“Mir af a shifl, dir af a lotke” Performed by Zelig Schnadover


Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.


This  one-verse song ‘Mir af a shifl, dir af a lotke’ (“A Boat for Me, a Canoe for You”) was performed by Zelig Schnadover, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988. Curiously, the first line from this ditty appears under the boat in the above 1960s painting of the Israeli artist Arie Aroch (1908-1974), who spent his childhood in Kharkov (Kharkiv), Ukraine.

Zelig Schnadover was born in 1907 in Slavuta [Yiddish – Slavite סלאַוויטע ] Ukraine. In 1920 they “escaped the Bolsheviks” and the family went to Poland. He had his bar-mitsve in Brody, [Yiddish – Brod], Poland. He lived in Poland until 1926 and learned the song there. Schnadover emigrated to Mexico City in 1926/27.


Zelig Schnadover

To make money in the early years in Mexico City Schnadover was part of a group of singers who provided the soundtrack to silent movies, many of them Russian, so they sang Russian songs. They didn’t have much time to prepare – usually they had not seen the movie earlier so amusing things happened. An example he gave was for Abel Gance’s film  Napoleon. The group was still singing a waltz as the projector was already showing a battle scene. When I knew him he had been the longtime owner of a stationary store, a papeleria, near the center of the city, the Zocolo.

Mir af a shifl,
Dir af a lotke.
Mir a sheyn meydl
Dir a tshekhotke

Me on a boat,
you on a canoe.
Me – a pretty girl
You – one with tuberculosis. 

After the initial posting, musicologist Dmitri “Zisl” Slepovitch pointed out a connection to a song he had recorded from Sterna Gorodetskaya in Mahilyow (Mogilev), Belarus, which was posted earlier to the Yiddish Song of the Week.

Also, a variant of the song from Brest-Litovsk (Yiddish – Brisk, now in Belarus) appears in I. L. Cahan’s 1912 collection with no music but with a second verse and presents it as a dialogue. The first verse sung by “He”, the second one by “She”.

Ikh af a shifele
Du af a lodke,
Ikh a soldat,
Du a soldadtke.

Ikh af a shifele
Du af a lotke;
Ikh a sheyn meydele,
Du a sukhotke.

I on a boat
You on a canoe.
I – a [male] soldier
You – a [female] soldier. 

I on a boat,
You on a canoe
I – a pretty girl
You – a girl with tuberculosis.

Here is how it appears in Cahan’s 1912 collection:


Special thanks for help with this week’s posting goes to Tamara Gleason Freidberg, Paul Glasser and Rachel Greene. 


6 Responses to ““Mir af a shifl, dir af a lotke” Performed by Zelig Schnadover”

  1. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    As Zisl Slepovitch remarked. The song that Sterna Gorodetskaya sings in an earlier post of Yiddish Song of the Week also has that one verse. But both Shnadover and I L Cahan consider the one verse song as a separate song, and I believe it found its way into Sterna Gorodetskaya’s song as a “wandering motif” (to use Israel Zinberg’s term).

  2. This tune sounds like the beginning of tune of a different Yiddish sung – “Arum dem fayer”, here’s one recording https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-Aeo_6aKmY

  3. Itzik Gottesman Says:

    I agree similar but still not the same. But I would not be surprised if someone knows a Ukrainian or Polish song with the same melody.

  4. […] Presenting rare field recordings of master Yiddish folksingers. « “Mir af a shifl, dir af a lotke” Performed by Zelig Schnadover […]

  5. Jeanne Gagnaux Says:

    I really enjoy each “Yiddish song of the week” . A sheynem dank !

  6. Libor Zajíček Says:

    Lotke – probably from Russian “lodka”, basically the same as shifl. Maybe it´s just a poetical play with synonyms?

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