Archive for Germany

“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:

Badkhn Toyvye Birnbaum’s Improvisation of “Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2021 by yiddishsong

Badkhn Toyvye Birnbaum’s  Improvisation  of  “Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn”
Recorded in Brooklyn circa 1982 by Itzik Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Birnbaum sings the refrain of the popular song “Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn” and then improvises the verses in the tradition of a badkhn, the Jewish wedding entertainer. Birnbaum referred to these improvisations as “shtey gramen“, rhymes created at the moment, while standing. 

Toyvye (Tobias) Birnbaum was born in Nowy Sacz, Poland, (Yiddish = Tsanz) in 1916. I met him in 1981 in Brighton Beach, NYC in the street. I was was walking with Yiddish actor Zvi Scooler, and Birnbaum recognized Scooler and came over. When he told us that he was a badkhn in Eastern Europe, I took his phone number and we became friends. 

Toyvye Birnbaum, Collection of the Museum at Eldridge Street

The song “Yiddish redt zikh azoy sheyn” was written by Isidore Lillian and the music composed by Maurice Rauch. The original text and music were printed in the Mlotek collection Songs of Generations and we are attaching those scans. But it seems that just about no one sings the words as originally written. This is also reflected in this performance during which the guests sing along with different words.

Among those who have recorded this song are Ben-Zion Witler, Henri Gerro, Johnny Grey, and more recently Myriam Fuks, the Klezical Tradition, Clarita Paskin, Harold Goldfarb and Mirele Rozen. The texts of their versions vary, especially in the verses. Witler’s and Gerro’s versions were particularly popular and Birnbaum’s way of singing owes quite a bit to them. His punctuation of  the word “Yiddish” in the refrain is a nice touch.

Here is a link to Gerro’s version:

This song was recorded at a “fraytik-tsu-nakhts” (friday night, sabbath eve) at my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, approximately 1982.  Among the people at this event that I recall or can be hear are Michael Alpert, Joshua Waletzky, Zwi Kanar. One of Birnbaum’s rhymes refers to two Germans in attendance that evening who had come to study Yiddish (at YIVO/Columbia). I do not remember who that was. 

The Yiddish scholar Vera Szabo interviewed Birnbaum, and her papers and recordings are at YIVO. Klezmer musican and researchers Joshua Horowitz and Michael Alpert have also worked or interviewed with Birnbaum.

Thanks this week to Joshua Horowitz and Vera Szabo.

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn

Ikh gedenk di kinder-yurn,
sheyninke kinder-yurn.
In hartsn ayngekritst zenen zey bay mir.
Di yinge zikhroynes, di sheyne khaloymes
leygn in hartsn bay mir.

I remember my childhood
wonderful childhood. 
They are inscribed in my heart.
The memories of youth, the sweet dreams
lay deep in my heart.

Freyg ikh aykh tsi besers iz den farhan?
Ven di khaveyrim fun Itziklen kimen zikh tsuzam?
Men est, me trinkt, keyad hameylekh,
der oylem fraylekh.
Vil ikh aykh, zayt zeh azoy git,
Lernt aykh os dus lidele un zingt zhe mit mir mit.  Vus?

So I ask you, is there anything better?
When friends come together to Itzik’s place?
We eat, we drink, as if we were kings.
The people are happy.
So I ask you please,
learn this song
and sing along with me. What?

REFRAIN
Yidish redt zikh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing
Yidish redn ales
Zaydes, tates mames
Oy, adarebe, zug oyf goyish
“Git shabes”.
Yidish iz dekh azoy sheyn
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes, fun fremde zikhroynes.
Az yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.

Speaking Yiddish is so easy.
Yiddish is easy to pronounce.
Yiddish is spoken  by everyone
Grandfathers, fathers, mothers.
Just try to say in any foreign tongue – 
 “gut shabes” [good sabbath]
Yiddish is so beautiful
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
What do I need languages from other memories
When Yiddish sounds so sweet. 

Tsi iz den epes besers farhan,
ikh miz aykh zugn nokh a mol ven me kimt zikh tsizam, 
Durkh deym vil ikh aykh nisht dertserenen
un ikh vel aykh a lidele oyslernen
zayt zhet ale azoy git, lern akykh oys dus lidele
zingt zhe mit mir mit.

Is there anything better,
may I repeat, when we all get together?
With this I don’t want to make you angry
and I will teach you a song.
So please learn the song and sing along.

Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Yidish redn ales”
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zug af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes fun andere mikoymes.
Az Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in another language. 
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places. 
Yiddish sounds so sweet. 

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn
yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
yidish redn ales
zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
vus toygn mir leshoynes fun andere mikoymes.
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places.
When Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Oy az yidn redn yidish,
vus iz den du der khidesh?
yidish vet azoy sheyn klingen,
say bam redn, un shener bam zingen.
Duz iz klur vi der tug.
Duz beyt’ ekh der batkhn 
un hert zhe vus ikh zug.

Oy, that Jews speak Yiddish,
what’s the big deal?
Yiddish will sound wonderful
both when you speak it, and evern more so when you sing it.
This is clear as day.
So the badkhn asks you
and hear what I say.

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Yidish redn ales,
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”.
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes
fin andere mikoymes?
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places, when Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Di gantse velt zugt az yidish hot azoy fil kheyn.
Ven yidish i’ nisht geveyn git, volt yidish nisht gekimen tsu Itziklen tsi geyn. 
Un nokh deym vil ikh aykh nisht dertserenen.
Ir mizt dokh hobn a fink fin yidish, vus ir vilt zikh yidish oyslernen. 
S’iz nisht keyn kharpe, s’iz nisht keyn shand.
Tsvay mentshn zenen gekimen zikh lernen yidish
azsh fin Daytshland. 
Nokh deym vintsh ikh aykh ale du, hatslukhe un a shir.
Dus letste zug ikh  zingt zhe mit mit mir.

The whole world says that Yiddish has so much charm.
If Yiddish weren’t good, then Yiddish would not come to Itzik.
And after all I don’t want to enrage you.
You must have a spark of Yiddish to want to learn it.
There’s no shame, no disgrace.
Two people came to study Yiddish
all the way from Germany.
So after all, I wish you all success without end.
For the last time, sing along with me. 

Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn. 
Yidish redn ales
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes
fin andere mikoymes?
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places, when Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Az ikh hob aykh du gezugt gramen
s’hot aykh afile farshaft a bisele tamen. 
Her zhe Itzikl tsi zikh tsi mayn shmis
der mentsh iz shoyn geveyn in der gantser velt
un oykhet in Pariz.
Lomir nor zan gezint in shtark. 
Men iz gekimen hern a yidishe drushele 
keyn Prospekt Park. 
Mit deym vil ale zugn aykhץ
Un zayt aykh matriekh
un dus lidele lernt zikh oys vus gikh.
Dus hob ikh ale simunim 
ven ir zingt yidish keyn-hore laytish
shaynt af ayer punim. 
Atsindert vil ikh aykh tsvingen
Dus letste mul, beyt ikh aykh, 
nokh a mol mit mir mittsuzingen.

And so I have said some rhymes here.
It even gave you some pleasure.
So listen Itzik to my converstion.
He has gone all over the world, and also Paris.
Let us all be healthy and strong.
People came to hear my talk to Prospect Park. 
And with this I say to you.
Please try to learn this song quickly.
For this I have all the signs:
when you sing Yiddish right, no evil eye,
your face shines. 
So now I demand of you all
to sing for the last time, I ask you,
to sing along with me. 

דער בדחן טובֿיה בירנבוים זינגט 
„ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין”
רעקאָרדירט פֿון איציק גאָטעסמאַן
 אין ברוקלין, אַן ערך 1982

.איך געדענק די קינדעריאָרן, שיינינקע קינדעריאָרן
.אין האַרצן אײַנגעקריצט זענען זיי בײַ מיר
די יונגע זכרונות, די שיינע חלומות
.לייגן [ליגן] אין האַרצן בײַ מיר
?פֿרעג איך אײַך, צי בעסערס איז דען פֿאַרהאַן
?ווען די חבֿרים פֿון איציקלען קומען זיך צוזאַם
,מען עסט, מע טרינקט, כּיד־המלך
.דער עולם פֿריילעך
,וויל איך אײַך, זײַט אַזוי גוט
לערנט אײַך אויס דאָס לידעלע און זינגט זשע 
?מיט מיר מיט.  וואָס

:צוזינג
.ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
ייִדיש רעדן אַלעס
,זיידעס, טאַטעס, מאַמעס
.אַדרבא, זאָגט אויף גוייִש  „גוט שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות, פֿון פֿרעמדע זכרונות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

.צי איז דען עפּעס בעסערס פֿאַרהאַן
.איך מוז אײַך זאָגן נאָך אַ מאָל, ווען מע קומט זיך צוזאַם
דורך דעם וויל איך אײַך נישט דערצערענען
.און וועל אײַך אַ לידעלע אויסלערנען.
,זײַט זשעט אַלע אַזוי גוט, לערנט אײַך אויס דאָס לידעלע
.זינגט זשע מיט מיר מיט

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

,אוי, אַז ייִדן רעדן ייִדיש
?וואָס איז דען דאָ דער חידוש
,ייִדיש וועט אַזוי שיין קלינגען 
.סײַ בײַם רעדן, און שענער בײַן זינגען
.דאָס איז קלאָר ווי דער טאָג
דאָס בעט אײַך דער בטחן
.און הערט זשע וואָס איך זאָג

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַנדערע מקומות,
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

.די גאַנצע וועלט זאָגט, אַז ייִדיש האָט אַזוי פֿיל חן
ווען ייִדיש וואָלט נישט געווען גוט, וואָלט ייִדיש נישט געקומען צו 
.איציקלען צו גיין
.און נאָך דעם וויל איך אײַך נישט דערצערענען
איר מוזט דאָך האָבן אַ פֿונק פֿון ייִדיש, אויב איר ווילט זיך
.ייִדיש אויסלערנערן

.ס’איז נישט קיין חרפּה, ס’איז נישט קיין שאַנד
צוויי מענטשן זענען געקומען זיך לערנען ייִדיש
.אַזש פֿון דײַטשלאַד
.נאָך דעם ווינטש איך אײַך אַלע דו, הצלחה אָן אַ שיעור
.דאָס לעצטע זאָג איך זינגט זשע מיט מיט מיר

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

,אַז איך האָב אײַך געזאָגט גראַמען
.ס’האָט אײַך אַפֿילו פֿאַרשאַפֿט אַ ביסעלע טעמען
.הער זשע איציקל צו זיך צו צו מײַן שמועס
דער מענטש איז שוין געווען אין דער גאַנצער וועלט
.און אויכעט פּאַריז
.לאָמיר נאָר זײַן געזונט און שטאַרק
.מען איז געקומען הערן אַ ייִדיש דרשהלע קיין פּראָספּעקט־פּאַרק
מיט דעם וויל איך זאָגן אײַך
טאָ זײַט איר מטריח
.און דאָס לידעלע לערן אויס וואָס גיך
.דאָס האָב איך אַלע סמנים
,ווען איר ייִדיש, קיין עין־הרע, לײַטיש
.שײַנט אויף אײַער פּנים
,אַצינדערט וויל איך אײַך צווינגען
דאָס לעצטע מאָל, בעט איך אײַך
.נאָך אַ מאָל מיט מיר מיטזינגען

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

From Eleanor and Joseph Mlotek’s, Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song (NY, Workmen’s Circle, 1995):

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.

“Mentshn zenen mishige” Performed by Max Bendich

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2020 by yiddishsong

Mentshn zenen mishige / People are crazy
A 1930s Yiddish parody of  “Three Little Fishies” sung by Max Bendich. Recorded by Aaron Bendich in the Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman and Aaron Bendich

TRANSLITERATION/TRANSLATION
Max Bendich version, in brackets are a couple of suggested grammatical corrections

Mentshn zenen meshige                             People are crazy
Zey zingen nokh [nor?] fin fish.                They sing still [only] of fish.
Ikh bin a tsedreyter                                      I’m a nutcase
Zing ikh fin a heyser [heysn] knish.         So I sing of a hot knish

A knish mit potatoes                                    A knish with potatoes
un a teler smetene.                                       and a plate of sour cream.
Lek ikh mayne finger                                   So I lick my finers
vi a kleyn ketsele.                                          like a little kitten.

Hey! Um-bum petsh im, patsh im, Hey! Um-bum hit him, slug him
Vey iz mir!                                                 Wow is me!
Zol of Hitler                                               May Hitler
vaksn a geshvir.                                       Grow a tumor.

Di college-boys ale                                   All the college boys
zey shlingen goldfish, na!                      are swallowing goldfish. Here!
Ikh vil a heyser [heysn]  knish,             I want a hot knish.
Ahhhhhh! [opens his mouth as if to swallow a knish]

מענטשן זענען משוגע
געזונגען פֿון מאַקס בענדיטש

מענטשן זענען משוגע
זיי זינגען נאָך [נאָר?] פֿון פֿיש
איך בין אַ צעדרייטער
.זינג איך פֿון אַ הייסער [הייסן] קניש

“אַ קניש מיט „פּאָטייטאָס
.און אַ טעלער סמעטענע
לעק איך מײַנע פֿינגער
.ווי אַ קליין קעצעלע

,היי! אום־בום פּעטש אים, פּאַטש אים
!וויי איז מיר
זאָל אויף היטלער
.וואַקסן אַ געשוויר

די „קאַלעדזש־בויס” אַלע
!זיי שלינגען גאָלדפֿיש, נאַ
.איך וויל אַ הייסער [הייסן] קניש.
אַאַאַאַאַאַ

Aaron Bendich comments:

Max Bendich as a child (lower right)

My zayde Max Bendich was born on March 25, 1915 in New York City to hardworking, politically active, recent immigrants from Podolia, Ukraine. He grew up on 136th Street between St Ann’s and Cypress Avenues in the Bronx. From a young age, he submerged himself in literature, cinema and music from innumerable world cultures, but he always favored Yiddish. 

In 1941 he met Dorothy Matoren, whom he married weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack. He volunteered to join the army and served in Europe until 1945, fortunately missing the worst horrors of war. Back in the Bronx, Max purchased a laundry business which he managed until his retirement in his early 60s. On June 26, 1969 Max was shot on his laundry route in Harlem, and by a miracle survived. 

Dorothy & Max Bendich

Fifty-one years later, at age 105, he’s alive and well in the Bronx, where he’s visited by a loving family of three children, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Every weekend for the past four years I’ve spent hours with my zayde, singing old songs, watching movies and talking about his life. This song about the 1930s goldfish-swallowing fad is the only song he’s sang for me that I’ve been unable to track down. Someday I hope to figure out where he got it from, but in the meantime I’m happy to consider it his mysterious contribution to a culture he loves so much.

Itzik Gottesman comments: 

This is a wonderful example of Yiddish-American folklore capturing perfectly the late 1930s fad to swallow goldfish and growing hatred for Hitler.

The song “Three Little Fishies” was first released in 1939, words by Josephine Carringer and Bernice Idins and music by Saxie Dowell. It was recorded by the Andrews Sisters, Kay Kyser, and the Muppets (it is often sung as a children’s song) among many others. Here is a version by Spike Jones:

Here are the lyrics to the original “Three Little Fishies”:

Down in the meadow in a little bitty pool
Swam three little fishies and a mama fishie too
“Swim” said the mama fishie, “Swim if you can”
And they swam and they swam all over the dam
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
And they swam and they swam all over the dam
“Stop” said the mama fishie, “or you will get lost”
The three little fishies didn’t want to be bossed
The three little fishies went off on a spree
And they swam and they swam right out to the sea
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
And they swam and they swam right out to the sea
“Whee!” yelled the little fishies, “Here’s a lot of…

No fish were harmed during the writing of this post.

“Of di grine felder/Dos fertsnte yor” – Two Performances

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2020 by yiddishsong

Of di grine felder/Dos fertsnte yor / On the green fields/The Year 1914

This week we are presenting two performances of this song:

1) Sara Nomberg-Przytyk (recorded by Wolf Krakowski, Way’s Mills, Quebec, Canada, 1986):

2) Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG), Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) and Jonas Gottesman (recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, 1954):

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

Though we have chosen to feature two versions of the song that begin “Of di grine felder, velder”, the song is also commonly known as “Dos 14te yor” with variants that begin with “Dos 14te yor is ongekumen, oy vey” (“The 14th Year Has Arrived”). Among the singers who have recorded versions of this song: Sidor Belarsky, Majer Bogdanski, Leibu Levin and more recently Michael Alpert, “Psoy and the Israelifts” and Lorin Sklamberg/ Susan McKeown.

Michael Alpert’s a capella version of the song can be heard here. Plus, below is a contemporary interpretation of the song by Psoy and the Israelifts titled “1914” found on YouTube:

In YIVO’s Ruth Rubin’s Archive there are field recordings by Martn Birnbaum, Chinke Asher and Hannah Rosenberg. In the volume Old Jewish Folk Music: The Collections and Writings of Moshe Beregovsky (Mark Slobin, U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982; Syracuse University Press, 2000) there are 7 versions with melodies!

The song became very popular over a wide area of Eastern Europe during and after the first world war. So popular that it was recalled with amusement in a chapter in B. Kuczerer’s [קוטשער] Yiddish memoirs of Warsaw Geven a mol varshe, (Paris, 1955). He begins the chapter on the 1914 German occupation of Warsaw in this way:

“The 14th year has arrived – oy vey!

And soon it [the song] enveloped everyone and everything as if by magic… Day and night. Wherever you go, wherever you stand. In every street, in every courtyard, in every corner.

Who sang it loudly to arouse pity. Who sang it quietly, for oneself, to get it off your chest. And everywhere the same song. Everywhere the same melody, the same moan, the same tears.

‘The 14th year has arrived – oy vey!'”  (p. 59)

But some versions of the song are about later years. In the Sofia Magid collection Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin, Basya Fayler sings about the “Dos akhtsnte yor” (“The18th year” p. 277 – 79). The linguist Prof. Moshe Taube remembers his father singing this song about “Dos 19te yor” referring to the Polish violence against Jews at that time (oral communication).

THE UKRAINIAN CONNECTION

This song can ultimately can be traced back to a Ukrainian song of the 1830s. In a review of a lecture by the Polish folklorist Jan Byston written by Max Weinreich, published in Yidishe filologye heft. 2/3, March-June, 1924, Weinreich refers to the first publication of this Yiddish song in the periodical Der Jude (n.1-2, April-May 1917 p. 123-124) in which the collector Anshl (Anselm) Kleynman remembers how in the trenches of 1914-1915 some Ukrainian soldiers sang their version, and Jewish soldiers heard it, translated it and it spread from there. In this lecture that Weinreich attended, Bystron pointed out that the song in Ukrainian was sung as far back as 1833.

Prof. Robert Rothstein found two versions of the Ukrainian song from 1834. He writes: “One stanza was found among Aleksander Pushkin’s papers, written on the back of a letter from Nikolai Gogol. Pushkin died in 1837.” He adds “It’s also known as Чорна рілля ізорана (Chorna rillia izorana – The Black Farm Field Has Been Dug Up). The reference is to the chornozem, the rich black soil of Ukraine.” [communication via email]

Inspired by the song, the Polish folk/death metal band Kryvoda uses a stark image of a crow on a dead soldier for their 2014 album entitled “Kruki”. Below you can hear their performance of Чорна рілля [“Chorna rillia”]:

The website “Yidlid.org” has written out a long version of the words in Yiddish, transliterated Yiddish, French and English and included the melody from Belarsky’s book

Longer versions can also be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s Yiddish folksong collection Baym kval pages 132-133 and Immanuel Olsvanger’s Rosinkess mit mandlen, 1920, pp. 259-261.

A note on the LSW/BSG version of “Oyf di grine felder, velder”: This is the only recording I have found which features my father, Jonas Gottesman (1914 – 1995), a physician born in Siret, Romania, singing along with Lifshe, his mother-in-law, and wife Beyle. He was a wonderful baritone singer and was the only one in the family who could harmonize, as can be heard on this recording.

Special thanks with help for this post to Wolf Krakowsky, Eliezer Niborski and Prof. Robert Rothstein.

TRANSLITERATION OF NOMBERG-PRZYTYK’s VERSION (Translation is on the video)

Of di grine felder un velder, oy vay, oy vay.
Of di grine felder un velder
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay

Shvartse foygl kimen tsi flien oy vay, oy vay.
kumt tsu flien a shvartser foygl
un dlubet im oys di bayde oygn, oy vay, oy vay
dlubet im oys di bayde oygn, oy vay, oy vay.

Ver vet nukh im kadish zugn oy vay, oy vay
Ver vet nukh im kadish zugn?
Ver vet nukh im vaynen un klugn oy vay, oy vay
Ver vet nukh im vaynen un klugn oy vay, oy vay

Of di grine felder un velder, oy vay, oy vay.
Of di grine felder un velder
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay

TRANSLITERATION and TRANSLATION OF LSW/BSG/JG VERSION

Of di grine, felder velder, vey, vey
Of di grine, felder velder,
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner, vey, vey,
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner, vey, vey.

On the green fields, woods, vey, vey!
On the green fields, woods
Lays covered with bullets a soldier, vey, vey
Lays covered with bullets a soldier, vey, vey

Kim tse flien shvartser foygl, vey, vey
kim tse flien shvartser foygl,
dzhibet oys bay im di oygn, oy vey.
dzhibet oys bay im di oygn, vey, vey.

Come fly here black bird, vey, vey
Come fly black bird
and peck his eyes out, vey, vey.
and peck his eyes out, vey, vey.

Sheyner foygl, shvartse vorone vey, vey
Sheyner foygl, shvartse vorona,
fli avek tsi mayn mame, vey vey,
fli avek tsi mayn mame, vey vey.

Black bird, black crow, vey, vey
Black bird, black crow
fly away to my mother, vey, vey.
fly away to my mother, vey, vey.

Zolst ir fin mayn toyt nisht zugn, vey, vey,
zolst ir fin mayn toyt nisht zugn,
anit vet zi nit oyfhern klugn vey, vey.
anit vet zi nit oyfhern klugn vey, vey.

Do not tell her of my death, vey vey
Do not tell her of my death
for she will cry and lament, vey, vey
for she will cry and lament, vey, vey.

Ver vet nukh mir veynen in klugn vey, vey
ver vet nukh mir veynen in klugn,
ver vet nukh mir kadish zugn? vey, vey.
ver vet nukh mir kadish zugn? vey, vey

Who will cry and lament for me? vey, vey
Who will cry and lament for me?
Who will say Kaddish for me? vey, vey.
Who will say Kaddish for me? vey, vey.

Nor dus ferdl, dus getraye, vey, vey
nur dus ferdl dus getraye
vet nukhgeyn nukh mayn levaye, vey, vey.
vet nukhgeyn nukh mayn levaye, vey, vey.

Only my faithful horse, vey, vey.
Only my faithful horse
Will follow at my funeral, vey, vey.
Will follow at my funeral, vey, vey.

TRANSCRIPTION OF NOMBERG-PRZYTYK’s VERSION:

nomberg 1914

TRANSCRIPTION OF LSW/BSG/JG’s VERSION:

LSW 1914 1LSW 1914 2

“Der vasermentsh” Performed by Sara Nomberg-Prztyk

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2020 by yiddishsong

Der vasermentsh / The Waterman
Sung by Sara Nomberg-Prztyk, recorded by Wolf Krakowski at Way’s Mills, Quebec, Canada 1986

Information on this song and Yiddish text contributed by Eliezer Niborski, Jerusalem:

“Der vasermentsh” is a Yiddish version of German composer Robert Schumann’s (1810 – 1856) composition. The original German text is entitled – “Der Wasserman” – written by the German poet Justinus Kerner (1786 – 1862.) The translation is probably the one Peysekh Kaplan (1870 – 1943) published in the weekly Hayntige tsayt, Bialystok, 1914. Click here for a  link to a performance of the original German composition.

Screenshot 2020-05-28 at 2.51.45 PMKlezmob – the contemporary klezmorim of Tübingen, the setting of Kerner’s original text

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

This creepy gothic Romantic-era song will perhaps follow the fate of Zalmen Scheour’s song “Margaritklekh” which is unsingable today because of its disturbing treatment of women at the hands of men. Demons and spirits in the water are part of international folklore, though usually it is a female demon, such as the Slavic Rusalka.

It is interesting that the Vilbig choir conductor in Vilna, Avrom Sliep, chose works with German/Austrian classical musical pedigree: last week  “Farges dem tsar” with Strauss ll music and this week with Robert Schumann’s music.

What follows is a transcription of the Yiddish the way Sara Nomberg-Prztyk sings it and then the text in Yiddish submitted by Eliezer Niborski. The English translation by Wolf Krakowski is included on the video. Finally, we have included the original German poem by Kerner.

Der vasermentsh (transliteration):

Spoken introduction by Sara Nomberg-Prztyk: Der vasermentsh iz a lid fun repertoir fun Vilner, a Vilner khor, ver hot gehat hindert mitglider der khor. “Der vasermentsh” iz, glayb ikh, nisht kayn…ikh vays nisht fin vanen s’iz antshtanen di lid, vayl s’iz nisht keyn traditsye fun di yidishe geshikhte, fin di yidishe dertseylungen. Kh’ob dus ershte mul zikh getrofn mit deym Vasermentsh. Ober s’iz zeyer a sheyne lid un ikh vil zi du far aykh forshteln. Kho’ zi oykh nisht gehert nukh deym vi me zol zi zingen.

A mol in a zumertog sphetlekh bay nakht,
di zun geyt shoyn unter,  natur shteyt fartrakht.
Farklaybn zikh meydlekh hinter der shtot,
un zingen un tantsn in eyn karahod.

Kumt plutsling a bokherl oysgeputst fayn,
di tentserkes zet er, klaybt eyne oyx glaykh,
geyt tsu un tut on ir a grininkn krants,
nemt ir georemt, un firt ir tsum tants.

– Bokher, zog, vos yogt fun dir a kelt?
– in tifn vaser iz a kalte velt.
– hey, bokher, zog, vos bistu azoy blas?
– In tifn vaser iz dokh kalt un nas.

Er tansts mit ir, un firt ir in a zayt.
– Hey, bokher, loz! es past dokh nisht far layt!
Er tantst mit ir tsum vaser tsu.
– Hey, bokher, zog, vuhin geystu?

Er nemt arum ir shlankn layb:
– Mayn kind, du bist dem vasermentshns vayb.
Er nemt un er tantst in vaser arayn.
– Hey, bokher, vos tustu? mayn mame mayn!

Er firt ir tsum palats fun reynem krishtol.
– Adye mayn velt, tsum letstn mol,
Adye, adye…

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Der Wassermann (original German):

Es war in des Maien [mildem]1 Glanz,
Da hielten die [Jungfern]2 von Tübingen Tanz.

Sie tanzten und tanzten wohl allzumal
Um eine Linde im grünen Tal.

Ein fremder Jüngling, [in stolzem]3 Kleid,
Sich [wandte]4 [bald]5 zu der schönsten Maid;

Er [reicht ihr dar die Hände]6 zum Tanz,
[Er]7 setzt ihr auf’s Haar einen meergrünen Kranz.

“O Jüngling! warum ist so kalt dein Arm?”
“In Neckars Tiefen da ist’s nicht warm.”

“O Jüngling! warum ist so bleich deine Hand?”
“Ins Wasser dringt nicht der Sonne Brand!”

Er [tanzt]8 mit ihr von der Linde weit:
“Lass’, Jüngling! horch, die Mutter [mir]9 schreit!”

Er [tanzt]10 mit ihr den Neckar entlang:
“Lass’, Jüngling! weh! mir wird so bang!”

Er fasst sie fest um den schlanken Leib:
“Schön’ Maid, du bist des Wassermann’s Weib!”

Er [tanzt]10 mit ihr in die Wellen hinein:
“O Vater und du, o Mutter mein!”

Er führt sie in [seinen]11 krystallenen Saal:
“Ade, ihr Schwestern [allzumal]

The Waterman (translation of the German text):

Once in the mild brightness of May,
The young maidens of Tübingen had a dance.

They danced and danced all together
About a lime tree in the green valley.

A stranger, a lad in a proud garment,
Soon attached himself to the most beautiful maiden;

He stretched out his hands to lead her into the dance,
He placed a sea-green wreath upon her hair.

“Oh young man, why are your arms so cold?”
“In the depths of the Neckar (river) it is not warm.”

“Oh young man, why are your hands so pale?”
“The burning rays of the sun do not penetrate into the water.”

He dances away with her, far from the lime tree:
“Stop, young man!  Listen, my mother is calling me!”

He dances away with her along the banks of the Neckar (River):
“Stop, young man!  Woe, I am becoming so frightened!”

He seizes her tightly about her slender body:
“Lovely maiden, you are the waterman’s bride!”

He dances away with her right into the waves:
“Oh father, and you, oh mother mine!”

He leads her into his crystal hall:
“Adieu, to you, my sisters all!”

 

“Rokhl mevako al boneho” Performed by Esther Korshin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In this week’s blogpost, Esther Korshin sings a version of Rokhl mevako al boneho [Rachel Weeps for Her Children] by Elyokem Zunser, first published in 1871.  It was contributed by her granddaughter Jennifer E. Herring. Herring’s neighbor – cantor, singer and musicologist Janet Leuchter – heard about the recording and contacted us. The recording was made in 1946. Herring writes the following about the singer:

“Esther Yampolsky Korshin was born on 12/28/1886 in Ekaterinoslav (now Dnipropetrovsk), Ukraine.  Her father was a cantor, as was her brother Israel. She idolized her father. Her husband was Louis (Lev) Korsinsky, a cobbler. Esther left Russia in 1903 with her one-year-old daughter Etta. She left illegally because Louis was escaping the draft for the Sino-Russian War. Her name was changed to Korshin at Ellis Island. Children Jack, Nathan and Sylvia were born in the US. She knew Russian, Yiddish, English; read in Russian & English. Always bettering herself. No formal education. She spent six months auditing the tutoring of a Russian child in whose home she was a domestic. To earn money she did piecework sewing at home. Neighbors would gather to hear her sing. “

Esther Korshin c. 1930Esther Yampolsky Korshin, 1930, courtesy of Jennifer Herring

Zunser’s song is inspired by the Prophet Jeremiah’s words (Jeremiah 31:14) “Rachel weeps for her chidren” רחל מבכה על בניה  which has been understood as the biblical matriarch Rachel lamenting over the tragic fate of the the Jews throughout history. Zunser applies this view to his own times, and the troubles that Jews were facing at the end of the 19th century.

Korshin sings all five verses of the original text, 16 lines each. We have transcribed and translated the text of the singer’s version. We included the original line of text from Zunser’s printed version in brackets when it differed significantly. Korshin stays remarkably true to Zunser’s words. It is a remarkable performance.

Since Esther Korshin’s father and brother were cantors, it seems reasonable to assume that they had learned this moving song for performances and she learned it from them.

There are not many Zunser songs on popular recordings. The only record dedicated to his songs, a 1963 Folkways recording “Selected Songs of Eliakum Zunser” by Nathaniel Entin, which includes this song, does not capture the spirit of a folk performance. This is the third Zunzer field recording on the blog Yiddish Song of the Week.

In addition to the transcription, translation and yiddish transcription of Korshin’s version we are attaching scans of the original music, and words as found in  Eliakum Tsunzers verk: Kritishe oysgabe  2 volumes  (YIVO, NY 1964) Mordkhe Schaechter, editor.

1)
Di zin hot ungevizn in mayrev-zayt
mit ir royte shtraln, zi nemt opsheyd.
In di nakht mit ir fintserkayt
hot ungetun di erd in ayn shvarts kleyd.
Di velt mit ire layt shvaygn shtim
Es shvaygn shtim, say berg, say tol.
In di levune geyt zikh gants shtil arim
Fin di shtern hert men oykh kayn kol.
Nor a shtime di shtilkayt tseshlugt.
A kol fun a fru veynt un klugt.
In ir yumer un fil geveyn
kenen di kreftn oysgeyn.
Mit ir fidele shpil ikh zikh tsi.
A troyerike melodi
Zi shrayt nebekh fun ir getselt.
“Farvuglt bin ikh fin der velt.”

2)
Ayn kirtse tsayt hob ikh nakhes gehat.
Ven Got hot aykh in ayer land geshtitst.
Der mizbeyekh iz geveyn mit karbunes zat.
Di kruvim mit di fliglen hobn aykh bashitst.
Duvids kinder in der kroyn gekleydt.
Der koyen-godl in zayn kostyum.
In di sanhedrin vi ayn geflantser beyt,
in der beys-hamikdosh vi a frilingsblum.
Dray mol a yur in der tsayt.
Gekimen fin nuvnt, fin vayt.
Der brengt karbunes fun shlakht.
Un der hot bikurim gebrakht.
Di Leviyim hobn geshpilt.
Der yid hot zikh heylik gefilt.
Di gasn mit freylekhkayt zat
Oy dan hob ikh nakhes gehat.

3)
Ober tsiyon hot ongevoyrn ir fargenign.
Ir mayontik farshpilt in kon.
Dos ort beys-lekhim vi mayne beyner lign,
geyt in aveyles ungetun.
Di barg levunen, di giter-fraynd,
Oy, vos far a fis treytn oyf dir haynt?
Di barg Moriyo, di heylik ort
A Makhmedaner metshet shteyt yetst dort!
Di gasn zaynen shoyn pist.
Di veygn zaynen farvist.
In Karmel kayn blumen blit.
Di turems zey glantsn shoyn nit.
Di kohanim vos hobn geshtitst.
Di leviyim vi zaynen zey itst?
Vi’z ayer kroyn ayer rakh?
In vus iz gevorn fin aykh?

4)
Ikh kik of yerushelayim fin mayrev-zayt
Dortn ze ikh mayne kinder vi koyln shvarts.
Zey shparn on dem kop af der darer hant
In veynen az ez farklemt dos harts.
Es iz nishtu in yerushelayim kayn beyn, kayn shteyn
Vos iz nit geveyn nas fin mayn kinds geveyn,
Mayn kind tsi drikn iz a kindershpil
vi me treft im un – dort iz der tsil.
Fin Moldaviye her ikh ayn geshrey
Mayn kind shrayt dort “oy vey”
Fin Rumenyen shrayt er “nit git”
nor fargist men vi vaser zayn blit.
Fin daytshland shrayt er “S’iz shlekht”
Vayl dortn bakimt er kayn rekht.
Fin oystralyen baveynt er di erd.
Dort kikt men af im vi oyf ayn ferd.

5)
In himl di toyznter shtern
baveynen oykh mayn kinds geveyn.
un di boymer, zey gisn trern
di feygelekh zey entfern mit ayn geveyn.
Ober dos harts fun dem faynd iz farshteynt.
Dos umglik hot im zayn harts farshpart.
Der shlekhter akhzer zeyt vi men veynt
[original – der krokodel, der akhzer, treft oykh er veynt]
in zayn harts iz im vi ayzn hart…
A! Got entfer shoyn mir!
zug di vi lang nokh iz der shir
tsu laydn, a dor nokh a dor?
Tsures bay tsvey toyznt yor.
Ir shtern, zogt mir, oyb ir veyst.
tsi di host shoyn farlorn mayn treyst?
oy, neyn, ikh shpir shoyn, ikh shpir!
Az mayn Got vet nokh helfn mir.
[original – “Akh Got entfer shoyn mir.]

Spoken in English at the end of the recording: “Recorded by Esther Korshin, on April 10, 1946 at the age of 59”

1)
The sun appeared in the west
with her red rays, she bids farewell.
And the night and her darkness
dressed the earth in a black dress.
The world and her people are silent.
Still are the mountains and the valleys,
and the moon quietly moves around
and no call from the stars is also heard.
But a voice breaks the silence
a voice of a woman who cries and laments.
In her sorrow and cries
you could lose all your strength.
With her fiddle she accompanies herself
with a sad melody.
She cried from her grave –
“The world has discarded me”.

2)
“For a brief time I had pleasure
when God aided you in your land.
The alter was full of sacrifices.
The cherubs with their wings protected you.
David’s children wore the crown.
The High Priest in his garments.
And the Sanhedrin was like a planted bed of flowers
and the Holy Temple was like a spring flower.
Three times a year at a certain time
They came from near and far.
This one brings sacrifices to battle
And that one brings the first fruits.
The Levites were playing,
the Jew felt the holiness
The streets overflowed with joy.
O, then did I have such pleasure!

3)
But Zion lost her joy.
Her treasure gambled away.
The place Bethlehem where my bones lie,
wear the clothes of mourning.
You moutain Lebanon, my dear friend,
whose feet tread on you today?
You mountain Moriah, you holy place,
A Moslem mosque now stands there!
The streets are abandoned
The paths are all destroyed
On Carmel no flowers bloom.
The towers no longer shine.
The Kohamim who were a support,
The Levites – where are they now?
Where is your crown, your kingdom?
What has become of you?

4)
I look at Jerusalem from the western wall
There I see my children, black as coal.
They rest their heads on their emaciated hands
and cry till it pains your heart.
In Jersusalem there’s no bone, no stone
that did not get wet from my child’s tears.
It’s become like a children’s game to oppress my child –
Wherever you find him – that is the goal.
From Moldova I hear a scream
My child there yells out  “oy vey!”
From Romania he yells “no good”
and his blood is spilled like water.
From Germany he yells “It’s bad!”
For there he has no righs.
In Australia he laments the earth
He is looked down upon as if he were a horse.

5)
In heaven the thousand stars
also lament my child’s cries.
And the trees they pour with tears
and the birds answer with weeping.
But the heart of the enemy has turned to stone
This tragedy has caged in his heart.
The evil monster sees how we cry
[Original – the crocodile, the monster, also cries]
In his heart it is as hard as iron.
Oh God answer me now!
Say how long can this go on?
To suffer generation after generation,
Sorrows for two thousand years!
You stars, tell me if you know.
Has my comfort been lost among you?
Oh, no, I feel it now, I feel it –
That my God will yet help me
[original – O God answer me now]

Spoken in English after the song:
“Recorded by Esther Korshin, on April 10, 1946 at the age of 59”wordsA1wordsa2

WordsB

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“Dos daytshl” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

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

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The Yiddish Song of the Week is glad to be back after a brief hiatus caused by a hurricane-related telecommunications breakdown.

“Dos Daytshl”  (“The German Guy”) as sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] (see previous posts for her biography) is linguistically the most complicated song yet posted.

The comic ballad is international and found in many languages and is known in the Child canon as “Our Goodman” (#274). The texts have remained remarkably similar through time and languages. My folklore professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Kenneth Goldstein, played us a field recording he had made of African-American kids in West Philadelphia singing a rap version of this ballad and the words were almost the exact ones as the Yiddish lyrics LSW sings.

In The Folks Songs of Ashkenaz (pp. 139 – 142) edited by Philip V. Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel (2001), the editors make an interesting comparison of a Yiddish version found in the Ginsburg-Marek collection to a German version collected in German colonies in southern Russia. Unfortunately, they only compare the texts, though several Yiddish versions with melodies have been printed (for example, one melody of a Yiddish version exists in Yidisher folklor, YIVO 1938). Their brief history of the ballad indicates that the German versions of the song came from a Scottish variant in late 19th century, and after it was published in a German almanac in 1790 it circulated much more widely.

There are many printed Yiddish versions of the song, most recently in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive  (p. 30-31)  edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin. Their introduction refers to other printed Yiddish versions. On the Yiddish ballad in comparison to other international versions read Chana Mlotek’s “International Motifs in the Yiddish Ballad” in For Max Weinriech on his Seventieth Birthday. The Yiddish ballad was still popular into the 1930s in Eastern Europe.

Since LSW comes from the Bukovina, where Jews were fluent in Yiddish and German, the German element in the song has to be analyzed not just as Germanisms in a Yiddish text, but as to what these German words evoke when sung by a Yiddish folksinger who is performing a comic song making fun of a German. Does the singing of  “Eyns, tsvey, drey” and not “dray” which would be the correct form in both Yiddish and German, indicate a funny hypercorrection of a German based word in Yiddish?

Of course, it’s not just any German being made fun of here, but a German peasant or farmer. The Germanisms also imply that such a song about a cuckold would “never” be sung about a Jewish husband and wife. Since LSW usually sings slow mournful songs it’s refreshing to hear her sing a comic song with such gusto and drama.

Click here to listen to Lifshe Schaechter-Widman performing “Dos daytshl”

Dos daytshl
The German Guy

Kum ikh zikh arayn in kukhl
Gefin ikh zikh – okh un vey!
In kukhl hengen zeybls –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter my kitchen
What do I find – woe is me!
In the kitchen are hanging swords,
One and two and twee.

Dan rukh ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin
“Kindkhin vos iz dos?
Vos far a zeybls hengen dort?
Akh vi ruft men dos?”

So I call in my wife
Dear child, what is this?
What are those swords hanging there,
What do you call them?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
vos zeystu zeybls dort?
Bratfanen zenen dort,
vos mayn muter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
what swords do you see there?
Frying pans are there
that my mother sent to me

Kum ikh zikh arayn in shtale,
gefin ikh zikh – okh un vey!
In shtale shteyen ferde –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter the stalls,
and what do I find – woe is me!
In the stalls are standing horses,
One and two and twee.

Dan rukh ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin –
kindkhin vos iz dos?
Vos far a ferde shteyen dort,
akh vi ruft men dos?

So I call in my wife,
Dear child what is this?
What are those horses standing there,
what do you call it?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
dos zint kayn [?] ferdchen dort
milikh ki, zenen dort,
vos mayn miter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
Those are not horses there.
Milk cows are there,
that my mother sent to me.

Kum ikh zikh arayn in shloftsimer,
Gefin ikh zikh okh un vey!
In shloftsimer shlofn mener –
eyns un tsvey un drey.

I enter into the bedroom,
What do I find – Woe is me!
In the bedroom men are sleeping,
One and two and three.

Dan ruf ikh zikh mayn vaybkhin
kindkhen vos iz dos?
Vos far a mener shlofn dort –
akh vi ruft men dos?

So I call in my wife,
Wife, what is this?
What men are sleeping there,
How do you call this?

Hey, di lumpiker man,
vos rifsti mener dort.
Dinstmegde zenen dort,
vos mayn muter shikt tsu mir.

Hey, you silly man,
what are calling men over there,
Servant girls are there,
that my mother sent to me.

Dinstmegde (n) mit bakn berd?
Okh un vey un vind
Vos far a man bin ikh bay dir,
az fremde mener komen tsu dir.

Servant girls with bearded cheeks?
Woe is me.
What kind of husband am I to you,
If strange men are visiting.

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