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“In mayn hartsn brent a fayer” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2018 by yiddishsong

In mayn hartsn brent a fayer / A fire burns in my heart
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NY

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Another lyrical love song sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) from the Leybl Kahn recordings of 1954.

Katchor1Katchor2Lifshe Schaechter Widman & Leybl Kahn by Ben Katchor

Two similar versions of the song without the melody were collected by Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe and Oyzer Pipe in Sanok, Galicia and published in the YIVO-bleter volume 11, Jan – May, 1937 in Yidishe folkslider fun Galitsye, page 62. I have mentioned before in this blog that of all the pre-World War Two collections of Yiddish folksong, the Pipe brothers’ Galicia, Poland, collections come closest to LSW’s Bukovina repertory.

Note that LSW sings “malekh- hamus”, which is her dialect form for “malekh-hamoves” (angel of death).

Regarding the comic strip above: the artist Ben Katchor imagined how these 1954 recording sessions might have looked in his advertisement for the cassette Az di furst avek. The strip appeared in the collection Picture Story 2 (NY. 1986, edited by Ben Katchor).

In mayn hartsn brent a fayer / A fire burns in my heart

TRANSLITERATION

In mayn hartsn brent a fayer
nor me zeyt nisht keyn royekh aroys.
Ekh hob gemeynt bist a malekh fin deym himl.
Tsum sof bisti mayn malekh-hamus

Mayne eltern tien mikh freygn,
vus ikh gey azoy arim  betribt.
Vi ken ikh zey mayn shmarts dertseyln,
az ekh hob mekh in dir farlibt.

Az ikh hob mekh in dir farlibt.
hot keyn shum foygl af der velt hot nisht gevist.
Haynt iz a rash in ale gasn,
az indzer libe iz imzist.

Az di libe iz imzist;
Es geyt mir azh un a geveyn.
Far veymen blaybt den di veytik
Az nisht nor bay mir aleyn.

TRANSLATION

A fire burns in my heart
but no smoke can be seen.
I thought you were an angel from heaven,
turns out you’re the angel of death.

My parents ask me
why I go around so sad.
How can I tell them of my pain –
that I have fallen in love with you.

That I have fallen in love with you –
not a bird the world over knew about it.
Today there’s much talk in all the streets
that our love is for naught.

That our love is for naught
keeps me crying.
With whom will stay this pain
if not only with me.

brent1

brent2

brent3

Shmuel-Zaynvil and Oyzer Pipe, Yidishe folkslider fun Galitsye, YIVO-bleter volume 11, Jan – May, 1937:
Pipe-brent

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“Dus geboyrn finem mentshn” Performed by Frahdl Post

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

 Dus geboyrn finem mentshn / The Birth of Man
Sung by Frahdl Post
Recorded by Wolf Younin 1976, Workmen’s Circle Nursing Home, Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Usually on the blog we identify the songs by the first line, but the singer Frahdl Post called this song Dus geboyrn finem mentshn – The Birth of Man – so we will stick with that title. It is an adaptation of the first half of the poem Der malekh (The Angel), a poem by Avraham Goldfaden (1840-1908), a section bearing the subtitle “Di yunge neshome – The Young Soul”. It was first printed in Goldfaden’s poetry collection Dos yidele (Zhitomir 1866). We are attaching in 4 scans the entire poem as it appeared in the 1903 Warsaw edition.

Goldfaden picAvraham Goldfaden

The poem and song are based on the midrash and Jewish folk belief that before birth the soul of the child knows the entire Torah and all about the world. But right before birth the angel flicks his/her finger hitting the lip and the newborn forgets everything as it enters this world. The indentation above our lips, the philtrum, marks where the angel struck the child.

In Goldfaden’s 25-verse poem and Frahdl Post’s 14-verse song, the angel especially points out the evils of money in Jewish society.

Henry Carrey transcribed the song as he heard his grandmother, Frahdl Post, sing it. After listening, I changed some words of his transcription. Some words remain unclear and we indicate alternatives in brackets. I would suggest that one must read Goldfaden’s original poem to make sense of some of the lines in the song.

Post’s northern Ukrainian dialect includes both turning the “oy” to “ey”, (for example “skheyre instead of “skhoyre”), a change we associate with the northeastern Yiddish dialect (Litvish), as well as vowel changes we usually associate with the southeastern Yiddish dialect – “zugn” instead of “zogn”, “arim” instead of “arum”. The transcription reflects the dialect as much as possible.

Needless to say Frahdl Post’s memory in recalling these long songs is very impressive. Thanks for help in this week’s post go to Henry Carrey and David Braun.

TRANSLITERATION

[Ge]shlufn iz ales eyn halbe nakht
kayn shim mentsh hot zikh nit gerirt.
Nor di zilberne levune aleyn
tsvishn di shtern shpatsirt.

Demolt tsit on der shluf mit makht ,
farshlefert di mentshn di oygn,
iz fin dem himl a malakh arup
[Un iz iber di dekher gefloygn.]

Er halt di hent tsugeltulyet tsu zikh;
a yinge neshume getrugn,
“Vi trugsti mikh? Vi shlepsti mikh ?”
heybt im on di neshume tsi zugn .

“Hob nit keyn meyre, neshumele mayns”
Heybt on der malakh tsu reydn,
“Ikh vel dir bazetsn in a hayzl a fayns
Du vest dortn lebn tsufridn [in freydn].”

“Vest onheybn di velt beser farshteyn
Veln mir dir gebn a kameyeh,
Azey aza zakh hostu keyn mol geyzen
Zi heyst mitn nomen matbeye.”

“Mit der matbeye darfstu visn vi azoy tsu bageyn,
Zi iz magnet, zi iz kishef, zi iz gelt.
Zi ken dir gibn di velt tsu zeyn,
Zi ken dir farvistn dayn velt.“

Dortn zitst eyner in zan tsimer
Er trinkt mit im frayntlekh un kvelt,
Zey vi er kikt im [?] same in bekher aran.
Er vil bay im yarshenen zayn gelt.

Dortn shluft eyner in zayn tsimer.
Er shluft zikh git geshmak
Zey vi er shteyt un kritst mit di tseyn
Er vil hobn dem shlisl fun dem gelt.

Dortn firt eyner ganeyvishe skheyre,
Gur farviklt, farshtelt,
Zey vi er hot di skheyre geganvet
Un er vil zi farkeyfn far gelt.

Dortn oyf dem beys-hakvures
In an ofenem keyver oyfgeshtelt,
Zey vi er tsit di takhrikhim arup
Un er vil zey farkeyfn far gelt.

“Okh! neyn, neyn, neyn, neyn, heyliker malakh
Mit aza velt kim ikh nit oys.
Fir zhe mir beser upet aheym,
Ikh ze du kayn gits nit aroys.“

“Shpatsir dir a bisl arim afn brik,
Shpatsir zikh a bisl arim,
Di vest dokh bald darfn kimen karik
Di zolst nit kimen far im [mit keyn grim.][?]”
[Goldfaden: “Zolst kumen aheym on a mum]

Der hun hot gegebn dem ershtn krey,
A kol fun a kimpeturin,
Azey hot men gegeybn bald a geshrey,
“ A yingele! – mit lange yurn.”

[Azoy vi men hot gegeybn dem geshrey.
“Mazl-tov, a yingl geboyrn”]
Der malakh hot gegebn a shnal in der lip
Un iz karik tsum himl farfloygn.

TRANSLATION

Everything is asleep at midnight.
Not a soul was stirring.
Only the silver moon
Went walking among the stars

Sleep covers all with its power
And makes drowsy all of the people’s eyes.
An angel then came down from heaven
And flew over the rooftops.

He holds his hands tucked close to himself
A young soul he was carrying.
“Where are you carrying me? Where are you dragging me?”
The soul starts saying to him.

“Do not fear, my dear little soul”
the angel begins to speak
“I will place you in a good house.
You will live there happily.”

“When you begin to understand the world better,
we will give you a charm.
Such a thing you have never seen:
It is called by the name – coin.”

“With this coin you will have to know what to do.
It’s a magnet; it’s magic, it’s money.
It can help you see the world.
It can destroy your the world.”

There sits someone with his friend in his room.
He drinks with him as friends and enjoys it.
Look how looks right in the goblet .
He wants to inherit his money.

Another sleeps in his room,
He is sound asleep.
See how he stands and grits his teeth;
He wants to have the key to the money.

Over there someone deals with stolen goods,
Completely wrapped up, disguised.
See how he stole that merchandise
And how he wants to sell if for money.

There on the cemetery
In an open grave [a body] is propped up.
See how he pulls the burial shrouds off it
and wants to sell them for money.

“Ah no, no, no, no holy angel
I cannot survive in such a world.
It would be better if you took me home.
No good do I see here.”

“Take a walk around the bridge,
take a little walk around.
You will soon have to come back
So that you don’t appear before him with make-up [?].”
[In Goldfaden’s original – “So that you return with no blemish”]

The rooster gave its first crow
The voice of a midwife,
And thus was given the first scream
A boy! May he live for many years.

As soon as the first yell was given
“Mazl-tov! A boy was born”.
The angle gave it a flick on the lip
And flew back up to heaven.
geboyrn1

geboyrn2

geboyrn3

geboyrn4

Di yunge neshome – The Young Soul, as printed in Goldfaden’s poetry collection Dos yidele (Zhitomir 1866):

YungeNewshome1

YungeNeshome4

YungeNeshome3

YungeNeshome2

“Ver s’hot nor in blat gelezn: Der Bialystoker pogrom” Performed by Frahdl Post

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2018 by yiddishsong

Ver s’hot nor in blat gelezn: Der Bialystoker pogrom
Whoever has Read the Newspaper: The Bialystok Pogrom

Performance by Frahdl Post, Recorded by Wolf Younin 1970s.

This week’s song was submitted by Henry Carrey. The singer Frahdl Post is his grandmother, the mother of a previously featured singer, Leah Post Carrey (aka Leyke Post). Frahdl was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1881 and died at the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged in the Bronx in 1976.

Carrey writes:

“Frahdl Herman Postalov, a/k/a Fannie Post, grew up in Zhitomir, Ukraine in a lower middle-class home, one of four sisters and two brothers. Her father Dovid-Hersh Herman had a shop where grain was sold. His wife, Rivke Kolofsky worked in the shop.

FrahdlPost

Frahdl Post

As a young girl, she always like to sing and dance and took part in amateur theatricals. Performing ran in the family. Her father was  a part-time cantor with a pleasant voice and Frahdl and her brother Pinye teamed up to perform at local parties. She told us that she learned her vast repertoire of many-versed songs by going to a store with friends every day where newly written songs would be purchased and then shared by the girls. She also used to stand in the street outside the local jail and learn revolutionary songs from the prisoners who could be heard through the windows. She remembered attending revolutionary meetings in the woods, and singing all the revolutionary songs, although she herself was not an activist.

One day she went to a fortune-teller who told her that her future husband was waiting at home. When she got home, she saw my grandfather, Shloyme, who had been boarding with her aunt. In 1907 they married and within a year her husband Shloyme was off to America to seek his fortune leaving a pregnant wife. Frahdl and my mother Leyke left to join him about four years later in 1913.

Eventually she got to Halifax, Nova Scotia but was denied entry to the US because she had a highly contagious disease called trachoma. Fortunately, she was somehow allowed into Canada instead of being sent back to Europe  as was customary. After four months of treatment in Montreal , Frahdl was cured and they left for Boston, where my grandfather had settled. Frahdl had two more children Rose and Hymie in the next three years.

During the 1920’s, Shloyme decided to move from Boston and start a tire business for Model-T’s in Arlington – a suburb of Boston where there were only three other Jewish families. However, my grandmother still took the tram into the West End of Boston to buy most of her food.  Understandably , the children  were influenced by the non-Jews around them and once brought a “Chanukah Bush” home and put up stockings on the mantel. My grandmother threw the tree out and filled the stockings with coal and onions from “Sente Closet”.  My mother, Leyke, who even at a young age was a singer, had been secretly singing with the Methodist choir. One day the minister came to the door to ask my grandmother’s permission to allow my mother to sing in church on Christmas Eve. That was the last straw for my grandmother and they moved back to the West End.

My grandmother always sang around the house both the Yiddish and Ukrainian folksongs she had learned in Zhitomir and the new Yiddish theater songs she heard from other people or later on the radio and on recordings. All the children learned the songs and Leyke incorporated them into her repertoire when she became a professional singer.”

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

The song Ver s’hot nor in blat gelezn describes the Bialystok pogrom which occurred on June 1, 1906. Two hundred Jews were killed and seven hundred wounded – a particularly violent pogrom.

A number of verses are similar to other pogrom songs. The same song but only five verses long, with a reference to a pogrom in Odessa (1871? 1881? 1905?) is heard on Ruth Rubin’s Folkways album The Old Country and is printed in the YIVO collection Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive sung by Mr. Persky of Montreal. We have attached two scans of the song as it appears in the book, words and melody.

Click here for a previous posting about another song about pogroms (including Bialystok).

There it is noted that “The song is folklorized from a poem by Abraham Goldfaden, Di holoveshke (The Ember). I find only the third verse of Goldfaden’s poem to be adapted in this song. Three scans of Goldfaden’s original poem are attached as they appear in the 1891 edition of Dos yidele. In Post’s version it is the fifth verse.

In the Frahdl Post recording, the 10th verse ends abruptly before the song’s conclusion. Fortunately, Henry Carrey was able to add the last verse (and an alternate line) based on other recordings of his grandmother, so the transcription and translation include this final verse but it is cut off in the audio recording.

Wolf Younin (1908 – 1984), who recorded this song, was a well-known Yiddish poet, lyricist (Pozharne komande, Zing shtil, Der yid, der shmid, Ober morgn) and journalist. His column Shprakhvinkl included much Jewish folklore. Younin’s NY Times obituary is available here:

Thanks to Henry Carrey for this week’s post. The transliteration is based on his version. I changed some words to reflect her dialect.

TRANSLITERATION

Ver s’hot nor di blat geleyzn
Fun der barimter shtot Bialistok
Vos far an imglik dort iz geveyzn
In eyne tsvey dray teg.

Plitsling, hot men oysgeshrign,
“Shlugt di yidn vi vat ir kent! “
Shteyner in di fenster hobn genumen flien.
A pogrom hot zikh oysgerisn in eyn moment.

Blit gist zikh shoyn  in ale gasn,
In se shpritst zikh shoyn oyf di vent.
Yidn hot men geharget, oysgeshlugn.
Mit zeyer blit hot men gemult di vent.

Dort shteyt a kale oyf di harte shteyner,
Ungetun in ir vays khipe-kleyd
Un leybn ir shteyt a  merder eyner
un er halt dem khalef in der hant gegreyt.

Dort ligt a froy , a yinge,  a sheyne,
farvorfn, farshmitst ligt zi oyfn mist.
Leybn ir ligt a kind a kleyne;
zi tit ir zoygn ir toyte kalte brist.

Vi zey zaynen nor in shtub arayngekimen,
un zey hobn di mentshn git gekent.
Vus iz geveyn in shtib hobn zey tsebrokhn.
Di mentshn upgeshnitn hobn zey di hent.

Vi zey zaynen nor in shtub arayngekimen,
Mit ayn tuml, mit a groysn rash.
Vus iz geven in shtub hobn zey tsebrokhn,
Kleyne kinder arupgevorfn funem dritn antash.

Ver s’iz  baym umglik nisht geveyzn
Un er hot dem tsorn nisht gezeyn.
Mentshn hobn geshrign “Oy vey un vind is mir”.
Aroysgelozt hobn zey a groys geveyn.

Vi men hot zey in hospital arayngebrakht,
Keyner hot zey gor nisht derkent.
Mentshn hobn geshrign “ Oy, vey un vind is mir”.
Zey hobn gebrokhn mit di hent.

Oy, du Got, [Recording ends at this point ]

Oy, du Got du bist a guter,
Far vo’zhe kukstu nisht fun himl arop ?
Vi mir laydn shver un biter
[Or alternate line: Batrakht zhe nor dem yidishn tuml]|
Farvos dayne yidn, zey kumen op.

TRANSLATION

Who has not read in the papers
Of the well-known city Bialystok
Of the tragedy that befell it.
in a matter of three days.

Suddenly someone cried out
“Beat the Jews as much as you can!”
Stones thrown at windows started flying
A pogrom erupted in one moment.

Blood already flows in all the streets
And is spurting already on the walls.
Jews were killed and beaten
With their blood the walls were painted.

There stands a bride on the hard stones
Dressed in her white bridal gown.
Next to her stands a murderer
And he holds the knife ready in his hand.

There lies a woman, young and beautiful
Abandoned, tortured, she lay on the garbage,
And next to her lies a small child
She nurses it from her dead, cold breast.

As soon as they entered the house
And they knew the people well,
Whatever was in the house they broke
The people’s hands they cut off.

As soon as they came into the house
With  noise and violence
Whatever was in the house they broke;
Small children were thrown down from the third floor.

Whoever was not at this tragedy
Did not see this great anger.
People yelled “O woe is me”
Letting out a great cry.

When they brought them to the hospital
No one could recognize them.
People cried out “Woe is me”
And wrung their hands .

Oy God [recording ends here but should continue with…]

Oy God you are good
why don’t you look down from heaven?
How we suffer hard and bitter
[alternate line: “Look upon this Jewish chaos”
Why your Jews are so punished.

bialystok yid1bialystok yid2bialystok yid3

Ver es hot in blat gelezn (From YIVO publication Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive):

bialystok lyrics

ruth rubin post 2

Abraham Goldfaden’s poem Di holoveshke (The Ember), published in Dos yidele (1891)

ember1

ember2

ember3

ember4

ember5

One Song – Three Pogroms

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The last day of Passover 1903 coincided with Easter that year, and the tragic Kishinev pogrom began on that date. keshenevKishinev, aftermath of the pogrom (YIVO Archives)

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang this version of a song about the pogrom which was adapted for other pogroms, or perhaps  was itself already an adaptation of an earlier pogrom song. In this post we note two other pogroms with versions of the song.

A version of the same pogrom song is sung by the actress/singer Miriam Kressyn about Bialystok on the LP record Dos Goldene Land. Kressyn was from Bialystok, and the Bialystoker pogroms took place in 1905 – 1906.  (Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives for providing this recording)

The third pogrom where this song was used was in Volodarka, Ukraine. This pogrom took place in July 1919 amidst the Russian Civil War. The lyrics (as collected by S. Kupershmid) appears in the Tsaytshrift far yidisher geshikhte, demografye un ekonomik literatur-forshung, shprakh-visnshaft un etnografye 2-3 (Minsk, 1928) page 803. It too contains the lines of walking through feathers as through snow in winter, and this emerged as one of the primary pogrom images, as we see in our Kishinev pogrom examples and others.

volodarkaOn the Workmen Circle’s LP “Amol iz geven a mayse”, Sidor Belarsky sings two verses of an abbreviated version of The Kishiniev Pogrom song. The song begins at this link – double click on “Amol iz geven a mayse (cont.)”  and go to 12:30 minutes.

In the chapter “The Pogrom As Poem” in David G. Roskies’ work Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (1984) the author examines how the same pogrom song was adapted for different pogroms. He remarks “even when the singer invoked historical facts, the relics of the violence were organized into public symbols and thematic formulas, so that the details were applicable anywhere and only the place-name would have to be changed.”

Transliteration/Translation of LSW’s version:

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman “Lid funem Keshenever Pogrom”, recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, 1954

Akhron Shel Peysekh af der nakht
iz aroys a nayer “rozkaz.”
Az yidn zoln lign bahaltn.
Zey torn zikh nisht dreyen in gas.

Oy, ziser got in himl,
kuk shoyn arop af dr’erd.
Ze nor dem rash un getuml.
Vos hobn di yidn far a vert?

A hoyz fun dray gorn
hot men geleygt biz tsu dem grint.
Betgevant hot men gerisn,
di federn gelozt of dem vint.

In di federn iz men gegangen
azoy vi vinter in shney.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
mener gerisn of tsvey.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
Di mener tserisn of tsvey.

Ziser got in himl
kik shoyn arup af dr’erd
Vuz zenen di yidn azoy zindik
Vus zey hobn gur keyn vert?

The last day of Passover
a new regulation was issued.
That Jews should lie hidden;
they aren’t allowed in the street.

Oy sweet God in heaven,
Look already down on the earth.
See the tumult and chaos.
Are the Jews worth anything?

A house three stories high
was destroyed down to the ground.
Bedding was torn apart;
the feathers blew in the wind.

In the feathers they walked
as in winter in snow.
Women were beaten;
men torn in two.

Sweet God in heaven
Look already down to the Earth.
Have the Jews so sinned
that they are of no worth. Lifshe PogromLifshe Pogrom2

“A lid vegn Bentsi der geshtokhener” Performed by Leyke Post

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Thanks to Henry Carrey for this fascinating recording of his mother Leah “Leyke” Post Carrey (1908 – 2005), a well known Yiddish singer and actress, singing a 15 verse murder/underworld ballad from Zhitomir entitled “A lid vegn Bentsi der geshtokhener” (“A Song about Bentsi who was Stabbed”). Leah’s mother Frahdl had learned this song right after the actual event, and Leah says in her Yiddish comments spoken after performing the song that her mother attended the trial and saw the bloody knife.

What follows is 1) information on the singer Leah Carrey, followed by 2) notes on Leah’s mother Frahdl, from whom Leah learned this song, and finally 3) a few comments on the song itself.

1) Obituary sent by Henry Carrey:

Leah Carrey (Leyke Post), 97, Yiddish Radio Star

Leah Carrey, singer, actress and star of Yiddish radio in Boston passed away last week in New York. Known to her fans by her maiden name of Leyke Post, Leah was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine into a family that loved to entertain. She and her mother Frahdl joined her father Shloyme in the West End of Boston when she was 5 years old.

Her stage debut was as a boy singing “Heyse Bapkelekh” in a touring Goldfaden operetta starring Michal Michalesko. On that occasion, she suffered her first and only bout of stage fright. She performed in shows at the Grand Old Opera House on Dover Street, at the Shawmut Theater and the Franklin Park Theater, working with some of the greatest stars of the Yiddish stage. Later, she toured all over New England and in the Catskills, performing Yiddish folk, art and theater songs.
Leyke Post

Photograph of Leah Post Carrey courtesy of Henry Carrey

She sang on Boston radio for over 25 years on stations WCOP, the Mutual and Yankee networks. She was a regular on “The Kibitzer” with Ben Gailing and “Der Freylekher Kaptsn“. She also concertized for many Jewish organizations – most frequently at the Workmen’s Circle camp in Framingham and Center.

In 1933, she married Al Carrey and had two sons: David, who eventually worked in the New York Yiddish theater and Henry. She joined her son in New York in 1978 singing on WEVD, at Circle Lodge and off-Broadway in “The Roumanian Wedding”. After her son David’s untimely death, she was cheered up by the chance to play Grandma in Woody Allen’s film “Radio Days”. In the early ‘90’s, she impressed her audiences at “Klezkamp”.

She is survived by her son Henry of Manhattan and her sister Rose Andelman of Nyack, New York .

2) About his grandmother, Frahdl Post, aka Fannie Post, Henry Carrey writes:

My bobie was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1881 and died at the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged in the Bronx, New York in 1976. She grew up in a lower-middle class home, one of four sisters and two brothers. Her father Dovid-Hersh Herman had a shop where grain was sold. His wife, Rivke Kolofsky worked in the shop.

As young girl, she always liked to sing and dance (her father was said to be a part-time lay khazn [cantor] with a pleasant voice.) She and her brother, Pinye, teamed up to sing and dance at local simkhes (family celebrations). As she was never taught to read and write, she used to learn everything by heart. She once said that she learned her vast repertoire of many-versed songs by going to a store with friends every day, where newly written songs would be purchased and then shared by the girls (at least one of whom had to be able to read music). She also used stand in the street outside the local jail and learn revolutionary songs from the prisoners who could be heard through the windows. Although she remembered attending revolutionary meetings in the woods, she was not an activist. She also took part in occasional amateur theatricals near her home.

One day she went to a fortune-teller, who told her that her future husband was waiting at home for her. When she got home, she saw my grandfather Shloyme, who had been boarding with her aunt. Even though she was supposed to be the prettiest of the girls, she was relatively late in getting married for a girl at that time. In 1907, they married and within a year, her husband Shloyme was off to America to seek his fortune. He may not have known that his wife was pregnant when he left. I don’t know if he left for any other reasons, but I do know that there were pogroms in Zhitomir in 1905 and 1907.

In April 1913, (from Halifax) they left for Boston, where my grandfather had settled. Frahdl had two more children Rose and Hymie. My grandfather worked as a welder and a blacksmith and eventually owned two small apartment building where he was the landlord and super. At one point, they left their Jewish neighborhood of the West End of Boston to move to Arlington so that my grandfather could open a tire store with a friend for Model T’s.

Being one of four Jewish families in Arlington, my mother and siblings were influenced by the gentile kids around them. My aunt and uncle once brought a “Chanukah Bush” home and put up stockings on the mantel. My grandmother threw the tree out and filled the stockings with coal and onions from “Sente Closet“. My mother, who even at a young age, was a singer, had been secretly singing with the Methodist choir. One day, the minister came to the door to ask my grandmother’s permission to allow my mother to sing on Christmas Eve. That was the last straw for my grandmother and they moved back to the West End.

I was always amazed that my grandmother managed to bring up three children in Boston without ever learning to read or write. She could recognize numbers and sign her name, but never went to night school as her sisters had done. She always regretted that.

My grandmother always sang around the house both the old Yiddish and Ukrainian folksongs she had learned in Zhitomir and the new Yiddish theater songs she heard from other people or later on the radio and on recordings.

She never stopped singing and dancing even in the old age home. I remember even in the 1960’s she would delight people with her Yinglish version of “How much is that doggy in the window?” or her renditions of “Enjoy Yourself (It’s later than you think)” in Yiddish and English and “Der Galitzianer Cabalyerl“ in Yiddish.

3) Comments on song “Bentsi der geshtokhener” by Itzik Gottesman:

This song is among the more brutal and bloodier Yiddish ballads even when compared to the songs in Shmuel Lehman’s classic collection, “Ganovim lider” (“Thieves’ Songs”), published in Warsaw in 1928.

Interesting how even in such a prime example of the Jewish underworld, elements of the traditional Jewish world work themselves into the story – his pal Dovid Perltsvayg and his old father say Kaddish (the memorial prayer); Bentsi wants to say vide, his final confession.

Elements of traditional Yiddish ballads also are to found, such as verses that begin with “Azoy….” – “Azoy vi di muter hot dos derhet” for example is usually part of the widespread “12 a zeyger ballad” (see the recording by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman on the cassette “Az di furst avek”).

I will not comment on the grammatical and lexical issues, which are many, and can be addressed by the listeners of the Yiddish Song of the Week blog. Please point out any mistakes, of course, or disagreements with my translation.

A naye lid hob ikh aroysgegebn,
vos ikh aleyn vel aykh zingen.
Di lid iz fun Bentsi dem(!) geshtokhener;
Di gantse velt tut mit im klingen.

A new song did I produce
that I will sing for you myself.
This song about Bentsi the stabbed one,
The whole world is talking about him.

A shayke gite-briderlekh zenen zikh in zhitomir geven,
un zey hobn zikh shtendik farhaltn gut,
un far aza mints narishkeyt,
geyt men a gutn-bruder fargisn blut.

A gang of “buddies” (slang for thugs) were in Zhitomir
and they always got along fine.
And for some trifle coins,
they spilled the blood of their buddy.

Azoy vi Bentsi iz nor aheymgekumen,
hot er nit gevust vos mit im ken zayn.
Er hot zikh nor avekgeleygt shlofn –
azoy hot men im gegibn dem meser in der zayt arayn.

As soon as Bentsi came home,
he didn‘t know what would happen to him.
He lay down to sleep
and they stabbed him with the knife in his side.

Azoy vi Bentsi hot nor dem meser derfilt,
hot er zikh oyfgekhapt mit a groys geshrey.
Er hot ongehoybn shrayen “Brengt mir a dokter.
Oy, zol men mir mayn blut faromeven”.

As soon as Bentsi felt the knife,
he woke up with a great yell.
He began to scream “bring me a doctor
Let them wipe up my blood.”


Keyn sakh arbet hobn zey bay im nisht gehat,
vayl zey zene geven in firn.
Zayne koyles zenen gegangen bizn zibetn himl,
zey hobn im nisht gevolt tsuhern.

They didn’t have much work to do
because there were four.
His screams reached the seventh heaven,
but they ignored him.

Dem ershtn meser hot im zayn guter-brider arayngerikt,
un er hot im bay im oysgedreyt.
“Ikh zog dir a blat loshn, Bentsi, ikh hob dir shoyn gefetst.
Itst veln mir shoyn beyde zayn tsesheydt.”

The first knife was plunged into him by his buddy,
and he turned it around in him.
I will tell you in underworld lingo – I knocked you off,
Now we will go our separate ways.

File mentshn hobn in Bentsis toyt a negeye gehat.
Zey hobn bay im dos lebn genumen.
Mir zeen dokh aroys, s’iz shoyn a farfalene zakh,
un me tor nit fregn far vos s’iz him gekumen.

Many people had a part(?) in Bentsyes death.
They took away his life.
We therefore see, that it’s all over,
but no one can ask why he deserved it.

Azoy vi er hot im dem meser arayngerikt,
zayne tsores hot Bentsi nit gekent farnemen.
“Ikh zog dir Bentsi, ikh shnayd fun dir shtiker fleysh,
Mir veln zikh bodn in dayn blut vi vayt mir veln kenen.”

As soon as he stabbed him with the knife,
Bentsi could not stand his pains.
“I tell you Bentsi, I am cutting pieces of flesh from you.
We will bathe in your blood, as much as we can.‟

“Hert nor oys mayne gute-briderlekh,
Ot hert vos ikh vel aykh zogn.
Oy, shikt mir rufn mayn tayere mame,
oy, lomir khotshk (b)vide zogn.”

Listen my good buddies,
listen to what I will tell you.
O, send for my dear mother,
O, let me say my final confession of sins.

Azoy vi di muter hot dos nor derhert,
iz zi arayngefaln mit a groys geveyn.
“Oy, nite veyn mayn tayere mame,
Got veyst tsi du vest mir morgn zen.”

As soon as his mother heard this,
she ran in with a great moan.
“Don‘t you cry my dear mother,
God only knows if you’ll see me tomorrow‟.

Nokh zayn shtekh hot er nokh zibn teg gelebt;
zayne tsores hot er nit gekent aribertrogn.
Far zayn toyt hot er a gutn-brider Dovid Perltsvayg ongezogt,
Az kadish zol er nokh im zogn.

After the stabbing he lived another seven days.
His pains he could not endure.
Before he died, he told his buddy Dovid Perltsvayg,
he should say Kaddish for him.

Dovid hot bay him der hant genumen,
er zol zikh zayn krivde onnemen.
“Ikh zog dir Bentsi, vi vayt ikh vel kenen,
vet ikh zen far dir dayn blut opnemen.”

Dovid took him by the hand,
and asked to take up his cause.
“I tell you Bentsi, that as much as I am able
I will avenge your blood.‟

Oy, ver s’iz nit bay dem nisoyen nisht geven,
oy, darf men veynen un klogn.
Aza ayzernem Bentsi leygt men in dr’erd arayn.
un der alter foter darf kadish zogn.

Whoever was at this temptation (?),
should weep and mourn.
Such an iron-man like Bentsi is put in the ground
and his old father must say Kaddish.

Dem ershtn gitn-brider hot men bald gekhapt,
un me hot im in mokem arestirt;
keyn vapros bay him gornit opgenumen,
me hot im bald in kitsh aropgefirt.

The first buddy was caught soon after
and they arrested him in the neighborhood (?)
The didn‘t take any questions from him,
and they put him straight away in the “can” (jail)

Di iberike dray hot men ongehoybn sliedeven,
un me hot bald gevust vu zey zaynen.
Tsum Barditshever brik iz men bay nakht geforn,
un fun di dlizones hot men zey aropgenumen.

About the other three they started to ask questions
and they soon found out where they were.
To the Berdichever bridge they went at night
And from the carriages they took them off.

At conclusion of song, this is spoken by the singer: “My mother remembers how dangerous it was when they led the murderer in chains and how one of them yelled to Dovid Perltsvayg – ‘unless I don’t come back if I do come back we will get back at you’. My mother told me that she remembered how the knife was laying on the table with blood. Bentsi, as I understood it, was a handsome youth, and girls worked for him. The girls were crazy for him. The other three, it seems, were jealous of him. I know, that’s what my mother told me.

Bentsi1
Bentsi2
Bentsi3
Bentsi4

“Pey luhem” Performed by Mordkhe Bauman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottemsman

Mordkhe Bauman’s performance of the song Pey luhem (“They Have Mouths”) was recorded in the Bronx by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman in the 1980s. The song is also called “Atsabeyhem kesef vezohev” (“Their Idols are Silver and Gold”) and a printed version, very similar to Bauman‘s can be found in Folks-gezangen loytn nusekh fun Chaim Kotylansky Los Angeles 1944, pages 56-57. There are several 78s of Kotylansky singing but not this song (see Richard K. Spottswood’s Ethnic Music on Records, Volume 3).

A different version on Youtube can now be viewed, performed by Dovid Vider, recorded as part of Indiana University’s Aheym Project, in Kolomey, Ukraine, May 2003.

Eventually, I will post another version I recorded with a different melody by Itzik Zucker from the region of Volhinya. He told me that the song was performed on the holiday of Simkhes-toyre, and Kotylansky comments that „The Chassidim sing it on every holiday, whenever „Hallel‟ is sung.‟ There is a tradition to sing songs that ridicule the non-Jews on Simkhes-toyre, and this is one of the more popular ones.

The song takes words from the Hallel prayer, which is in turn based on Psalm 115, and translates the lines into Yiddish to comic effect. In Bauman‘s version, Polish words are often humorously used to describe the body parts of the non-Jewish gods. For example: the Polish word for blind person to refer to blind eyes „szlepez‟; the Polish word for ears „uchos‟ to refer to their deaf ears.

Thanks to Prof. Dov-Ber Kerler who sent me a link to a great discussion list in Yiddish that discusses various amazing versions of this song (for example: „their gods have a throat like a giraffe‟). Scroll down and read the whole discussion!

One important word in Bauman‘s version remains unclear to me. Kharboyne seems to indicate Harbonah of the Megillah. Why he is referred to in this context – the idol of the non-Jews – is unclear. David Braun believes it is because Kharboyne/Harbonah is a eunuch and therefore impotent.

In the list-serve discussion, one version uses Pondrik (a nickname for Jesus) instead and of course this makes more sense to me. Any opinions on this would be helpful.

Thanks to Michael Alpert for helping with the Polish words.

Pey luhem veloy yedaberu
A piskatsh ot er un er ken nisht redn.
Okh un vey iz tsu zey!
A shtime Kharboyne hobn zey.
A piskatsh ot er, un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khufets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have mouths but cannot speak‟ (Hebrew)
A foul mouth (piskacz=Polish) he has and cannot speak.
Woe is to them!
A mute Kharboyne they have.
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak.
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Eynayim luhem, veloy yiru
Shlepes hot un er ken nisht zeyn.
Okh un vey iz tsu zey,
A blinde Khorboyne hobn zey,
Shlepes ot er, un er zeyt nisht.
A piskatsh ot er, un er redt nisht.
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khufets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have eyes but cannot see‟ (Hebrew)
Blind eyes (szlepes = Polish) he has and cannot see.
Woe is to them!
A blind Kharboyne they have.
Blind eyes he has but cannot see,
A foul mouth he has but cannot speak,
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Oznayim luhem, veloy yishmau
Ukhes ot er un er ken nisht hern.
Okh un vey iz tsu zey
A toybe Kharboyne hobn zey.
Ukhes ot er un hert nisht,
shlepes ot er un er zeyt nisht
a piskatsh ot er un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khofets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have ears but cannot hear‟ (Hebrew)
Ears (uchos = Polish) he has but cannot hear.
Woe is to them!
A deaf Kharboyne they have.
Ears he has and cannot hear,
Blind eyes he has and cannot see,
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Af luhem veloy yerikhun
a nonye ot er un er ken nisht shmekhn
okh un vey iz tsu zey
a farshtopte Kharboyne hobn zey.
A nonye ot er, un er shmekt nisht
Ukhes ot er un hert nisht,
shlepes ot er un er zeyt nisht
a piskatsh ot er un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khofets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have a nose but cannot smell‟ (Hebrew)
A funny nose/shnoz (nonye) he‘s got, but cannot smell.
Woe is to them!
A stuffed up Kharboyne they have.
A shnoz he has, but cannot smell.
Ears he has and cannot hear,
Blind eyes he has and cannot see.
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak.
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Yedeyhem veloy yemishun
Lapes ot un er ken nisht tapn
okh un vey iz tsu zey
a kalikevate Kharboyne hobn zey
Lapes ot er un er tapt nsiht,
A nonye ot er un er shmekt nisht,
Ukhes ot er un hert nisht,
shlepes ot er un er zeyt nisht
a piskatsh ot er un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
ober indzer got in himl.
Kol asher khofets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„Hands he has, but cannot touch‟ (Hebrew)
Paws he has, but cannot touch.
Woe is to them!
A crippled Kharboyne they have.
Paws he has but cannot touch
A shnoz he has, but cannot smell.
Ears he has and cannot hear,
Blind eyes he has and cannot see.
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak.
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.

Ragleyhem veloy yehaleykhu
lopetes ot er un er ken nisht geyn.
Okh un vey iz tsu zey,
A lume Kharboyne hobn zey.
Lopetes ot er un er geyt nisht
Lapes ot er un er tapt nisht,
A nonye ot er un er shmekt nisht,
Ukhes ot er un hert nisht,
shlepes ot er un er zeyt nisht
a piskatsh ot er un er redt nisht
Ober eleheynu shebashomayim,
[ober indzer got in himl.]
Kol asher khofets usu, usu
Vus er vil tit er, tit er.
Vus er vil, tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.
Vus er vil tit er, veymen er vil, gibt er.

„They have feet but cannot walk‟ (Hebrew)
Funny legs (literally = shovels) he has and cannot walk.
Woe is to them!
A lame Kharboyne they have.
Shovels he has and cannot walk,,
Paws he has and cannot touch
A shnoz he has, and cannot smell.
Ears he has and cannot hear,
Blind eyes he has and cannot see.
A foul mouth he has and cannot speak.
But our God in heaven (Hebrew)
But our God in heaven
Can do whatever he wills (Hebrew)
Whatever he wants, he does,
Whomever he wants – he gives.




“Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres” Performed by Ita Taub

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

This recording of Ita Taub was done in our dining room in our Bronx home in the 1980s after a meal, as you can hear from the clanging of dishes. For biographical information on Taub see the earlier post on “Oy vey mame.”

Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres (If I were to have the Emperor’s Treasures) was written by Mikhl Gordon (1823 – 1890). According to Chana and Joseph Mlotek in their Yiddish-language work Perl fun der yidisher poezye, 1974 (now available in English), this song was originally called “Shlof mayn kind” and included in his first collection printed in 1868.

Mikhl Gordon

The Mloteks also say that Isa Kremer performed the song often and popularized it, though I cannot find a recording of her singing it. The Freedman Jewish Sound Archive lists two recent recordings of the song with the title “Az ikh volt gehat dem keysers oytsres.”

I have not seen Gordon’s work so I am not sure how many verses are in his original but a third verse is included in some recordings and collections such as Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamlbuch, Berlin 1914, that concern the father going to hell. That verse adds a little bittersweet humor to the song, and it’s interesting that with a woman singer such as Ita Taub the verse is dropped. As Taub sings it, the song only relates directly to the mother and child relationship.

Taub’s interpretation is truly moving and culminates in that great dramatic last line “Let enter the Tsadik’s mother!”

Ven ikh volt gehot dem keysers oytsres
mit zayn gantser melikhe.
Volt es nit geveyn bay mir nikhe,
vi di bist bay mir nikhe. 

If I were to have the Emperor‘s treasures
and his entire land.
It would not be as pleasing to me,
as you are pleasing to me.

Mayn kind, mayn kroyn
Ven ikh derzey deyekh
Vayst zikh dokh mir oys,
az di gontse velt iz mayn.

My child, my crown.
When I see you
It seems to me
That the whole world is mine.

Shluf mayn kind, shluf mayn kind,
zolst nor leybn un zayn zezint.
Ay-lu -lu -lu, Ay-lu- lu-lu

Sleep may child, sleep my child.
You should only live and be healthy,
Ay-lu-lu.

Ven ikh vel amol darfn
af yener velt geyen,
veln toyern funem gin-eydn
far mir ofn shteyen.

When I will have to
go to the other world,
the gates of Heaven
will stand open for me.

Vayl di mayn kind
vet zayn a frimer un a giter.
Vet me zugn af yener velt –
„Lozst arayn dem tsadiks miter!‟

Because you my child,
will be observant and good,
So in the other world they will say –
„Let enter the Tsaddik‘s mother!‟

Shluf mayn kind, shluf, mayn kind,
zolst nor leybn un zayn gezint,
Ay-lu-lu-lu, Ay-lu-lu-lu

Sleep may child, sleep my child.
You should only live and be healthy,
Ay-lu-lu.