Archive for May, 2010

“Got fun Avrom” Performed by Bella Bryks-Klein

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Got fun Avrom is a woman’s prayer/song which is read as the Sabbath concludes Saturday night. It is attributed to the Hasidic rebbe
Levi-Yitskhok Barditshever (1740-1810), who also, according to tradition, wrote several Yiddish songs.

There was a debate among Yiddish folklorists whether this prayer constituted a folksong. Noyekh Prilutski maintained it did and published 23 versions in his first volume of collected Yiddish folksongs – “Religious and Holiday Songs” Warsaw 1911. S. An-sky did not agree (I have written about the various points of view: see pp. 41-42 in Defining the Yiddish Nation, Gottesman, 2003 and in Yiddish, “Tsi iz Got fun Avrom a folkslid?”  in the Forverts newspaper, Feb. 12-18, 2010, p. 4). Prilutski was correct, “Got fun Avrom” is a folksong with a text and melody that passes from generation to generation, forming variants in various locations.

On the Ari Davidow’s listserve “World Music from a Jewish Slant” I had once written that based on Prilutski’s work on Got fun Avrom, we can conclude that the popular folksong, “Shnirele Perele” made famous by the Klezmatics, evolved from versions of Got fun Avrom. As you can see, Bella Bryks-Klein’s version provides furthur evidence for this connection.

I recorded Bella Bryks-Klein in my office at the Yiddish Forward in April, 2010 in New York City. She is the representative in Israel of our newspaper and is also active in a number of other Yiddish activities there. Her father, the Yiddish writer Rachmil Bryks, was known for his powerful works on the Holocaust, especially on the Lodz ghetto. He included a version of Got fun Avrom in “Der keyser in geto” NY, 1961 [The Emperor in the Ghetto] on page 234 which is clearly based on the one here. A scan of that page is included in this commentary.

Since Bryks-Klein learned her version from her Transylvanian mother, who learned it from her mother, we can assume that Rachmil Bryks based his text on his wife’s, not a local Lodzer variant. I hope to include other versions of Got fun Avrom in future blog-postings. I have a much simpler version done from a cousin; and an interesting longer version-recording of a older Lubavitch woman who grew up, however, in a Satmar family. These prayers/songs were said/sung so fast sometimes, that if you asked the person what a certain line is, they cannot always tell you!

As part of the “Yiddish Atlas Project” conducted at Columbia University, I believe that several versions were also recorded and could perhaps be posted here once that material is made available. Today in any Hasidic bookstore you can purchase the “classic” text of Got fun Avrom (often laminated), but it is much simpler than the one discussed this week.

Mayn numen iz Bella Bryks-Klein, ikh bin di tokhter fun a yidishn shrayber Yerakhmil Bryks, un mayn mame, Hinde Eta Volf, fun der heym, Irene Bryks, hot yeder moytse-shabes mit undz gezingen “Got fin avrum” vi zi hot mit ir mame dus gezingen in Transylvania. Ikh gedenk zi hot a vays tikhl af ir kop, dos heyst, tsigedekt, un mayn shvester un mikh tsigetsoygn tsi ir, un azoy tsugetulyet, shtayendik, in tinkl nokh, hot men gezingen azoy:

My name is Bella Bryks-Klein, I am the daughter of a Yiddish writer, Yerakhmil Bryks, and my mother Hinde Eta Volf, (her maiden name), Irene Bryks sang with us every Saturday night at the end of Shabes “God of Abraham”, as she had sung with her mother in Transylvania. I remember her with her white shawl on her head, covered, and she drew close to her my sister and me and standing, still in darkness, she sang it like this:

Got fun Avrom fun Yitskhok un Yankev,
bahit un bashirem dayn lib folk yisrol
vegn daynem loyb.

God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
Protect and shield us, your dear people of Israel
Who praise you.

Az der liber shabes koydesh geyt avek,
az di zise libe vokh zol undz kimen:
tsu gezint, tsu leybn, tsu shulem,
tsi parnuse, tsu gite bsires toyves.

Now that the dear holy Sabbath is leaving,
may the sweet, dear week now come to us
and bring us good health, life, peace
livlihood, good news.

Umeyn Veumeyn! S’zol vern vur
Meylekh hamoshiekh ben duvid zol kimen dus yur.
Kimen zol er tsufurn,
in zayne sheyne yurn.
Kimen zol er tsi raytn
in zayne sheyne tsaytn.

Amen and amen! May it come true
Messiah the King son of David should come this year.
May he come traveling,
and bring with him beautiful years.
May he come riding,
and bring wonderful times.

Eliyahu hanuvi kimt in der hoz arayn,
brengt er aldus gits arayn,
Eliyahu hanuvi geyt fin undzer hoz aros,
trugt er aldus beyzs aros,
Eliyahu hanuvi kimt in undzer hoz aran,
nemt a bekher in der rekhter hant,
Makht a brukhe ibern gantsn land.

Elijah the prophet comes into our house,
and brings all good things inside.
Elijah the prophet leaves our house,
and takes all the bad things out.
Elijah the prophet comes into our house,
and takes a goblet in his right hand,
and makes a blessing over the entire land.

Di brukhe zol hoykh zan,
zol iber undz ale zan.
Tir un toyer shteyt dokh ofn
tsu dir futer, al rakhmim shaday,
in zibetn himl tien mir ale hofn.

The blessing should be loud,
and be over all of us,
Door and Gate are thus open
for you father, god of mercy,
into the seventh heaven we all hope for this.

A gite vokh! a gezinte vokh!
A gebentshte vokh! A zise vokh!
A sheyne vokh!

A good week! A healthy week!
A blessed week! A sweet week!
A wonderful week!

“Khavele iz fun der arbet gegangen” performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Khavele iz fun der arbet gegangen is a folklorized version of the labor/worker‘s song Brider, mir hobn geshlosn by Khaim Alexandrov (1869 – 1909). Molly and Bob Freedman‘s on-line catalogue lists two recorded versions of this song; one can be found on the LP Yiddish Songs of Work and Struggle produced by the Jewish Students Bund (1970s) and on the two cassette field recording of the singer Sarah Benjamin that Dr. Sheldon Benjamin produced in 1984 (cassette two). This week I offer a third version, a field recording by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn in New York in 1954.

Information on this song can be found in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye pp. 515-517. The original title, as it was published in the newspaper Arbeter [published in Vilna?] Oct. 8th, 1904, was Khaverim in kamf and consists of versions of the three verses that LSW sings. Sarah Benjamin prefaces her performance by saying that it was a Zionist song.

Clearly LSW‘s recollection that she heard this when she was 5 or 6 years old (she was born in 1893) does not jibe with the information we have on the song. However her memory that it had to do with a strike in Galicia does match up with the folklorist Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe‘s comment which we find in Pipe‘s letter (from Vilna) to his folklorist/mentor I. L. Cahan in NY, Dec. 1936. The version Pipe collected begins with „Khanele iz fun der arbet gegangen‟ and has 5 verses.

Pipe writes – „This song was created in Drohobych (Yiddish- Drubitsh, then Galicia, today Western Ukraine) during the bloody elections for the Austrian parliament, March 30th, 1911. Fayershtein, a leading figure in Drohobitsh, was campaigning for Levenshteyn to be elected. The authorities intentionally provided only a narrow voting space, and only 60 people received permission to vote. The place became packed and tense and an order was given to fire a salvo – 26 died and 55 were wounded. „ Pipe further writes that he is doubtful that the song is a folksong, and thinks it probably „has a father‟. Cahan, Shtudyes vegn yidisher folksshafung, YIVO, 1953 pp. 345-346.

So I surmise from this that a Galician/Bukovina variant developed from Alexandrov‘s earlier version, beginning with the line „Khanele/Khavele iz fun der arbet…‟  Sarah Benjamin‘s Litvish version is predictably closer related to the older version.

In lectures, I sometimes play LSW‘s performance of this song and contrast it with the LP version sung by the Youth Bund chorus. The chorus sings it with a marching rhythm, and I am sure that‘s it how it is sung, perhaps even today, at Jewish socialist gatherings. When LSW sings the same song, only a hint of the march remains, and she interprets the song more in the style of an old ballad, with an emotional build-up leading up to the last two lines.


Introduction spoken by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW);
interviewer Leyb Kahn (LK).

LSW: S’iz geven in Galitsye vi s’iz du naft
This happened in Galitsye, where there was oil.

LK: In voser shtot iz dos geven?
In what town did this happen?

LSW: Mistame Yaruslav, lebn Pshemesh.
Iz gegangen a meydl, imshildik, un zi iz geteyt gevorn. S’iz du a lid fin ir.
Probably Yaruslav, near Pshemesh, and she was killed. There’s a song about her.

LK: Ven hot ir dus gehert?
When did you hear this?

LSW: Ikh bin geveyn a kind, efsher 5 yor, si’z geven mit 50, 55 yur fleg me dus zingen.
I was a child, maybe 5 years old; this was 50, 55 years ago when it was sung.

Khavele iz fin der arbayt gegangen.
Zi hot dokh fun gurnisht gevisht.
Iz aroys a falsh komande
Un m’hot af Khavelen geshist.

Khavele went to work.
She was totally unaware.
A false command was given,
And they shot at Khavele.

Khavele iz geleygn a toyte,
di eygelekh tsigemakht.
M’hot zi tsigedekt mit der fun, der royter,
A korbn funem strayk hot zi gebrakht.

Khavele is lying dead,
her eyes closed.
She was covered with the red flag:
She became a victim of the strike.

Az se treft dikh a koyl mayn getraye,
Fin dem soyne, dem hint,
Dan trug ikh dikh af mayne hent fun dem fayer.
Un ikh heyl dir mit kish dayne vind.

If you are hit by a bullet, my dear one,
by the enemy, that dog.
Then I will carry you on my arms away from the fire,
and heal with my kisses your wounds.

חווהלע איז פֿון דער אַרבעט געגאַנגען,
זי האָט פֿון גאָרנישט געוווּסט.
איז אַרויס אַ פֿאַלש קאָמאַנדע,
און מ’האָט אויף חווהלען געשיסט

חווהלע איז געלעגן אַ טויטע,
די אייגעלעך צוגעמאַכט.
מ’האָט זי צוגעדעקט מיט דער פֿאָן דער רויטער;
אַ קרבן פֿונעם סטרײַק האָט זי געבראַכט

אַז סע טרעפֿט דיר אַ קויל, מײַן געטרײַע,
פֿון דעם שׂונה, דעם הונט,
דאַן טראָג איך דיך אויף מײַנע הענט פֿונעם פֿײַער,
און הייל דיר מיט קיש דײַנע וווּנד

“Parekh-lid” performed by Moyshe Kupit

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

What is a parekh? Medically speaking, it is a disease of the scalp – Favus. As a result of the disease, which is a fungus, you lose your hair, and lesions form. It is not a pretty site. Many Jews were afflicted with this disease and a large folklore developed around it. Parekh or Parkh, if you look it up in the Yiddish dictionaries came to connote „wicked man‟ (Harkavy‘s dictionary) or „a rat‟ „a stingy person‟ (Weinreich‘s dictionary). So parekh indicates both the disease and the person who has the disease. Parekh came to mean a filthy person as well, as in the old insult Ashkenazic Jews hurled at non-Ashkenazic immigrants in Israel in the 1950s – Frenk parekh.

Illustration: This “train ticket” was collected by the folklorist Shmuel-Zanvil Pipe in his hometown of Sonik, Galicia, (Sanok) for the YIVO Ethnographic Commission in the 1930s. It says on top “Parekh-commission” and then under it: “(from) Sonik – (to) Egypt: the journey is free. Attention: During the trip you cannot scratch yourself. The transport is leaving Shabes, 2:00 PM. We can assume this was distributed on Shabes-hagodl, when the parkhes were exiled to Egypt.

I made this recording of singer Moyshe Kupit at the Yidish-vokh retreat in Copake, NY in September 1989.  Kupit was born in Yedinits, Bessarabia (today’s Republic of Moldova). The recording was a result of my research into a specific custom on Shabes-hagodel, the Sabbath  before Passover, in which a mock parade took place in the towns of Eastern Galicia, Bukovina, Bessarabia and Romania, during which the Jews with a parekh in the town were singled out and mocked, and told to „Go back to Egypt!‟ Sorry I can‘t go more into this custom at this time; I have accumulated much material on it. The best account in Yiddish is found in Itzik Shvarts‘ (I. Caro) memoirs „A moldovish yingl.‟ It‘s not a very nice custom, one in which Jews denigrate other Jews in a vulgar manner, so I doubt the parekh-song will ever make the top 10 Yiddish song charts.

Yet it is a fascinating cultural document. The reference to tar in the song is connected to the belief that smearing tar can cure the  parkeh. Symbolically, the song is just wonderful – a line of parekhs connecting the dirtiest place in the town, the hekdesh – poorhouse, to the cleanest – the bathhouse.

Adds Pete Rushefsky: Musically, the piece shares charcteristics of many Ukrainian kolomeykes, employing a running series of descending eighth notes, though Parekh-lid lacks the characteristic cadential couplet of two quarter notes that typifies a true kolomeyke.

Ale parkhes hobn zikh arumgenemen in a reydl,
hobn getontst funem hekdesh bizn beydl.
Hey-hu, parkhenyu,
gib zikh a krots in kepenyu.

All the parkhes formed a circle,
danced from the poorhouse to the bathhouse.
Hey-hu, parkhenyu,
Give yourself a scratch in your head.

Ver se vil gikher loyfn,
der zol geyn smole koyfn.
Hey-hu, parkhenyu,
gib zikh a krots in kepenyu.

Whoever wants to run faster,
he should go buy the tar.
Hey-hu…

S‘iz gevorn a groys gezeml,
der eltster parekh hot farloyrn zayn keml.
Hey-hu, parkhenyu,
gib zikh a krots in kepenyu.

A big gathering then formed,
the oldest parekh lost his comb.
Hey-hu…..

 אַלע פּאַרכעס האָבן זיך צוזאַמענגענעמען אין אַ רעדל,
האָבן געטאַנצט פֿונעם הקדש ביזן בעדל.
היי־הו, פּאַרכעניו,
גיב זיך אַ קראַץ אין קעפּעניו.

ווער סע קען גיכער לויפֿן,
דער זאָל גיין סמאָלע קויפֿן.
היי־הו, פּאַרכעניו,
גיב זיך אַ קראַץ אין קעפּעניו.

ס‘איז געוואָרן אַ גרויס געזעמל,
דער עלטסטער פּאַרעך האָט פֿאַרלוירן דאָס קעמל.
היי־הו, פּאַרכעניו,
גיב זיך אַ קראַץ אין קעפּעני.