“A sikele, a kleyne” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

A sikele, a kleyne is based on a popular poem by Avrom Reisen called „In suke.‟ I know of at least three recordings: Louis Danto’s Masters of the Jewish Art Song; Yiddish Classics (a.k.a. Heymishe Yidishe Klangen volume one, 1991); and the version on the recent CD Tsuker Zis by Lorin Sklamberg and Frank London. The Danto version is with a different melody by Joel Engel. The other two are similar to the one sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG) which she learned in her hometown of Chernovitz, Romania.

Only Danto‘s version uses Reisin‘s original poem. The words differ in the other versions, verses were added, and the song was widely folklorized. In Shmuel Lehman‘s Ganovim lider (Thieve‘s Songs) he includes an underworld song sung to the same melody.

In 2001 or 2002 I interviewed one of the producers of the Yiddish Classics CD and he mentioned that a rabbi called and complained about their Sukele version because it left out the final verse that BSG includes.

BSG (my mother) was born in Vienna, raised in Chernovitz and came to the US in 1951. She is a poet, songwriter and singer, awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005 for her Yiddish singing, songs and poetry.

Photograph of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman by Joan Roth

She is the daughter of the singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) whose performances have been posted on this blog a number of times. Whereas LSW‘s singing reflects a 19th century small shtetl style, her daughter captures the urban Yiddish singing style of the interwar period. You can hear more of her singing traditional repertoire on the CD Bay mayn mames shtibele.

Final note: the pitch sounds a little high on this recording done in our Bronx home in the 1980s.

A sikele a kleyne,
mit breytelekh gemeyne
hob ikh mir mit tsures tsunoyfgeklopt.
Tsigedekt deym dakh,
mit a bisele skhakh.
un ikh zits mir in sikele un trakht.

A little sukkah
with simple boards,
I barely put together.
I covered the roof
with a little skhakh, 
and I sit in the little sukkah and think.

Der vint der kalter, 
bluzt derekh di shpalter
in lesht mir di lekhtelekh shir oys.
Herts nor a khidesh,
kom makh ikh nor kidish.
Der vint lesht di lekhtelekh oys.

The cold wind
blows throught the cracks
and almost blows the candles out.
Listen to this wonder –
only when I finish saying the kiddush, 
then the candles blow out. 

Mit a groys geveyn,
mit a biter geshrey,
kimt dekh mayn vabele aran.
Her nor man man,
Der vint varft dus sikele bold an,
Oy, vus vet dernukh dem zan?

With a great cry,
with a bitter yell,
my wife comes inside.
„Listen my husband,
The wind will soon blow the sukkah down,
Oh, what will happen then?‟

Gey zay nisht keyn nar,
un hob nisht keyn tsar,
un loz dir der vint nisht ongeyn.
vifl vintn s‘veln brimen,
vifl doyres s‘veln kimen,
dos sikele vet eybik shteyn. 

„Don‘t be a fool,
and don‘t have any grief,
and don‘t worry about the wind.
No matter how many winds will roar
No matter how many generations will come,
the sukkah will always remain standing.

15 Responses to ““A sikele, a kleyne” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman”

  1. This is very similar to another Sukes song, which goes: A suke, a kleyner, fun bleter gemeyner – hob ikh shoyn keyn tsores gemakht – gedekht dem dakh mit a bisele skhakh, un ikh zits in dem suke bay nakht. It’s fascinating how these songs travel, evolve. Beautiful singing!

  2. […] that I learned when I took Yiddish in college that speaks to the whole frailty of life.  I found this website that gives a good version, but it’s missing the line I remember that is probably most […]

    • This is the relevant information from the “But Mostly Hers” blog:

      I’m looking for a song that I learned when I took Yiddish in college that speaks to the whole frailty of life. I found this website that gives a good version, but it’s missing the line I remember that is probably most important. I’ll add that here.

      May the Merciful One restore the Sukkah of David which is falling for us. הרחמן הוא יקים לנו את סוכת דוד הנופלת.

  3. harvey spiro Says:

    I remember a version of this poem put to music by a late-1960s-era group called the Rabbis’ Sons. This singing group of three rabbinical students, backed by their own guitar playing, put out two or three LPs in that era. Most of the songs took snippets of prayers from the sidur, and added modern folk-rock style tunes and close harmonies. I don’t remember any other Yiddish songs on the LP I owned. One of the songwriters was Boruch Chait, who now apparently is a rosh yeshiva in Israel.

    Although maybe not so interesting to Yiddishists, the songs and singing on the LP were really nice.

  4. […] know this song from my mother, Beyle Schaechter G0ttesman, who learned it from her mother, Lifshe Schaecther Widman, and the words as they are sung here are […]

  5. Martin Horwitz Says:

    Mstome a sheyn lid,ober ikh hob es nit gekent shpiln.

  6. […] (“What are You Doing Here Pretty Girl?”) performed in this field recording of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (my mother) is another Yiddish variant of the international ballad known generically as […]

  7. […] Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman sings a similar version to Rantz’s, and there is enough difference in the text to make it worthwhile to post it on the Yiddish Song of the blog at some point. A beautiful version is found in the Stonehill collection at YIVO, sung by an as yet unidentified man, (Reel 9). Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn. Shtil es flit shoyn di levone-shayn. Fun der vaytns finklen shtern, Kuk nisht kind af mayne trern. Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn. […]

  8. fliegen…

    […]“A sikele, a kleyne” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman « Yiddish Song of the Week[…]…

  9. […] composer of the melody is unknown. The performer of this week’s posting, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (my mother), learned this song in Chernovitz in the 1930s. The only recording of the song is by […]

  10. […] by Itzik Gottesman This song performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman is more commonly sung with different Yiddish words and called “Di verbe – The […]

  11. […] by Itzik Gottesman This song performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman is more commonly sung with different Yiddish words and called “Di verbe – The […]

  12. David Kleiner Says:

    Thank you very much for posting this, I was looking for this song for many years, my grandmother was singing it to me 40-some years ago..

  13. […] 1937: from left – Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, cousin Lusye (Gottesman) Buxbaum, brother Mordkhe Schaechter, mother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman […]

  14. […] mother Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG) could not remember from whom she learned this song, but it she learned it in Chernovitz in the […]

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