“Kimt der shadkhn Shame” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Ordinarily, I would not include such a fragmentary performance in this blog, as this version of Kimt der shadkhn Shame (the name “Shame” is pronounced with two syllables “Sha-me,” rhymes with “mame”) performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW). But the investigation into the song is intriguing. I broadcast an earlier version of this research in Yiddish on the Yiddish Forward Radio Hour on WEVD seven or eight years ago. My commentary here will also be abbreviated.

At a yard sale in Monticello, NY, the heart of the Jewish Catskills, I bought several old Yiddish 78s including one with two songs by Leon Kalisch recorded in Lemberg 1905-06. Kalisch was part of the Lemberg Yiddish theater world revolving around „Gimpel‘s Teater‟ (see: Gimpel‘s grandson‘s website; Michael Aylwards forthcoming article on Gimpel‘s theater and Jewish recordings in Lemberg on his website; and the entry on Kalisch and Gimpel in the Yiddish theater Lexicon).

Leon Kalisch

Additionally, Kalisch‘s songs and other Lemberg Yiddish singers are featured on Gerda and Franz Lechleitner‘s „phonomuseum‟ website. When I heard Kalisch sing „Der schames‟ I immediately recognized LSW‘s song:

 The 78 record label indicated that Der schames originated from the Yosef Lateiner (1853-1935) play Der seder, and I fortunately was able to buy a copy but did not find the song in the text. I donated the 78s I bought at the yard sale to Lorin Sklamberg at the YIVO sound archives and he transferred them to CD for me and he turned me onto other recordings with what I call the „Lena From Palesteena‟ melody-motif. By this I mean the melody of the phrase “Lena is the Queen of Palesteena just because she plays the concertina.”

The popular 1920s song „Lena from Palesteena” was written by Con Conrad and J. Russel Robinson, and first recorded with words by Eddie Cantor in 1920. Here is a great old version by Frank Crumit:

On page 81 of his book Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World, Henry Sapoznik connects the melody to the klemzer tune Noch A bisl played here by accordionist Mishka Ziganoff in 1921. 

Lorin Sklamberg identified the Romanian language recording Colo’n Gradnita (There in the Little Garden) performed by S. Bernardo, no date, recorded in Bucharest, with only piano accompaniment. Bernardo is a great singer, obviously Jewish and includes “Oy veys” and some other Yiddish words:

Sklamberg also found a recording of a young Aaron Lebedeff singing the song Tate ziser (Syrena 12560) recorded in Europe (Warsaw?), no date but probably the late 1910s, (and no relation to the klezmer tune by that name recorded by several bands). Lebedeff is clearly riffing off Bernardo’s earlier recording:

Finally, Sklamberg dug up Simon Paskal’s Eppess noch, with words by Louis Gilrod, recorded in New York, 1913 – A typical comical Yiddish theater song about American Jewish life, with emphasis on food (Noch a bisl, Eppess noch – there seems to be a theme emerging).

There is much more to write about the musical reincarnations of the „Lena from Palesteena‟ motif, and I believe Prof. Martin Schwartz of Berkeley and others can play Greek, Turkish and other people‘s variants of this motif on recordings. It seems to be assumed that the Yiddish use of it came after the Romanian, but the Kalisch recording is the earliest I have found.

Back to LSW‘s song and its connection to Der Schames as sung by Kalisch. The rare rhyme „brie‟ and „Ishes tsnie‟ appears in both, so they are definitely related. Kalisch is about a shames (synagogue beadle); LSW‘s about a shadkhn named Shame. So the two lead characters are also too closely related phonetically to dismiss the notion the songs are from a single source. However, the narratives of the songs differ: LSW‘s Kimt der Shadkhn Shame is ultimately a maskilic song about the Hasidic rebbe, the “Datshn‟ (Germans – modernized Jews) and the „apikorsim,‟ the non-believers; while Kalisch‘s Der shames is clearly a theater song closely related to a play’s plot. In the song collection Der badkhn by (E)Luzer Bergman, Warsaw 1927, 1930, there is included a version that is obviously a variant of LSWs song, including the line about the „apikorsim.‟

LSW’s singing has been presented more than any other on this blog, but in Kimt der shadkhn Shame you can finally hear her perform a more upbeat comic song, even if the song is incomplete. Here is her rendition, recorded in the Bronx by Leybl Kahn in 1954 (the first chorus is incomplete– a long pause in the middle of the recording has been removed):

Kimt a shadkhn Shame
tsi mayn tate-mame
a shidikh hot er gur far mir. 

The matchmaker Shame comes
to my parents;
he has a match just for me. 

A meydl a groyse brie,
un di mame‘z an ishes-tsnie
shoyn in git, es ekt dekh di velt.

A girl, a wonderfully clever girl,
and her mother is a modest woman.
Fine and good – the world comes to an end.

Oy, oy, khotsh nem un gib im shoyn shadkhones-gelt
sheyn in git, es ekt dekh di velt.

Oy, give him the matchmaker‘s fee right away,
Fine and good, the world comes to an end.

[The chorus is incomplete due to a break in the recording]

Kimt a datsh, a higer
tsu mayn fliaskedrige,
a tshive vil er fin im aroys.

A local modern, enlightened Jew,
comes to my unsightly person,
and wants an answer from him, straight away.

Er iz a raykh kind,
un far zayne zind,
batsuln vil er mit a pidyen a gitn.

He is a wealthy child,
and for his sins,
he wants to pay a high fee to the Hasidic rabbi

Oy, oy, vi kent ir dus gor  farshteyn?
Tsitsekikn dem rebns mine, 
ven se brent af im di shkine. 
Apikorsim, vi kent ir dus farshteyn?

Oy, oy, how could you understand this?
To look upon the Rebbe‘s countenance,
when the Divine Presence burns on him;
Apostates! How could you understand.

12 Responses to ““Kimt der shadkhn Shame” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman”

  1. From Michael Aylward:

    concerning the 78 recording of Colo’n Gradnita

    “The only snippet of information I can add to this is that if the disc bears the matrix number 10373 l (where ‘l’ is a lower case letter ‘L’), then the song was recorded in Bucharest 20 December 1909.”
    [Yes, that is the matrix number – Itzik]

    The Leon Kalisch recording, if it is the one on the Favorite label, was made on 2 June 1907 in Lemberg.

    The Aaron Lebedeff was recorded in September 1912, presumably in Warsaw.

    All the best,

  2. The matrix numbers of the other recordings:

    Lebedeff with orchestra, Syrena 12560 Europe

    Simon Paskal with King’s Orchestra Victor 65416 mx 13325-2 NY 5/19/13

    I have to find the Kalisch information – Itzik Gottesman

  3. The Romanian folk song “Col’n Val’n Gradinita) is also the foundation for the Romanian Hora & Bulgar – a great example of how klezmorim cross-pollinated and adopted folk musics.

  4. Marty Marran Says:

    Could we have a version of Levine and his Flying Machine?

    Mit yiddeshe vocal?

  5. Serbo – Croatian version is “S ulice u bastice” on Columbia E1209

  6. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    Another version of this song, an anti-Hassidic one can be found in “Yiddish Folks Songs” collected by Sarah Pitkowsky Schack, piano arrangements by Ethel Silberman Cohen. Bloch Publishing Company, NY, 1924 (new edition 1950). There it is called “Ich Kumm Jetzt Vun Mein Zadik” and includes the music. pages 77 – 79

  7. Jeanette Lewicki Says:

    Rith Rubin also recorded herself singing this melody as a “Sadigurer Tune.” You can hear it on the YIVO RR website:
    A typed note on the inside of the reel-to-reel box says:
    “from her mother who learned it from her father…See: Idelsohn, Jewish Music, p. 429.”

  8. I stumbled upon this wonderful article of yours, while writing a master thesis on exactly these instances, namely songs the tunes of which are present among numerous peoples of the Balkans, with particular focus on Sephardic Jews and Serbs.
    So, let me add to the pot, so to say.
    Orchestra Goldberg (lead by a Jew? consisting of Jews?) recorded an instrumental version, entitled Kleftiko Vlachiko, with a most wonderful introductory doina on trumpet. Klephts were, as is known, Greek brigands who fought against Turks by sequestering themselves in mountain fastnesses and robbing their merchants, occasionally engaging in Robin Hood-like activities.
    The term Vlachiko implies Romanian origin. So, it would be the dance of Romanian brigands, or Romanian robbers.

  9. There are, as far as I know, two Sephardic versions, with words unrelated to each other. One is “A Sara la prieta”, sung by Nisim Benezra, and it can be found here:


    The other is Madmuazel Marika kere karusika, sung by Diana Koen-Sarano. It can be found here:


  10. Josip Mlinko, also known as Joca Mimika (1876.-1962.) recorded a version in Serbian, in 1910s, before the world war.

  11. At about the same time, Danilo Katalan, a Sephardic Jew from Belgrade, made his own version for Favorite record, the words of which are more comical and a bit risque. I got the recording of it from Mr. Jonathan Ward.
    So, I suspect the song originated in Romania as an instrumental tune, to which words were quickly added. Then Mr. Lateiner said: “Hey, why don’t I go along with the practices of my time, and take a folk tune to use it in my play? I mean, Serbs seem to do that in their “komadi sa pevanjem” (plays with singing), so, why not?”, and wrote Der schammes.
    As for why Kallisch’s recording happens to be the earliest… Well, I suppose it was just Kallisch’s luck to make a contact with a recording engineer before Bernardo. It often happens, you know 🙂

    I suspect that Serbs took it directly from Romanians, though. My suspicion is based on the word gradinita, which means garden. The Serbian version is often known as “S ulice baštica”, or “Zelena baštica” (A garden by the street, A green garden) and gradina in Romanian, as well as in some dialects of Serbian, means garden. I am almost entirely ignorant about Romanian language, though, so my hypothesis might be very, very wrong.
    I should like to hear your opinion as well, but first I must thank you for this article, which helped me a lot!
    Warmest regards,
    Nikola P. Zekić

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