדרעס גרינע
אַ רומעניש ליד פֿון אָקטאַוויאַן גאָגאַ
באַאַרבעט אויף ייִדיש פֿון הערץ ריווקין
געזונגען פֿון אַנאַ אסתּר שטיינבאַום

,בײַ אונדז אַזוי פֿיל קאָדרעס גרינע
.וועלדער פֿיל מיט קאָרן
,בײַי אונדז אַזוי פֿיל בלומען, לידער
.אין שטיבלעך פֿיל מיט צאָרן

זיצן מאַמעס גאנצע נעכט
.שפּינען לײַוונט, וועבן
טאַטעס, מאַמעס און אויך זין
.באַוויינען דאָס זייער לעבן

קומען פֿייגעלעך פֿון ווײַטן
.אונדזער דוינע הערן
בײַ אונדז אַזוי פֿיל שמעטערלינגען
.אין טײַכן טרערן, טרערן

אומעט פֿליסט אין שטילן מורעש
טרויער רינט אין אָוונט
עס דערציילט פֿון אונדזער בענקשאַפֿט
יעדער בוים אין וואַלד

.בענקט זיך אונדז אַזוי נאָך פֿרייד
.דער וואַלד איז אונדזער עדות
אויסגעוואַרעמט האָט די בענקשאפֿט
.זיידעס, עלטער־זיידעס

און ביז הײַנט איז אָט דער חלום 
.מקוים נישט געוואָרן
,פֿעלדער, אויסגעבעט מיט ווייץ
.שטיבלעך פֿול מיט צאָרן

New Yiddish Folksong Website!

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , on December 9, 2020 by yiddishsong

The Center for Traditional Music and Dance (the Yiddish Song of the Week’s sponsor) is pleased to announce a new website dedicated to research and pedagogy for the Yiddish folksong tradition. The website Inside the Yiddish Folksong has been created by CTMD in partnership with a project team led by ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin, and includes Michael Alpert, Walter Zev Feldman, Ethel Raim, Josh Waletzky and the Yiddish Song of the Week’s editor, Itzik Gottesman.

Click here to visit Inside the Yiddish Folksong

And join us at the end of December for Yiddish New York, the USA’s largest festival of Yiddish music, language and culture! Click here for more details.

“Khanike-gelt (mume, mume, mume gite)” Performed by Dora Libson

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2020 by yiddishsong

Khanike-gelt (mume, mume, mume gite) – Hanukkah Money (Aunt, Aunt, Aunt So Good)
A Hanukkah song sung by Dora Libson. Recorded by Lionel Libson, 1977 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

There seems to be a connection between this song and the Yiddish schools of Argentina. Avrom Lichtenbaum, director of the Argentina YIVO, remembers singing it in kindergarten in a Yiddish school in Buenos-Aires. The only printed version I have found was in the children’s song collection Heym un mishpokhe, yomim-toyvim, edited by Sara Fischer, Buenos-Aires, 1948. A scan of the song from that volume is attached (Fischer). 

In Heym un mishpokhe, yomim-toyvim it is called “Khanike gelt” and includes only the first two verses which I also transliterate since the rhymes are better in those verses than the ones in Libson’s version.  It also states that the poem was “From the Hebrew” translated by the Argentinian Yiddish children’s writer Shemuel (Shmuel) Tsesler (1904 – 1955).  

Sure enough, in the Israeli Zemereshet website we find the song in Hebrew in several versions, with more and different stanzas but the composer and writer of the Hebrew original song remains unknown.

Libson’s third and fourth verse, however, are not included in these Hebrew versions. Click here to see the Hebrew versions.

Libson’s pronuncation of the holiday as “Khaniko” instead of the usual “Khanike” in Yiddish, or “khanuka” in modern Hebrew,  reflects an Ashkenazic Hebrew pronunciation.

Thanks this week to Avrom Lichtenbaum, Gila Flam and Dina Pozniak.

Khanike-gelt as sung by Dora Libson

1) Mume, mume, mume, gute,
vi ikh hob dikh lib.
Bist a gite, bist a zise,
khanike-gelt zhe gib.
Bist a gite, bist a zise,
khanike-gelt zhe gib.
Khaniko iz haynt! Khaniko iz haynt!

Aunt, aunt, aunt, so good,
how I love you.
You’re so good, you’re so sweet.
So give me Hanukkah-gelt!
Hanukkah is today! Hanukkah is today!

2) Un az di mume hot gegebn
loz ikh mikh tsurik.
Un ikh gey mir glaykh tsum feter
feter gib zhe di!
un ikh gey mir glaykh tsum feter
feter gib zhe di!
Khaniko iz haynt!   Khaniko iz haynt!

And after Auntie gave me,
I returned back
and go straight to my uncle.
Uncle give me!
Hanukkah is today! Hanukkah is today!

3) Dem [Di] badaytung fun dem yontif
veys ikh dokh gants git.
Antiyoykhes iz [hot] fargosn
fil yidish blit.
Antiyoykhes hot fargosn
fil yidish blit.
Khaniko iz haynt!  Khaniko iz haynt!

The significance of this holiday
I know so well.
Antioches spilled 
much Jewish blood.
Antioches spilled 
much Jewish blood.
Hanukkah is today! Hanukkah is today!

4) In beys-hamigdesh fremde geter
hot men ungeshtelt. 
Un du ayl zikh nisht mayn dreydl
zay zhe mir a held.
un du ayl zikh nisht mayn dreydl
zay zhe mir a held.
Khaniko iz haynt!  Khaniko iz haynt!

In the Temple, foreign gods
were erected.
And don’t hurry my dreydl
be my hero. 
Khanike is today!  Khanike is today!

חנוכּה איז הײַנט
געזונגען פֿון דאָרע לאַבסון

מומע, מומע, מומע גוטע
.ווי איך האָב דיך ליב
ביסט אַ גוטע, ביסט אַ זיסע
.חנוכּה־געלט זשע גיב”
!חנוכּה איז הײַנט! חנוכּה איז הײַנט

,און אַז די מומע האָט געגעבן
.לאָז איך מיך צוריק
,און איך גיי מיר גלײַך צום פֿעטער
„פֿעטער, גיב זשע דו !”
!חנוכּה איז הײַנט! חנוכּה איז הײַנט

די באַדײַטונג פֿונעם יום־טובֿ
.ווייס איך דאָך גאַנץ גוט
אַנטיוכות האָט פֿאַרגאָסן
.פֿיל ייִדיש בלוט
!חנוכּה איז הײַנט! חנוכּה איז הײַנט

אין בית־המיקדש פֿרעמדע געטער
.האָט מען אָנגעשטעלט
,און דו אײַך זיך נישט מײַן דריידל
.זײַ זשע מיר אַ העלד
!חנוכּה איז הײַנט! חנוכּה איז הײַנט

The two verses in the Shemuel (Shmuel) Tsesler collection Heym un Mishpokhe Yomim-Toyvim:

Tsu der mumen, tsu der guter
makh ikh a shpatsir.
“Khanike-gelt, gute mume,
Gib zhe gikher mir!”

Git di mume mir a groshn
“Kh’dank dir!” Zog ikh hoykh.
Itster gey ikh tsu mayn feter:
“Feter gib mir oykh!”
Khanike iz haynt! Khanike iz haynt! 

“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 Kholere / 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.