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“Di apikorsim” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Di apikorsim (“The Heretics”) was the first song that Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang for collector Leybl Kahn in NYC in 1954. He recorded approximately 100 songs sung by LSW over the next few weeks or months. LSW is my grandmother and the child one hears in the background is my then 4-year old sister Taube. At one point during her singing, she gets up and runs after her. The spoken dialogue between LSW and Kahn is transcribed in the Yiddish text.

In Shloyme Prizament’s book Di broder zinger (Buenos-Aires, 1960), he has a version of this song with the music on pages 110-112. He writes that he wrote the words and music, and states that Pepi Litman recorded it. There is indeed a recording of Pepi Litman performing the song. This book can now be read and downloaded at the Yiddish Book Center website.

Shloyme Prizament was born in 1889 in Hibinev, Galicia and died in Buenos-Aires in 1973; his biography appears in the third volume of the “Leksikon fun yidishn teater”, pages 1873- 1876. Prizament was an amazingly prolific composer, songwriter, but I am not convinced that he wrote the song that LSW performs. The more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that he based his song on the popular current version that LSW sings.

The song itself, a maskilic song mocking the Hasidim but sung in the voice of true believers, was a common genre. However, in Apikorsim the humor is quite vulgar. In songs such as “Kum aher du filosof” the irony is much more subtle. Ruth Rubin’s book Voices of a People has a nice section on maskilic songs (chapter 10). Rubin also prints Velvl Zbarzher’s song “Moshiakh’s tsaytn” (pp. 255 – 257) which is on the same theme as di apikorsim.

A couple of comments on the words and rhymes of Apikorsim: “Daytshn” literally means “Germans”, but in the Yiddish of the 19th century, early 20th century, it referred to the Maskilim, the Jews who were assimilating and dressing like Germans – that is, as modern Europeans.

You will also hear that in the refrain which begins “Folgts daytshn…” there is no rhyme for gikh. LSW sings sheyn. The implied rhyme should be rikh – the devil, and my mother remembers LSW singing it vet ir oyszen vi a layt or oyszen vi a rikh so i put those options in brackets. The listener would have understood the implied rhyme gikh and rikh.

Di apikorsim, di voyle-yingen
es vet in zey ale trasken lingen
zey veln ale tsepiket vern
ven zey veln shoyfer-shel-moshiakh derhern.

The heretics, those loose fellows, 
Their lungs will all rattle.
They will burst apart,
when they hear the shofar of the messiah.

Far kol-rom vet vern gehert
der rebe vet lernen toyre.
Di apikorsim veln faln tsu dr’erd
far shrek un far moyre.

Loudly for all, it will be heard
the rebbe will teach Torah.
the heretics will fall to the ground,
out of fear and alarm.

Folgts datshn mekh,
un verts khasidemlekh gikh.
Tits un a yeyder yidishe kleyder
vet ir oyszen sheyn [vi a layt] [vi a rikh]/

Listen to me Germans [assimilated Jews]
and become Hasidim quickly.
Each of you dress in Jewish clothes,
so you will appear – beautiful [vi a layt – presentable] [vi a rikh – like a demon]

Hop, hop, yadadada, yadadalakh
hop, hop, yah……hop, hop, yadalala

Hop, hop, yadadada, yadadalakh
hop, hop, yah……hop, hop, yadalala

Eyner vet esn tsimes-kigl,
eyner a shtikl beylik,
eyner dem kigl, un eyner dem fligl,
un di rebetsin – dos interkheylik.

One will eat a tsimes-kugl
another a piece of white chicken meat.
For one a kugl, for another a wing,
and for the rebetsin – the bottom part.

Mir veln pikn fun dem rikn,
mir veln nisht ofhern,
Di sonim veln shteyn fun der vaytns [un kikn,]
un tsepiket vern.

We will gnaw on the backside,
and we will not stop.
Our enemies will stand from a distance [and watch].
And burst from envy.

Folgst daytshn…..
hop, hop….

Listen to me Germans…
Hop, hop….

Eyner vet esn a tsimes-kigl,
eyner a shtikl beylik
eyner a fligkl, dem andern dem kigl,
un di rebetsin – dos interkheylik.

One will eat a tsimes-kugel
one a piece of white meat.
One a wing, another the kugel,
and the rebetsin – the bottom part.

Vayn vet rinen fun di stelyes
af der rebetsin aleyn veln vaksn drelyes,
Mir, heylike kushere khsidim
veln hobn vos tsu lekn.

Wine will flow from the ceilings,
grapevines will even grow on the rebbetzin.
We holy and kosher hasidim
will have what to lick.

Af deym bal, in deytm groysn zal,
talmidim, khsidim,
rabonim, dayonim
veln mit undz tantsn geyn.

At the ball,
in the great hall,
yeshiva-students, Jewish judges,
will all dance with us.

Hop, hop…

Hop, hop.

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“Kimt der shadkhn Shame” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Ordinarily, I would not include such a fragmentary performance in this blog, as this version of Kimt der shadkhn Shame (the name “Shame” is pronounced with two syllables “Sha-me,” rhymes with “mame”) performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW). But the investigation into the song is intriguing. I broadcast an earlier version of this research in Yiddish on the Yiddish Forward Radio Hour on WEVD seven or eight years ago. My commentary here will also be abbreviated.

At a yard sale in Monticello, NY, the heart of the Jewish Catskills, I bought several old Yiddish 78s including one with two songs by Leon Kalisch recorded in Lemberg 1905-06. Kalisch was part of the Lemberg Yiddish theater world revolving around „Gimpel‘s Teater‟ (see: Gimpel‘s grandson‘s website; Michael Aylwards forthcoming article on Gimpel‘s theater and Jewish recordings in Lemberg on his website; and the entry on Kalisch and Gimpel in the Yiddish theater Lexicon).

Leon Kalisch

Additionally, Kalisch‘s songs and other Lemberg Yiddish singers are featured on Gerda and Franz Lechleitner‘s „phonomuseum‟ website. When I heard Kalisch sing „Der schames‟ I immediately recognized LSW‘s song:

 The 78 record label indicated that Der schames originated from the Yosef Lateiner (1853-1935) play Der seder, and I fortunately was able to buy a copy but did not find the song in the text. I donated the 78s I bought at the yard sale to Lorin Sklamberg at the YIVO sound archives and he transferred them to CD for me and he turned me onto other recordings with what I call the „Lena From Palesteena‟ melody-motif. By this I mean the melody of the phrase “Lena is the Queen of Palesteena just because she plays the concertina.”

The popular 1920s song „Lena from Palesteena” was written by Con Conrad and J. Russel Robinson, and first recorded with words by Eddie Cantor in 1920. Here is a great old version by Frank Crumit:

On page 81 of his book Klezmer! Jewish Music from Old World to Our World, Henry Sapoznik connects the melody to the klemzer tune Noch A bisl played here by accordionist Mishka Ziganoff in 1921. 

Lorin Sklamberg identified the Romanian language recording Colo’n Gradnita (There in the Little Garden) performed by S. Bernardo, no date, recorded in Bucharest, with only piano accompaniment. Bernardo is a great singer, obviously Jewish and includes “Oy veys” and some other Yiddish words:

Sklamberg also found a recording of a young Aaron Lebedeff singing the song Tate ziser (Syrena 12560) recorded in Europe (Warsaw?), no date but probably the late 1910s, (and no relation to the klezmer tune by that name recorded by several bands). Lebedeff is clearly riffing off Bernardo’s earlier recording:

Finally, Sklamberg dug up Simon Paskal’s Eppess noch, with words by Louis Gilrod, recorded in New York, 1913 – A typical comical Yiddish theater song about American Jewish life, with emphasis on food (Noch a bisl, Eppess noch – there seems to be a theme emerging).

There is much more to write about the musical reincarnations of the „Lena from Palesteena‟ motif, and I believe Prof. Martin Schwartz of Berkeley and others can play Greek, Turkish and other people‘s variants of this motif on recordings. It seems to be assumed that the Yiddish use of it came after the Romanian, but the Kalisch recording is the earliest I have found.

Back to LSW‘s song and its connection to Der Schames as sung by Kalisch. The rare rhyme „brie‟ and „Ishes tsnie‟ appears in both, so they are definitely related. Kalisch is about a shames (synagogue beadle); LSW‘s about a shadkhn named Shame. So the two lead characters are also too closely related phonetically to dismiss the notion the songs are from a single source. However, the narratives of the songs differ: LSW‘s Kimt der Shadkhn Shame is ultimately a maskilic song about the Hasidic rebbe, the “Datshn‟ (Germans – modernized Jews) and the „apikorsim,‟ the non-believers; while Kalisch‘s Der shames is clearly a theater song closely related to a play’s plot. In the song collection Der badkhn by (E)Luzer Bergman, Warsaw 1927, 1930, there is included a version that is obviously a variant of LSWs song, including the line about the „apikorsim.‟

LSW’s singing has been presented more than any other on this blog, but in Kimt der shadkhn Shame you can finally hear her perform a more upbeat comic song, even if the song is incomplete. Here is her rendition, recorded in the Bronx by Leybl Kahn in 1954 (the first chorus is incomplete– a long pause in the middle of the recording has been removed):

Kimt a shadkhn Shame
tsi mayn tate-mame
a shidikh hot er gur far mir. 

The matchmaker Shame comes
to my parents;
he has a match just for me. 

A meydl a groyse brie,
un di mame‘z an ishes-tsnie
shoyn in git, es ekt dekh di velt.

A girl, a wonderfully clever girl,
and her mother is a modest woman.
Fine and good – the world comes to an end.

Oy, oy, khotsh nem un gib im shoyn shadkhones-gelt
sheyn in git, es ekt dekh di velt.

Oy, give him the matchmaker‘s fee right away,
Fine and good, the world comes to an end.

[The chorus is incomplete due to a break in the recording]

Kimt a datsh, a higer
tsu mayn fliaskedrige,
a tshive vil er fin im aroys.

A local modern, enlightened Jew,
comes to my unsightly person,
and wants an answer from him, straight away.

Er iz a raykh kind,
un far zayne zind,
batsuln vil er mit a pidyen a gitn.

He is a wealthy child,
and for his sins,
he wants to pay a high fee to the Hasidic rabbi

Oy, oy, vi kent ir dus gor  farshteyn?
Tsitsekikn dem rebns mine, 
ven se brent af im di shkine. 
Apikorsim, vi kent ir dus farshteyn?

Oy, oy, how could you understand this?
To look upon the Rebbe‘s countenance,
when the Divine Presence burns on him;
Apostates! How could you understand.