Archive for Benjy Fox-Rosen

“Es dremlt in geto” Performed by Sara Rosen

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2021 by yiddishsong

Es dremlt in geto / The ghetto is sleeping
A Holocaust song sung by Sara Rosen, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, 1989 NYC.

………[Es dremlt in geto]

Mir zenen farriglt
mit drut un mit krad.
Ikh hob a shtetele, 
s’iż azoy sheyn. 
Ven ikh derman mekh,
es benkt zikh aheym.

…….[The ghetto is sleeping.]

We are locked in 
with wire and with chalk.
I have a small town, 
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home. 

Levune, levune, 
vus kiksti mekh un?
Az ikh bin hingerik,
dus geyt dikh nisht un.
Ikh hob a shtetele, 
s’iz azoy sheyn.
Ven ikh derman mekh,
es benkt zikh aheym. 

Moon, moon, 
why are you looking at me?
That I am hungry: 
you don’t care.
I have a small town,
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home.

Az m’et kimen fin arbet,
hingerik in mid,
Ervart indz dus esn,
kartofl mit gris. 
Ikh hob a shtetele,
s’iż azoy sheyn 
Ven ikh derman zikh,
es benkt zikh aheym.

When we’ll come from work, 
hungry and tired,
Food awaits us:
potato and grits
I have a small town,
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home. 

………   [ עס דרעמלט אין געטאָ]

מיר זענען פֿאַרריגלט
.מיט דראָט און מיט קרײַד
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

,לבֿנה, לבֿנה
?וואָס קוקסטו מיך אָן
,אַז איך בין הונגעריק
.דאָס גייט דיך נישט אָן
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

,אַז מע’ט קומען פֿון דער אַרבעט
,הונגעריק און מיד
,ערוואַרט אונדז דאָס עסן
.קאַרטאָפֿל מיט גריס
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

Biography of the Singer Sara Rosen by Mickey Rosen:

Sara Landerer Rosen was born in Krakow, Poland in 1925 into a Chasidic family.  She experienced an idyllic childhood until September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, initiating World War II. The war truncated Sara’s formal education at the end of eighth grade but it didn’t stop her thirst for learning. Sara took advantage of every opportunity available; in the ghetto, in British Mandate Palestine and later, in the State of Israel and finally in the USA. In 1977, Sara graduated from Fordham University with a BA in Philosophy.  

Sara Rosen

Sara was a prolific write, publishing her memoir My Lost World in 1993. In 2008, she published Prisoner of Memory, the life story of Itka Greenberg. Itka saved about 50 Jews during World War II, with Sara and her mother being two of the fortunate survivors. In between these two books, Sara translated the songs of Mordechai Gebirtig from Yiddish to English. Sara loved speaking and singing in Yiddish and remembered many of poems and songs from her youth.

Sara emigrated to the USA in 1956 with her husband, Joseph and two sons. Her family grew in the USA with the birth of a daughter. 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

Es dremlt in shtetl

This song is a Holocaust adaptation of the popular 1920s-30s song “Ven es dremlt in shtetl” (also known as “Es dremlt/drimlt dos shtetl” or “Es dremlt dos shtetl”); text written by Yoysef Heftman (1888 – 1955), music by Gershon Eskman. There are several recordings of this song, among them by Sarah Gorby, Michele Tauber, Willi Brill, Violette Szmajer, Sheh-Sheh, Zahava Seewald. Here is a link to a recording by the singer Rebecca Kaplan and tsimbler Pete Rushefsky from their CD On The Paths: Yiddish Songs with Tsimbl.

Ruth Rubin recorded a version from a “Mrs. Hirshberg” in 1947. It is called “Es dremlt a shtetele” and here is the link to the song in the Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at the YIVO Institute. 

Es dremlt in turme

Before the war, there already was a “parody” version of this song about languishing in prison. “Es dremlt in turme” [The prison is sleeping]. The words and music are printed in the “Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs” edited by Sinai Leichter, scans of this song are attached.

Ruth Rubin sings a version of this prison song in YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Archive.

Es dremlt in geto

Sara Rosen learned this song in Bucharest after she escaped from the Bochnia ghetto near Krakow. Though she forgets the first two lines, it is cleary an adaptation of “Es dremlt in shtetl”. There are several versions of this song using the same melody, but they all differ so significantly from each other, that to call them versions of the same song is a stretch. Meir Noy wrote down a version “Shtil is in geto” in his notebooks that can be found in the National Library in Jerusalem. Another version can be found in the collection “Dos lid fun geto: zamlung” edited by Ruta Pups, Warsaw, 1962. A scan of this version is attached. A third version was printed in the collection “We Are Here: Songs of the Holocaust”, edited by Eleanor G. Mlotek et al, 1983.

Special thanks for this post to Mickey Rosen, Rachel Rosen, Michael Alpert, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, her grandchildren the musicians Benjy Fox-Rosen, Avi Fox-Rosen.

I was introduced to Sara Rosen in 1989 by the Yiddish/Hebrew singer Tova Ronni z”l  (d. 2006) who lived in the same Upper West Side apartment building in NYC. That same day she introduced me to another singer in the building, David Shear, who sings “An ayznban a naye” on this blog. 

From Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs” edited by Sinai Leichter:

From Dos lid fun geto: zamlung, edited by Ruta Pups, Warsaw, 1962:

“Der shpigl mitn zeyger” Performed by Avi Fuhrman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2019 by yiddishsong

Der shpigl mitn  zeyger / The Mirror and the Clock
Sung by Avi Fuhrman
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, at Circle Lodge Camp, NY, Summer 1984.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

The text to this song was written by the classic 19th century Yiddish writer and satirist Yoel Linetski (1839 -1915) and can be found in his poetry collection Der beyzer marshelik (The Cruel Jester), 1869. The original has 12 verses, a dialogue between a mirror and a clock (scans are attached). Fuhrman remembers only one verse plus the “tra-la-la” refrain but thanks to him, as far as I know, we now have the melody.

Title page of Linetski’s Der beyzer marshelik (1869)

We have previously posted another of Linetski’s songs “Di mode”.  Yet another of his songs “Dos redele iz di gore velt” can be heard on Ruth Rubin’s fieldwork album Jewish Life: The Old Country (Smithsonian Folkways) and more recently on Jake Shulman-Ment’s recording A redele (Oriente Musik, 2015) sung by Benjy Fox-Rosen.

The text to the song (nine verses) also appears in the Yiddish song collection Der badkhn (“The Wedding Jester”, Warsaw, 1929) by Eliezer Bergman and we have attached those scanned pages. The version there is closer to Fuhrman’s and like his, and unlike the original, begins with the mirror speaking, not the clock.

The dialogue centers on the vain snobbishness of the mirror; an object that at that time was found in only the homes of wealthy families, as opposed to the clock who served all classes.

Avi (Avrom) Fuhrman was born in Chernovitz, then Romania, in 1922.  He says that all of his songs were learned from his father who often sang. Fuhrman was active in Yiddish theater in Chernovitz from a very young age.


Both parents had tailoring workshops where singing was often heard. Fuhrman was a fine singer at a young age and was a soloist with Cantor Pinye Spector (Pinye Khazn) of the Boyaner Hasidim in Chernovitz.  He attended an ORT school.  During the war he was in Baku in Azerbaijan and participated in the Yiddish theater there , particularly in the “Kharkover Ensemble”. He returned to Romania, then Poland then Salzburg, Austria.  He and his wife and in-laws were on an (illegal) aliya to Israel but the path forced them to hike over a mountain and his in-laws could not manage it so they eventually came to the US in 1951.

The last line of this verse is a pun since “shpiglen zikh” can mean both “to see oneself in the mirror” as well as “delight in”


Batrakht nor dayn vert di narisher zeyger
Mit deym khitrerer mine firsti deym shteyger.
Di shrayst un du klopst un beyts dikh bay laytn.
Me varft dikh, me shmitst dikh in ale zaytn.
Vi shteyt mir gur un tsi reydn mit dir?
Aza nogid vi ikh bin, az me shpiglt zikh in mir.


Consider your worth you foolish clock,
With a sleazy face you lead your way of life.
You yell and you beat and plead with people.
You get thrown, beaten in all sides.
It’s beneath my dignity to talk to you.
Such a wealthy one as I whom all delight in me.


From Yoel Linetski’s Der beyzer marshelik, 1869:




“Oy vey rebenyu” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by yiddishsong

Oy vey rebenyu
Performance by Josh Waletzky
Video-recorded at Center for Traditional Music and Dance’s office, New York City, by Peter Rushefsky, Ethel Raim and Benjy Fox-Rosen, January 28th, 2012.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

New York Yiddish singer Josh Waletzky learned this maskilic/anti-Hasidic song from from his grandfather Morris (Moyshe) Waletzky. Oy vey rebenyu has been recorded in a similar version by Jan Bart, with another version by Cantor Isaac Goodfriend.

The Soviet folklorist Z. Skuditski pointed out the similarity to the Mikhl Gordon song Mayn Tshuve (see note in Folklor-lider, volume 2) and it has been considered a Mikhl Gordon song ever since (I could not obtain the original Gordon version). However this anti-Hasidic song was later adapted and interpreted in some circles as a song to praise the rebbe, not mock him.

Interpretations praising the rebbe:

The Yiddish poet Yermye Hescheles (1910 – 2010), from Glina, Galicia, Poland,  told me that on the holiday of Lag B’omer, when the melamed (teacher in the kheyder) walked with them into the woods, he taught the children this song in praise of the rebbe. (I would imagine that the verse with the cook Trayne was cut).

Di Naye Kapelye in Budapest recorded the song – only the refrain – in a slow, spiritual interpretation, on their album –  “A mazeldiker yid” released on the Oriente Musik label.

According to band leader Bob Cohen, the source is a tape recording made in Maramures in 1970 by Romanian-Jewish ethnomusicologust Ghizella Suliteanu of a Roma band from Borsa led by Gheorghe Stingaci Covaci.


Oy vey rebenyu, ikh shuteye un tsiter
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
un in hartsn brent a fayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.
Yakh vil zayn a khosidl a guter,
a khosidl a getrayer.

O rebbe I stand and shiver
In my heart burns  fire.
I want to be a good khosid,
a faithful khosid.

Bay dem davenen vel ikh zikh shoklen,
makhn alerley hevayes.
Far dem rebn mit zayne khasidim
geyt mir oys dos Hayes.

When I pray I will rock,and make all kinds of gestures.
For the rebbe and his khasidim,
my strength gives out.

Vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebn mit zayne Chasidim
gey ikh aynleygn veltn.

Winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe and his khasidim
I will tear down entire worlds.


In Folklor-lider, vol. 2 the verses are:

A kalte mikve vel ikh zikh makhn
vinter in di greste keltn.
Far dem rebenyu, far zayne khsidimlekh
vel ikh kereven veltn.

A cold mikve I will prepare
winter in the greatest cold.
For the rebbe, for his hasidim
I will turn over worlds.

A vareme shal vel ikh zikh koyfn
zumer in di greste hitsn.
A zaydenem gartl vel ikh mir koyfn,
a hitl mit zibetsn shpitsn.

A warm shawl will I buy
summer in the greatest heat.
A silk belt will I buy, 
a hat with 17 corners.

Dem rebn vel ikh leygn in fodershtn alker
tsuzamen mit der kekhne Trayne.
Un ale kshidemlekh veln hobn tsum rebn
gor a groyse tayne.

I will put the rebbe in the front den
with the cook Trayne.
And all the Hasidim will complain
to the rebbe. 



“Ikh tu dir a brivele shraybn” performed by Harry Ary

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Benjy Fox-Rosen

A powerful song lamenting the horrors of war. A soldier lies wounded in the hospital and writes to his mother and fiancé.

This recording is from Ruth Rubin’s field recordings courtesy of Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archive. It was recorded in 1955 in Montreal. The singer is named Harry Ary, he is the same singer who sings “In Droysen iz Finster” from Ruth Rubin’s “Jewish Life: The Old Country” LP of field recordings. I love his delivery and especially the very slight differences between each verse. He may be my favorite male singer on that record.

Note the difference in the opening phrase on the first, and later verses; at the beginning of the second and third verses, he sings a sharp fourth instead of the natural fourth.

On the second and third verses, when he repeats the last two lines, I especially like the different way that he treats, “mayn harts” and “mayn kale.” The variations have very much the same shape, but are sung varied slightly each time. Also his final cadences at the end of each verse are of particular interest to me, for he sings almost a quarter tone sharper than a flat second (in the mode), and this is of course intentional. This difference in tuning is often overlooked in transcriptions and re-interpretations of folk sources, however these controlled variations in pitch are what make this singer particularly interesting.

I will write you a letter Mamenyu,
And Mamenyu, I write of my health,
Oy, my hand was amputated,
And in both eyes, Mamenyu, I am blind.

I lie in the hospital, wounded,
And the doctors stand around me,
My heart is gushing with blood,
My dear Mamenyu is not near me.

I write a letter to my bride,
And I write of her alone,
That she should rip up the engagement,
And go with someone else to the khupe.
(translation by Benjy Fox-Rosen)

Itzik Gottesman writes: Below is the version of the song from “Yidishe folks-lider” edited by Moyshe Beregovski and Itzik Feffer, Kiev 1939, page 119. The melody is essentially the same, and the words vary only slightly. However one textual change should be noted: in the Beregovski-Feffer version the singers says in the second line of the third verse “I write to you only about myself” which is the opposite of Harry Ary’s version.”