Archive for children

“Seyder nakht (Di fentster, zey lakhtn)” Performed by Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath

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Seyder nakht (Di fentster, zey lakhtn) / Seder Night (The Windows Illuminate)
A Passover song from the American Folkshuls. Words: Naftoli Gross. Music: Mikhl Gelbart. Sung and recorded April 12,  2022 by Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath, Teaneck New Jersey

Naftoli Gross (1896-1956)

Di fentster zey lakhtn mit yontif in blendn.
Di tishn – mit gildene koyses in kares,
koyses in kares.
Di shtiber – mit kinder in vinder-legendn.
Zey zingen – fin gur ale vinklen in shpares.
vinklen in shpares

The windows illuminate with festival and dazzle.
The tables – with golden goblets and seder plates
goblets and seder plates
The homes – with children and wonder legends,
they sing from every corner and crevice,
corner and crevice.

Di tirn fin shtiber, zey shteyen breyt ofn.
Ver s’darf zol hant kimen tsi indz un zol esn,
kimen in zol esn.
Di kindershe oygn mit yontif in hofn.
Eliyohu vet kimen in keynem fargesn,
keynem fargesn.

The doors of homes are wide open.
Whoever needs to, should come to us and eat,
come and eat.
The childlike eyes with holiday and hope,
Elijah should come and forget no one,
Forget no one.

COMMENTARY by Itzik Gottesman

This song entitled “Seyder nakht”, with words by Naftoli Gross (1896-1956) and music by Mikhl Gelbart (1889 – 1962) was published in 1948. It was sung at the beginning of the Workman’s Circle and Sholem Aleichem folkshuls’ seders in the 1960s and probably earlier. Since I could find no recording of the song, I asked Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath, who remembered it from Sholem Aleichem Shul #21 in the Bronx to record it.

Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath is a Yiddish poet and the chair of the League for Yiddish in New York City. Below the song as published in the Sholem Aleichem folkshul Passover Haggadah, circa 1968:

“Tsen brider zenen mir geveyzn” Performed by Molly and Josef Lubelski

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Tsen brider zenen mir geveyzn / We were ten brothers
A Holocaust adaptation. Text by Israel Ashendorf. Sung by Molly and Josef Lubelski. Recorded by Abraham Lubelski, Bronx 1967

The Lubelski Troupe performing in a German D.P. camp

Transcription and Translation (Yiddish text after the commentary below)

Spoken by Josef Lubelski: “Tsen brider zenen mir geveyzn. An alt folkslid ibergearbet fun Ashendorf un Zigmund Taytlboym.”
“We Were Ten Brothers”, an old folksong adapted by Ashendorf and Zigmund Taytlboym

Tsen brider zenen mir geveyzn 
in frayd in in payn. 
Iz eyner gefaln inter Kutne
zenen mir geblibn nayn.

Ten brothers were we
in joy and in suffering.
When one of us fell near Kutne
we remained nine

Yidl mitn fidl, Berl mitn bas,
zingen aykh a lidl, oy, in mitn gas.
Yidl mitn fidl, Berl mitn bas.

Yidl and his fiddle, Berl and his bass
sing a song for you in the middle of the street.

Nayn brider zenen mir gevezn
yeder bay zayn mi in fakh.
Iz ayner gefaln inter Varshe
zenen mir geblibn akht. 

Nine brothers were we
we traded in cargo.
One fell in Warsaw
and eight remained.

Akht brider zenen mir geveyzn
tsezayt in tsetribn
farpaynikt eynem in Oshvyentshin [Oswiecim]
zenen mir geblibn zibn.

Eight brothers were we,
scattered and driven off.
One was tortured in Auschwitz
so seven remained.

Zibn brider zenen mir gevezn
in groylteg un in shrek. 
en eynem in Vin gehongen,
zenen mir geblibn zeks.

Seven brothers were we
in the days of horror and fear.
When one of us was hanged
we remained six.

Zeks brider zenen mir geveyzn
fartribn vayt in Krim. 
Iz eyner dortn imgekimen
zenen mir geblibn finf.

Six brothers were we
driven away to the Crimea.
When one of us died
we remained five.

Yidl mitn fidl, Berl mitn bas
zingen aykh a lidl, oy, in mitn gas.
Yidl mitn fidl.  Berl mitn bas

Yidl and his fiddle, Berl and his bass
sing a song for you in the middle of the street.
Yidl and his fiddle; Berl and his bass.

Finf brider zenen mir gevezn
un sonim un a shir. 
hot men eynem in Prag geshosn
zenen mir geblibn fir.

Five brothers were we
with countless enemies.
When they shot one in Prague
we remained four.

Fir brider zenen mir geveyzn 
in teyg fin bombes in blay. 
Iz eyner gefaln in Vilner geto
zenen mir geblibn dray. 

Four brothers were we
during days of bomb and lead.
One died in the Vilna ghetto,
leaving three

Dray brider zenen mir gevezn
eyner in der bafrayter armey.
iz er gefaln vi a held,
zenen mir geblibn tsvey.

Three brothers were we,
one in the liberated army.
He died a hero
and two were left.

In di tsvey ver zay zenen
vilt ir avade hern: 
Ayner fun zey is Yidl
in der tsveyter Berl. 

And who the two remaining are
you know of course:
one of them is Yidl
and the second one Berl.

Yidl mitn fidl. Berl mitn bas
zingen aykh a lidl,
nokh der tsayt fun mord un has.
Yidl mit dem fidl, Berl mitn bas.

Yidl with the fiddle, Berl with the bass
sing for you a song
in the time of death and hatred.
Yidl with his fiddle, Berl with his bass.

O-ho, o-ho, o-ho
o-ho o-ho o-ho
ho ho ho hoh hohhoho
hoh hoho hoho hohohoho

Zoln ale itstert hern,
un zoln ale visn
mir veln nokh vi frier shpiln
af khasenes un brisn.

Let everyone now hear,
let everyone should know:
we will still play for you as before
at weddings and circumcisions.

Oy veln mir nokh kindlen.
frukhtbarn zikh in mern, 
vi di zamd in yamen,
un oyf dem himl shtern. 

Oh will we have children,
be fruitful and multiply,
like the sand in the seas
and the stars in the sky.

Yidl mitn fidl. Berl mitn bas
Yidl with his fiddle. Berl with his bass.

Nor a kleyne bakushe 
hobn mir tsu aykh yidn.
in der heym gedenken
zolt ir undz in fridn.
 
Just a minor request
we ask of you all.
In your homes you should remember
us in peace.

A khasene, a simkhe
betn undz tsu gast. 
mikh –  yidl mit dem fidl
in mir [mikh] – Berl mitn bas 

For a wedding, a party
invite us as guests.
Me – yidl with his fiddle.
and me – Berl with his bass.

Oy, vet men in ayer hayzer 
gertner vet men flantsn. 
Vider vet men lider zingen
vider vet men tantstn.

O in your houses
gardens will be planted.
Once again we’ll sing songs,
once again we’ll dance.

oy, veln mir nokh shpiln,
vayzn vos mir kenen. 
Az far veytik veln platsn
di strunes in di sonim. 

O, will we play,
and show what we are capable of.
Let our enemies and music strings
explode out of pain [envy].

Yidl mitn fidl, Berl mitn bas. 
Yidl with his fiddle; Berl with his bass.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is the third song that our blog is presenting from the repertoire of Molly (Male/Minska) and Josef Lubelski who traveled to Displaced Persons (D.P.) camps in Germany after the war to perform songs, skits and recitations. For more on their biography see their previously posted songs.

Versions of the popular folksong “Tsen brider zenen mir geven”, upon which this version is adapted, can be found in the Ginzburg/Marek Collection of 1901 and a short history of the folksong, words and music, can be found in the Mlotek collection Perl fun der yidisher poezye, p. 121 (see scans below).

Itzik Manger used the refrain for his song “Yidl mitn fidl”.  In the Lubelski version, the music changes from the folk version when the number of brothers is reduced to two. The text at that point becomes more explicit on the plight and future of the Jews, rather than the demise of the brothers. Singer and compiler Shoshana Kalisch included a different Holocaust adaptation of “Tsen brider” in her collection of Holocaust songs –  Yes, We Sang! – with words and music.  One can hear that song at this link.

The author of this Lubelski version is Israel Ashendorf (1909 – 1956) but I could not find the text in his printed collections. In his introduction, Josef Lubelski mentions Sigmund Teytelboym as the musical adapter but I could not find any details on him. There is a 78 RPM recording of the Ashendorf song entitled “Yiddl [sic] mitn fidl” sung by I. Birnbaum and E. Zewinka, arranged by R. Solomon on the “Le Disque Folklorique Yiddish label”. There Ashendorf is credited as the author, spelled “Aschendorf”. A link to listen to the recording is here.

The Lubelski version is very close to the Birnbaum/Zewinka version but without instrumental accompaniment the Lubelski duo surely captures the sound and feeling closer to what the performance was like in the D.P. camps. One interesting change is that on the Birnbaum/Zevinka recording they sing “Royte armey” [Red army] and the Lubelskis sing “Bafrayte armey” [Liberated army]. Thanks this week to Alex Ashendorf, Abraham Lubelski for the recording and photo and to Eliezer Niborski for transcription help.

“Vu iz dus gesele?” Performed by Malka and Josef Lubelski

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 8, 2021 by yiddishsong

Vi iz dus gesele? / Where is the street?
A Holocaust adaptation written and sung by Malka and Josef Lubelsksi recorded by Abraham Lubelski, Bronx 1967

On the Lubelski family by  Abraham Lubelski

Malka (Male, Molly, Minska) Lubelski (1920 – 1996) was born in Lodz, Poland. She and her husband, Laibish Holcman, left Lodz in 1939, as the Nazis were invading, and headed East to the Soviet Union. With them was Malka’s sister, Chana, and her brother, Yasha. They were attempting to find Malka’s uncle in Ukraine.

They were diverted by Soviet authorities to Siberia, ending up in the town of Magnitogorsk. Here their son, Abram [Abraham], was born. They were finally given permission in 1941 to travel to their uncle’s home in Ukraine, arriving in Kharkov just as the Nazis invaded. They never reached their uncle and he was never heard from again. Laibish Holcman disappeared in 1941, soon after joining to fight with the defending Soviet Army.

They left behind their mother, a younger sister Ruth (Rivka) and three younger brothers, Motel, Laibel and Avrom. Malka, Chana, Yasha and Rivka survived the Holocaust. Their mother, Nacha, was taken from the Lodz ghetto and never heard from again. The three younger brothers also did not survive; one died in the ghetto and the other two died after being transported to Auschwitz. The four surviving siblings were reunited in 1946 in the Displaced Persons camp. All emigrated with their new families to the US in ’49-’50.

From Siberia, Malka and her son traveled on to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where Malka met Josef Lubelski (1906 – 1972) originally from Kalisz, Poland. Malka’s siblings, Chana and Yasha, also were able to travel to Tashkent. From there they returned west at the war’s end, searching for surviving family, Malka, Josef and Abram eventually making their way to the DP camp in Berlin. They transferred and were reunited with Rivka in the Leipheim, Germany DP camp. In the camp, Josef established a troupe and directed an ensemble of friends and actors. Josef and Malka sang duets and performed Yiddish monologues and Shakespeare. They were legally married in the DP camp in 1948.

As their son (Abram) I remember sitting in the front row of the theater watching their vaudeville performances and dramas with awe. Josef did classic “retsitatsyes” [recitations] often dressed like Charlie Chaplin or as a Jewish peddler making the audience laugh as he magically pulled things out from his long black overcoat and tried to sell a chicken here, pots and pans there or a “valgerholts” [rolling pin] with which to beat husbands.  They traveled to DP camps performing on week-ends and I cried if they left me behind so eventually they had me come along as the child actor in one or two Yiddish plays.

In 1950 they emigrated to the US. and performed their songs occassionaly at Workmen’s Circle gatherings. In 1967 I recorded Josef’s monologues and Molly and Josef singing duets. I remembered my mom sitting alone on the stage dressed in black mourning singing “Vu iz dos gesele,” “Tsen brider” and “Akhtszik er un zibetsik zi”, …. Never forgetting the warming spirit trying to revive the people around them.

More on the Lubelski family can be read in the two memoirs The Cage (1980) and To Life (2000) by Ruth Minsky Sender. 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Today’s post is the first of three songs performed by Molly and Josef Lubelski that we will post. We thought it particularly appropriate to post “Vi iz dus gesele” to mark Kristallnacht on Nov. 9th. Though these songs were recorded in 1967, two decades after the war, they still convey the emotional performance of the artists.

The Lubelskis sing a Holocaust themed adaptation of a popular song “Vu iz dos gesele”. Their son Abraham believes they created the text. I have not found it in collections of Holocaust Yiddish songs. The words and music to the original song can be found in the Mlotek collection Songs of Generations. There are also Ukrainian, Russian and Hebrew versions of the older song. 

Here is a link to an orchestrated version of the original song “Vu iz dos gesele” sung by Jan Peerce:

TRANSLITERATION, TRANSLATION & TRANSCRIPTION 
Folksong with new words by Malka and Josef Lubelski

Vi iz dus gesele? Vi iz di shtib?
Vi iz mayn mishpokhe, vus ikh hob azoy lib?
Nishtu shoyn dus gesl, tsebrokhn di shtib
farbrent mayn mishpokhe vus ikh hob azoy lib.
Nishtu shoyn dus gesl, tsebrokhn di shtib,
farbrent mayn mishpokhe vus ikh hob azoy lib.

Where is my street? Where is my house?
Where is my family that I onced loved?
The street is no more.The house is broken.
Burned up is the family that I loved so much.

Vi zenen di zingendike, tantsndike kinder?
Vi zenen zey ale atsinder?
Tserisn, tseshtokn, tsetsoygn.
Der mamen, der mamen, der mamen in di oygn. 
Tserisn, tseshtokn, tsetsoygn.
Der mamen, der mamen, der mamen in di oygn.

Where are the singing, dancing children?
Where are they now?
Torn, stabbed and pulled apart 
in their mothers’, their mother’s eyes.

Vi iz di shil? mitn gildenem orn-koydesh?
Der shabes, der yontif? rosh-khoydesh?
Farbrent iz di shil, farbrent oykh di sforim;
fun gantsn shtetl, geblibn iz bloyz kvorim. 
farbrent iz di shil, farbrent oykh di sforim,
fun gantsn shtetl, geblibn iz bloyz kvorim. 

Where is the synagogue with the golden Holy Ark?
The sabbath? The holiday? The beginning of each month?
The synagogue is burned down, as well as the holy books.
Of the whole town, only graves remain. 

Gekumen iz der tug far nekume far dem blut
far yedern gesl, far yederer shtub. 
Ot iz der tug – azoy zet er oys.
Ober der khezbn, der khesbn iz tsu groys.
Ot iz der tug – azoy zet er oys.
ober der khezhbn, der khesbn iz tsu groys.

The day for revenge has come for this blood,
for every street, for every house.
The day has come – this is how it looks.
But the reckoning, the reckoning is too great.

געזונגען און באַאַרבעט פֿון מלכּה און יוסף לובעלסקי

רעקאָרדירט פֿון אַבֿרהם לובעלסקי, בראָנקס 1967

?וווּ איז דאָס געסעלע? וווּ איז די שטוב
?וווּ איז מײַן משפּחה, וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב
,נישטאָ שוין דאָס געסל, צעבראָכן די שטוב
.פֿאַרברענט מײַן משפּחה וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב
,נישטאָ שוין דאָס געסל, צעבראָכן די שטוב
.פֿאַרברענט מײַן משפּחה וואָס איך האָב אַזוי ליב

?וווּ זענען די זינגענדיקע, טאַנצנדיקע קינדער
?וווּ זענען זיי אַצינדער
,צעריסן, צעשטאָכן און צעצויגן
.דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען אין די אויגן
,צעריסן, צעשטאָכן און צעצויגן
.דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען, דער מאַמען אין די אויגן

?וווּ איז די שיל מיטן גילדענעם אָרון־קודש
?דער שבת? דער יום־טובֿ? ראש־חודש
.פֿאַרברענט איז די שיל, פֿאַרברענט אויך די ספֿרים
.פֿון גאַנצן שטעטל געבליבן בלויז קבֿרים

,געקומען איז דער טאָג פֿאַר נקמה פֿאַר דעם בלוט
.פֿאַר יעדערן געסל, פֿאַר יעדערער שטוב
.אָט איז דער טאָג ־ אַזוי זעט ער אויס
.אָבער דער חשבון, דער חשבון איז צו גרויס

“Kinderland, du tsoyberland” Performed by Gerry Tenney

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2021 by yiddishsong

Kinderland, du tsoyberland / Kinderland, You Magical Land 
A Yiddish summer camp hymn 
Music: Albert Bitter, Words: M.A. Suhl (Yuri Suhl, 1908 – 1986) 
Sung & Recorded by Gerry Tenney, May 2021  

Gerry Tenney

(Spoken)  
Eyns, tsvey, dray, fir                       One, two, three, four 

Kinderland, du tsoyberland.   Kinderland, you magical land 
Unter himlen fraye.                        Under the open skies 
Mir kumen zikh do opruen,          We come here to rest,            
Shtarkn un banayen.                    To be strengthened and renewed. 
Oy, kinder, kinder, kinderland.      Oy, children, children, children –land 
Far kinder a gan-eydn                  For children it’s a paradise.  
Mir shpiln zikh, mir lernen zikh.  We play, we learn 
Mir lebn do in freydn.                   We live here peacefully 
Oy, kinder, kinder, kinderland       Oy, children, children, children-land 
Far kinder a gan-eydn                  For children, it’s a paradise.  
Mir shpil zikh, mir lernen zikh.    We play, we learn. 
Mir lebn do in freydn.                   We live here peacefully 

There is second verse to this song, which according to Tenney was rarely sung.  

Mit zun un feld un fraye nakht.      With sun and field and free nights 
Du bist undz azoy tayer                  You are so dear to us.  
Freylekh munter zingt dos lid         Happy, boldy sing this song, 
An arbets lid a nayer                       a labor song, a new one.           

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Camp Kinderland is a summer camp, today in Tolland, Massachusets. It was founded in 1923 in New York by leftist unions. Several generations of Jewish children from NY and surrounding regions were raised there with a love for Yiddish song and culture. Kinderland has evolved since then and here is the current link to the camp.

A link to the songbook of Kinderland, 1954, which includes the Yiddish and English transcription of this and many other songs can be found here. We hope to present more recordings from this songbook.   

Gerry Tenney is a leading figure in the Yiddish cultural world in the Bay area. He writes about himself: 

I was born in a Yinglish speaking family in the Bronx. Yiddish  was all around me as we lived in the same building as my bubi and zeydi. Although I was not raised in linke krayzn [leftist circles], I found my way there in the late fifties and early sixties. I graduated from the Hekherer Kursn [high school level] and taught in the elementar shuln in Queens. From 1963 -1968 I was a counsellor and group leader at Camp Kinderland. I have  remained active in camp activities and went back there to teach music many times. My son Noah also attended camp. In California I was the co-founder of East Bay Kindershul, leader of California Klezmer, and the President of KlezCalifornia. I am currently working on the Beregovski translation project.

We would add to this short bio, that Tenney together with Betty Albert-Shreck produced a popular Yiddish recording for children “Let’s Sing a Yiddish Song/Lomir zingen a yidish lid.” 

This is one of three Camp Kinderland hymns according to Tenney, and though there is at least one recording with a second verse, Tenney remembers only singing one.  Bitter and Suhl also together composed the humorous children’s song “Poyzn ayvi” [ Poison Ivy] which can be heard on the recording “Let’s Sing a Yiddish Song” 

You can hear other Kinderland alumni sing the song at this link

We invite readers of the blog to send in recordings of songs from their Yiddish camps. There are many that have never been recorded and are unknown to the larger Yiddish world.  

“Kinder kumt der friling ruft” Performed by Harry Mervis

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2021 by yiddishsong

Kinder kumt der friling ruft / Children come, Spring calls
Sung by Harry Mervis, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg, Baltimore, 1979. From the Jewish Museum of Maryland collection.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman and Peter Rushefsky

Jewish Museum of Maryland

Kinder kumt as sung by Harry Mervis. 

Kinder kumt, der friling ruft
Blo der himl, klor di luft.
Shmekn zis di frishe blumen
un di taykhlekh freylekh brumen.
Leyft [loyft] in frayen feld.

Children come, Spring calls.
Blue the sky, clear the air.
Smell the fresh flowers
and the rivers gaily roar.

Hert, di feygelekh zingen,
flien heykh [hoykh] un klingen,
Helft zey, kinderlekh, shpringen.
Leyft in frayen feld. 

Listen to the birds sing,
flying high and resound.
Help them, children, to jump.
Run in the open field.

Kinder yetst iz ayer tsayt,
S’iz sheyn bald nor gor nit vayt.  
Er makht gel di grine bleter
Er makht di zise bleter,  
azoy on a sof.          

Children now is your time.
It is soon not far. 
He makes the green leaves yellow. 
He makes the sweet leaves.
Thus without end.   

Kinder aylt zikh unter,
Zayt zikh freylekh, munter.
Vayl der langer vinter
varft af alemen a shlof.

Children hurry yourselves.
Be happy and brave
because the long winter
throws on everyone a slumber.

COMMENTARY BY ITZIK GOTTESMAN

The lyrics to the song are by Mordkhe Rivesman (1868 – 1924), the same author of such songs as “Haynt is Purim Brider” and “Khanike Oy Khanike”.  the melody is almost always referred to as “a folk melody”. The first printing of the song that I have found is in Z. Kisselgof’s  collectin Lider-zamlbukh far der yidisher shul un familye, 1912There it is called “Kinder kumt der friling ruft”. It was also called “Likhik iz Gots velt”. Yiddish music archivist Robert Freedman remembers singing this song in his Chaim Nakhman Bialik Folk Shul and from memoirs it is clear that the song was also popular in Zionist circles in Eastern Europe. 

Recently singer, composer and choir director Polina Shepherd has revived the song. She newly arranged and recorded the song with her London Yiddish Choir and Chutzpah choir. Here is a link to that performance.

Shepherd also printed the music and original words at this link.

The song was translated into Hebrew by the Israeli Yiddish scholar Dov Sadan and can be found at this link in the website Zemereshet. זמרשת

The original lyrics by Rivesman in Yiddish has been scanned form  Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamelbukh, St. Petersburg 1912 and are attached below.

We know of one recording of the song on the album Ilamay Handel Sings Portraits of Jewish Live in Song.

COMMENTARY ON THE MUSIC BY PETE RUSHEFSKY

The song uses a variant of a Hasidic-flavored melody recorded by Belf’s Romanian Ensemble for the Syrena record label as “Nakhes fun Kinder”. The melody was also recorded as part of a suite by the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia-based Lepiyansky Family of tsimbl (dulcimer) players and released on the Soviet MusTrust label.

Let’s take a closer look at the Belf version, which presents this beautiful melody in its fully-rendered form. The instrumental version of the piece is best known for its syncopated melodic gesture beginning with a rest on the first beat (a rhythmic device seen in many Hasidic nigunim):

However, the song version from Rivesman simplifies the melody, substituting four quarter notes for the first measure.

Composed in the freygish/Ahava Raba scale, the first section sets up the mode by emphasizing the first and then third degrees, repeating the phrases to create a sense of gravity. The second section switches to a call-and-response form to expand the melodic range to the fourth and fifth degrees, and hints at what will come in the final section with a quick reach up to the octave. Finally the third section lifts the melody to its climax (known in Arabic music as the “awj”) with three beats on the octave, initiating a lovely four-part walk down the freygish scale that continues into the mode’s subtonic range before resolving back up to the tonic.

There is an interesting difference between the Mervis version and the better-known version that Shepherd’s choir performs. The second section of Mervis’s version of “Kinder kumt” (starting with “Hert, di feygelekh zingen”) is reminiscent of the second section of the Belf “Nakhes fun Kinder”. In contrast, the second section of Shepherd jumps immediately up the octave like the third section of Belf. Perhaps Mervis (or whomever he learned his version from) was aware of the full melody ala Belf, and chose to sing it this way. Or possibly the variant is a result of confusion between the two melodies.

As I was contributing to this post, the wonderful Yiddish singer Eleonore Weill happened to be over giving my son Gabriel his weekly piano lesson. She graciously agreed to record herself performing the song on my iPhone (recorded April 6, 2021 in Brooklyn):

Lyrics by Rivesman published in Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamelbukh, St. Petersburg 1912:

“Er hot di zakh gut gemakht” Performed by Tuba Shvartz-Khatinsky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2021 by yiddishsong

Er hot di zakh gut gemakht / He did it well
A Yiddish Cheer sung by Tuba Shvartz-Khatinsky, recorded by Sarah Faerman, Toronto 1991

“Recess at a Talmud Torah” from Photographing The Jewish Nation: Pictures Form An-sky’s Ethographic Expeditions

Er hot di zakh git gemakht,
git gemakht, git gemakht
Mir hobn im nisht oysgelakht
nit oysgelakht!

He did it well, did it well,
did it well.
We didn’t mock him,
We didn’t mock him. 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Tuba Shvarts Khatinsky was born in 1927 in Telenesti (then Romania, today Moldova) and then lived in Keshenev, (today Chisinau). Sarah Faerman recorded her in 1991 in Toronto where they both lived. Thanks for this week’s post to Sarah Faerman. 

“Senderl (Ayzikl) mayn man” Performed by Rose Serbin and Bella Cutler

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2020 by yiddishsong

Senderl (Ayzikl) mayn man / Sender (or Ayzikl) My Husband
Two versions Sung by Rose Serbin and Bella Cutler
Ruth Serbin recorded by Ruth Rubin in Patterson, New Jersey, 1956, from Ruth Rubin Archive at the YIVO Sound Archives. Bella Cutler recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1988, in Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home, Bronx

Bella Cutler version:

Rose Serbin version: Click here to listen to the Rose Serbin recording (at the Ruth Rubin Archive).

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Research into the one verse remembered by Bella Cutler (from Bolokhov, Galicia, today Bolekhiv, Ukraine) led me to a printed version of the song with music entitled “Senderle [sic] mein Man” in the collection Jewish Folk Songs from the Baltics: Selections from the Melngailis Collection edited by Kevin C. Karnes, 2014. (Scans attached – Karnes 1,2). According to Karnes, Melngailis possibly heard the song in Keidan (today Lithuania, Kedainei) in 1899. 

The innkeeper and his wife in Suchestaw, Eastern Galicia. (YIVO)

In the Ginsburg and Marek (GM) collection of 1901, Yidishe folkslider fun rusland, there are two versions, # 305, #306, one with 8 verses from Kaunas; one with 4 verses from Minsk.

In Der pinkes, ed. Shmuel Niger, Vilna, 1913, there is a version in the collection “Folklsider” of L. B-N  [Leyvi Berman].

Rose Serbin (1890 – 1974)  was born in Bohopolye, Podolia, Ukraine. In the Ruth Rubin Archive this song is entitled “Vi vel ikh nemen”.

All evidence indicates that it originates in Lithuania or other countries “up north”. Of the six versions of the song (all from the 19th century), three were written down in Lithuania, one in Belarus, one in Galicia, one in Ukraine. The important rhyme at the end of each verse “kroyn” and “aleyn” only rhymes in the “Litvish dialect” where “kroyn” is pronounced as “kreyn”.

The textual differences are also intriguing. Is the husband leaving? Is he dying? The question “Where should the wife get bread for the children?” is answered in four ways. In GM #306  and Serbin – “from the lord of the estate”,  in GM #307 “at the stall”, in Karnes “at the store”, in Berman ” from the baker”.

Serbin’s version is the most satisfying, not only because she is such a wonderful singer, but also because it ends with a wedding which is where many folk narratives conclude. 

Thanks for help with this week’s blog to: Paul Glasser, David Braun, Arun Viswanath, Philip Schwartz, Michael Alpert, Sergio Lerer and YIVO Sound Archives.

RUTH SERBIN: Transliteration and Translation

Oy, vi vel ikh nemen mayne kinderlekh oyf broyt,
Senderl mayn man?
Vi vel ikh nemen mayne kinderlekh oyf broyt,
Senderl mayn man?

Baym purits mayn tayer vaybele,
Baym purits mayn tayer taybele,
Baym purits, mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn. 

Where will I get bread for my children,
Senderl my husband?
Where will I get bread for my children
Senderl my husband?

From the lord of the estate, my dear wife.
From the lord of the estate, my dear dove.
From the lord of the estate, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone. 

Bam purits iz du hintelekh,
Senderl mayn man?
Bam purits iz du hintelkeh,
Senderl mayn man?

Mit a shtekele, mayn tayer vaybele,
Mit a shtekele, mayn tayer taybele,
Mit a shtekele, mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn.

On the lord’s estate there are dogs,
Senderl my husband.
On the Lord’s estate there are dogs
Senderl my husband.

With a stick, my dear wife.
with a stick, my dear dove.
with a stick, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone.

Mit veymen vel ikh firn mayne kinderlekh tsi der khipe,
Senderl mayn man?
Mit veymen vel ikh firn mayne kinderlekh tsi der khipe
Senderl mayn man?

Aleyn, mayn tayer vaybele
Aleyn, mayn tayer taybele
Aleyn mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn. 

With whom shall I lead my children to the marriage canopy,
Senderl my husband?
With whom will I lead my children to the marriage canopy
Senderl my husband?

Alone, my dear wife.
Alone, my dear dove.
 Alone, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone.

Bella Cutler’s version: translation and transliteration. 

Vos veln mir geybn di kinder esn,
Ayzikl mayn man?
Vos veln mir geybn di kinder esn,
Ayzikl mayn man?

Broytenyu mayn vaybele
Broytenyu mayn taybele
Broytenyu mayn kroyn 
Du veyst dos shoyn aleyn.

?סענדערל מײַן מאַן/ וווּ וועל איך נעמען
געזונגען פֿון ראָוז סערבין

,וווּ וועל איך נעמען מײַנע קינדערלעך אויף ברויט
?סענדערל מײַן מאן
וווּ וועל איך נעמען מײַנע קינדערלעך אויף ברויט
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,בײַם פּריץ מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,בײַם פּריץ מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,בײַן פּריץ מײַן טײַער קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

בײַם פּריץ איז דאָ הינטערלעך
.סענדערל מײַן מאַן
בײַם פּריץ איז דאָ הינטערלעך
.סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

,מיט וועמען וועל איך פֿירן מײַנע קינדערלעך צו דער חופּה
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן
,מיט וועמען וועל איך פֿירן מײַנע קינדערלעך צו דער חופּה
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,אַליין, מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,אַליין, מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,אַליין, מײַן טײַערע קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

 Jewish Folk Songs from the Baltics: Selections from the Melngailis Collection edited by Kevin C. Karnes, 2014:

Ginsburg and Marek Yidishe folkslider fun rusland, 1901 # 305 and #306, one with 8 verses from Kaunas; one with 4 verses from Minsk:

Der pinkes, ed. Shmuel Niger, Vilna, 1913, in the collection “Folklsider” of L. B-N  [Leyvi Berman]:

Harry Boens & Nathan Hollandar’s Song “Di Shpanishe kholere” Performed by Cantor Sam Weiss

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2020 by yiddishsong

Di Shpanishe Kholere / The Spanish Contagion
Lyrics by Harry Boens (Bennett), Music by Nathan Hollandar.
Performance by Cantor Sam Weiss.

Commentary by Cantor Sam Weiss

Around 15 years ago my friend Michael Bennett discovered his grandfather’s name (see Michael Bennett’s post about his grandfather, Harry Boens / Bennett) listed as lyricist on a piece of Yiddish sheet music about the 1918 Spanish flu. As there were no extant recordings or performances of the song, in 2010 he emailed me to see if I could arrange to get it recorded. I glanced at the lyrics and was quickly captivated by their colloquial directness and interesting vocabulary. In short order I printed out the file, placed the sheets on my electronic keyboard, ran through the song, and emailed the mp3 to Michael.

Image courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

The song remained our private little adventure until COVID-19 reared its head and Michael reached out to me again: “…Maybe it’s an appropriate time to release to the public your rendition of my grandfather’s lament.” I hesitated, not really thinking of that quick take as a “performance, “and his idea remained dormant. Right before the High Holidays, however, it occurred to me that the Yiddish Song of the Week website would be an appropriate vehicle for sharing this gem, and Itzik Gottesman agreed to host it along with Michael’s back story on his grandfather.

Cantor Sam Weiss by Robert Kalfus

As the song is equal parts humor and pathos, I adopted a theatrical singing style along with the “stage Yiddish” dialect suggested by the printed notation. The initial sound in the Yiddish word for “Spanish” is clearly intended to be pronounced “S” rather than “Sh,” being spelled here with a samekh in place of the standard shin, and that is how I sang it.

In the case of the word for “heart” I vacillated between the standard pronunciation harts and the printed word hertz. In these two cases the transcription reflects standard Yiddish spellings rather than the pronunciations heard on the recording; the remaining words are transcribed as sung. Although the notation indicates a repeat of the final phrase in the verses, these repeats were skipped in verses 3-6.

I was struck by an interesting word that occurs three times, neveyre, which I have translated as “plague.” Strictly speaking neveyre is simply the colloquial version of aveyre, meaning “sin” (the “n” resulting from conflating the two words an aveyre), but in this context neveyre implies a divine punishment that may have come about as a result of our sins. Although I have yet to find this particular meaning in any Yiddish dictionary or thesaurus, the usage is amply supported by Jewish lore from the Ten Plagues onwards. The song itself, moreover, expresses a plea for God’s compassion (to reverse the punishment, as it were) as well as the darkly comical idea of the Spanish flu as Woodrow Wilson’s vengeance for Germany’s role in World War I.

The title word kholere is especially noteworthy. Unlike the English word “cholera,” it has a much broader connotation than any specific type of illness. Indeed, the technical name of the disease appears only on the Yiddish lyrics back cover page as the title—but nowhere in the song—as Di Shpanishe influentsiye. In verse 5 kholere appears unmodified by Shpanishe; I therefore translate it as “contagion.” Kholere is found in a great number of Yiddish curses where the speaker is not particularly concerned with which krenk befalls the victim, as long as it is grueling and punishing. Indeed “punishing” is the word’s operative intention, as in the case of neveyre. Note the antiquated spelling of the word on the title page with a khes instead of the standard khof. This older Yiddish orthography hints at a presumed Hebrew origin, as if kholere were a retributive disease related to kadokhes (biblical kodokhas), which is always spelled with a khes. The back cover lyrics are below.

TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION by Cantor Sam Weiss

1. Ikh gey mir arim in strit fartrakht
Say bay tug in say bay nakht.
In mayn hartzn kokht dus blit,
Ze’endik vi mentshn faln in strit.

REFRAIN:

Vayl di gantse velt iz yetst in trobl,
In yeder eyner zikht dem knobl.

I walk the streets deep in thought,
Be it day, be it night.
The blood is seething in my heart
As I watch people collapsing in the street.

REFRAIN:

Because the whole world is now in trouble,
And everyone is searching for garlic.

2. Mentshn zitsn in hoyz mit der neveyre,
Zey hobn moyre far der Shpanisher kholere.
Nemt mayn edvays in seyft zikh fin dem trobl,
Trinkt a glezl vayn in est dem knobl.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Everyone is stuck at home with this plague,
They’re all afraid of the Spanish flu.
Take my advice and save yourself from trouble,
Drink a glass of wine and eat some garlic.

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

3. Der Daytsh iz oykh a groyser diplomat!
Er hot gevolt farnikhtn di velt vi a rats;
Wilson hot ober genimen zikh di ere
In geshikt dem Daytsh di Shpanishe kholere.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

The Germans are some diplomats…
Seeking to destroy the world as if it were a rat;
But Wilson stepped right up
And sent the Germans the Spanish flu!

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

4. Sobveys, kars, gepakt oykh fil mit mentshn;
Ikh bet bay dir, oy Got, di zolst indz bentshn!
Nem fin indz oykh di neveyre
In hit indz up fin der Shpanisher kholere.

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Subways, cars, all packed with people;
I beg you, God, please bless us!
Remove the plague from us too,
And shield us from the Spanish flu.

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

5. Barbers loyfn arim azoy vi di nyankes;
Fin hoyz tsi hoyz shteln zey ayedn bankes.
Zey aleyn trugn arim di neveyre;
Zey danken Got es halt on di kholere!

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Barbers scurry about as if they were nurses,
From house to house, with cupping glass treatments;
They themselves are carriers of the plague,
Thanking God that the contagion perseveres!

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

6. Mikh tsi hern zingen is nisht kayn vinder;
Mentshn, past nor oyf of ayere kinder.
Di froyen in Eyrope zenen geblibn vi ofn yakor,
In di mener in Amerike brenen vi a flaker

REFRAIN: Vayl di gantse velt…

Don’t act surprised to hear me singing;
Folks, just watch over your children.
The wives are all marooned in Europe
While their husbands are ablaze in America

REFRAIN: Because the whole world…

Below images courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

Eliakum Zunser’s “Der aristokrat” Performed by Nathan Singer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2020 by yiddishsong

Eliakum Zunser’s “Der aristokrat”, Sung by Nathan Singer
Recorded in 1948.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 11.48.59 AM

Eliakum Zunser by Jacob Epstein, 1902

“Der aristokrat” was one of the most popular songs by the Vilna badkhn and composer Eliakum Zunser (1836-1913). It is the fifth Zunser song that we have posted on the blog.

The song is taken from a recording of the Singer and Nitzberg families which was done on a wire recorder in 1948 probably in Baltimore. Gertrude Singer Nitzberg transferred the recordings to tape in the 1970s and donated them to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Nathan Singer sings Zunser’s song in a “Litvish” dialect (“leyb” instead of “loyb”, “siml” instead of “shiml” for example). His version is remarkably close to Zunser’s printed orginal. The full text is 224 lines and was first printed in Eliakum Zunser’s collection  Tsen yidishe folkslider, Vilna, 1888. Singer sings only one verse – 16 lines.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 12.13.16 PM

Zunser’s 1888 collection Tsen yidishe folkslider

There are two recordings of this song and both are by professional singers, so this home performance with a simplified melody contrasts with theirs, and most likely reflects how it was sung among the folk. One recording is on a Folkways album Selected Songs of Eliakum Zunser featuring the singer Nathaniel A. Entin. The other recording is found on a 78 rpm record by Marcus Eisenberg called “Der aristokrat”, 1919.

The complete poem “Der aristokrat” tells of the trials and tribulations of a wealthy man who leaves the Jewish world to live among Christians but he is not wanted there. He ends up a happy man working the land in Petah-Tikvah, Palestine.

We are attaching the complete Yiddish text from volume one of The Works of Elyokum Zunser: A Critical Edition by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO, 1964 and the music from volume two of the same work.

TRANSCRIPTION and TRANSLATION OF NATHAN SINGER’S VERSION OF “DER ARISTOKRAT”

Fil dank ikh un leyb Gotes nomen,
er hot mir di eygn eyfgemakht.
Hot geshikt eyf mayn shtetl pogromen
Dos hot mir fun kholem ervakht…

Many thanks and praises of God’s name,
for he had opened my eyes.
He sent pogroms to attack my town
which woke me up from my dream. 

Ikh hob opgelebt a lebn in tuml,
fardorbn mayn kerper mayn zel.
Af mayn hartsn iz ongevaksn siml [shiml]
un mayn yidishkayt iz avek in der velt.

I have a life of unrest.
Ruined my body and soul.
Mold was growing on my heart
and my Jewishness got lost. 

Geveynt haynt mit fremde natsyonen,
mayne brider ferhast un ferakht;
Am ende hot men mir nit gevolt konen,
in di eygn var ikh oysgelakht!

I live today among foreign nations,
my brothers hated and despised.
Finally, no one wanted to know me,
I was mocked to my eyes. 

Fardorbn mayn vayb mayne kinder,
kayn ruikn lebn gehat,
kegn Got, kegn laytn a zinder –
kh’ob gevelt zayn an “aristokrat”. 

Ruined my wife and children,
no peaceful life have I had.
Against God, against man I have sinned.
I wanted to be an aristocrat.

“Der Aristokrat” in The Works of Elyokum Zunser: A Critical Edition by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO, 1964 (music from Volume 2, text from Volume 1):

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.28.58 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.05.55 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.06.21 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.06.52 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.10.20 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.11.41 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.11.59 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.16.00 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.16.08 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.22.50 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.23.04 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.23.42 PMScreenshot 2020-07-17 at 1.24.02 PM

“Tort un vayn” Performed by Tillie Fishman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2020 by yiddishsong

Tort un vayn / Cake and wine
A Yiddish version of Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky” sung by Tillie Fishman, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg , Baltimore, 1979

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is a Yiddish version of Joe Hill’s song “Pie in the Sky” originally called “The Preacher and the Slave”. Here is Cisco Houston’s version of the Joe Hill song.

Joe_hill002

Joe Hill

Joe Hill (1879 – 1915) was a labor activist , songwriter and member of the IWW – Industrial Workers of the World. He was executed for the murder of a grocer and his son in Utah, despite international protests and appeals for clemency. His memory has been preserved in the song “Joe Hill” which was recorded by Paul Robeson, Joan Baez, among others. 

Hill’s song was itself a parody of the Christian hymn “Sweet Bye and Bye” written in 1868. Here is country singer, Loretta Lynn with her version of the original hymn.

This Yiddish version of Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky” appeared in the songbook Mit gezang tsum kamf, songs composed and arranged by Jacob Schaeffer, 1932. Fishman sings two verses, but the songbook has five.  It does not say who translated or adapted the songs. We are attaching the music, the Yiddish text from that book, and including below a transcription of the longer version found in Schaeffer’s book. In Schaeffer’s collection the song is called “Der prister un der nar” (“The Priest and the Fool”). 

This recording is found in the Gertrude Nitzberg Collection at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. 

Did you know that Ethel Raim, Yiddish singer and teacher, founder and artistic director emeritus of CTMD,  composed a melody to “Joe Hill’s Last Will”? You can find it in the magazine “Sing Out!”, volume 11, #3, p. 29.

Special thanks with help for this week’s post to Emily Socolov.

TRANSLITERATION (Tillie Fishman’s version)

“Prist” un “preacher” haltn droshes umetum.
Vus me zugt undz, heyst men indz zayn frum.
Es mont der galakh un es shtroft der rov.
Zol shoyn nemen tsi di tsores a sof. 

Refrain

Me redt undz ayn es vet zayn. Es vet zayn.
In gan-eydn frishe broyt un vayn. Broyt un vayn.
Un dervayl shteyt in “line”. Es vet zayn
in gan-eyden tort un vayn; tort un vayn!

Fun dem eltstn biz dem klenstn kind,
vus me zogt im, zogt men as s’iz zind.
Es shtruft der galakh un es munt der rov.
Zol shoyn nemen tsu di tsores a sof.

Refrain

Me redt undz ayn es vet zayn. Es vet zayn
In gan-eydn frishe broyt un vayn. Broyt un vayn.
Un dervayl shteyt in “line”. Es vet zayn
in gan-eyden tort un vayn; tort un vayn!

TRANSLATION

Priest and preacher give speeches everywhere.
They are always saying that we should be religious.
The priest demands, the rabbi punishes.
May an end to our troubles come soon. 

Refrain

They assure us that there will be,
in heaven fresh bread and wine. Bread and wine.
In the meantime get in line. There will be
in heaven cake and wine. Cake and wine. 

From the oldest to the smallest child,
They are told that everything is a sin.
The priest punishes and the rabbi demands.
May an end to our troubles come soon. 

Refrain

They assure us that there will be, there will be,
in heaven fresh bread and wine. Bread and wine.
In the meantime get in line. There will be
in heaven cake and wine. Cake and wine. 

TRANSLITERATION OF SCHAEFFER VERSION

Pristers haltn droshes umetum
In Gots nomen heyst men undz zayn frum.
Laydn mir hunger, laydn mir noyt.
Viln mir esn, monen mir broyt.

Refrain:

Redt men undz ayn es vet zayn 
in gan-eydn frishe broyt un vayn
un dervayl shteyt in “layn”,
Es vet zayn in gan-eydn tort un vayn.

Eyder mir derzen a por sent
rayst men es oys fun undzere hent.
Prist un pritsher, yeder shvindler nemt
biz men tut undz oys dos letste hemd.

REFRAIN: Redt men undz ayn… 

Shafn far raykhe un nit far zikh.
Shteyt men in “layn” far der tir bay der kikh.
Fresn di raykhe, s’platst zey der boykh.
Volt men darlangt khotsh a bisl undz oykh.

REFRAIN: Redt men undz ayn…

Fun dem grestn biz dem klentstn kind
vos mir tuen af der erd iz zind.
Shtroft der galakh un es mont der rov.
un beshas mir tsoln undzer shtrof.

REFRAIN: Redt men undz ayn…

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Joe Hill’s “Pie in the Sky” in the songbook Mit gezang tsum kamf, songs composed and arranged by Jacob Schaeffer, 1932

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