“Vi sheyn s’iz itstert di pagode” Performed by Feigl Yudin

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This week we feature another track of Feigl Yudin recorded in a 1978 concert presented by the Balkan Arts Center (now Center for Traditional Music and Dance, Ethel Raim provides the introduction). Vi sheyn s’iz itstert di pagode (How beautiful is now the weather) is another lyric love song by Feigl Yudin, this time in the voice of the man. I have yet to find other variants.

Today the term “cavalier” sounds old-fashioned, but it is often found in Yiddish folksong to denote suitor, gentleman, boyfriend. The admission that he cannot write is a rare one in Yiddish song, since most males had at least a rudimentary Jewish education and could read and write.

Feigl sings “Der ponim” instead of the standard “Dos ponim”, which reflects her Grodno dialect.

Vi sheyn s’iz itstert di pagode,
Es tsit mayn harts mit libe tsu dir.
Du kum tsu mir mayn Khaye- Soshe [Shoshe]
Vayl ikh bin der shenster kavalir.

Khaye-Shoshe, di zogst ikh hob a feler.
Hob ikh oykh a sredstve tsu dem.
Ikh vel zikh koyfn a brivn-shteler,
Un vel zikh oyslernen shraybn fun dem.

Oy dayne oygn vi tsvey brilyantn
vi di shtern shaynen zey.
Volt shtendik veln in zey kukn
un shtendik shpiglen zikh in zey.

Oy dayn heldzl vi alabaster
un dayne lokn iz tayerer fun gelt.
un dayne tseyndlekh vi vayse perl
un dayn ponim’z der shenster af der velt.

How beautiful is now the weather.
With love my heart is drawn to you.
Come to me my Khaye-Soshe [Shoshe]
Because I am the most handsome cavalier.

Khaye-Soshe, you say I have a fault.
So I have a remedy for that.
I will buy a handbook of sample letters,
and will learn to write from it.

O, your eyes like two jewels,
like the stars they shine.
I would like to always look into them
and always look at my reflection.

O, your neck is like alabaster
and your locks are more dear than money,
and your teeth like white pearls
and your face is the most beautiful in the world.


“Bay a taykhele” Performed by Feigl Yudin

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Ethel Raim and Itzik Gottesman

From Ethel Raim:

Feigl Yudin moved to the United States at the age of 14 from Grodna (Grodno) Gubernia, now in Belarus. Her parents stayed behind in Europe, so upon arriving to New York City she was housed by landslayt (contacts from her hometown), who took care of her until she was able to support herself. A skilled seamstress, Feigl continued working in the needle trades in the US for most of her life and was an active participant in the progressive labor movement.

When the Center presented the landmark concert with legendary clarinetist Dave Tarras on November 19, 1978, at Casa Galicia (now Webster Hall) in Manhattan, Feigl Yudin was a featured artist, among others. A native Yiddish speaker, she loved singing and was one of those people who could hear a melody for the first time and commit it to memory almost instantly.  She would say, “When I hear a melody it haunts me and I must get the words.” Feigl had a large repertoire of Yiddish songs which she learned both in Europe and in the US, and, as you will hear, was a beautiful singer.

From Itzik Gottesman:

This love song is a strophic lyric quatrain which is typical of the Yiddish tradition. (See accompanying booklet to LP Folksongs in the East European Tradition from the repertoire of Mariam Nirenberg Prepared by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett with Mark Slobin and Eleanor Gordon Mlotek, 1986, pages 5 – 6).

Yudin’s repertoire was recorded by Ruth Rubin starting in 1948. Four of her songs are included in the volume Yiddish Songs from the Ruth Rubin Archive (2007) and her song “Ba a taykhele” begins the collection.

It states there that the song was collected in 1967 and other versions can be found in I. L. Cahan’s collection Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (1957) and the volume by Beregovski and Fefer – Yidishe folkslider (1938).

The suggested parallel in Cahan (song #175) is not convincingly a variant of this song, but the Beregovski and Fefer version is the exact same as Yudin sings it, and I am inclined to think that Yudin learned it from an Amerucan leftist Yiddish chorus/choir where the songs from the Beregovski and Fefer songbook were quite popular.

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele.
Vaksn af dem tsvaygn.
Mit alemen redstu, mit aleman bistu frayndlekh.
Nor mir heystu shvaygn.

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele
Vaksn oyf dem blumen.
(Haynt) freg ikh dir libster – ven vestu shoyn kumen?
Ven vestu shoyn a mol kumen?

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele
Vaksn af dem bleter
Freg ikh dir libster ven vestu shoyn kumen?
Leygst alts op af shpeter.

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows branches.
You talk to everyone; you’re friendly with all.
But me – you ask to be silent.

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows flowers.
(Today) I ask you my beloved – when will you come already?
When will come for once?

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows leaves.
I ask you my beloved when will you come already?
But you keep putting it off for later.


“S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg (The Holy Days Have Arrived) is a song that takes place before Rosh-hoshone and Yom-kipper when it is a tradition to visit the departed family at the cemetery.


Photo courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

In the cemetery, a voice is heard of a recently deceased woman who died in childbirth, and she sings of her anguish about her new born child and her husband whom she loved.

S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg
Ven me darf geyn af keyver-oves
Az ikh bin gekimen in halbn veg
Hob ikh mikh dermont in mane makhshoves.

Plitsem hert men a kol
fin a frishn korbn.
Fin a yunger kimpiturin.
Vus iz ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.

Vi iz mayn yinger man?
Ver vet im arimnemen?
Vi iz mayn pitsele kind?
Ver vet im zeygn gebn?

Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt
Ven gehat hob ikh es [epes?] tsu krign.
Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt
Fin mayn man, fin mayn libn.

The holy days have arrived
time to visit family in the graveyard
When I was half way there,
I remembered my ruminations.

Suddenly a voice is heard
from a fresh victim:
A woman who died in childbirth
Just a short while ago.

Where is my young husband?
Who will embrace him?
Where is my little child?
Who will breastfeed it?

When I am reminded of that time
when I had what I wanted.
When i think of that time,
Of my husband whom I loved.sizgekumen1sizgekumen2

When one thinks about love songs in Yiddish, the vast majority are sung by unmarried girls who dream of the man they love and how wonderful life will be after the wedding. Few are the songs, such as this, in which the woman openly expresses love for her young husband. Lifshe Shaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) powerful emotional style matches the words perfectly.

In this case, the wife sings of her love from her grave and the song immediately reminds us of another song performed by LSW, Afn beys-olyem, also known as Di shtifmuter and originally penned by Mikhl Gordon.

In addition to this field recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx, 1954, there are two other published versions of S’iz gekimen di heylike teg. One, collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe in Galica, does indeed take one verse taken from Gordon’s song. see Dov Noy and Meir Noy, Yidishe folkslider fun galitsye (Tel Aviv, 1971), page 110 – 112.

In Pipe’s version the song is strictly an orphan song and has a refrain.


The second version can be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s song collection, Baym kval – folkslider, Vilna, 1923 (page 81, song #22) and he calls it Di shtifmuter, the same title as Gordon’s song. This second version emphasizes the wicked step-mother who will mistreat the child.

bastomski- heylike teg

“Afn veg tsum zimergurtn” Performed by Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week we present a song about streetwalkers with three different melodies.

“Afn veg tsim zimergurtn” (On the Way to the Summer Garden) was learned by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG] in Chernovitz in the 1930s.


This field recording was done in her home in the Bronx in 2010, when BSG was 90 years old. The original poem is by A. L. [Aron Leyb] Baron (1886 – 1954), but does not appear in the only printed collection of his poetry, Di yidishe brodvey un and ere lider (New York, 1949).

The entire poem appears in one of Mikhl Gelbart’s collections of his own musical compositions, Gezangen [Songs] (1937) with the complete text and with Gelbart’s music. It is entitled “Meydlekh” [Girls].


There was a third melody composed by Bernard Maitlin, sung by Vera Rozanka “Di yidishe shikse”, entitled “In gortn” [In the garden].

On the Polish Jewish Cabaret website of Jane Peppler she sings Maitlin’s melody and prints the songsheet from 1936 which includes the original poem by Baron, in Yiddish. We are grateful to Jane for making available the songsheet page as well as her translation and transliteration and refer you to her website where you can hear her sing this version.

Peppler's words

Afn veg fun zumer gortn geyen shtendik meydlekh tsvey
Keyn zakh yogt zey nit fun dortn, nit keyn regn, nit keyn shney (2x)

Zogt mir shvester hungrik, blase, vos hot aykh aher gebrakht?
Hunger, dales, kelers nase, oder gor an ander makht? (2x)

“Mikh der dales un der hunger,” entvert eyne ziftsn shver
“Mikh – a liber mentsh a yunger,” vayzt di tsveyte on: aher! (2x)

“Faynt hot er mikh gor deriber vos ikh bin gevorn alt
Itster kum, zay du der liber, kalt iz mir, brr, vi kalt.” (2x)

Afn veg fun zumer gorn geyen meydlekh fil arum
Blut fun hartsn gist zikh dortn, fun di lipn hert men: kum… (2x)

On the path from the summer garden, two girls are always walking.
Nothing can drive them away, not rain, not snow.

Tell me, hungry pale sisters, what brought you here?
Was it hunger, poverty, the damp of a cellar, or something else completely?

“For me, it was poverty and hunger,” answered one, sighing heavily.
“For me, it was my love, a younger man,” the other one points: here!

“He hates me just because I’ve grown old.
Now come, you be the beloved. I’m cold, brr, so cold.”

On the path from the summer garden girls wander.
The blood pours from their hearts there, from the lips you hear: Come…

“Di veverke” Performed by Chana Szlang Gonshor

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Currently on YouTube, one can hear “Bobe Chana” (Grandmother Chana) sing several Yiddish children’s songs, some less familiar than others. This week we present her song Di veverke (The Squirrel).

We obtained biographical information about Chana Szlang Gonshor from her daughter-in-law, the Montreal Yiddish teacher and scholar, Chana (Anna) Gonshor.

Chana Szlang Gonshor was born in Warsaw in 1919 where her family was very poor. As a young child there she attended the Borochov school and attended the Medem Sanitorium at least 10 times. Anna Gonshor believes she learned her repertoire from these sources. She currently lives in Montreal.

bobe chanaChana Szlang Gonshor

A video interview with Chana Szlang Gonshor conducted by Jordan Kutzik and Anna Gonshor for the Wexler Oral History Project of the Yiddish Book Center can be found by clicking here.

The song Veverke was composed, both text and melody by Rive Boiarskaia [Boyarski], and we are attaching the music as it is found in her song collection for small children – Klingen hemerlekh (Moscow, 1925). There are some textual changes as Gonshor sings it. The entire book can be downloaded here.

In a vald af a sosneboym –
a veverke gezesn.
Zi hot zikh niselekh geknakt,
di yoderlekh gegesn.

Tants zhe, tants zhe veverke.
Mir veln ale zingen.
Varf arop a nisele,
mir veln ale shpringen.

Un az di veverke derzet
kinderlekh in krantsn.
Aropgevorfn a nisele,
genumen mit zey tantsn.

Tants zhe, tants zhe veverke.
Mir veln ale zingen.
Varf arop a nisele,
mir veln ale shpringen.

In the woods on a pine tree
there sat a squirrel.
She cracked nuts,
and ate the kernels.

So dance, dance squirrel,
We will all sing.
Throw down a nut,
and we will all jump.

And when the squirrel sees
the children in circles,
It threw down a nut
and began to dance with them.

So dance, dance squirrel,
We will all sing.
Throw down a nut,
and we will all jump.


Announcing the Stonehill Jewish Song Collection!

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags on May 14, 2015 by yiddishsong

If you’ve been enjoying the regular postings here on the Yiddish Song of the Week, we invite you to visit a new website created by Center for Traditional Music and Dance and Yiddish scholar Miriam Isaacs. The Stonehill Jewish Song Collection website has been recently launched with over sixty songs, mainly in Yiddish, that were collected by Ben Stonehill in 1948 from D.P. camp refugees who were being temporarily housed at the Hotel Marseilles in Manhattan. It is our plan to eventually disseminate the entire Stonehill collection – over 1000 songs on the new website.

“Arele kumt in vald” Performed by Larisa Pechersky

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2015 by yiddishsong

This week’s blog post – song and commentary – was submitted by Larisa Pechersky, who also performs on the recording.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make my grandmother’s name known and maybe remembered by people who often ask me how I know so many Yiddish songs. I always tell them that it’s because of my grandmother. Now, I hope her story, name, and image will be shared with them for the first time. As always, I dedicate all my work in the field of Jewish folklore and education to her blessed memory. Milya on 20th birthday Horki

Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), grandmother of Larisa Pechersky in Horki on her 20th birthday

I learned this song from my maternal grandmother when I was a toddler in the late 70s . She lived with my mother and me, and took care of me while my mom worked. All day long, as she worked around the house, she sang hundreds of Yiddish songs and encouraged me to sing along.

She would stop many times during a song to comment and make connections to her life in a Belorussian shtetl, to the experiences of her family and friends, and whatever lessons she wanted me to take away from each song. She often acted out the songs with me and showed me how to express a variety of feelings through a nign without words (just like in this song, Arele, she emphasized how the same nign after each verse can express fear, despair, or relief).

She made each song a window into Jewish life for me, a child growing up in a big city of Leningrad, the cultural capital of the Soviet Union, where forced assimilation was the norm for its more than 150,000 Jews. Assimilation was out of the question for my family, where my grandmother wanted me to know Yiddish and grow up proudly Jewish. Milya and Larisa

Larisa Pechersky (age 3) and her grandmother, Milya Shagalova, at home in Leningrad

My grandmother, Milya Shagalova (nee Mikhlya Fle’er / Fleyer), was born in 1914 in Propoysk, a shtetl in Mogilievske Guberniye, Belorussia. In the post-revolution years, her father, Zalmen, received a warning that he was to be arrested, stripped of his possessions, and exiled for owning four cows and employing one housekeeper. To avoid this fate, the family fled to Horki, a larger shtetl in the region, his birthplace.

As the third daughter in a family with no sons at the time, little Mikhlya was sent to a traditional all-boys kheyder to study. She told me compassionate stories of the cruel pranks the boys did to the poor old rebbe that she, as the only girl, felt so bad about. Later, she graduated from a seven-year school, where all of the subjects were taught in Yiddish. She wanted to continue on to the Jewish (Yiddish) teachers’ college, but it was no longer possible.

In 1934, as a newlywed, she moved to Leningrad with her husband Naum (Nokhom-Abram), where they lived  their whole life afterwards. Despite knowing Russian as well as if it were their native tongue, they always spoke Yiddish at home and with many friends, never missed a Jewish concert or event, and subscribed to Jewish periodicals when it was still possible.

During World War II, my grandma miraculously survived the horrific siege of Leningrad with my three-month old mom, but lost her five-year old son, who was with his grandparents in Horki for the summer, during which the Nazis invaded it and killed 7,500 Jews, including the boy, his four grandparents, and 38 more of our relatives.

My grandpa Naum, who came back from the front without a leg, learned of his son’s initial rescue, swift betrayal, and killing from his former neighbors. My grandma’s lament and guilt that she “sent her own child to death with her own hands” by letting him travel to Belorussia before the war “nobody expected to happen” was one of the stories that she would tell me often. Milya with Larisa

Larisa and Milya on summer vacation in Ukraine

When the Perestroika had just begun, the very first signs of the Jewish renewal were two concerts of Jewish music at the end of 1988 in Leningrad. My grandma did not miss them despite her poor health and the two of us went together. She felt that they “added seven more years of life” to her. This is how highly she regarded Jewish songs.

To my greatest regret, she passed away in January 1989 before I went to synagogue for the first time and matriculated at the newly created Jewish University that same year. I never recorded any of her songs, but kept hundreds of them in my memory. I still remember some ballads, just partially, and feel terrible that I can’t recall all the words or find them published anywhere.

When my friends and I started a Jewish school in Leningrad, I dedicated my work to giving my students the same as what my grandmother gave me – teaching them every and any thing Jewish through our amazing multi-layered Yiddish songs. Researching Yiddish musical folklore became my profession, passion, and a tribute to my grandma’s bravery and real heroism in passing our musical tradition to new generations amid the tribulations she lived through.

Arele kumt in vald (Arele Comes to the Woods)

This is how I remember learning the words as a child. I understand they sound not totally grammatically correct, but this is how I sang it as a kid.

Most of the time, we sang the second and third verses in the reverse order. The line in question meant Arele wasn’t taken aback; didn’t fear (I don’t remember the Yiddish word). When it was sung as the second verse, it made his attempt to escape appear to be futile given the next stanza (he thought he could run away, but now he can clearly see the dire situation – the mouth, the paws, etc). This way the time between his climbing up the tree, crying in despair, and eventual rescue was much longer and more terrifying in his eyes.

This was the order of the verses my grandma usually used. Switching the verses makes his actions appear more brave (he didn’t lose his head despite realizing all the details of the dangerous situation beforehand). Also, we sang it a bit slower, in a more storytelling manner, than I did in this recording.The English transliteration reflects the Yiddish dialect more than the Yiddish transcription.

Arele kumt in vald,
Dreyt zikh ‘hin un ‘her.
Ven er dremlt bald
kumt a greyser ber!

Der ber mit lapes greyse!
G’valt, dos iz nit gut!
Fun eygn trern heyse,
Ot iz sheyn kaput!

Arele is nit flit [foyl?]
Eyfn beym er kletert.
Un der ber mit ofn mul,
G’valt, nito keyn reter!

A reter iz ba sholem,
A greyser nes getrofn!
Geven iz dos a kholem,
Ven Arel iz geshlofn!

Arele comes to the woods,
wanders here and there.
When he slumbers, right away comes
a great big bear.

The bear with giant paws!
Help, this is not good.
From his eyes hot tears stream.
Now all is kaput.

Arele is not lazy
and on the tree he climbs.
And the bear with an open mouth
Help, there is no rescue!

A rescue did come in peace;
a great miracle happened.
This was all a dream
while Arele was sleeping.

arele1 arele2


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