Archive for czar

“Bin ikh mir geshtanen” Performed by Nochem Yood

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2018 by yiddishsong

Bin ikh mir geshtanen / I was standing there
A 19th century “khaper” song from Czarist Army
Sung by Nochem Yood

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This 19th century song describes the khapers, the “catchers”  – the despised Jews who caught boys to fulfill the Jewish quota for the Czarist army. Apparently the “khapers” only existed from 1852 – 1855, but in folk memory they were active the entire time of Czar Nicholas l’s conscription program.

soldiers passoverJewish Soldiers at Passover Seder, 1902 (Zionist Archive)

The singer is the Yiddish poet Nochem Yood (Nokhem Yerusalimtshik (1888-1966). He was born in Bobr, Belarus and came to the United States in 1916. The recording was made in the 1950s or early 1960s but he had sung this same song for the folklorist I. L Cahan in the 1920s and Cahan published it in the volume Pinkes 1927-1928 (New York) with no music. There the song was called Dos lid fun di khapers (The song of the khapers). It was reprinted, still just the lyrics, in I. L. Cahan’s Yidishe folkslider, YIVO 1957, page 373-374 (scans are attached below). For that version Nochem Yood sang eighteen verses; here he sings eleven verses.

Nochem YoodNochem Yood 

The other voice on the recording, clearly a landsman from Bober who tries to remember more verses, is for the time being unidentified.

There is a version with music in the periodical Yidisher folklor # 1, NY, 1954, from the A. Litvin Collection at YIVO. Chana Mlotek wrote the commentary there and included information on other versions; some of them quite long.  A scan of that page is also attached.

It is interesting that Cahan did not include the “Ay-ay-ay” chorus in his version. The “Ay-ay-ay” chorus as heard in this Nochem Yood recording gives the song the feeling of a communal performance or a work song. Other versions do include a similar chorus.

Thanks with help for this post to Yelena Shmulenson, Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer.


[Bin ikh mir geshtanen] baym foter afn hoyf
her ikh a geshrey “Yungerman antloyf!”
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Bin ikh mir gelofn in a gertndl bald.
Biz ikh bin gekumen in a tifn vald.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Dray teg un dray nekht nit gegesn, nit getrunken
nor mit di eygelekeh tsu Got gevunken.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Gib ikh zikh a ker in der zayt
Ersht ikh derze a shtibele nit vayt.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Balebostitshke, balebostitshke efnt mir of di tir,
hot rakhmones un git a kuk af mir.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Eyder ikh hob nit tsayt optsubentshn
dan zaynen gekumen di khapermentshn.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Yidelekh vos zayt ir gekumen tsu forn?
Mir zaynen nit gekumen nokh veyts un af korn.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Ir zayt nit gekumen nokh veyts un af korn.
Ir zayt dokh gekumen af mayne yunge yorn.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Shtelt men mikh avek untern mos
un me git a geshrey “Molodyets, kharosh!”
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Beser tsu lernen khumesh mit Rashe.
Eyder tsu esn di soldatske kashe.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Beser tsu lebn in tsores un neyt
eyder tsu esn dem keysers breyt.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay


I was standing in my father’s yard
when I heard a yell “young man, run away!”
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

So I ran into a nearby garden,
till I came upon a deep forest.

Three days I didn’t eat, didn’t drink,
only winking with my eyes to God.

I  made a turn to the side
and before me stood a nearby house.

Lady of the house open up the door,
have pity and take a look at me.

Before I had time to finish saying the blessings,
the khapers had arrived.

Dear Jews why have you come?
We have not come for wheat nor for rye.

You have not come for wheat nor rye.
You have come for my young years.

They stand me up for measurement
and exclaim “Attaboy!, Well done!”

Better to learn Bible and Rashi
than to eat the soldier’s kasha.

Better to live with troubles and want
than to eat the bread of the Czar

From I. L. Cahan’s Yidishe folkslider, YIVO 1957, page 373-374:


Yidisher folklor # 1, NY, 1954, from the A. Litvin Collection at YIVO:

mlotek 1


“In dem vaytn land Sibir‟ Performed by Chana Yachness and Rukhele Yachness

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2013 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

It was very sad and shocking news to hear that Chana Yachness passed away on September 29th, 2013. She grew up in the leftist (“linke”) Yiddish circles of New York, loved Yiddish culture and was a wonderful link to that world. She was beloved by all and this week‘s contribution to the Yiddish Song of the Week is in her memory.

Chana and ted
Chana Yachness and her husband, Ted Haendel.
Photograph by Emily Socolov.

Her mother Rukhele Barak Yachness was a fine Yiddish singer and actress and in this recording (which I recorded in the Bronx, 1999) they sing together a revolutionary folksong In dem vaytn land Sibir that can be found in the volume of Moshe Beregovski’s writings and transcriptions edited by Mark Slobin, Old Jewish Folk Music (1982, see below). It‘s obviously not a perfect recording with bantering and joking – Chana sings the name of Yiddish actor “Maurice Schwartz‟ instead of “khmares shvarts‟, but it is the only recording I can find of the song. Their spirited interpretation gives one the sense of how a Yiddish revolutionary song used to be performed, especially by Jewish choruses.  Note that in the Beregovski volume there is a second verse; Chana and Rukhele sing the first and third.

Many of the Yiddish songs that are sung by di linke today, including In dem vaytn, were learned from the folk operetta  A bunt mit a statshke (A Revolt and a Strike) assembled from songs printed in Beregovski‘s song collection of 1934 by the choral leader and conductor Jacob Schaefer and critic Nathaniel Buchwald. This operetta was not only performed by the choruses of the time, 1930s, but in the Yiddish leftist camp Kinderland (at Sylvan Lake, Dutchess County, NY) where Chana no doubt learned it in the late 1940s and 1950s. See the recent documentary on Kinderland – Commie Camp

The West Coast musician Gerry Tenney had long planned with Chana Yachness to produce this operetta again; see Hershl Hartman‘s post on A Bunt mit a statshke on the email-list Mendele from 1997.

In the distant land Siberia
Where the sky is always covered by clouds,
I was banished there,
for one word – for freedom.
I was beaten with the whip,
so I would no longer say
“Let there be freedom – to hell with Nicholas‟

Soon will come the happy time,
Soon we will know from near and far,
that Russia is bright, that Russia is free.
“Let there be freedom – to hell with Nicholas‟