Archive for Hasidic

“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

“Der heyliker moshiakh” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week features a performance of Der heyliker moshiakh (The Holy Messiah) by New York-based Yiddish singer Josh Waletzky, recorded at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance on January 28, 2011. The song is from Waletzky’s family repertoire (his family referred to it as “The Name Song”); Ruth Rubin collected the song from Waletzky during her fieldwork at Camp Boiberik.

Josh Waletzky

I have attached a variant of this song as found in Noyekh Prilutski‘s collection Yidishe folkslider volume one, Warsaw, 1914. Number 61 (pages 90 – 91). There is no melody given in Prilutski‘s volume, so thanks to Waltezky we have one now!

Der heyliker moshiakh is a great example of a maskilic Yiddish song (composed by Jews who were adherents of the Jewish Enlightenment movement, the Haskalah) in which the irony of the song was confusing or lost to the ‟folk‟, and in this case, to the Maskil as well, Noyekh Prilutski. See his comment on the bottom of the attached Yiddish page 91, footnote number 2,  where he writes:

Typical: as often happens that in the most Hasidic songs, secular [‟fraye”] lines are sung at the end. Perhaps because the song was sung at Simkhes-toyre, when everyone was a little drunk?‟

So Prilutski believed that the song was Hasidic, not Maskilic (anti-Hasidic), and perhaps he had even seen it performed by Hasidim? That would not be shocking, since it was common for similar parodic anti-Hasidic songs such as this, written from the point of view of Hasidim, to be ‟misinterpreted‟ as pro-Hasidic, pro-rebbe. The classic example is Velvl Zbarzher‘s Kum aher du filosof  which was recorded in a typically lyrical fashion by Theodore Bikel.

Is it mis-interpretation? ‟Reinterpretation‟ or just plain ‟interpretation‟ would be preferable. The singer, whose context and audience varies from that of the composer, gives the song a different meaning through his performance.

Waletzky clearly sings it as a parody in the way the Maskilic composer wrote it, and the song has several of the subjects of satire that the maskilim often mocked about the traditional shtetl life: the blind devotion of the hasidim to their rebbe, the fanatic anti-modern/progress attitude (e.g., mocking the popular secular dance kadril  ‘quadrille’ as shmadril, which also alludes to the word for converting, shmadn), and the highlight of the song, the satirizing of Yiddish names that comprises the refrain.

Notice that in Prilutski‘s version there is no reference to shmadril but non-traditional dance is mentioned (Zey veln tantsn mit fremde yunge-layt / They will dance with young strangers).

“Der heyliker moshiakh”

“The Holy Messiah”

un az der heyliker moshiekh vet kumen
vel ikh zayn der ershter af der shlakht.
af di daytshn vet men zikh nemen
un zey shlogn tog vi nakht.
gor on pulver un on blay,
koyln veln flien iber aln.
un az der rebe vet nokh tsugebn a posek derbay,
vi shtroy veln di daytshn faln.

And when the holy Messiah comes
I will be the first into battle.
We’ll set upon the Assimilators
And beat them day and night.
No need for powder or lead,
Bullets will be flying everywhere.
And the moment the Rebbe adds a verse from Scripture,
The Assimilators will drop like straw.

un es vet nokh tsuhelfn
zurekh un burekh, yankev, danil,
zindl, grindl, khayem, smil,
berl, shmerl, getzl, azril,
veln firn dos gantse krentsl.
keyle, beyle, yente, sose,
khane, brayne, yakhne, dvose,
sime, blime, pesi un rose
veln tantsn dos mitsve-tentsl.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel,
Zindl, Grindl, Chaim, Samuel,
Berl, Shmerl, Getsl, Azriel,
The ringleaders.
Keyle, Beyle, Yente, Sose,
Hannah, Brayne, Yakhne, Dvose,
Sime, Blume, Pesi and Rose
Will dance the Mitsve Dance…

tshiri-bim-bom…

der rebe vet zayn der komendant.
er vet komedirn ahin un aher.
un ikh vel zayn zayn atyudant,
di khsidim dos militer.
un az der rebe vet onfangen fun toyre tsu shmaysn,
tsu bavayzn zayne havayes,
azoy veln di khsidim onhoybn tsu shisn
af di drabes, af di hultayes.

The Rebbe will be the commander.
He’ll issues orders this way and that.
And I will be his adjutant;
The Chassidim–his troops.
And when the Rebbe begins thrashing them with Torah,
Making his faces at them,
The Chassidim immediately open fire
On the freethinking prostitutes and adulterers.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel,…

di daytshn, zey vern dokh poshet dil–
zey veysn nit vos zey zoln tin.
zey hobn a tants vos heyst ‘shmadril’:
eyner loyft aher, un der anderer ahin.
un di daytshke vos tsimblt af dem shlambil
vet fayerdike kneydlekh esn;
un az der rebe vet aroyfleygn zayn lape af ir,
vet zi in tsimbl fargesn.

un es vet nokh tsuhelfn…

The Assimilators will simply get confused–
They won’t know what to do.
They have a dance called the ‘Shmadrille’:
One runs this way and the other runs that way.
The Lady Assimilator tsimbling* her ‘shmambourine’
Will eat hot matzo-ball ammo.
And when the Rebbe lays his paws on her
She’ll forget all about her tsimbl*.

And helping out will be
Zorekh and Baruch, Jacob, Daniel..

*tsimbl = cimbalom/hammered dulcimer; tsimbling =  to play a tsimbl (or in this case, to beat with sticks as if playing a tsimbl)

Der heyliker moshiakh in Noyekh Prilutksi‘s collection Yidishe folkslider (click to enlarge)

“Sha, shtil nisht gezorgt” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is among the more well-known songs that have been posted on the Yiddish Song of the Week, but I have included it more because of Tsunye Rymer‘s heartfelt singing (as usual!), than the song itself. He was in his 80s by the time of this recording, but how he expresses the “ay-ay-ays” is a lesson in Yiddish (male) folksinging style.

This was recorded in our dining room in the early 1980s, I would guess when Rymer came over Friday night after dinner, as he often did. My mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman is the woman‘s voice, and I hear my father, sister and uncle Mordkhe Schaechter there too.

According to Bob Freedman‘s database of recorded songs, particularly of LPs, only Ben Bonus and the Salomon Klezmorim have recorded the song, but it has been quite popular. You can find it with words and music in Chana and Joseph Mlotek‘s collection Pearls of Yiddish Song page 146, 147. Also printed in the earlier collections of Anna Shomer Rothenberg 1928, and Gelbart 1938.

As for the performance here: The line is usually sung „nishto keyn matses, nishto keyn vayn‟ since it‘s referring to Passover, so singing „broyt‟ – bread – is a mistake, I will leave to the Yiddish linguists among you to discuss Rymer‘s „hypercorrective‟ pronunciation of „shavous‟ and „sukes‟.

The printed versions all have „Ober khsidim‟ [Hasidim] zenen mir‟ not, as is sung here, „ober yidn zenen mir‟. Since they‘re traveling to the rebbe, Hasidim is the more obvious choice, but in our family we always sang „yidn‟. Listening to this performance, it seems that the version known by the audience sometimes overwhelms Rymer‘s version and he just adapts to our words.

Un az ez kumt der yontif peysekh
vider af s‘nay
nishto keyn broyt iz, nishto keyn vayn,
Ay,ay, ay, ay! ay, ay, ay, ay!
Sha, shtil un nisht gezorgt,
Got in himl iz a futer,
du gelien, du geborgt,
Ikh hob shoyn alts un puter.
Hay, hay, hay, hay, hay!
Vus mir zenen, zenen mir, ober yidn zenen mir,
un tsim rebn furn mir, undzer gantsn lebn.

And when the holiday Passover arrives,
once more anew:
there‘s no bread, no wine,
Ay,ay, ay ay! Ay, ay, ay ay!
Sha! Quiet! Don‘t you worry,
God in heaven is our father.
Here and there we borrow a little,
I have everything and that‘s all we need.
Hay, hay, hay, hay, hay!
What we are – we are,
But Jews are what we are
And to our Rebbe we travel
our whole life.

Un az s‘kumt der yontif shvues,
vider af s‘nay.
Nito keyn milikhiks, nito keyn grins,
Ay, ay, ay, ay! Ay, ay, ay,ay!
Sha shtil……

And when the holiday Shavous arrives –
Once more anew.
There‘s no dairy, no vegetables,
Ay, ay ay, ay! Ay, ay, ay ay!
Sha…..

Un az s‘kumt der yontif sukes,
Vider af s‘nay.
Nito keyn esrig, nito keyn liliv,
Ay, ay, ay, ay! Ay, ay, ay ay!
Sha sthil……

And when the holiday Sukes comes –
Once more anew.
There‘s no esrog, there‘s no lulav,
Ay, ay, ay, ay! Ay, ay, ay, ay!
Sha….


“Brider, Zog” by Sholem Berenshteyn

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Brider, zog (Brother, Say) is by the 19th century Yiddish poet Sholem Berenshteyn. No one seems to be sure of his life dates (and not even his first name – some say Shmuel) but he lived in Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, and died before 1880. In 1869 he published his collection Magazin fun yidishe lider far dem yidishn folk in Zhitomir, which was reprinted several times.

The best source for his biography is Zalmen Reisin‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, volume 1. Reisin considers him one of the first Yiddish folkpoets and even the poet Mikhl Gordon („Maskhe‟, „Di bord‟) considered him a better poet than himself. As Reisin points out, his work sometimes touches upon typical maskilic themes (anti-Hasidic, Russian patriotism) but he mostly stays clear of them, and his most popular poems became songs with traditional themes such as Brider zog and Sholem-Aleykhem which the Bessarabian folksinger Arkady Gendler sings on his recording, released in 2001, Mayn shtetele Soroke, produced by Jeanette Lewicki.

The most extensive discusssion of the song Brider, zog is in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye which was recently translated into English by Barnett Zumoff as Pearls of Yiddish Poetry, Ktav Publishing. The song was originally titled Zmires has 15 verses; what was sung were the first four verses.

I have attached the Yiddish words and music in the version found in Z. Kisselhof‘s Lider zamlung far der yidisher shul un familye, St. Petersburg 1911 which is very close to the version sung here.

The unidentified singer is clearly more of a „pro‟ than we are used to hearing in the songs posted on this blog. But listening to her interpretation of khasidic song does raise interesting questions about the “art song” interpretation of khasidic style. The late, great Masha Benya, among others, comes to mind in this regard. This singer turns a song, which melodically could be quite boring, into an interesting performance.

I know this song from my mother, Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, who learned it from her mother, Lifshe Schaecther Widman, and the words as they are sung here are almost exactly the same (we sing „Ver vet lakhn, un khoyzek makhn…‟).

Thanks again to Lorin Sklamberg, sound archivist at YIVO, who allowed us to post another song from the YIVO Stonehill collection.

A folkslid…khsidish.
A folksong, khasidic.

Brider zog, vi heyst der tog,
ven mir ale zenen freylekh?
Der yidele, der kleyner, der kusherer, der sheyner
Iz dokh dan a meylekh.

Tell me brother what is the day called
when we are all joyous?
The Jew, the little one, the kosher one, the beautiful,
Then feels himself like a king.

Shabes aleyn, kimt tsu geyn,
Freyt aykh kinder ale!
Oy tantst kinder, yederere bazinder,
Lekoved der heyliker kale.

The Sabbath itself arrives,
Be happy all you children!
O, dance children, each on his own,
in honor of the holy bride.

Dos iz klor, vi a hor
az shabes is di kale.
Der khusndl der sheyner, iz nit keyner.
Nor mir yidelekh ale.

This is obvious as a hair,
that Sabbath is the bride.
The beautiful groom is no one else
but all of us Jews.

Un ver es lakht, un khoyzek makht.
Fun der kale-khusn.
Der vet take esn a make
fun der side-levyusn.

And he who laughs, and mocks
the groom and bride.
He will indeed eat nothing
at the Leviathan-feast.

o, brider zog….

“Di mode” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I never thought I would thank Google Books in this blog, but the website has opened up tremendous possibilities for the Yiddish folksong researcher. In addition to having access to song collections, one can type in a search word in Yiddish and find it in dozens or hundreds of works. The Harvard Library and its unique Leo Wiener Collection, which is full of 19th century Yiddish folk literature, is being made available on the site.

And so I was able to look at Yitskhok-Yoel Linetski‘s work Der beyzer marshelik (1869) for the first time in its entirety. One of the poems is called „Di mode‟ (“Fashion;” “modehas two syllables) and I immediately identified it as the source of a song my grandmother Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] sang called „Di mode.” 

Linetski (1839 – 1915) was one of the earliest maskilic (“enlightened”) Yiddish writers, and his novel Dos Poylishe yingl (1868) later called “Dos khsidishe yingl‟ was the first bestseller of modern Yiddish literature.

Yitskhok-Yoel Linetski

Linetski’s life story was amazing. He was raised in a strict Hasidic home in Vinnitsa, and when he was suspected of reading “forbidden” literature, he was married off at age fourteen to a twelve-year old girl. But then he convinced his young wife of his path, so they forced him to divorce her and marry a “deaf, half-idiotic woman” (see Zalmen Reizen‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur). That didn‘t work either and when they tried to throw him into the river, he escaped to Odessa.

To analyze how Linetski‘s text was folklorized in LSW‘s version, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in New York City, is a longer essay. But as an example, compare Linetski‘s original refrain:

Oy a ruekh in der mode a leyd.
Vos zi hot af der velt a nets farshpreyt!

Oh, the devil take the fashion, what a pain,
That spread a net over the world. 

with LSW‘s refrain:

Oy, nor di mode aleyn, nor di mode aleyn, 
 hot far undz umglik gebrengt.

Oh, only the fashion alone, only the fashion alone
has brought us misfortune. 

Only in the last refrain does she sing “the devil take the fashion,” which I believe works better dramatically. Usually the “folk process” improves the longer, wordy maskilic poetry.

Other songs that originate from the work Beyzer marshelik are Dos redl  performed by (Israel Srul) Freed on Ruth Rubin‘s field recording collection “Jewish Life: The Old Country” and recently recorded as the title track of klezmer violinist Jake Shulman-Ment‘s CD A Wheel/A redele, sung by Benjy Fox-Rosen. LSW also sang a version of Dos vigele with the opening line „Shlis shoyn mayn kind dayne oygn…‟ which will be posted on this blog at some point.

In LSW‘s performance of Di mode you get to hear her sing a more upbeat song, with a great melody. The traditional aspects of  LSW‘s singing (the ornamentaion in particular) are applied to a more modern song, and the synthesis works wonderfully.

This recording of Di mode can be found on the Global Village Music cassette recording “Az di furst avek: a Yiddish folksinger from the Bukovina” now available on iTunes.