Archive for longing

“Es dremlt in geto” Performed by Sara Rosen

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2021 by yiddishsong

Es dremlt in geto / The ghetto is sleeping
A Holocaust song sung by Sara Rosen, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, 1989 NYC.

………[Es dremlt in geto]

Mir zenen farriglt
mit drut un mit krad.
Ikh hob a shtetele, 
s’iż azoy sheyn. 
Ven ikh derman mekh,
es benkt zikh aheym.

…….[The ghetto is sleeping.]

We are locked in 
with wire and with chalk.
I have a small town, 
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home. 

Levune, levune, 
vus kiksti mekh un?
Az ikh bin hingerik,
dus geyt dikh nisht un.
Ikh hob a shtetele, 
s’iz azoy sheyn.
Ven ikh derman mekh,
es benkt zikh aheym. 

Moon, moon, 
why are you looking at me?
That I am hungry: 
you don’t care.
I have a small town,
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home.

Az m’et kimen fin arbet,
hingerik in mid,
Ervart indz dus esn,
kartofl mit gris. 
Ikh hob a shtetele,
s’iż azoy sheyn 
Ven ikh derman zikh,
es benkt zikh aheym.

When we’ll come from work, 
hungry and tired,
Food awaits us:
potato and grits
I have a small town,
it’s so beautiful.
When I think of it,
I long to go home. 

………   [ עס דרעמלט אין געטאָ]

מיר זענען פֿאַרריגלט
.מיט דראָט און מיט קרײַד
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

,לבֿנה, לבֿנה
?וואָס קוקסטו מיך אָן
,אַז איך בין הונגעריק
.דאָס גייט דיך נישט אָן
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

,אַז מע’ט קומען פֿון דער אַרבעט
,הונגעריק און מיד
,ערוואַרט אונדז דאָס עסן
.קאַרטאָפֿל מיט גריס
,איך האָב אַ שטעטעלע
.ס’איז אַזוי שיין
,ווען איך דערמאַן זיך
.עס בענקט זיך אַהיים

Biography of the Singer Sara Rosen by Mickey Rosen:

Sara Landerer Rosen was born in Krakow, Poland in 1925 into a Chasidic family.  She experienced an idyllic childhood until September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, initiating World War II. The war truncated Sara’s formal education at the end of eighth grade but it didn’t stop her thirst for learning. Sara took advantage of every opportunity available; in the ghetto, in British Mandate Palestine and later, in the State of Israel and finally in the USA. In 1977, Sara graduated from Fordham University with a BA in Philosophy.  

Sara Rosen

Sara was a prolific write, publishing her memoir My Lost World in 1993. In 2008, she published Prisoner of Memory, the life story of Itka Greenberg. Itka saved about 50 Jews during World War II, with Sara and her mother being two of the fortunate survivors. In between these two books, Sara translated the songs of Mordechai Gebirtig from Yiddish to English. Sara loved speaking and singing in Yiddish and remembered many of poems and songs from her youth.

Sara emigrated to the USA in 1956 with her husband, Joseph and two sons. Her family grew in the USA with the birth of a daughter. 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

Es dremlt in shtetl

This song is a Holocaust adaptation of the popular 1920s-30s song “Ven es dremlt in shtetl” (also known as “Es dremlt/drimlt dos shtetl” or “Es dremlt dos shtetl”); text written by Yoysef Heftman (1888 – 1955), music by Gershon Eskman. There are several recordings of this song, among them by Sarah Gorby, Michele Tauber, Willi Brill, Violette Szmajer, Sheh-Sheh, Zahava Seewald. Here is a link to a recording by the singer Rebecca Kaplan and tsimbler Pete Rushefsky from their CD On The Paths: Yiddish Songs with Tsimbl.

Ruth Rubin recorded a version from a “Mrs. Hirshberg” in 1947. It is called “Es dremlt a shtetele” and here is the link to the song in the Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at the YIVO Institute. 

Es dremlt in turme

Before the war, there already was a “parody” version of this song about languishing in prison. “Es dremlt in turme” [The prison is sleeping]. The words and music are printed in the “Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs” edited by Sinai Leichter, scans of this song are attached.

Ruth Rubin sings a version of this prison song in YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Archive.

Es dremlt in geto

Sara Rosen learned this song in Bucharest after she escaped from the Bochnia ghetto near Krakow. Though she forgets the first two lines, it is cleary an adaptation of “Es dremlt in shtetl”. There are several versions of this song using the same melody, but they all differ so significantly from each other, that to call them versions of the same song is a stretch. Meir Noy wrote down a version “Shtil is in geto” in his notebooks that can be found in the National Library in Jerusalem. Another version can be found in the collection “Dos lid fun geto: zamlung” edited by Ruta Pups, Warsaw, 1962. A scan of this version is attached. A third version was printed in the collection “We Are Here: Songs of the Holocaust”, edited by Eleanor G. Mlotek et al, 1983.

Special thanks for this post to Mickey Rosen, Rachel Rosen, Michael Alpert, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, her grandchildren the musicians Benjy Fox-Rosen, Avi Fox-Rosen.

I was introduced to Sara Rosen in 1989 by the Yiddish/Hebrew singer Tova Ronni z”l  (d. 2006) who lived in the same Upper West Side apartment building in NYC. That same day she introduced me to another singer in the building, David Shear, who sings “An ayznban a naye” on this blog. 

From Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs” edited by Sinai Leichter:

From Dos lid fun geto: zamlung, edited by Ruta Pups, Warsaw, 1962:

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