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“Geltenyu” Performed by Clara Crasner

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2020 by yiddishsong

Geltenyu / Money
Sung by Clara Crasner, recorded by Bob Freedman, Philadelphia, 1972

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A most unusual song about Jews oppressing (or “taking advantage”, in Crasner’s words), of fellow Jews.

Ukrainian Jews escaping pogroms and the Russian Civil War crossed over into Romania. 1919-1921.  This song documents the hard times these Jews faced, apparently because of the Bessarabian Jews who extorted money from them once they crossed the border.  The “Ukrainians” were forced to do manual labor and sleep in horrible conditions in order to secure passports. 

In an earlier post on this blog where Clara Crasner sings the song “Eykho” she mentions the Bessarabian town of Yedinitz (today in Molodova – Edinets); perhaps that is the town in question. There she refers to her fellow refugees as “yoridnikes”, impoverished ones. In the Yedenitz Yizkor (Memorial) Book, there is indeed a chapter that recalls the Ukrainian Jews who crossed the border to escape the violence and came to Yedinits (legendary klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, was one of these migrants).

Committee for Assistance of Ukrainian Refugees, Yedenitz, 1920-1921

The first two verses of the song are from the perspective of the money-hungry Bessarabians. The third verse is from the refugee’s perspective.

This is the fifth song sung by Clara Crasner from Shargorod, Ukraine, that we have posted. They were all recorded by her son-in-law, Robert Freedman in Philadelphia 1972. Freedman and his wife Molly Freedman are the founders of the “Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive” at the University of Pennsylvania Library, an invaluable resource in researching Yiddish song.


Crasner (spoken)

 “Ot di lid hob ikh gehert in Rumenye, Basarabye, in 1919, 1920. Nokh der ershter milkhume, ven di yidn fin rusland zenen antlofn, iz dus geveyn di neyvnste greynets far indz, fin vonen ikh kim un nokh mentshn. Kimendik kin Basarabye obn mir geheysn “Ukrayiner.” Di Basarbyer hobn genemen …zey hobn genemne “advantage’ fin indz. M’o’me nisht gekent aroysfurn finem shtyetl. M’ot indz nisht gevolt geybn keyn peser, obn di mentshn gemakht a lid. Ikh denk az s’iz a “satire”. In di lid heyst “gelt”. 


Tsu indz keyn Besarabye kimen Ukrainer a sakh.
Zey shvimen in der blote, azoy vi di fish in takh.
Zey loyfn im, imedim nor vi a vint
ergets vi, nor tsi krign a dokument.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey:
Geltenyu, hot ir geltenyu?
Git indz gelt nor a sakh
Val mir viln vern rakh.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh.

In der Ukrainyer er lozt arop di nuz.
Er miz nebekh geyn in shlufn in kluz.
Dort iz fintster ,kolt un vist; nor azoy vi in der erd.
Zey hakn holts un trugn voser in horeven vi di ferd.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey: 
Geltenyu, hot ir geltenyu?
Git indz gelt mit beyde hent
krigt ir bold a dokument.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh. 

Ober es kimt a tsat ven di Ukrayner zey leybn hoykh a velt.
Ven es kimt zey un di pur daler gelt. 
Zey rasn zikh aroys fin donen nor vi fin a shtag.
In ale Beseraber yidn tsaygn zey a fag.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey:
Geltenyu, mir hobn mir oykh geltenyu.
Mir darfn shoyn mer nit nitsn [?] aykh.
Mir hern aykh vi dem kuter,
vayl ayer Got iz indzer futer.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh. 



“This song I heard in Romania, Bessarabia, in 1919, 1920. After the First War, when the Jews from Russia escaped, this was the closest border to us, from where I am from and others. Coming into Bessarabia, we were called “Ukrainians” and Bessarabians took advantage of us. We were not able to leave the town. We were not given passports, so the people created a song. I think it’s a satire and the song is called “Gelt” – “Money”


To us in Bessarabia come many Ukrainians
They swim in the mud, as fish in a river.
They run around everywhere like the wind;
anywhere just to get a document.
So they ask – why do we deserve this?
And they are answered:
money, do you have money?
Give us a lot of money
because we want to become rich.
Money is a good thing.

And the Ukrainian, he drops down his nose.
He must, alas, go to sleep in the synagogue.
There it is dark, cold and deserted.
Just like being in the ground.
They chop wood and carry water
and work hard as a horse.
So they ask why do we deserve this?
And they are answered: 
Money, do you have money?
Give us money with both hands
and you’ll get back a document.
Money is a good thing.

But a time will come when the Ukrainians
will live in luxury when they get their few dollars.
They will tear out of here as if from a cage.
And at all Bessarabian Jews they will thumb their noses
at them. [literally show them the fig = finger]
So they ask why do we deserve this?
They are answered:
Money, we also have money.
We don’t need you anymore
we totally ignore you
because your God is our father.
Money is a good thing.


אָט די ליד האָב איך געהערט אין רומעניע, באַסאַראַביע, אין 1919, 1920. נאָך דער ערשטער מלחמה, ווען די ייִדן פֿון רוסלאַנד זענען אַנטלאָפֿן, איז דאָס געווען די נאָענססטע גרענעץ פֿאַר אונדז, פֿון וואַנען איך קום און נאָך מענטשן. קומענדיק קיין באַסאַראַביע האָבן מיר געהייסן „אוקראַיִנער”. די באַסאַראַבער האָבן גענעמען פֿון אונדז. מ’ אָ’ מיר נישט געקענט אַרויספֿאָרן פֿונעם שטעטל. מ’האָט אונדז נישט געוואָלט געבן קיין פּעסער, האָבן די מענטשן געמאַכט אַ ליד. איך דענק, אַז ס’איז סאַטירע. און די ליד הייסט געלט

.צו אונדז קיין באַסאַראַביע קומען אוקראַיִנער אַ סך
.זיי שווימען אין דער בלאָטע, אַזוי ווי די פֿיש אין טײַך
.זיי לויפֿן אום, אימעדים נאָר ווי אַ ווינט
.ערגעץ ווי נאָר צו קריגן אַ דאָקומענט
?פֿרעגן זי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
?ענטפֿערט מען זיי ־ געלטעניו, האָט איר געלטעניו
גיט אונדז געלט, נאָר אַ סך
.ווײַל מיר ווילן ווערן רײַך
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

.און דער אוקראַיִנער, ער לאָזט אַראָפּ די נאָז
.[ער מוז נעבעך גיין און שלאָפֿן אין קלוז [קלויז]
,דאָרט איז פֿינצטער, קאַלט און וויסט
.נאָר אַזוי ווי אין דער ערד
זיי האַקן האָלץ און טראָגן וואַסער
.און האָרעווען ווי די פֿערד
?פֿרעגן זיי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
?ענטפֿערט מען זיי ־ געלטעניו ־  האָט איר געלטעניו
,גיט אונדז געלט מיט ביידע הענט
.קריגט איר באַלד אַ דאָקומענט
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

אָבער עס קומט אַ צײַט ווען די אוקראַיִנער
.זיי לעבן הויך אַ וועלט
ווען עס קומט זיי אָן
.די פּאָר דאָלער געלט
זיי רײַסן זיך אַרויס פֿון דאַנען
.נאָר ווי פֿון אַ שטײַג
און אַלע באַסאַראַבער ייִדן
.צײַגן זיי אַ פֿײַג
?פֿרעגן זיי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
:ענטפֿערט מען זיי
.געלטעניו, מיר האָבן  אויך געלטעניו
.מיר דאַרפֿן שוין מער ניט ניצן אײַך
,מיר הערן אײַך ווי דעם קאָטער
.ווײַל אײַער גאָט איז אונדזער פֿאָטער
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

Three Yiddish Songs to the tune of the Italian pop classic “Return to Sorrento”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2019 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this posting, we examine three Yiddish Songs set to the tune of the Italian pop classic Return to Sorrento:

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by
Leybl Kahn
2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets sung by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988.
3) Sore-Yente a song found in Meyer Noy’s collection at the National Library in Jerusalem, and performed by Sharon Bernstein, piano and vocal, and Willy Schwarz on accordion, Florence, Italy 2001.


This week we highlight three Yiddish songs that use the melody of an Italian pop classic Torna a Surriento (Return to Sorrento) music by Ernesto De Curtis (1875 – 1937), copyright 1905. The original lyrics were by his cousin Giambattista De Curtis. Here is a Dean Martin recording of the Italian song which we chose because it has a translation of the Italian lyrics (click here to listen).

There are even more Yiddish songs that use this melody, among them: in 1933 after the murder of Haim Arlosoroff in Tel-Aviv, a song was composed to this melody and a song sheet was published (A tragisher mord in Tel-Aviv/A Tragic Death in Tel Aviv). A song about the Polish Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbard (1883 – 1925) also uses a version of the melody (see Mlotek, Songs of the Generations, page 147-148 ).

Thanks this week to Aida Stalnicovitz Vda Fridman and Sharon Bernstein.

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter (I Have Suffered Much Mother) 
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in NYC.

Lifshe introduces the song by saying “S’iz a lidl vus me hot gezingen in der ershter milkhume (It’s a song that was sung in the First World War).” The four verses are entirely in the mother’s voice, apparently addressed to her mother, as indicated in the first line.

Fil gelitn hob ikh miter
bay der as[ent]irung fun mayn kind.
Gearbet hob ikh shver in biter
Far vus lad ikh nokh atsind.?

Iz mayn zin nokh mayn nekhome
Vi iz er fin mir avek?
Afarshundn iz er in der milkhume.
Un a seykhl in un a tsvek.

Ziser Got ikh beyt ba dir
loz mikh nokh a nes gesheyn.
Eyder eykh vel shtarbn
Vil eykh mayn kind nokh eyn mol zeyn.

Dentsmult vel ikh riyik shtarbn.
Got tsi dir keyn tanes hubn.
Loz mayn kind khotsh eyn mul mir
nokh, “mamenyu” zugn.

Much have I suffered mother,
from the drafting of my child.
I worked hard and bitter.
Why do I still suffer?

My son is still my comfort
Where did he go and leave me?
Disappeared into the war,
for no logic, for no reason,

Dear God I pray to you
May another miracle take place.
Before I die,
I want to see my son once more.

Then I would calmly die
God, have no complaints to you..
Let my child say to me –
just once more “my mother dear”.

Fil Gelitn

2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter)
Performance by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Mexico City, 1988.

StalnicovitzPhotoReyzl Stalnicovitz, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Reyzl Stalnicovitz was born in 1935 in Xalapa, district of Vera Cruz, Mexico. She was a teacher at the I. L. Peretz shul (“Di naye yidishe shul”) in Mexico City, and passed away in  1996.

Of the three songs presented in this post, this song was by far the most popular and has been printed in several collections and can be found in the field recordings of Ben Stonehill, Sarah Benjamin and at the National Library in Israel. As for commercial recordings: Lea Szlanger sings it on her CD Lea Szlanger In Song.

The text was originally a thirteen verse poem by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) that first appeared in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910 (see below). There it was titled Dem shoykhets tokhter: balade (The shoykhet’s daughter: ballad) followed by the inscription – Dos hobn kinder in shtetl dertseylt (This Was Told by Children in Town).

The plot – Reyzl wants to marry Motl but the father, a shoykhet (kosher slaughterer) boils with anger as she combs her hair because she refuses the match he made. He then cuts her golden locks. Then it gets “weird”: she swims into the Vistula (Yiddish = Vaysl) river and builds a little shelter for herself along the bank until her hair locks grow again.
Stalnicovch sings four verses. This ballad was almost always shortened when sung. For example in the Arbeter Ring’s extremely popular songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY), only five verses are printed (that scanned version, words and music, are attached below).

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets.
Zi hot a yunge harts on zorgn.
Zi tants un freyt zikh mit ir lebn.
Vi a shvalb mitn frimorgn.

Es bakheynen ir di oygn
Es bakreynen ir di lokn.
Un a shtoltse iz zi shtendik.
Zi vet far keynem zikh nit beygn.

Un ir tate iz a frumer
un dertsu a groyser kaysn.
Ven di tokhter kemt di lokn
Heybt er on di lipn baysn .

Un der tate veyst nokh gornisht
Vos in shtetl veysn ale:
Az Reyzl hot shoyn a khosn.
Un me ruft ir Motls kale.

Beautiful is the shoykhet’s daughter Reyzl
She has a young heart with no worries.
She dances and is joyful with her life
as a swallow is with the morning.

Her eyes make her pretty
Her locks are a crown on her;
And she is always proud.
She will bow for no one.

Her father is religious
and also quick to anger.
When he combs her locks,
he starts to bite his lips.

And her father doesn’t know anything
what everyone knows in town:
that Reyzl has a groom,
and they call her Motl’s bride.

Spoken (transliteration):
Dos iz vos ikh gedenk. Ober di mame flegt mir dertseyln az s’iz geven epes a gantse tragedye, vayl der tate hot nisht gevolt az zi zol khasene hobn. Vayl er iz geven a sotsyalist, a yingl, un er iz geven a frumer yid. Er hot gevolt zi zol khasene hobn mit a yeshiva bokher. Un zi’s antlofn mitn bokher.

Spoken (translation):
That’s what I remember. But the mother used to tell me that it was a whole tragedy because the father did not want her to get married. Because he (the groom) was a socialist boy and he (the father) wanted him to marry a Yeshiva student. And she ran away with the boy.

Sheyn iz Reyzele

3) Sore-Yente
Performance by Cantor Sharon Bernstein, Florence, 2001 (accompanied by Willy Schwarz on accordion)

The third song that uses the melody of Sorrienta is Sore-Yente – a word play on the original Italian title. This was collected by Meir Noy in Israel in 1962 from Shmuel Ben-Zorekh, who learned it from an immigrant from Minsk. A scan of Meir Noy’s original notation, words and music are attached below.

Mit a nign fun akdomes
shteyt baym fentster Yosl-Monish,
Far der sheyner Sore-Yente
Zingt er dort tsu ir a lid:

Kum tsu mir mayn sheynes benken,
Eybik vel ikh dikh gedenken.
Kh’vel mayn lebn far dir shenken.
Vayl ikh bin in dir farlibt.

Azoy lang iz er geshtanen
vi der groyser pipernoter
un zi hert im vi der koter
un geyt derbay af gikh avek.

With a melody from Akdometh
stands at the window Yosl-Monish
For the beautiful Sore-Yente
there, he sings this song:

Come to me my longed for beauty
I will long for you eternally.
I will give you my life
For I am in love with you.

He stood there for so long
like a giant dragon.
She totally ignores him
And walks quickly by him.

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910:

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) from the Arbeter Ring’s songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY):

Arbeter Ring1
Arbeter Ring2

Sore-Yente in Meir Noy’s Notebook:
Sore Yente Vol 1, p74-page-0