Perhaps because of an advertisement in the Kolomey [Kolomyia, Kolomea – Eastern Galicia, today Ukraine] newspaper, young women came to the city and became street walkers. Any other interpretations of the first line of this song, which Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) says was created during the first world war, would be welcome. This recording of Lifshe was made by Leybl Kahn in 1954 in New York.
As part of YIVO’s I. L. Cahan Folklore Club Leybl Kahn recorded approximately 90 Yiddish songs from LSW in NY in 1954. This photo of Kahn is from the 1980s
Klezmer music scholar Prof. Martin Schwartz (Berkeley) remembers his mother from Brisk de Lite (Brest Litovsk, now in Belarus) singing this song, but about a “Bialistoker tsaytung” (newspaper from Bialystok) He also pointed out that the same melody, more or less, can be heard in the klezmer repertoire in Harry Kandel’s Odessa Bulgar.
Note: in the first verse LSW sings mistakenly “Arop fun dem shlekhtn veg iz zi” which means – “She went off the bad/crooked path”; the opposite of what she intended. I believe she meant to sing “Arop funem glaykhn veg iz zi” – “She went off the good/straight path”.
LSW: A pur lider vos me hot gezingen in krig.
LK: In der ershter velt-milkhome.
LSW: In der ershter velt-milkhume
LK: Gut, dos ershte lid…
Di kolomeyer tsaytung hot gebrakht a vabele
shpeyt bay nakht.
Gegangen iz zi
fun shpeyt biz fri
Arup fun dem shlekhtn [glaykhn] veyg iz zi.
Meydlekh in der ershter klas
geyen arim in der (h)intershter gas.
Hefker iz di velt atsind.
Tsi iz dus fayn? Tsi iz dus sheyn?
Biz shpeyt ba nakht arimtsigeyn?
Es iz nisht fayn; es iz nisht sheyn.
Dus iberike shtoyst zikh un aleyn.
LSW: A few songs that were sung in wartime.
LK: In the first world war.
LSW: In the first world war.
LK: the first song…
The Kolomey newspaper brought a young woman
late at night.
She walked from late to early morning
Off the straight path she went.
[LSW sings mistakenly “off the evil path she went”]
First class girls wander around in the back alleys.
The world is topsy-turvey now.
Is this fine? Is this nice?
To walk around till late at night?
It is not fine; it is not nice.
You can imagine the rest yourself.
Thisweek’s song was contributed by Bret Werb, Music Collection Curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Wurb interviewed and recorded Norman Salsitz singing in New Jersey in 2002 Khanele mayn lebn.The recording is provided courtesy of the USHMM Archives and used with permission.
As Mr. Salsitz explains in the introduction in English, the well-know songwriter Nokhem Shternheim, who was from the Polish Galician town of Rzeszow ( Rayshe in Yiddish) often visited and stayed with them in Kolbuszowa (Kolbushov in Yiddish). Mr. Salsitz believed that Sternheim composed this song for Salsitz’s sister, but it turns out to be a Mordkhe Gebirtig song “Khanele un Nokheml” that has been recorded by Chava Alberstein and Mike Burstein. Thanks to singer/collector Leo Summergrad who follows this blog for pointing out the correct composer.
For more information on Shternheim – 1879 – 1942 – and a collection of his songs see “Hobn Mir a Nigundl: We have a little tune: The Songs of the Yiddish Troubadour Nokhem Shternheim” edited by Gila Flam and Dov Noy, Jerusalem 2000. In any case it is interesting that Sternheim, apparently, sang songs by Gebirtig. There are added lines in Salsitz’s version that refer to her mother and father that do not appear in the printed Gebirtig version. Did Sternheim compose those?
The part B of the melody is the same as the part B of the song “Moyd fun Gas” (Girl of the Streets) written by Shloyme Prizament and can be found in his collection Broder zinger, Buenos-Aires, 1960. Arkady Gendler and “The gonifs” (singer Jeanette Lewicky) both recorded a version of “Moyd fun gas”.
The English transcription and translation of the song follows the singer’s version and dialect. We are attaching Gebirtig’s words in Yiddish and music as they appear in the book “Mordkhe Gebirtig zingt”, IKUF, 1963
Khanele mayn lebn
Sung by Norman Salsitz, recorded in New Jersey, 2002, by Bret Werb.
Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di man,
Ikh vil di zolst mir geybn
Dus reytsl tsu farshteyn (faryshtayn)
Ven di kimst af mayne zinen,
Meygn royshn di mashinen,
Un dus biglayzn vern kalt.
Hob ikh azoy lib in gern,
Shuen lang fin dir tsu klern.
Un tsu zen far mir dayn tayer lib geshtalt.
Numkheml mayn leybn,
Nukheml di mayn.
Ikh vil dir bald geybn dus reytsl tsu farshteyn.
Dos bavayst di host mikh gern.
Dokh _____[?} tsu klern.
Es vet kayn toyve zayn far mir.
Vayter nemen kh’vel dayne zinin.
Vest koym af broyt fardinen.
Un ikh vel hingern bay dir.
Khanele mayn leybn, khanele du mayn.
Vos iz dos far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.
Ikh red fun libe. In mitn drinen
kimste veygn broyt fardinen
Hot a libe shaykhes den mit broyt?
Ikh vays ven me libt a khusn
miz men af a mol zan entshlosn
tsi di greste oremkayt un noyt.
Nukheml, mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Aza hayse libe
ken ikh nisht farshteyn.
Ikh hob gehert fin mayn mamen ,
Mit di greste libeflamen
Hot der tate zi amol gelibt.
Dokh ven zay hobn noyt gelitn.
hobn zey zikh arimgeshlitn,
Tsi iz den aza libe nisht batribt?
Khanele mayn leybn, Khanele di mayn.
Vuz iz dus far an entfer?
Ikh ken dikh nisht farshteyn.
Tsi hosti libe shlekht farshtanen.
Dus hot kayn shaykhes mit dayn mamen.
Nor di host moyre far dem noyt.
Vil ikh koyfn tsvey mashinen,
Di vest helfn af broyt fardinen
Un farzikhert vet zan indzer broyt.
Nukheml mayn leybn, nukheml di mayn
Di host dikh yetst bakimen,
Ikh ken dikh shoyn farshteyn.
Di vest dort nisht bay mir oysfirn,
Ikh vel zikh nisht bay dir unrirn.
Shoyn genig geplugt zikh in genay.
Ikh vil fastriges mer nisht tsien,
Yungerhayt zikh nisht farblien,
Ikh vil lebn uin genisn fray.
Khanele mayn lebn, khanele di mayn.
Di host nokh azelkhe taynes,
Vus vet nokh shpeyter zayn?
Gelt, nukh gelt ,vesti bagern.
Mir dus leybn tsi fartsern
ven fardin ikh vel nisht azoy fil.
Du a het [?], un du af klayder,
In bin ikh dokh nor a shnayder.
Ikh zey s’vet zan a troyerike shpil.
Nukheml mayn leybn, Nukheml di mayn.
Di bist geveyn mayn khusn,
mayn man vesti nisht zan.
Khanele my dear,my Khanele
I want you to
explain this riddle for me.
When you come into my head
the machines may whirl,
and the pressing iron can get cold.
I so love and am so glad
to think about you for hours
and to see before me your dear, lovely self.
Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml,
I will soon
explain this riddle to you.
This shows how you are fond of me,
yet ___ to think of me.
It will not be doing me any favors.
If I further take your purpose –
you will barely earn enough for bread
and I will go hungry with you.
Khanele my dear, my Khanele,
what kind of answer is that?
I cannot understand you.
I speak of love and out of nowhere
you speak of earning enough for bread.
What does love have to do with bread?
I know that when you love a fiance
You must once and for all commit yourself in spite of
the greatest poverty and hardship.
Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
such passionate love
I cannot understand.
I heard tell from my mom:
with the greatest flames of love
did my father once love her.
Yet when they suffered hardship
they went from place to place [literally: sledded around]
Is not such a love a troubled one?
Khanele my dear, my Khanele
What kind of answer is this?
I don’t understand you.
Perhaps you have misunderstood love?
This has no connection to your mother.
But you are fearful of such poverty.
So I want to buy two [sewing] machines
so you will help earn our bread,
and thus ensured will be our income.
Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml.
You have made yourself clear.
I now understand you.
You won’t get me to do what you want,
and I won’t be touched by you
I’ve suffered enough by sewing.
I won’t sew any more basting stitches
and wilt away in my youth.
I want to live and enjoy freely.
Khanele my love, my Khanele.
You have such complaints,
what will be later?
Money, and more money is what you crave,
and you’ll devour me
when I don’t earn so much.
Here for a hat [?] and here for clothes,
but I am only just a tailor.
I see this will be a sad game.
Nokheml my dear, my Nokheml
I was indeed engaged to you
but you will not be my husband.
S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg (The Holy Days Have Arrived) is a song that takes place before Rosh-hoshone and Yom-kipper when it is a tradition to visit the departed family at the cemetery.
Photo courtesy of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
In the cemetery, a voice is heard of a recently deceased woman who died in childbirth, and she sings of her anguish about her new born child and her husband whom she loved.
S’iz gekimen di heylike teyg Ven me darf geyn af keyver-oves Az ikh bin gekimen in halbn veg Hob ikh mikh dermont in mane makhshoves.
Plitsem hert men a kol fin a frishn korbn. Fin a yunger kimpiturin. Vus iz ersht nisht lang geshtorbn.
Vi iz mayn yinger man? Ver vet im arimnemen? Vi iz mayn pitsele kind? Ver vet im zeygn gebn?
Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt Ven gehat hob ikh es [epes?] tsu krign. Az ikh dermon mikh in der tsayt Fin mayn man, fin mayn libn.
The holy days have arrived time to visit family in the graveyard When I was half way there, I remembered my ruminations.
Suddenly a voice is heard from a fresh victim: A woman who died in childbirth Just a short while ago.
Where is my young husband? Who will embrace him? Where is my little child? Who will breastfeed it?
When I am reminded of that time when I had what I wanted. When i think of that time, Of my husband whom I loved.
When one thinks about love songs in Yiddish, the vast majority are sung by unmarried girls who dream of the man they love and how wonderful life will be after the wedding. Few are the songs, such as this, in which the woman openly expresses love for her young husband. Lifshe Shaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) powerful emotional style matches the words perfectly.
In this case, the wife sings of her love from her grave and the song immediately reminds us of another song performed by LSW, Afn beys-olyem, also known as Di shtifmuter and originally penned by Mikhl Gordon.
In addition to this field recording of LSW made by Leybl Kahn in the Bronx, 1954, there are two other published versions of S’iz gekimen di heylike teg. One, collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe in Galica, does indeed take one verse taken from Gordon’s song. see Dov Noy and Meir Noy, Yidishe folkslider fun galitsye (Tel Aviv, 1971), page 110 – 112.
In Pipe’s version the song is strictly an orphan song and has a refrain.
The second version can be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s song collection, Baym kval – folkslider, Vilna, 1923 (page 81, song #22) and he calls it Di shtifmuter, the same title as Gordon’s song. This second version emphasizes the wicked step-mother who will mistreat the child.
A Polish Khad-gadyo
Sung by Mordkhe Schaechter
Recorded by Leybl Kahn in 1954 New York.
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman
Though not in Yiddish, we present this week’s short ditty in the spirit of celebrating the upcoming holiday of Passover and as a contrast to last week’s Yiddish Khad-Gadyo. This is either the beginning of a longer Khad-gadyo song or perhaps simply a children’s rhyme based on khad-gadyo.
Spoken by Mordkhe Schaechter:
„אַ פּויליש־ייִדיש פּסח־לידל פֿון מײַן מוטער, זוויניעטשקע, בוקעווינע”
A Polish-Jewish Passover song from my mother; Zvinyetchke, Bukovina
Words in Polish (thanks to Dr. Karolina Szymaniak and Dr. Agi Legutko who both sent in the Polish and translations)
Moj ojciec kupił za dwa dziengi, za dwa złote, ej-ha-hu, chad-gadju
My father bought for two zlotes, ey-ha-hu,
khad-gadyu. [one kid]
(as I understand it, “dziengi” is slang for “cash”, from Russian – IG).
Below are lyrics published in Yivo-bleter 1952, volume 36 page 370 (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pagefeed/hebrewbooks_org_43640_370.pdf), from a different Khad-gadyo in Polish from Sanok, Galicia. The commentary at the end also mentions a Ukrainian version. Readers – please let us know in the comments if you know of other Polish versions of Khad-gadyo.
Two Children’s Dance Songs from Eastern Galicia Sung by Mordkhe Schaechter
Recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, New York
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman
In memory of my uncle, the Yiddish scholar Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter (1927 – 2007), whose yortsayt was last week, we present two short children’s dance songs from Eastern Galicia, from the town known in Yiddish as “Yigolnitse” and today in Ukrainian as “Yahilnytsya” (also written at one time as “Jagielnica, Yagielnitse”), 6 miles from Chortkov.
A couple of words are unclear: “oltazhe” and “ketse” and David Braun and Janina Wurbs offered suggestions on these words and others. Some are footnoted at the end of the song. Any further clarification from our readers would be appreciated.
In the second song, Schaechter uses the girl’s name “Beyltsye”, his sister’s name, but one is supposed to insert any name at that point in the song.
About this second song one can honestly say – you lose much in the translation. It incorporates German words (Galicia was Austra-Hungary after all) perhaps for comic effect.
Leybl Kahn informs us in the recording that it was printed in an issue of the Seminarist (in the early 1950s) so once that is found, more information on the song might come to light.
Schaechter: This is a dance song from Yigolnitse.
[The boy sings] Hindele, hindele,
vus zhe klobsti blumen?
az der her vet zen
vet er dekh shlugn.
why do you gather flowers?
If the gentleman [herr] sees you,
he will beat you.
[The girls answers] Az der her vet zen, vel ikh mikh bahaltn, oyf der sheyner oltazhe* vel ikh mikh shteln knien.
If the gentleman sees me, I will hide. On the beautiful church altar, will I kneel down.
Kahn: Dos zingt dos meydele? The girl sings this [the second verse]?
Schaechter: Yo. (Yes.)
Kahn: Dos iz fun Yigolnitse, mizrekh-Galitsye? This is from Yigolnitse, Eastern Galicia?
Schaechter: Yo… dos iz nisht vikhtik…a Yigolitser mizrekh-Galitsyaner tantslid. Yes… whatever…..an Eastern Galician dance song from Yigolnitse.
Kahn: Dos lidl iz gedrukt inem “Seminarist”, aroysgegebn funem Yidishn lerer-seminar. This song was published in the “Seminarist”, published by the “Jewish Teacher’s Seminary”.
Dreyts mer of der ketse**, vayl di ketse klingt. Klingt shoyn “ya” vi a nar, Opgelebt zibtsik yar, Di zibtsik yar [h]erum, Beyltsye dreyt zikh um.
Turn [crank up] the ketse more, for the ketse rings/makes a sound It rings now “ja” [yes] like a fool. 70 years of life gone by, 70 years later Beyltsye turns around.
Di sheyne Beyltsye hot zikh umgekert, der keyser hot dem grestn vert. Dreyts mer of der ketse, vayl di ketse klingt. Kling shoyn “ya” vi a nar, Opgelebt zibtsik yar, Di zibtsik yar [h]erum”…
The pretty Beyltsye turned around. The emperor has the greatest worth. Turn [on] the “ketse” For the “ketse” rings/resounds. Now it rings with a “ja” like a fool,*** 70 years of life gone by, The 70 years …
Schaechter: Un azoy vayter, un azoy vayter. And so on and so forth.)
*Probably an altar in a Polish church [suggested by David Braun]
** Perhaps a basket from the German “Kötze” [suggested by Janina Wurbs]. If a basket, then perhaps “ketse” means a gramophone or music box? It makes sense in this context. [suggested by David Braun]
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.
In connection with my uncle Mordkhe Schaechter‘s (MS, 1927 – 2007) yortsayt a couple of weeks ago, I am featuring a short children‘s song, “Oy, kh‘bin gegangen eyns‟ (“Oy, I Went One”) that he sang for the collector Leybl Kahn in 1954. (see the earlier post of another song performed by him).
Mordkhe Schaechter at Yiddish Vokh, Circle Lodge, NY 1985.
Photo by Itzik Gottesman
A longer version of this cumulative song involving animals “Tsimba-rimba‟ was recorded on the CD Di grine katshke (Living Traditions 1801) in 1997 produced by Living Traditions. Lorin Sklamberg is the lead singer and according to the notes, he learned this song from “Inna Slavskaya, a Soviet immigrant singer now living in Berlin, Germany. Inna learned the song from her mother‟.
Unfortunately, MS only sings three verses because, as he says later in the recording for Kahn, he only wanted to make sure he got the melodies down before he forgot them, and wasn‘t concerned with the words.
It is possible that in a 1953-54 issue of Der seminarist, a journal of the Yidisher lerer-seminar in NYC, he printed all the words. I hope to find the issue and if the words are found, we will add them to the blog.