Archive for I. L. Cahan

“Bin ikh mir geshtanen” Performed by Nochem Yood

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2018 by yiddishsong

Bin ikh mir geshtanen / I was standing there
A 19th century “khaper” song from Czarist Army
Sung by Nochem Yood

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This 19th century song describes the khapers, the “catchers”  – the despised Jews who caught boys to fulfill the Jewish quota for the Czarist army. Apparently the “khapers” only existed from 1852 – 1855, but in folk memory they were active the entire time of Czar Nicholas l’s conscription program.

soldiers passoverJewish Soldiers at Passover Seder, 1902 (Zionist Archive)

The singer is the Yiddish poet Nochem Yood (Nokhem Yerusalimtshik (1888-1966). He was born in Bobr, Belarus and came to the United States in 1916. The recording was made in the 1950s or early 1960s but he had sung this same song for the folklorist I. L Cahan in the 1920s and Cahan published it in the volume Pinkes 1927-1928 (New York) with no music. There the song was called Dos lid fun di khapers (The song of the khapers). It was reprinted, still just the lyrics, in I. L. Cahan’s Yidishe folkslider, YIVO 1957, page 373-374 (scans are attached below). For that version Nochem Yood sang eighteen verses; here he sings eleven verses.

Nochem YoodNochem Yood 

The other voice on the recording, clearly a landsman from Bober who tries to remember more verses, is for the time being unidentified.

There is a version with music in the periodical Yidisher folklor # 1, NY, 1954, from the A. Litvin Collection at YIVO. Chana Mlotek wrote the commentary there and included information on other versions; some of them quite long.  A scan of that page is also attached.

It is interesting that Cahan did not include the “Ay-ay-ay” chorus in his version. The “Ay-ay-ay” chorus as heard in this Nochem Yood recording gives the song the feeling of a communal performance or a work song. Other versions do include a similar chorus.

Thanks with help for this post to Yelena Shmulenson, Deborah Strauss and Jeff Warschauer.


[Bin ikh mir geshtanen] baym foter afn hoyf
her ikh a geshrey “Yungerman antloyf!”
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Bin ikh mir gelofn in a gertndl bald.
Biz ikh bin gekumen in a tifn vald.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Dray teg un dray nekht nit gegesn, nit getrunken
nor mit di eygelekeh tsu Got gevunken.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Gib ikh zikh a ker in der zayt
Ersht ikh derze a shtibele nit vayt.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Balebostitshke, balebostitshke efnt mir of di tir,
hot rakhmones un git a kuk af mir.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Eyder ikh hob nit tsayt optsubentshn
dan zaynen gekumen di khapermentshn.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Yidelekh vos zayt ir gekumen tsu forn?
Mir zaynen nit gekumen nokh veyts un af korn.
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Ir zayt nit gekumen nokh veyts un af korn.
Ir zayt dokh gekumen af mayne yunge yorn.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Shtelt men mikh avek untern mos
un me git a geshrey “Molodyets, kharosh!”
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Beser tsu lernen khumesh mit Rashe.
Eyder tsu esn di soldatske kashe.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

Beser tsu lebn in tsores un neyt
eyder tsu esn dem keysers breyt.
[Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay


I was standing in my father’s yard
when I heard a yell “young man, run away!”
Ay-ay-ay    Ay-ay-ay

So I ran into a nearby garden,
till I came upon a deep forest.

Three days I didn’t eat, didn’t drink,
only winking with my eyes to God.

I  made a turn to the side
and before me stood a nearby house.

Lady of the house open up the door,
have pity and take a look at me.

Before I had time to finish saying the blessings,
the khapers had arrived.

Dear Jews why have you come?
We have not come for wheat nor for rye.

You have not come for wheat nor rye.
You have come for my young years.

They stand me up for measurement
and exclaim “Attaboy!, Well done!”

Better to learn Bible and Rashi
than to eat the soldier’s kasha.

Better to live with troubles and want
than to eat the bread of the Czar

From I. L. Cahan’s Yidishe folkslider, YIVO 1957, page 373-374:


Yidisher folklor # 1, NY, 1954, from the A. Litvin Collection at YIVO:

mlotek 1


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Rymer Oy1Rymer Oy2Rymer OY3

“Krakovyake-vyane” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2018 by yiddishsong

Mocking Yiddish song to accompany the
Polish dance Krakowiak

Sung by Tsunye Rymer,
recorded by Itzik Gottesman, 1985 NYC
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

krakowiak picKrakowiak by Zofia Stryjeńska, 1927

Rymer sings:
shtup aroys di pani.
Di pani tor men nisht shtupn.
Zets ir oys di tseyn.

Di tseyn tor men nit zetsn.
Dos ponim tor men nisht netsn.
(Rymer spoken) Un azoy vayter.

TRANSLATION of Rymer’s Version:

Push out the lady.
You shouldn’t push the lady;
Knock out her teeth.

You shouldn’t knock out her teeth,
You shouldn’t soak the face.
(Rymer spoken) …and so on.

In the spirit of Purim this week, we present a parodic dance song. Tsunye Rymer sings this fragment of a Yiddish song to accompany the Polish Krakowiak dance. This particular tune is known as Krakowiaczek jeden. Here is a version on Youtube of this melody, which is considered a children’s song:

To read about the Krakowiak dance, costume and music click here.

The Krakowiak was a complicated dance and often someone had to lead the dance (אוספֿירן דעם טאַנץ) and call out the moves, so it makes sense that a Yiddish parodic text would be created. Mariza Nawrocka was kind enough to identify which Krakowiak Rymer sang and to translate the Polish song for us; here are the first two verses.

  1. Krakowiaczek jeden / one Krakowiaczek (little habitant of Kraków)
    miał koników siedem, / had 7 horses
    pojechał na wojnę, / he went on a war
    został mu się jeden. / only 1 remained
  2. Siedem lat wojował, / He was fighting 7 years
    szabli nie wyjmował,  /  he was not takeing out his sabre
    szabla zardzewiała,  / the sabre got rusty
    wojny nie widziała. / it didn’t see the war.

Though Rymer’s version is incomplete we can add more verses from other sources.

In I. L. Cahan Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (NY YIVO, 1952) there are more stanzas and versions, originally Cahan had all of these versions under the category “Krakovyanke”. Attached at the end of this post are scans of the songs in Yiddish as published in Cahan. (Cahan1, Cahan2).

He did not publish any music with these texts:

From Chudnov, (YID – Tshidnev) Volhynia,Ukraine:

Krakoviak, herits,
Shtup aroys dem porets.
Az er vil nisht geyn
Zets im oys di tseyn!

 Krakoviatska ane,
shtup aroys di pani.
Az di pani vil nit geyn,
Hak ir oys di tseyn!  (#225, page 227)

From Brailov, (YID – Bralev) Podolya, Ukraine:

Yakov, yakov-yane,
shtup aroys di pani!
Di pani vil nit geyn.
Zets ir oys di tseyn!

Di tseyn tor men nit zetsn,
Dos ponim tor men nit netsn.
Azoy vi in Ades,
Azoy in Bukarest!  (#227, page 228)

From Priluk, (YID – Priluk)  Poltaver region, Ukraine:

Shlep arayn di pani;
Di pani vil nit geyn.
Shlep ir far di tseyn!   (#228, page 228)

From Bessarabia or Odessa:

From Zalmen Rosenthal’s collection in Reshumot vol. 2, 1926/27 in his category “Children’s Songs”

Nake, nake, nitse
shtup aroys di pritse.
Di pritse vil nit geyn.
Zets ir oys di tseyn.

Di tseyn tor men nit zetsn.
un dos ponim tor men nit netsn.

I. L. Cahan also considered a song about Beylke, though textually different and with no mention of Krakowiak, to be part of this parodic Krakowiak tradition. I assume he determined this by the melody. Versions of this “Beylke” Krakowiak song can be found in Cahan 1952, Bastomski 1923 and Tsaytshrift volume 2-3, Minsk, 1928.

Special thanks for this post to Mariza Nawrocka and  Paul Glasser.

krakowiak text rymer

From I. L. Cahan Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (NY YIVO, 1952):

Cahan krakowiak1cahan krakowiak2

Krakowiaczek jeden_notation

“Mir af a shifl, dir af a lotke” Performed by Zelig Schnadover

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2017 by yiddishsong


Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.


This  one-verse song ‘Mir af a shifl, dir af a lotke’ (“A Boat for Me, a Canoe for You”) was performed by Zelig Schnadover, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988. Curiously, the first line from this ditty appears under the boat in the above 1960s painting of the Israeli artist Arie Aroch (1908-1974), who spent his childhood in Kharkov (Kharkiv), Ukraine.

Zelig Schnadover was born in 1907 in Slavuta [Yiddish – Slavite סלאַוויטע ] Ukraine. In 1920 they “escaped the Bolsheviks” and the family went to Poland. He had his bar-mitsve in Brody, [Yiddish – Brod], Poland. He lived in Poland until 1926 and learned the song there. Schnadover emigrated to Mexico City in 1926/27.


Zelig Schnadover

To make money in the early years in Mexico City Schnadover was part of a group of singers who provided the soundtrack to silent movies, many of them Russian, so they sang Russian songs. They didn’t have much time to prepare – usually they had not seen the movie earlier so amusing things happened. An example he gave was for Abel Gance’s film  Napoleon. The group was still singing a waltz as the projector was already showing a battle scene. When I knew him he had been the longtime owner of a stationary store, a papeleria, near the center of the city, the Zocolo.

Mir af a shifl,
Dir af a lotke.
Mir a sheyn meydl
Dir a tshekhotke

Me on a boat,
you on a canoe.
Me – a pretty girl
You – one with tuberculosis. 

After the initial posting, musicologist Dmitri “Zisl” Slepovitch pointed out a connection to a song he had recorded from Sterna Gorodetskaya in Mahilyow (Mogilev), Belarus, which was posted earlier to the Yiddish Song of the Week.

Also, a variant of the song from Brest-Litovsk (Yiddish – Brisk, now in Belarus) appears in I. L. Cahan’s 1912 collection with no music but with a second verse and presents it as a dialogue. The first verse sung by “He”, the second one by “She”.

Ikh af a shifele
Du af a lodke,
Ikh a soldat,
Du a soldadtke.

Ikh af a shifele
Du af a lotke;
Ikh a sheyn meydele,
Du a sukhotke.

I on a boat
You on a canoe.
I – a [male] soldier
You – a [female] soldier. 

I on a boat,
You on a canoe
I – a pretty girl
You – a girl with tuberculosis.

Here is how it appears in Cahan’s 1912 collection:


Special thanks for help with this week’s posting goes to Tamara Gleason Freidberg, Paul Glasser and Rachel Greene. 


“Bay a taykhele” Performed by Feigl Yudin

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 21, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Ethel Raim and Itzik Gottesman

From Ethel Raim:

Feigl Yudin moved to the United States at the age of 14 from Grodna (Grodno) Gubernia, now in Belarus. Her parents stayed behind in Europe, so upon arriving to New York City she was housed by landslayt (contacts from her hometown), who took care of her until she was able to support herself. A skilled seamstress, Feigl continued working in the needle trades in the US for most of her life and was an active participant in the progressive labor movement.

When the Center presented the landmark concert with legendary clarinetist Dave Tarras on November 19, 1978, at Casa Galicia (now Webster Hall) in Manhattan, Feigl Yudin was a featured artist, among others. A native Yiddish speaker, she loved singing and was one of those people who could hear a melody for the first time and commit it to memory almost instantly.  She would say, “When I hear a melody it haunts me and I must get the words.” Feigl had a large repertoire of Yiddish songs which she learned both in Europe and in the US, and, as you will hear, was a beautiful singer.

From Itzik Gottesman:

This love song is a strophic lyric quatrain which is typical of the Yiddish tradition. (See accompanying booklet to LP Folksongs in the East European Tradition from the repertoire of Mariam Nirenberg Prepared by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett with Mark Slobin and Eleanor Gordon Mlotek, 1986, pages 5 – 6).

Yudin’s repertoire was recorded by Ruth Rubin starting in 1948. Four of her songs are included in the volume Yiddish Songs from the Ruth Rubin Archive (2007) and her song “Ba a taykhele” begins the collection.

It states there that the song was collected in 1967 and other versions can be found in I. L. Cahan’s collection Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (1957) and the volume by Beregovski and Fefer – Yidishe folkslider (1938).

The suggested parallel in Cahan (song #175) is not convincingly a variant of this song, but the Beregovski and Fefer version is the exact same as Yudin sings it, and I am inclined to think that Yudin learned it from an Amerucan leftist Yiddish chorus/choir where the songs from the Beregovski and Fefer songbook were quite popular.

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele.
Vaksn af dem tsvaygn.
Mit alemen redstu, mit aleman bistu frayndlekh.
Nor mir heystu shvaygn.

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele
Vaksn oyf dem blumen.
(Haynt) freg ikh dir libster – ven vestu shoyn kumen?
Ven vestu shoyn a mol kumen?

Bay a taykhele vakst a beymele
Vaksn af dem bleter
Freg ikh dir libster ven vestu shoyn kumen?
Leygst alts op af shpeter.

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows branches.
You talk to everyone; you’re friendly with all.
But me – you ask to be silent.

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows flowers.
(Today) I ask you my beloved – when will you come already?
When will come for once?

By a stream a small tree grows.
On it grows leaves.
I ask you my beloved when will you come already?
But you keep putting it off for later.


“Tayere Toni” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I have found only one other version of Tayere Toni – in the Pipe collection “Yiddish Folksongs from Galicia” edited by Meir and Dov Noy, Jerusalem, 1971 page 118-119. There the names of the lovers are Bronye and Bernard. From the Pipe version it is clear that the song is a ballad – Bernard does indeed die in the third verse, and in the fourth verse Bronye shoots herself and they are buried together in one grave. A motif much more common in non-Yiddish ballads, rare in Yiddish ones.

From Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s shorter version, recorded in 1954 in the Bronx by song collector Leybl Kahn, a ballad-story is implied but is left hanging, and I have to wonder did Lifshe not sing the other verses because she did not know them or because they did not appeal to her? Didn’t ring true or Jewish? The fact that she doesn’t repeat any of the lines also implies that we are dealing with a ballad, a story in song; Lifshe was more inclined to repeat lines in lyric love songs than in ballads.

Though the use of German names in Tayere Toni would lead one to believe that the song is relatively new, the beautiful melody sounds very old to me. Her singing, as always, is haunting and so complex given the relative simple melody. By the way, the great folklorist I. L. Cahan (not to be confused with Leybl Kahn) “disqualified” a song that Shmuel Zanvil Pipe had collected because the character’s name in the song was Moritz. “Moritz”, wrote Cahan, could not be part of any folksong.

But today we have to respectfully disagree with Cahan (and I think Pipe wasn’t too happy about his judgement in this case either). Jews in the Galician and Bukovinan territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire had German names, and were no less “folky” because of it.

Pete Rushefsky adds:

Musically, Tayere Toni reinforces the conversation between Bernard and his beloved Toni with a subtle harmonic interplay in the key of Bb minor.

The first two lines of each stanzas are rendered in Bb minor and harmonized by Bb minor, F major and Bb minor: a simple I Minor – V Major – I Minor progression that effects a light waltz-like melody as Bernard attempts to woo Toni. Harmonically each of Bernard’s two lines stand on their own – there is a simplicity and purity to his love.

Toni’s answers in the stanza’s third and first half of the fourth lines contradict Bernard, and are voiced to resolve (incompletely) on the C of a dominant F major chord. Toni’s response requires the full duration of her two lines to resolve harmonically, and for a moment, a listener tuned to Jewish modal tendencies wonders if she might distance herself further from his sentiments with a full modulation to F-freygish (also known in cantorial literature as “Ahava Raba”, or “altered Phrygian” – F, Gb, A, Bb, C, Db, Eb).

But despite a rapidly ascending then descending movement in the last line that is frequently seen in freygish melodies, Toni does not reach down to the tell-tale subtonic Eb which would confirm F-freygish. Rather, at the end of the stanza, Toni’s cadence resolves back to the tonic Bb. Though there is complexity in her responses and desires, in the end, these two are fated to live and die together.

“Tayere Toni, kim aher tsi mir
Nem dir a beynkl, zets zikh anider lebn mir.”
“Tayerer Bernard, ikh ken nisht zitsn leybn dir.
Di mame vet araynkimen, un vet shrayen af mir”

“Dear Toni come over here to me,
Take a chair, and sit next to me.”
“Dear Bernard, I can’t sit next to you.
My mother will enter and will yell at you.”

“Tayere Toni, ikh ken dikh nisht fardarbn.
Zeyst dekh az ikh halt shoyn baym shtarbn.”
Tayerer Bernard, vest nokh vern gezint.
Tayerer Bernard, di bist mayn tayer kind.”

“Dear Toni, I can’t ruin you.
Can’t you see, that i am dying.”
“Dear Bernard, you will become well,
Dear Bernard, you are my dear child”.

Spoken Dialogue after the song:

LEYBL KAHN: Dos lid hot ir gehert fun vanen?
Where did you hear this song?
LSW: Dos hob ikh gehert in Zvinyetchke.
I heard this in Zvinyetchke.
LK: In der Bukovina.
In Bukovina?
LSW: Yo, di Bukovina.
Yes, Bukovina.
LK: To vi kumen azoyne nemen vi Toni un Bernard?
So where do the name Toni and Bernard come from?
LSW: Bay undz hot men dokh daytshmerish gezingen.
We sang, after all, Germanized Yiddish.
LK: Menshn fleygn hob azoyne nemen.
People used to have such names?
LSW: Ye, avade.
Yes, of course