Archive for kitten

“A kheyder” from Simkhe Shvartz’s Kamelyon Theater Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2021 by yiddishsong

A scene from Simkhe Shvartz’  Kamelyon theater in Chernovitz, Romania early 1930s.
As remembered and sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG], recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx 1990s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

From right: Simkhe Shvarts, Itzik Manger, Helios Hecht, Rose Auslander, Chernovitz, 1934.
Photo from Efrat Gal-Ed Niemandssprache

BSG spoken: 

Dus iz a sene vus Simkhe Shvarts hot ofgefirt in Chernovitz mit der amatorn-trupe Kamelyon.  “A kheyder” hot dus geheysn. 

This is a scene that Simkhe Shvarts put on in Chernovitz with the amateur troupe “Chameleon”.  It was called “A kheyder”. [traditional elementary school]

Tsigele, migele, kotenak
Royte pomerantsn.    
Az der rebe’z nishtu in kheyder, 
Geyen khevre tanstn. 

Nem zhe Tshaykl dem rebns kantshik 
Un varf im aran in hribe.
Ikh’n helfn dos kind talepen [telepen] 
Der rebetsin Teme-Libe.  

Avek di mamzer, di pachuk
Moykhl dir dus vign
Bald vet der rebe kimen. 
Vesti dans shoyn krign

Kinder der rebe’z in shil. 
Kimt zhe tsi aher in 
lernt dus naye shpil    
Shpiln zikh iz git, oy git.
ernen zikh, oy nit oy nit.
Shpiln zikh iz tayer    
Der kantshik ligt in fayer.   

A gitn-uvnt Libe! 
A gitn yingnmantshik.   
Freyg im nor deym takhsit. 
Vi es ligt der kantshik. 

[4 pupils reply]
“Rebe, ikh veys nisht”
¨Ikh veys gurnisht rebe.”  
“Rebe, ikh oykh nisht.”  
“Ikh veys oykh nisht rebe”

“Az s’i nishtu keyn kantshik 
iz du a rimen mit a shprontshik.
Arinter, lernen!¨   

Little goat, little kitten
Red oranges
When the teacher is not in school
The gang starts to dance. 

So Tshaykl take the teacher’s s whip  
and throw it into the heating stove.
I will help the teacher’s wife, Teme-Libe 
knock around the child

Get away you scoundrel, you rat
I don’t need your rocking. 
Soon the teacher will come
and you will get yours.

Children, the teacher is in the synagogue
so come over here
and learn the new game.
Playing is good, oy good.
Learning is not, oy not.
Playing is precious
The whip is in the fire. 

“Good evening Libe”
“Good evening, my young man.
Just ask this brat
where he put the whip”.


 “Teacher, I know nothing”
 ¨I know nothing, teacher.¨
“Teacher, I too know nothing”
“I too know not, teacher”

¨Well if there’s no whip
There is the leather strap with a buckle.
Sit down and learn!¨ 

BSG added later, spoken: Everyone then sat down around the long table and started to rock back and forth and learn. Meanwhile the teacher fell asleep, so they took his leather strap and threw it into the fire. Then they sang again the first verse again:

Tsigele, migele, kotinak….

The Kamelyon [Chameleon] theater in Chernovitz was founded  in 1929 and directed by Simkhe Schvartz (aka Simcha Schwartz – September 1, 1900 – August 14, 1974),  a leader of Yiddish culture between the world wars in the Romanian city Chernovitz (today in the Ukraine –  Cernivtsi). He was a sculptor, dramaturge, director, and songwriter. He is perhaps most known for his Parisian Yiddish puppet theater Hakl-bakl (1949 – 52) in which Marc Chagall and Itsik Manger participated. Simkhe Shvartz had two younger brothers, Julian Shvartz and Itzik Shvarts (aka I. Kara), also writers and important figures in the Yiddish cultural world in Romania.

The skits of Kamelyon , created by Shvarts, often were comprised of adapted Yiddish folksongs strung together to form a plot. “A kheyder” uses folky elements: the opening rhyme is adapted from the children’s rhyme  “Tsigele, migele kotinke” (two examples in Ginzburg/Marek, 1901 and two more in I. L Cahan, 1952). Ruth Rubin sings two versions that can be listened to in YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Archive. https://ruthrubin.yivo.org/categories/browse/Dublin+Core/Title/Tsigele%2C+migele%2C+kotinke?site=site-r

More recently, Israeli singer Ruth Levin sings a song that begins with Tsigele-migele, words by J. Joffe, music by N. Zaslavsky on her CD of children’s songs Tsigele-migele

Singer/composer Efim Chorney has set music to Yiddish poet Meir Charat’s song “Tsigele-migele” and it can be found on the Klezmer Alliance CD Mir Basaraber.

Another folk element in “A kheyder” – the melody of the Yiddish folksong, “Dire-gelt” is used (can be found in the Mlotek songbook Mir trogn a gezang.) starting with the line “Shpiln zikh iz git.”

Please note that the teacher in the traditional elementary school, the kheyder, is addressed as “rebe” and is not to be confused with a Hasidic leader also called “rebe”.

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski.



“Mentshn zenen mishige” Performed by Max Bendich

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2020 by yiddishsong

Mentshn zenen mishige / People are crazy
A 1930s Yiddish parody of  “Three Little Fishies” sung by Max Bendich. Recorded by Aaron Bendich in the Bronx

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman and Aaron Bendich

TRANSLITERATION/TRANSLATION
Max Bendich version, in brackets are a couple of suggested grammatical corrections

Mentshn zenen meshige                             People are crazy
Zey zingen nokh [nor?] fin fish.                They sing still [only] of fish.
Ikh bin a tsedreyter                                      I’m a nutcase
Zing ikh fin a heyser [heysn] knish.         So I sing of a hot knish

A knish mit potatoes                                    A knish with potatoes
un a teler smetene.                                       and a plate of sour cream.
Lek ikh mayne finger                                   So I lick my finers
vi a kleyn ketsele.                                          like a little kitten.

Hey! Um-bum petsh im, patsh im, Hey! Um-bum hit him, slug him
Vey iz mir!                                                 Wow is me!
Zol of Hitler                                               May Hitler
vaksn a geshvir.                                       Grow a tumor.

Di college-boys ale                                   All the college boys
zey shlingen goldfish, na!                      are swallowing goldfish. Here!
Ikh vil a heyser [heysn]  knish,             I want a hot knish.
Ahhhhhh! [opens his mouth as if to swallow a knish]

מענטשן זענען משוגע
געזונגען פֿון מאַקס בענדיטש

מענטשן זענען משוגע
זיי זינגען נאָך [נאָר?] פֿון פֿיש
איך בין אַ צעדרייטער
.זינג איך פֿון אַ הייסער [הייסן] קניש

“אַ קניש מיט „פּאָטייטאָס
.און אַ טעלער סמעטענע
לעק איך מײַנע פֿינגער
.ווי אַ קליין קעצעלע

,היי! אום־בום פּעטש אים, פּאַטש אים
!וויי איז מיר
זאָל אויף היטלער
.וואַקסן אַ געשוויר

די „קאַלעדזש־בויס” אַלע
!זיי שלינגען גאָלדפֿיש, נאַ
.איך וויל אַ הייסער [הייסן] קניש.
אַאַאַאַאַאַ

Aaron Bendich comments:

Max Bendich as a child (lower right)

My zayde Max Bendich was born on March 25, 1915 in New York City to hardworking, politically active, recent immigrants from Podolia, Ukraine. He grew up on 136th Street between St Ann’s and Cypress Avenues in the Bronx. From a young age, he submerged himself in literature, cinema and music from innumerable world cultures, but he always favored Yiddish. 

In 1941 he met Dorothy Matoren, whom he married weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack. He volunteered to join the army and served in Europe until 1945, fortunately missing the worst horrors of war. Back in the Bronx, Max purchased a laundry business which he managed until his retirement in his early 60s. On June 26, 1969 Max was shot on his laundry route in Harlem, and by a miracle survived. 

Dorothy & Max Bendich

Fifty-one years later, at age 105, he’s alive and well in the Bronx, where he’s visited by a loving family of three children, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Every weekend for the past four years I’ve spent hours with my zayde, singing old songs, watching movies and talking about his life. This song about the 1930s goldfish-swallowing fad is the only song he’s sang for me that I’ve been unable to track down. Someday I hope to figure out where he got it from, but in the meantime I’m happy to consider it his mysterious contribution to a culture he loves so much.

Itzik Gottesman comments: 

This is a wonderful example of Yiddish-American folklore capturing perfectly the late 1930s fad to swallow goldfish and growing hatred for Hitler.

The song “Three Little Fishies” was first released in 1939, words by Josephine Carringer and Bernice Idins and music by Saxie Dowell. It was recorded by the Andrews Sisters, Kay Kyser, and the Muppets (it is often sung as a children’s song) among many others. Here is a version by Spike Jones:

Here are the lyrics to the original “Three Little Fishies”:

Down in the meadow in a little bitty pool
Swam three little fishies and a mama fishie too
“Swim” said the mama fishie, “Swim if you can”
And they swam and they swam all over the dam
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
And they swam and they swam all over the dam
“Stop” said the mama fishie, “or you will get lost”
The three little fishies didn’t want to be bossed
The three little fishies went off on a spree
And they swam and they swam right out to the sea
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!
And they swam and they swam right out to the sea
“Whee!” yelled the little fishies, “Here’s a lot of…

No fish were harmed during the writing of this post.

“Der zeyde mit der babe” Performed by Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

My mother Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG) could not remember from whom she learned this song, but it she learned it in Chernovitz in the 1930s. I had assumed it was either the creation of the humorist Shamshon  (Shamshele) Fersht or from the Chernovitz amateur Yiddish theater group Kamelyon directed by Simkhe Schwartz, but I can not yet find it listed anywhere. BSG also sang Fersht’s version/parody of Gebirtig’s Kinder yorn, and that can be found in Emil Seculetz’s collection Yidishe folkslider. She learned a number of Kamelyon‘s musical numbers which will be added to this blog at some point. The theatricality of this song leads me to suspect that it might have been created and performed by Kamelyon.

3Beyle and Cousin Sime

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (standing) with her cousin Sima. Chernovitz 1930s.

I have posted this song, which I recorded from her in the Bronx around 2009, on the occasion of BSG’s second yortsayt, the second day of khanike. In BSG’s dialect, the word for grandmother is  pronounced “babe” not “bobe”.

Der zeyde mit der babe is sort of an irreverent parody of Mark Warshavsky’s Akhtsik er un zibetsik zi but without the refrain. (Listen to BSG’s live version of Warshavsky’s song on her CD of songs she learned in Chernovitz – Bay mayn mames shtibele).

Der zeyde mit der babe, a leybn af zey.
A brukhe af zeyere keplekh.
Der zeyde khlepshtet fun der flash.
Di mame [babe] fun di teplekh.

Leberlekh un pipkelekh, vi oykh pitse.
Alding iz a maykhl.
Der zeyde glet di vontsyelekh.
Di babe glet dos baykhl.

Eydele, oy Eydele, tayere moyd,
zug zhe nor dem zeydn –
Veymen hosti tokhtershe
libersht fin indz beydn?

Indzer tayere skheyne Brane hot a kats
hot zi ketselekh kleyne.
Dus vayse ketsele mir geshenkt,
hob ikh lib di skheyne.

In oykh di Surtse, Sortse kroyn,
dem zeydns tayere meydn;
Veymen vilsti geybn a kish –
der baben tsi deym zeydn?

Mit Yankl didl-dudl un mit Yoselen
shpiln mir tate-mame beyde.
Iz Eydele di mame, di babe bin ikh,
kish ikh Yoselen dem zeydn.

Aza khtsife, aza shkuts –
dus vet men dertseyln der mamen.
A zeydn mit a baben hot men lib –
nisht di ketselekh fin Branen.

Aza hultayke, loz, shoyn loz.
dus vet men dertseyln dem tatn.
A zeydn un a baben git men a kish.
Nisht a Yosele piskatn.

Zeydishe un babeshi dertseylt, dertseylt.
Der mamen in dem tatn.
Zey meygn indz (un)shlugn* vi a pok.
S’vet indz gurnisht shatn.

Grandpa and grandma, may they be well,
a blessing on their heads.
Grandpa guzzles from the bottle,
Grandma [eats] from the pots.

Livers and gizzards, and calves foot jelly,
Everything is a dish.
Grandpa strokes his mustache,
Grandma rubs her belly.

Eydele, oy Eydele our dear girl,
tell your grandpa –
whom do you, daughter,
prefer of us two?

Our dear neighbor has a cat
and she has small kittens.
The white kitten was given to me as a gift,
so I like our neighbor.

And also you Surtse, dear Surtse
Grandpa’s beloved girl.
Whom do you want to kiss
Grandma or grandpa?

With Yankl Didl-Dudl and with Yosele;
We both play “father and mother”.
Eydele plays the mother, and I the grandma –
So I kiss Yosele the grandpa.

Such an impudent girl, such a prankster –
We will tell you mother.
You should love your grandpa and grandma
not the kittens of Brane.

Such a libertine, just wait and see;
we will tell your father.
You should give grandpa and grandma a kiss.
Not that mouthy Yosele.

Go ahead and tell, grandpa and grandma
our mother and father.
Even if they beat us like a drum.
It won’t bother us a bit.

*After singing the song, the singer commented that “unshlugn” would be better than “shlugn”.

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