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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

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“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 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”). Frahdl learned this song right after the actual event and Leah says in her Yiddish comments after 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.