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

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

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

  1. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    Let me clarify my comments on how ‘Khave iz fun der arbet’ evolved from ‘Brider mir hobn geshlosn’: It seems to me that after the tragic event in Galicia, perhaps the event that S.Z. Pipe describes but one can’t be sure, the older song “Brider mir hobn geshlosn” was adapted and slightly changed to fit the event. The same melody was used as were most of the images and poetry, but more verses were added, and Khave/Khane became the heroine. In Galicia/Bukovina it was sung in this version; in Lithuania/White Russia “Brider mir hobn geshlosn” predominated.
    I did not discuss LSWs creative use of rhyme but one can only smile when you hear her invent the past participle “geshist” to rhyme with “gevist”. “Geshosn” is the past participle of “shisn” – to shoot. In other versions the rhyme with “gevist” is “umzist”.

  2. Martin Horwitz Says:

    Very interesting how choruses would rather sing a march than a ballad.
    Two small errors which should be corrected before they go marching all over the world:
    One: imshildik is left out of the translation,i.e khavele was not really a striker but “innocent”

    Two: the translisteration makes gevist into gevisht.

    and a minor one: in English khavele would be carried IN my arms,not on.

    Wonderful song,wonderful series.

  3. Janina Wurbs Says:

    Thanks so much for everything! I hope for many, many more “Yiddish Songs of theWeek”!
    The recording I sent you from Khane Marmor in KlezKanade was not helpful?

    • Itzik Gottesman Says:

      Janina is referring to a recording she made of a women who sang a verse or two for us at Klezkanada. It will certainly be more helpful when a longer study of this song is written. We have to find out where she was from.
      In the version of Skuditski (vol 1) in which Gnessi, not Khane/khave was shot, there is also a preface to tell the story of the tragedy (this time Ukraine, not Galicia). So one could refer to this spoken introduction as found in LSW, Pipe and Skuditski as part of the song…

      • Janina Wurbs Says:

        I think Khane Marmor told us her mother was from Lemberik (Lviv). She probably could be called and asked more detailed…

  4. Jan Waas, Yiddishe Kraiz Amsterdam Says:

    Tayere Itzik,
    I admire, as a liedr zamler your page.
    I try to print it every week, but why is it that the oyshes text of Khavele turns up backwards in print (Word), while the parekh comes out all right. Reading Yiddish in oyshes from left to right is pretty hard! ( for a Dutchman)
    Thanks for the great songs.

    Jan Waas, Griend 147, 1112LB Diemen, The Netherlands

    • Itzik Gottesman Says:

      Thanks Jan, I will look into why this happened…
      Since you are a collector, remember that this blog also asks others to submit their recordings of Yiddish song recordings, particularly if there is something rare or special about them..(in other words not “oyfn pripetshik” or “rozhinkes mit mandlen”)

  5. Hershl Hartman Says:

    When Max Helfman taught the students of the Bronx (NY) mitlshul (JPFO-IWO — di linke), “brider mir hobn geshlosn” was a dirge, rather than a march. In fact, I recall it being sung that way at the funerals of khaveyrim.

    • itzik gottesman Says:

      In the music journal Gezang un KamF, no. 6, 1938 issued by Jewish Workers Musical Alliance NYC, music on page 56 – “Brider mir hobn geshlosn” adapted by Max Helfman you can see his version. He writes it should be sung “Marshmessig, nit tzu shnel!” yiddish words on page 112.

  6. Hershl Hartman Says:

    אפֿשר איז העלפֿמאַן, עלטער מיט פֿיר יאָר אין 1942, געווען מער גענויגט צו ”ניט צו־שנעל” ווי צו מארשמעסיק

  7. itzik gottesman Says:

    For an article on Khayem Aleksandrov see (in Yiddish):
    Zalmen Reyzen, “Fun dem yivo-oytser: 1 Kh. Aleksandrov”, YIVO-bleter volume 5, no. 2, Feb. 1933, pages 137-151
    All the issues of YIVO-bleter can now be read on-line. Check the YIVO website.

  8. itzik gottesman Says:

    Also on Aleksandrov, see N. B. Minkoff “Pionern fun yidisher poezye in Amerike” volume 2, 1956, Pages 211-262,

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