“Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher” Performed by Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Tsunye Rymer was born in Krasna, Ukraine (Yiddish “Krosne”) and grew up and learned to drink among Bratslaver Hasidim in town. He was an incredible reciter of Sholem-Aleichem. He memorized 20 monologues, because he thought he was going blind in his youth (he lost vision in one eye), and wanted to entertain himself in later years. Two LPs of his recitations were produced and you can hear them on the Judaica Sound Archives website.

Picture of Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer by Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Rymer loved to party, and his gregariousness is reflected in his expressive and passionate singing style. He was a mainstay in our Yiddish cultural world in the Bronx centered at the Sholem-Aleichem Folk Shul 21 on Bainbridge Avenue. He owned a dry cleaning store. Rymer died in 1995, I believe, in his early 90s.

I hope to post a number of Rymer‘s songs. One of his staples, „Fishelekh in vaser,” has become well-known thanks to the singing of Michael Alpert. Most of these recordings are taken from these Bronx zingerays (singing get-togethers) in the 1980s and 1990s. On this performance of this song, I particularly like how much heart he puts into the “Ta-ta-ta” refrain, which most singers would just sing “on automatic.”

One point of Yiddish grammar that is confusing in the song. A scissor in Yiddish is feminine „Di sher.‟ According to the Uriel Weinreich dictionary, the dance is masculine „der/dem sher.‟ Rymer mixed up the two genders, as you can hear.

The folksong „Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher‟ (“Play for Me the New Sher”) has been recorded by Ruth Rubin, Masha Benya and Shura Lipovsky. Rymer‘s last verse is different from theirs. This recording of Rymer was made at a zingeray at the Gottesman home in the Bronx in 1988.

Pete Rushefsky adds: The music for „Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher‟ is familiar as the opening sections of the well-known sher medley played in New York City, also collected in Belarus by Sophia Maggid in 1934 from Dovid Veksler, an amateur violinist from Mozyr, Gomel oblast (I thank Dmitri Slepovitch for this information). Sher is the quintessential East European Jewish square dance. Given the length of time required to dance a sher (often 20-30 minutes or more), klezmer musicians would string together a variety of different melodies into a medley to accompany the dance. Over time, these medleys became codified, with different communities adopting unique sher medleys. For more information about sher, see Walter Zev Feldman’s entry on “Traditonal Dance” in the YIVO Encyclopedia.  Additionally, Hankus Netsky has documented the evolution of the sher medley known to Philadelphia in his Ph.D. dissertation, “Klezmer: Music and Community in 20th Century Jewish Philadelphia” (Wesleyan University, 2004).

Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher, di naye sher,
vos iz aroysgekumen.
Ikh hob zikh farlibt in a yingele.
Ikh ken tsu im nisht kumen.

Play for me the new Sher, the new Sher
That has just come out.
I fell in love with a boy,
But I cannot go to him.

Kh‘volt tsu im gegangen,
voynt er zeyer vayt.
Kh‘volt im a kush gegebn,
Shem ikh zikh far layt.

I would go to him,
but he lives very far.
I would give him a kiss,
But I am ashamed in front of people.

Nisht azoy far laytn,
vi far Got aleyn.
Ikh volt tsu im aheymgegangen,
Az keyner zol nisht zen.

I am not ashamed in front of people,
as for God himself.
I would go home with him,
Nobody should see us.


Di naye sher iz shoyn alt gevorn,
Dos yingele iz shoyn a zeyde.
Di alte iz shoyn oykhet groy.
A lebn af zey beyde.

The new sher has already aged,
The boy is now a grandfather.
The old woman has also turned gray,
May they both live a long life.


16 Responses to ““Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher” Performed by Isaac (Tsunye) Rymer”

  1. This seems to be a recurring motif? I just recorded “Shpilt Mir Op Dem Naye Sher” with Hot Pstromi on “Absolute Klezmer Volume II” (Transcontinental Music). The lyrics are slightly different (but the story is similar, only with a meydl) and the melody is completely different.

  2. itzik gottesman Says:

    The music and words to this song (except the last verse) were first published in I. L. Cahan’s “yidishe folkslider” vol. 1, 1912, p. 18-19 with the melody (later republished in the YIVO collection of Cahan’s songs). The informant was from Tshimerovitz, Podolye Guberbnye.

    • Itzik– was Cahan 1912 published in NY or in Europe? Of interest because it is the NY sher melody– though Dima S has also documented this melody (without words) in Belarus. Think I will retract my hypothesis about it being written in New York.


  3. OK, how’s this for a coincidence? This just went up on youtube today – we found this version in the Moshe Beregovski collection: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXKjY8DMrGo&feature=related

  4. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    Nice Elizabeth! So perhaps these words were “wandering” Sher lyrics used for the “caller” of the sher.
    The Cahan book was published in NY, and I am pretty sure all of his fieldwork was done in NYC with first generation immigrants…(though his awareness of folksong and folklore was inspired by his meeting with Peretz in Warsaw)

  5. itzik gottesman Says:

    See also the version published in Chaim Kotylansky “Folk-Gezangen” page 121-125 called “Der nayer sher”, music and texts. Los-Angeles, 1944. His version is close textually to “Avremele Melamed”; the melody is basically the same as ours. Kotylansky writes – “One may imagine the poor man, who sings this song as another ‘Avremele Melamed’ who dances the well-known sher at a wedding and sings to the tune of it”
    So he also felt, that the song served a function, providing words to the sher dance…

  6. […] (Tsunye) Rymer‘s most beloved songs to perform (for more on Rymer see the previous posting on Shpilt zhe mir dem nayem sher). The performer Michael Alpert learned it from him (Alpert was present at this recording, done at a […]

  7. […] recorded Isaac “Tsunye” Rymer singing it in our living room in the Bronx in the 1980s, introducing it as a song by Mani Leib. He […]

  8. […] songs that have been posted on the Yiddish Song of the Week, but I have included it more because of Tsunye Rymer‘s heartfelt singing (as usual!), than the song itself. He was in his 80s by the time of this […]

  9. Leo Summergrad Says:

    After reading through all of the comments, about this song, i checked the Yiddish song books that I own. It is so popular that I found it in sixteen of them.

  10. […] Snyder whom I think it is, then his Yiddish name was Khayim Shnayder and he and fellow folksinger Isaac Rymer were best friends in NY. Though I never met him and never heard him before, Shnayder was known for […]

  11. […] by Tsunye Rymer, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, 1985 NYC Commentary by Itzik […]

  12. […] Tsunye (Isaac) Rymer learned this in his hometown of Krosne (Krasna), Ukraine, from a tailor who was a wonderful singer and therefore called “Kanarik” – canary. […]

  13. […] this performance, Isaac “Tsunye” Rymer combines two distinct lyrical Yiddish love songs. The first two verses are a song beginning with […]

  14. […] home, one can hear other singers featured on “Yiddish Song of the Week” – Tsunye Rymer and Ita Taub –  joining […]

  15. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    words and music to “Spilt mir op di naje ser” in Slobin/Beregovski page 319. slightly different.

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