“Parekh-lid” performed by Moyshe Kupit

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.

2 Responses to ““Parekh-lid” performed by Moyshe Kupit”

  1. Hershl Hartman Says:

    The idea of using tar to cure scalp ailments continues in today’s “therapeutic” anti-dandruff shampoos which list 2.5% coal tar in their contents.

  2. Hershl Hartman Says:

    …and another thing: the transliteration changes (2nd verse) ken to vil and (3rd verse) dos to zayn. Please make necessary corrections (says ye olde nit-picker).

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