Archive for Hasidic

“S’vet nit eybik fintster zayn” Performed by David Fishman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2019 by yiddishsong

S’vet nit eybik fintster zayn / It will not be dark forever
A song in Yiddish, Hebrew and Hungarian.
Sung by Professor David Fishman, recorded by Itzik Gottesman,
June  7th, 2019, NYC

*There are two parts to this song– please watch the video, then listen to the audio that follows for the song’s conclusion:

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This one-verse song in three languages was learned by Dr Fishman on a visit to Budapest in 1972.

David Fishman is professor of  history at the Jewish Theological Seminary, NYC. His recent work The Book Smugglers won the 2018 National Jewish Book Award in the “Holocaust” category. He was born in the Bronx.

Fishman introduces the song by saying in Yiddish “A very simple song, but very sad”. The Polish/Hungarian Yiddish/Hebrew dialect is reflected in a few words such as: “lekhtik” instead of “likhtik”, “bimhayru” instead of “bimheyro”.

After the initial recording on video, Fishman later realized he had forgotten the ending of the song and sent the Yiddish concluding lines as an audio file.

“S’vet nit” was discussed in Yiddish on a Hasidic on-line forum in 2010. There the song is attributed to the Kaliver/Kalover/Kalever Rebbe, and it is also mentioned there that the Tosh Hasidic community still sings it at Purim. Tosh and Kaliv are both Hasidic dynasties with Hungarian roots. Here is a link to that on-line Yiddish discussion.

kalov shul
The Kalover Shul in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Google Street View)

The version mentioned there by “Khaykl” differs slightly and does not include the concluding lines about Jerusalem that Dr. Fishman added as an audio. “Khaykl” suggests that the composer of the song was the Kaliver rebbe (Yitskhok Isaac Taub 1751 – 1821) who was known for his compositions.

Thanks this week to David Fishman, Bob Cohen, Arun Viswanath and Bret Werb. 

Transliteration of Yiddish on video:
S’vet nit, s’vet nit, s’vet nit
eybik fintster zayn. (2x)
S’vet nit eybik fintster zayn
S’vet amol nokh lekhtik zayn.
S’vet nit, s’vet nit, s’vet nit
eybik fintster zayn.

Translation of Yiddish on video:
It will not be dark forever.
One day it will be light.
It will not be dark forever.

Transliteration of Hebrew:
Yiye loy, yiye loy, yiye loy
leoylem afaylu
Loy yiye, loy yiye, loy yiye leoylem afaylu,
Loy yiye leoylem afaylu
Yiye or bimhayru
Yiye or, yiye or bimhayru

Translation of Hebrew:
It will not be dark forever.
Very soon it will be light.
Very soon it will be light.

Transliteration of Hungarian:
Nem lesz, nem lesz, nem lesz mindig éjszaka
Ha nem lesz mindig éjszaka
majd megvirrad valaha.

Translation of Hungarian:
It won’t always be night.
It will soon be dawn.

Audio conclusion to song (Yiddish):
Ale yidelekh in aynem
trinkt zhe a lekhayim.
Leshone habu beyerushelayim!

Translation of conclusion:
All the Jews together
let’s drink a toast –
Next year in Jerusalem!
fishman1

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“Reb Tsudek” Performed by Itzik Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2018 by yiddishsong

Reb Tsudek
Sung by Itzik Gottesman, recorded Nov 2018, Austin TX

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I was asked to post the song “Reb Tsudek” as sung by the Yiddish poet Martin Birnbaum. He sang it to Michael Alpert and me in 1984-85 in NYC.  But, alas, I cannot find the original recording so I have recorded it myself.

Birnbaum was born in 1905 in Horodenke when it was Galicia in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Now it is in the Ukraine  – Horodenka. According to a NY Times obituary he came to the US in 1923 and died in 1986. In the YIVO Institute’s Ruth Rubin Legacy Archive, Birnbaum sings four songs but not this one. Those recordings were done in 1964.

I believe there is more Yiddish folklore to be discovered about this shlimazel (bad luck) character Reb Tsudek. When I asked the Yiddish poet Yermye Hescheles about him he affirmed that there was such a comic figure in Galicia, where both he and Birnbaum were from.

The song mocks the Hasidic lifestyle – absurd devotion to the rebbe, irresponsibility, staying poor. The word “hiltay” – defined by the dictionaries as “libertine” “skirt-chaser” “scoundrel” – is really a cue that this is a 19th century maskilic, anti-Hasidic, song. The word is often used in such songs. The humor also hinges on the double meaning of tsimbl both as a musical instrument (a hammered dulcimer) and as a verb – “to thrash or scold someone”.

couple tsimblA tsimblist, about to be thrashed by his wife.
(courtesy Josh Horowitz)

In the song two towns are mentioned: Nay Zavalek remains a mystery but Grudek, west of Lviv, is Grodek in Polish and Horodok in Ukrainian.

Here is a clip of Michael Alpert singing  the song, with Pete Rushefsky on tsimbl, Jake Shulman-Ment on violin and Ethel Raim singing at the Smithsonian Folkife Festival in Washington D.C.,  2013:

TRANSLITERATION

Fort a yid keyn Nay-zavalek,
direkt bizn in Grudek.
Fort a yid tsu zayn rebn – Reb Tsudek.
Tsudek iz a yid, a lamden.
Er hot a boykh a tsentn,
Un s’iz bakant, az er ken shpiln
of ale instrumentn.

Shpilt er zikh derbay (2x)

Fort a yid keyn Nay-zavalek
direkt bizn in Grudek.
Oy vey z’mir tatenyu!
Fort a yid keyn Nay-Zavalek
direkt bizn in Grudek.
Oy vey z’mir tatenyu!

Un Reb Tsudek, er zol lebn,
hot gehat a gutn shabes.
Tsudek hot gekhapt shirayem,
mit beyde labes.
Aheymgebrakht hot er zayn vaybl
a zhmenye meyern-tsimes.
Un dertsu, oy vey iz mir,
a tsimbl un strines.

“Hiltay vus iz dus!” (2x)

Oy hot zi getsimblt Tsudek
fun Zavalek bizn in Grudek.
Oy vey z’mir tatenyu!
Oy hot zi getsimblt Tsudek
fun Zavalek bizn in Grudek.
Oy vey z’mir tatenyu!

TRANSLATION

A man travels to Nay-Zavalek,
directly until Grudek.
The man is traveling to his rabbi,
Mister Tsudek.
Tsudek is a learned man,
and has a belly that weighs ten tons.
And everyone knows that he can play
on all the instruments.

So he plays as he travels –

A man travels to Nay-Zavalek
directly until Grudek,
Oh my, dear God!
A man travels to Nay-Zavalek
directly until Grudek,
Oh my, dear God!

And Reb Tsudek, may he be well,
had a good Sabbath.
Tsudek caught the Rebbe’s holy leftovers
with both paws [large, rough hands].
For his wife he brought home
a handful of carrot – tsimmes,
and in addition – oh no! –
a tsimbl with no strings.

Scoundrel! what is this? (2x)

Boy did she thrash Tsudek
from Zavalek until Grudek
Oh my, dear God.
Boy did she thrash Tsudek
from Zavalek unti Grudek
Oh my, dear God

tsudek1

tsudek2

tsudek3

“Oy, tsum ban vel ikh nit geyn” and “Ven ikh volt geven a foygele” – Two Songs Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2018 by yiddishsong

Oy, tsum ban vel ikh nit geyn and Ven ikh volt geven a foygele
Two songs combined and sung by Tsunye Rymer 
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, NYC 1985
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this performance, Isaac “Tsunye” Rymer combines two distinct lyrical Yiddish love songs. The first two verses are a song beginning with the line Tsum ban vil ikh nit geyn [I don’t want to go to the train] and the third and fourth verses are a different song that begins with the line – Ven ikh volt geven a foygele [If I were a bird]. Whether he learned the songs this way or combined them himself is unknown.

Rymer says he learned this in Bessarabia on the way to America. It took him and his wife 4 years to arrive in the US once they left their town in the Ukraine.

RymerPhoto3Tsunye Rymer at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center, Bronx, NYC, 1980s. From right:  Jacob Gorelik, Dr. Jonas Gottesman, Tsunye Rymer. 

Ven ikh volt geven a foygele has motifs found in other Yiddish folksongs among them a Hasidic Lubavitch song attributed to Reb Mendele from Horodok called The Outpouring of the Soul  השתפכות הנפש, number 25 in the Lubavitch nigunim collection Sefer HaNigunim. One can also find these motifs in songs in the Beregovski/Slobin collection Old Jewish Folk Music and the I. L. Cahan collection Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (1952)

Recently singer Inna Barmash recorded a song, accompanied by violist Ljova (Lev Zhurbin) with these motifs from the Beregovski/Slobin collection on her CD Yiddish Love Songs and Lullabies (2013).

Why the combination of songs? The singer (if not Rymer, then the one he learned it from?) perhaps added the third and fourth verses to add a little hopefulness and not end the song on such a bleak note.

TRANSLITERATION

Oy tsim ban vel ikh nit geyn,
oy tsim ban vel ikh nit geyn.
Oy ikh ken dus shoyn mer nit zeyn:
Az du vest darfn in poyez zitsn
un ikh vel blaybn af der platforme shteyn.
Az du vest darfn in poyez zitsn
un ikh vel blaybn af der ploshchatke shteyn.

Tsum ershtn mul a kling un tsum tsveytn mul a fayf
un tsum dritn mul iz shoyn nishtu keyn mentsh.
Ikh hob nit pospeyet di hant im derlangen.
Di ban iz shoyn avek fin undz gants vayt.
Ikh hob nit pospeyet di hant im derlangen.
Di ban iz shoyn avek fun undz gants vayt.

Ven ikh volt geveyn a foygele [feygele],
volt ikh tsu dir gefloygn.
in efsher volstu rakhmones gehat
oyf mayne farveynte oygn – oyf mayne farveynte oygn.

Ven ikh volt geveyn a fishele
volt ikh tsu dir geshvumen.
in efsher volstu rakhmones gehat
un du volst tsu mir gekumen.
un du volst tsu mir gekumen.

TRANSLATION

Oy to the train I will not go.
To the train I will not go.
I can’t stand to see this anymore:
you will be sitting on the train
and I will remain standing on the platform.

First the bell rings once; then the whistles blows;
then no one remains.
I did not even manage to give him my hand.
The train had gone by then quite far.

If I were a little bird,
I would fly to you.
And perhaps you would have pity on me
on my weeping eyes.

If I were a fish,
I would swim to you.
And perhaps you would have pity on me
and you would then come to me.

Rymer Oy1Rymer Oy2Rymer OY3

“Mirtseshem af shabes” Performed by Khave Rosenblatt

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2018 by yiddishsong

Mirtseshem af shabes / God Willing, This Sabbath
Performance by Khave Rosenblatt
Recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman
Jerusalem, 1970s
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The most popular version of this 19th century mock-Hasidic song begins with the line “Ver hot dos gezen…” or “Tsi hot men azoyns gezen…” (“Who has seen this” or “Who has every seen anything like this”). In the Mlotek’s collection Mir trogn a gezang, pages 126-127.  the song is called “Dos lid fun ayznban” (“The Song About the Train”).  Theodore Bikel recorded that version on his LP “Theodore Bikel Sings Jewish Folksongs” 1959.

Khave Rosenblatt’s version however is closer in some respects to the variants found in the collections Yidishe folks-lider, ed. Itzik Fefer and Moyshe Beregovski, Kiev 1938. pp. 386-387  (see below) and in A.Z. Idelsohn’s The Folk Song of The East European Jews, volume 9 of his Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, song # 558, beginning with the line “Nokh shabes imirtseshem….”.   Idelsohn also includes the “Ver hot dos gezen..” version, #556, from the German journal Ost und West. A scan of that page is also attached (see below)

train whistle

Only Rosenblatt’s theatrical version plays with the verbs “fayfn” (“fafn” in her dialect), which means “whistle” and  “onfayfen”  (“unfafn” in her dialect) meaning “to thumb one’s nose at.” One could easily imagine the wandering entertainers, the Broder Singers, performing this song in the wine cellars of the 19th century in Galicia.

TRANSLITERATION
Mirtseshem af shobes
vel ikh bam rebn zan.
Ikh vel tsiklugn di hiltayes, di drobes
vus zey nemen azoy fil gelt un zey leygn in dr’erd aran.

Rebe, hot er a fafer
mit a meshenem knop.
Er faft indz un hekher in hekher
in er vet gurnisht vern farshtopt.

Er faft un faft un faft un faft un faft
Er vil gurnisht oyfhern.
mit dem rebns koyekh
vet di ban tseshlugn vern.

TRANSLATION
God willing this Sabbath
I will spend with the Rebbe.
I will denounce the hedonists, the wastrels,
who take so much money and spend it wildy. [lit: bury it in the ground]

Rebbe, what a whistle it has!
with a brass knob.
He thumbs his nose at us louder and louder,
and nothing shuts him up.

He whistles and whistles and whistles and whistles and whistles
and doesn’t want to stop.
With the Rebbe’s power
the train will be trounced.

dos lid gottesman

Khane and Joe Mlotek, Mir trogn a gezang, pages 126-127:

dos lid mlotek

Yidishe folks-lider, ed. Itzik Fefer and Moyshe Beregovski, Kiev 1938. pp. 386-387:
miritzhashem (1)

dos lid fefer 2b

A.Z. Idelsohn’s The Folk Song of The East European Jews, volume 9 of Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies (#558 & #556)

dos lid idelsohn 558dos lid idelsohn 556

“Hosti Beyle gitn meyd?” A Yiddish Kolomeyke Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2015 by yiddishsong

Hosti Beyle gitn meyd? (Beyle, Do You Have Good Mead?)
A Yiddish Kolomeyke
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, NY, 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) introduces this song as a children’s song, and it seems that a number of her children’s songs are adapted dance tunes either from Jewish or Ukrainian melodies. In this case one can easily identify the melody as a kolomeyke*, a couples dance from Ukraine/Eastern Poland/Galicia, referring to the Ukrainian city known as “Kolomey” in Yiddish, and “Kolomyia” in Ukrainian.

"Kolomeyka" 1895 by Teodor Axentowicz (1859 - 1938)

“Kolomeyka” 1895 by Teodor Axentowicz (1859 – 1938)

In the Yiddish song collection Yiddish Folksongs From Galicia in the volume Folklore Research Center Studies, Volume 2 (Jerusalem: 1971) devoted to the work of folklorist Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe, and edited by Dov and Meir Noy, a variant and its melody is included (song #51, please see below). In the notes (p. 308), Meir Noy lists the other printed variants of this song in other collections and comments that the melody is a kolomeyka.

I had always thought that this song was tsvey-taytshik, with many double entendres, and considering the fact that a kolomeyke was a couples dance that made sense. So I was rather surprised to find it in a collection of Hasidic Yiddish songs entitled: קונטרס: אגרא דבי הילולא מילי: חרוזים חשובים מדור הישן There is no place of publication (I bought it in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) but it is dated 1996. They conclude the volume with this version of “Hosti Beyle” attributed to the Ropshitser Rebbe תנועה מהרה”ק מראפשיץ זי״ע

I have not changed the spelling:

האסטו בייליש גוטע מעהד
געב אהער דעם הייביר
ווילסטו וויסען ווי שפּעט
צוועלף אַ זייגער.

How the Ropshitser Rebbe interpreted this song would be interesting. In both Pipe’s version and the Ropshitser’s version they use the word “heyber” instead of LSW’s “eyber.” “Heyber” (handle/lever) makes more sense.

*Musically a kolomeyke is characterized by symmetric phrases with running 16th notes followed by two quarter notes. Here is a kolomeyke that bears my name “Icek W. Kolomej” (Itzik in Kolomey) from “Polish Village Music”, Arhoolie 1995, CD7031. Played by Orkiestra Majkuta.

Lifshe (spoken): A kinderlid.
Lifshe: (spoken) A children’s song.

Hosti Beyle gitn meyd?
Na zhe dir deym [h]eyber.
Vi’sti meynen s’iz shoyn shpet,
S’iz ersht tsvelef a zeyger.

Do you have good mead, Beyle?
Then give me the lever [or handle].
You want to think it’s late –
But it’s only 12 o’clock.

Gisti yo, gisti neyn?
vayl ikh hob keyn tsayt tsi shteyn.
Gisti yo, gisti neyn?
vayl ikh hob keyn tsayt tsi shteyn.

Do you give or not?
Because I’ve no time to stand around.
Do you give or not?
Because I’ve no time to stand around.

hosti beyle

And here is the melody and more verses from Noy and Noy/Pipe 1971:
HostiBeyle Noy

“Oy vey rebenyu” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by yiddishsong

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.

Refrain:

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.

Refrain

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. 

oyveyrebenyu1

oyveyrebenyu2

“Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye” Performed by Chaim Berman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This weeks’ Yiddish Song of the Week, “Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye” (“To Sing a Song is a Joy”) by Chaim Berman (d. 1973) was recorded by Rabbi Victor Reinstein, now of Boston, in late 1960s, early 1970s. Rabbi Reinstein writes:

Chaim Berman, ‘Hymie,’ was short and of slight and wiry build. Born and raised to early adulthood in Proskurov in the Ukraine, he lived most of his life in Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, New York. His eyes twinkled with life, and there was almost always an impish smile on his lips. Hymie was a Jewish type that is no more. He was a self-described atheist and a card-carrying communist, a worker and an organizer in the ladies’ handbag industry, who in one moment would quote from Lenin or Marx and in the next, from Sholom Aleichem or Yud Lamed Peretz.

chaim berman

Steeped in Jewish tradition, he exuded Yiddishkeit from every pore of his being. Bridging the worlds and times of his life, he would put on a yarmulke and lead the Pesach seder with a profound and poignant depth of feeling. Hymie loved to sing and would perform for family and friends ‘in der heym,’ and to larger audiences at Yiddish summer camps. He was a man in whose veins coursed both joy and sadness, a reflection of the realities of his life, of Jewish history, of human reality. He worked and sang from the depths of his being to help bring a better world for all.

Certainly the first song we have chosen from the recordings of Hymie Berman for the Yiddish Song of the Week reflects that last sentiment – singing for a better world.

The melody is well-known:  it is used for the Yiddish song to honor guests “Lomir ___bagrisn” and for the Purim nign “Utsu eytsa” (עצו עצה, “Take counsel together”, Isaiah 8:10), which is attributed to the Chabad/Slonim tradition (thanks to Hankus Netsky and Steven Greenman for this information).

From my mother, who belonged briefly to the leftist Zionist youth group Hashomer Hatsair, I know a one-verse song with the same melody from Chernovitz, circa 1930s:

Lebn zol Bistritski mit zayn hora.       
Lebn zol Bistritski mit zayn hora.       
Nisht keyn rekhter, nisht keyn linker, nor a Mizrakhist a flinker.
Zol lebn Bistritski mit zayn hora. 

Long live Bistritski and his hora.
Long live Bistritski and his hora
Not a right-winger, not a left-winger, but a clever Mizrakhist
Long live Bistritski and his hora

Other field recordings in the Israeli National Sound Archives (NSA) in Jerusalem confirm that this was a ditty from the East European Hashomer Hatzair movement (NSA call #Y/05890,  #Y/05898 – I was not able to listen to the NSA recordings to hear the lyrics in these versions).

In the Kremenits Yizkor book (1965) [Kremenits is in the Volin/Volhynia region] page 152, there is a description of the end of a Zionist youth meeting which actually connects the ditty to the dance hora, here written hoyre: (my translation from the Yiddish)

Finally someone yells out – ‘Enough of this chattering’ or ‘Leave the academy alone’. At that point someone would start singing “Lebn zol Bistritski and his hoyra” [!]. It seemed that this is what the gang was waiting for and everyone stood up, hands and shoulders interlocking and the circle got bigger and bigger. And so we danced a hoyra till the break of day. We danced so long that some people started to faint away.

Someone more familiar with Zionist history please clarify. Are they singing about the Hebrew writer, editor Nathan Bistritsky?

Please see the comments below for a number of additional points on the melody.

Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye
sung by Chaim Berman
Words by H. Goldberg

Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye
Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye
Oy zingt zhe brider, zingt zhe munter
A folk vos zingt geyt keyn mol unter.
Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye.

To sing a song is a joy.
To sing a song is a joy.
So sing brother, sing with cheer
A people that sings never dies.
To sing a song is a joy.

A nign – an olter [alter] tsu a nayer.
Zingen – vet ir filn frayer.
Oy zingt zhe brider, zingt zhe munter
A folk vos zingt geyt keyn mol unter.
Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye.

A melody – an old one or a new one.
Sing and you’ll feel more free.
So sing brother, sing with cheer,
A people that sings never dies.
To sing a song is a joy.

Hostu fardrus tsi hostu dayges?
Oder bistu kholile broyges?
Oy zingt zhe brider, zingt zhe munter
A folk vos zingt geyt keyn mol unter.
Zingen a lid iz a mekhaye.

Do you have regrets? Or have worries?
Or God forbid angry at someone?
So sing brother, sing with cheer
A people that sings never dies.
To sing a song is a joy.

zinen a lid