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“Rosh-yeshivenik” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, Rosh-yeshivenik, is sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, from Zvinyetchke, Bukovina. She was recorded by Leybl Kahn in 1954 in the Bronx.

It is a song to pass the time, using the alef-beys (Yiddish alphabet), as its structure. The first son’s name “Avreml” starts with an alef, the second son’s name “Burekhl” with a beys, the third son’s name “Getsl” with a gimel and so on. In other versions, after the naming of ten sons, ten daughters are then named. 

In Folklor-lider, Volume Two, edited by Z. Skudutski (Moscow, 1936) pages 374-375, we have a Yiddish song text with no melody on a similar theme:

Yisgadal veyisgadash shmey rabo, [opening of the kaddish prayer]
Vos amol iz geven iz haynt nishto. [What was is no more]
Taytidl, didl, didl, didl, didl, didl, day.

Amol iz geven a yid a oysher, [Once there was a rich man]
iz er geven a kaptsen a groyser,  [who was very poor]
Taytidl, didl, didl, didl, didl, didl, day.

Hot er gehat tsen tekhter  [He had 10 daughters]
Di ershte hot geheysn Osenyu [The first letter is an alef]
Di tsveyte hot geheysn Beylenyu [The first letter is a beys]

This is followed by a similar Ukrainian song text.

I have only heard the word “Rosh-yeshivenik” in this song. The usual word is just “Rosh-yeshive” (director of a yeshiva, or religious school for boy) and I have to wonder whether in an earlier version it was not “Yeshuvnik”, a simple village Jew who was often made fun of.

What I enjoy about LSW’s singing here is how the “oy” ornamentation, of which she is the master, is used for a humorous effect. In a way, she is parodying her own singing style: the words are bringing us only good news, but the “oys” and “oy veys” are comically telling us the opposite.

Der rosh-yeshivenik
S’iz a mul iz geven a rosh-yeshivenik.
Oy, oy, a rosh-yeshivenik,
Oy, oy, a rosh-yeshivenik,
Oy vey, oy vey, a rosh-yeshivenik.

Once there was a Rosh-yeshivenik [Director of a Yeshiva]
Oy, oy, a Rosh-yeshivenik
Oy, oy,  a rosh-yeshivenek
Oy vey, oy vey, a rosh-yeshivenik.

Der rosh-yeshivenik hot tsu mazel khasene gehat.
Oy, oy,  khasene gehat.
Oy, oy khasene gehat.
Oy vey, oy vey, khasene gehat.

The rosh-yeshivenik, with good fortune, got married
Oy, oy got married.
Oy, oy, got married.
Oy vey, oy vey, got married.


Der rosh-yeshivenik hot tsu mazl kindelekh gehat.
Oy, oy, kindelekh gehat.
Oy, oy, kindelekh gehat.
Oy vey, oy vey, kindelekh gehat.

The rosh-yeshivenik, with good fortune, had chidren.
Oy, oy, had children.
Oy, oy had children
Oy vey, oy vey had children

Dos ershte hot geheysn Avreymele.
Oy, oy, Avreymele.
Oy, oy, Avreymele.
Oy vey, oy vey, Avreymele.

The first one was called Avreymele.
Oy, oy Avreymele,
Oy, oy Avreymele,
Oy vey, Oy vey Avreymele.

Dos tsveyte hot geheysn Burekhl.
Oy, oy Burekhl.
Oy, oy, Burekhl
Oy vey, Oy vey, Burekhl.

The second one was called Burekhl,
Oy, oy Burekhl,
Oy, oy Burekhl,
Oy vey, Oy vey Burekhl.

Dos drite hot geheysn Getsele.
Oy, oy, Getsele
Oy, oy, Getsele
Oy vey, oy vey Getsele.

The third one was called Getsele.
Oy, oy Geltsele.
Oy, oy Getsele
Oy vey, Oy vey Getsele.

roshyeshiva1roshyeshiva2

“Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?” Performed by Mr. Harris

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , on July 20, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

I recorded Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder? (“What Did You Learn My Child in Cheder?”) at a zingeray/song gathering in the Bronx in 1983, at the home of Merke (Mary) and Tuvia Levine, on Gun Hill Road. I cannot recall the singer‘s full name– Harris was his last name.

This children‘s folksong that follows the letters of the alef-beys has a number of variants. In Pipe‘s collection from Sanok, Galicia, his version begins „Az du zest, yingele, an alef, vi azoy makht es?‟ In my mother and grandmother‘s version it begins „Vos lernstu yingele?‟ (see Pipe‘s variation on page 202-205, it has verses all the way to „yud,‟ and the footnote by Dov and Meir Noy on page 316 in Shmuel Zanvel Pipe Yiddish Folksongs From Galicia, ed. Dov and Meir Noy, Israel, 1971). There are some interesting differences in the words that are „taytshed‟ in each stanza. In Beregovsky-Feffer‘s collection, Kiev, 1938, the music is also printed. All the variants are similar, textually and melodically, but never exactly the same. Most other versions ask the question „Vos makht es in eynem?‟ (What does it sound like together?) but Harris sings it as an imperative „Makht es in eynem‟ or „Put it together‟….which also makes sense. In the opening verse, when Harris sings „nokh a taytsh‟, it‘s clear that he should have then sung „a shtekele‟ and not „ay ay‟ for a second time.

Harris, Merke and Tevye Levine were part of the linke (leftist) Yiddish cultural scene that did not usually mix with Arbeter-Ring members or Zionists. Our “scene‟ from the Sholem-Aleichem Folk Institute, played down politics, and emphasized the cultural aspects so we mingled fine. By the late 1970s, the Yiddish world was so depleted that the walls between left, center and right, were falling down on behalf of Yiddish culture, so the Levines became prominent members of the Sholem-Aleichem Folkshul on Bainbridge Avenue. Thirty years earlier they were active in their own linke shuln, but by the 1970s, those folkshuln no longer existed. Our zingerays included them more and more. That older generation of linke Yiddishists is gone; Itche Goldberg, who died recently at 102, was perhaps the last of them, and I cannot think of anyone who is alive anymore to even ask about the singer‘s– Mr. Harris‘s– first name.


Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Alef
Vos iz taytsh „alef‟?
ay, ay
Nokh a taytsh?
ay, ay
Makht es in eynem
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Alef
What is „alef‟?
ay, ay
Another meaning?
ay, ay
Put it together
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick

Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Beys
Vos iz taytsh „beys‟?
Berl
Nokh a taytsh?
Bunzhik
Makht es in eynem
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, Shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Beys
What is „beys‟?
Berl
Another meaning?
Bunzhik
Put it together
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick

Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Giml
Vos iz taytsh „Giml‟?
Gib zhe
Nokh a taytsh?
gikher
Makht es in eynem
Gib zhe gikher
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, Shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Gimel
What is „gimel‟?
So give!
Another meaning?
Faster
Put it together
So give faster!
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick

Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Daled
Vos iz taytsh „daled‟?
Darer
Nokh a taytsh?
Drunzhik
Makht es in eynem
Daradrunzhik
Gib zhe gikher
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, Shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Daled
What is „Daled‟?
Thin
Another meaning?
Drunzhik
Put it together
A really thin person [daradrunzhik]
So give faster!
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick

Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?
Hey
Vos iz taytsh „hey‟?
Heyb zhe
Nokh a taytsh?
Hekher
Makht es in eynem
Heyb zhe hekher
Darerdronzhik
Gib zhe gikher
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a shtekele.
Hekher – a shtekele, Shtarker – a shtekele

What are you learning my child in cheder?
Hey
What is „hey‟?
Lift!
Another meaning?
Higher!
Put it together
Lift it higher!
A very thin person,
So give faster!
Berele Bunzhik
Ay, ay, a little stick
Louder – a little stick, Stronger – a little stick