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“Pitifers vab” – A Purim Play Song Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2019 by yiddishsong

Pitifers vab / Potiphar’s Wife: A Purim Play Song
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

800px-Rembrandt_-_Joseph_and_Potiphar's_wife

Potiphar’s wife and Joseph, by Rembrandt, 1634

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) remembered this song from a purim-shpil in her home town, Zvinyetshke, Bukovina. The “Mekhires yoysef” Purim pay about the selling of Joseph was so popular that  LSW term for the Purim players was “Yosef-shpiler”. This song sung by the Joseph character describes the attempted seduction by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39-40). It also is a good example of the open, carnivalesque atmosphere of the Purim holiday when even sexual topics could be referred to in public.

TRANSLITERATION

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
ikh zol mit ir shlufn.
ikh zol mit ir shlufn.
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Got vet mikh shtrufn.

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
mir zoln shlufn beyde.
mir zoln shlufn beyde.
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Yitskhok iz mayn zeyde.

Pitifers vab hot mikh ongeredt,
Mir zoln zayn tsizamen
Mir zoln zayn tsizamen,
Kh’o mikh getin a bore
mitn yeytse-hore,
az Rukhl iz mayn mame.

TRANSLATION

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
that I should sleep with her.
I struggled with the evil inclination –
and remembered – God would punish me.

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
we should sleep together.
I struggled with the evil inclination
and remembered – Isaac was my grandfather.

Potiphar’s wife tried to convince me,
we should be together.
I struggled with the evil inclination
and remembered – Rachel was my mother. potifer1potifer2

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“Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2018 by yiddishsong

Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner / I am a Small Gypsy (Rom) Lad
Pre-war version from Chernovitz, Romania.
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG]
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center, Bronx 1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The more popular song version of this poem by Itzik Manger (1901 – 1969) was composed by Hertz Rubin (1911 – 1958) and has been recorded by at least thirteen artists. According to Chana and Yosl Mlotek in Songs of Generations, the singer Masha Benya received that version from Manger’s widow Genia Manger after the second world war in NY.

MangerItzik Manger in his Chernovitz days, 1920s

But this earlier version has a different melody, and slightly different words without the “Ekh du fidele du mayn” refrain. BSG learned this song in Chernovitz, which was Romania between the world wars and is now in the Ukraine.

Manger’s lyrics carry a number of commonly-held negative stereotypes about Romany (Gypsy) culture. However, considering the time in which he was writing, through first-person narration, Manger creates a sympathetic window into the challenges faced by Roma including poverty, oppression, and a sense of otherness as a minority community. The ever-wandering Manger, no doubt, felt like a kindred spirit.

In the Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at YIVO, Sore Kessler sings this Chernovitz version and explains she learned it from the Yiddish poet M. M. Shaffir in Montreal. Shaffir was also from the Bukovina region (not Bessarabia as Kessler says in her spoken introduction), and a friend of BSG. Some of Kessler’s text differs and she sings a verse that BSG does not:

Shtendik zaynen mir af vegn,
mir af vegn.
Say bay nakht,
un say in regn.

Always are we travelling,
travelling [on the roads.]
Both at night
and in the rain.

Accordionist Mishka Zignaoff (who was a Yiddish-speaking Russian Rom musician based in New York) recorded the melody as Galitzianer khosid (Galician Hasid) in a medley with the famous Reb Dovidl’s nign.

I am posting this song to mark Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s 5th yortsayt (1920 – 2013) which falls on the second candle of khanike.

BeyleItzikTapes2Beyle and Itzik Gottesman looking over Yiddish field recordings, 1970s.

TRANSLITERATION

BSG Spoken: [Itzik Manger] iz geveyn maner a landsman, un hot geredt Yidish vi ekh. Vel ikh zingen in durem-yidish azoy vi er hot geredt. “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” un di lider vus ikh zing zenen a bisele, tsi mul, andersh vi ir zingt zey, val ikh ken zey nokh fun der heym.

1) Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner, gur a kleyner
ober vi ir zeyt a sheyner.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Ikh veys nisht vi ikh bin geboyrn, bin geboyrn.
Di mame hot mikh in steppe farloyrn
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

2) Dem tatn hot men oyfgehongen, oyfgehongen
Vayl er iz ganvenen gegangen
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Burves, hingerik un freylekh, ober freylekh
Fil ikh zikh vi a ben-meylekh.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

3) In mayn lidl kent ir hern, kent ir hern
Mayn tatns zifts, mayn mames trern.
Tra-La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

S’kost in gantsn nor a drayer, nor eyn drayer.
S’iz mayn veytik gurnisht tayer.
Trala-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

TRANSLATION

BSG Spoken: “[Itzik Manger] was from the same city as me and spoke Yiddish as I do. So I will sing in the southern Yiddish that he spoke.  “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” and the other songs that I will sing are a little different than the way you sing them because I learned them form home.”

I’m a small Gypsy lad, a very small Gypsy lad,
But as you see good-looking.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

I don’t know where I was born, was born.
My mother lost me somewhere in the Steppes.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

They hanged my father, hanged my father
Because he went thieving.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Barefoot, hungry and merry, always merry.
I feel like a prince.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

In my song you can hear, can hear
My father’s sigh, my mother’s tears.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

It will only cost you three kopecks.
My suffering doesn’t cost much at all.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la
tsigaynerl 1

tsigaynerl 2

tsigaynerl3

“Oy, di ershte zakh” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2018 by yiddishsong

Oy, di ershte zakh
O, The First Thing
Sung by Tsunye Rymer
Recorded in NYC by Itzik Gottesman, 1985
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Tsunye (Isaac) Rymer learned this in his hometown of Krosne (Krasna), Ukraine, from a tailor who was a wonderful singer and therefore called “Kanarik” – canary.

RymerphotoTsunye Rymer

Just as Rymer was leaving for America in 1921, he visited Kanarik on the “Tailor’s Street.” It was summer but Kanarik was covered with a blanket.  It was said he had tuberculosis. He called Rymer over and asked him to sing something together with him. “This was the last song we sang together in Krosno”.

Often Yiddish songs that employ Russian/Ukrainian words for the rhymes use them to humorous effect, but in this serious song that is obviously not the case.

Thanks to Paula Teitelbuam for helping with this week’s blog.

TRANSLITERATION 

Oy, di ershte zakh vel ikh dikh mamenyu beytn
in di zolst es mir tin tsilib.
Az Got vet helfn un az ikh vel shtarbn,
Zol men mekh derkhtrugn derkh mayn libstn shtib

Un nokh a zakh vel ikh dikh mamenyu beytn
in di zolst es yisponyayen. [carry out, execute]
Az mayn gelibter vet in shtib araynkimen
zolst im khotsh nisht obizhayen. [offend]

In dus iz mamenyu mayn letste bite –
di zolst im in gurnit obvinyayen. [blame, fault, accuse]
kh’hob man leybn zikh aleyn genemen
ikh zol nit darfn mer stradayen. [suffer]

TRANSLATION

O, the first thing, mother, that I ask of you,
and you should do it for my sake.
God willing, when I die,
they should carry me past my loved one’s house.

And another thing, I ask of you mother,
and you should carry it out.
If my loved one should enter our house,
at the least, do not offend him

And this, mother, is my last request:
you should not blame him for anything.
I took my own life,
I should no longer have to suffer.
zakh1

zakh2a

“Mame a kholem” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2018 by yiddishsong
Mame, a kholem (Mother, A Dream)
Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
recorded by Leybl Kahn, NY 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The motif of the lover who returns as a beggar is as old as Homer’s Odyssey and is found in ballads throughout the world. In this Yiddish ballad version, the former lover is not disguised as a beggar but has indeed become one because of his “character”.

JewishBeggar by Rembrandt“Jewish Beggar” by Rembrandt

I consider this ballad to be one of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s [LSW] masterpieces. Not only because it is certainly among the older songs in her repertoire, but because of the deeply emotional way she performs it, concluding with the dramatic last verse in which the woman reveals to her mother who is at the door.

In typical old ballad style, the dialogue prevails: first between mother and daughter, then between daughter and beggar (former lover) and finally, again, between daughter and mother. There is a break in the narrative after the third verse when the dialogue changes and at this point Leybl Kahn, who is recording the song, feels compelled to ask LSW to continue.

This transition from third to fourth verse is noteworthy. A new plot/scene develops at this point. It leads me to believe that originally there might have been two ballads that were combined to form one.

Supporting this idea are the awkward transitions between the two scenes in all the versions. We also have examples of separate ballads. Singer/researcher Michael Alpert recorded Fanya Moshinskaya, (born 1915 in Babyi Yar, Kiev), singing a ballad of the first scene – ‘Oy a kholem’. And he has recorded Bronya Sakina (1910 – 1988) from Olvanisk (Holovanivsk/Golovanevsk, Ukraine) singing a ballad – “Derbaremt aykh”- depicting the beggar/lover scene. Alpert currently sings both of them and sometimes combines them.

In addition, there are two other versions of just the beggar/lover ballad with no first “kholem” part in the Soviet Folklor-lider volume 2 1936, page 202-204,. Song #62  – “Shoyn dray yor az ikh shpil a libe” and #63 – “Vi azoy ikh her a lirnik shpiln”.  The singer for #62 was Rive Diner from Bila Tserkva, Ukraine, 1926. The singer for #63 was Yekhil Matekhin from Sobolivke, Ukraine, recorded in 1925.

A nine-verse Odessa variant without music of the LSW combined ballad – “Oj, a xolem hot zix mir gexolemt” – can be found in Folklor-lider volume 2 1936, page 201-202 song# 61. This was republished by Moyshe Beregovski with music in his Jewish Folk Songs (1962) #34 pp. 75-77, reprinted in Mark Slobin’s Beregovski compendium Old Jewish Folk Music 1982, p. 353 – 355. The singer was Dine Leshner from Odessa, 1930.

In Leshner’s ballad, the transition verse between the two scenes, verse four, is presented in first person from the beggar’s viewpoint, not in dialogue. It would be quite confusing for the listener to figure out who is speaking, and I imagine the singer would almost be required to stop singing and indicate who is speaking (as LSW does at this transition point!).

Another variant of the combined version was collected by Sofia Magid in 1934 in a Belarus kolkhoz “Sitnya”, from the singer Bronya Vinokur (PON 103, full text on page 580, “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, 2008. The audio recording can be heard on the accompanying DVD). The initial dialogue is between a man and his mother. He then travels to the rebbe, and comes to her as a beggar. She curses him in the last verse.

Oyb du host a froy mit a kleyn kind,
Zolstu zikh muttsen [mutshn] ale dayne yor.
Oyb du host mir frier nit genumen,
Konstu sheyn nit zayn mayn por.

If you have a wife and child,
May you suffer all your years.
If you did not take me before,
Then you can no longer be my match.

Hardly the romantic ending we find in the LSW version.

I would like to take the liberty of suggesting some word changes in LSW’s version for any singers out there thinking of performing the song. These suggestions are based on the other versions and on the way LSW’s daughter, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG] sang the song.

1) Clearly the last line in the first verse of LSW’s ballad, which doesn’t rhyme with “gedakht”, is a mistake. BSG sang instead the rhymed line –

“Az mayn gelibter shteyt baym bet bay nakht” [“That my lover is standing at my bed at night”]

But in Magid’s version and in the Alpert/ Moshinskaya’s version this line reads  – “un fun mir hot er zikh oysgelakht” (and he laughed at me”) And in the Folklor-lider version the line reads “un fun mir hot er khoyzek gemakht” (“and he mocked me”)  So the mocking of the girl is the “character” flaw that results in his becoming a beggar.

2) Instead of “futerland” Bronya Sakina sang “geboyrn-land” which strikes me as folkier and more appropriate, though in one of the Folklor-lider versions, the daughter does use “foterland” as well.

3) Instead of LSW’s “derkh mayn kharakter”, – “because of my character”, – others sing “durkh a libe” and “durkh a gelibter– “because of a love”, “because of beloved”. This also strikes me as the older concept and more in line with the whole song.

4)  Instead of  LSW’s “untershtitsung” – “nedove” is more traditional.  Both mean “alms”, “donation”.

5) LSW sings “iftsishteln di hant” – “to raise up the hand”. Usually that would be “oystsushtrekn di hant” – “to reach out your hand”.

6) For the last line she sings “vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.” (“because this is the one who was my lover”) but shorter and to the point is “vayl dos iz mayn gelibter geveyn” (because he was my lover”). BSG sang it this way.

TRANSLITERATION
1)  Mame, a khulem hot zikh mir gekhulemt,
Oy, mame, a khulem hot zikh mir gedakht.
Oy, a khulem hot zikh mir gekhulemt,
az man gelibter shteyt leybn mayn bet.

2)  Oy a khulem tokhter tur men nit gleybn
Vayl a khulem makht dem mentshn tsim nar.
Morgn veln mir tsi dem rebe furn.
A pidyen veln mir im geybn derfar.

3)  Vus ken mir den der rebe helfn?
Tsi ken er mir geybn deym vus eykh hob lib?
In mayn hartsn vet er mame blaybn
Biz in mayn fintsern grib.
In mayn hartsn vet er mame blaybn.
Biz in mayn fintsern grib.

Spoken:  Leylb Kahn says  “Dos gantse lid”

LSW: “Es geyt nokh vater.”
Leybl: “Lomir hern vayter.”
Spoken: LSW – “Es dakht zikh ir, az der khusn
kimt aran..”

4) Hots rakhmunes af mir libe mentshn
hots rakhmunes af mir in a noyt.
mit alem gitn zol nor Gotenyu bentshn.
Hots rakhmones un shenkts a shtikl broyt.

5) “Far vus zhe geysti azoy upgerisn?
Shemst zikh nisht iftsishteln di hant?
Fin vanen di bist bin ikh naygerik tsi visn.
Rif mir un dayn futerland.

6) Geboyrn bin eykh in a groys hoz.
Dertsoygn bin eykh eydl un raykh,
derkh mayn kharakter bin eykh urem gevorn
in intershtitsing beyt eykh du fin aykh.

7) Tsi vilt ir mir epes shenkn?
Git zhet mir in lozts mekh du nisht shteyn.
Tits mikh nit azoy fil krenken,
Vayl dus hob eykh mir mitgenemen aleyn.

8) Oy, mamenyu gib im shoyn a neduve.
Gib im shoyn un loz im do nisht shteyn.
Gib im avek a halb fin indzer farmeygn,
vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.
Gib im shoyn a halb fin indzer farmeygn,
vayl dos iz der velkher iz mayn gelibter geveyn.

TRANSLATION
1)  Mama, I dreamed a dream,
oh mame, a dream i had imagined.
Oh a dream i had dreamed,
That my love was near my bed.
[..stands near me at night]

2)  O daughter, a dream should not be believed.
Because a dream can lead you astray.
Tomorrow we will travel to the Rebbe
and give him payment for this.

3)  O, how can the Rebbe help me.
Can he give me the one I love?
In my heart he will always remain.
Till my dark grave.

SPOKEN:
Leylb Kahn: The whole song
LSW: There is more.
Leybl: Let’s hear more.
LSW: She thinks that her groom has entered…

4) “Take pity on me dear people.
Take people on me in my need.
May God bless you with all good things.
Take pity and give a piece of bread.”

5)  “Why are you going around in rags?
Are you not ashamed to hold out your hand?
Where are you from? I would like to know.
Tell me your fatherland.”

6)  “I was born in a big house,
Raised noble and wealthy.
Because of my character, I became poor,
and for a donation from you I now beg.”

7)  “Do you want to give me some alms?
Then give me and don‘t leave me standing here.
Don‘t torture me so,
For I have already suffered enough.”

8)  “O mother give alms right now,
Give him now, and don‘t let him stand there.
Give him away a half of our fortune,
For he was once my beloved.”

screen-shot-2018-02-08-at-4-15-21-pm.pngkholem itzik2

Folklor-lider Volume 2 1936, pp. 202-204,. Song #62  – “Shoyn dray yor az ikh shpil a libe”:
12

and #63 – “Vi azoy ikh her a lirnik shpiln”:

34

Jewish Folk Songs (1962) #34, ed. Moyshe Beregovski,  pp. 75-77, reprinted in Mark Slobin’s Beregovski compendium Old Jewish Folk Music 1982, p. 353 – 355:

Beregovski Mame A

“Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, 2008:
MagidMameAkholem

Post edited for web by Samantha Shokin.

“In toyznt naynhindert ferter yor” Performed by Feigl Yudin

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

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

In toyznt naynhindert ferter yor (In the Year One Thousand Nine Hundred and Four), performed here by singer Feigl Yudin for a 1980 (circa) concert produced by the Balkan Arts Center (now the Center for Traditional Music and Dance) is one of a number of Yiddish songs about the Russo-Japanese war; a conflict that was fought between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan from 1904 – 1905.

The build-up to the war began in the late 1890s as one can see from the variants of this song which all begin with a different year – 1899 – “In toyznt akht hundert nayn un nayntsiktn yor”. See: Beregovski/Slobin Old Jewish Folk Music page 231, with music, and also see the endnotes there for other variants. A version is also found in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archives (ed. Slobin/Mlotek, 2007) with music.

At the bottom of this post we have attached an interview with Yudin from an issue of the magazine Sing Out!, Volume 25, #5, 1977.

Another Yiddish song from the Russo-Japanese war – “Di rusishe medine” – sung by Majer Bogdanski can be heard on his CD “Yidishe Lider”  (Jewish Music Heritage Recordings, CD 017.)

I received help with the text of Yudin’s song from Paula Teitelbaum, Jason Roberts, Sasha Lurje and Zisl Slepovitch. Though, I am still not sure, in the first verse, what is meant by the expression di godnikes por/ gor (?) Your comments on this are welcome. Also note she does not sing the obvious dialectical rhyme in the third verse “miter” with “biter”.

1) Toyznt naynhindert ferter yor,
Iz geven in Rusland a shlekhter nabor
Men hot opgegebn di gotnikes po/.gor (?)
Far mir iz geblibn di ergste fir yor.

2) Zay zhe mir gezunt mayn tayerer foter,
A gantse fir yor verstu nebekh fin mir poter.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen in dalniy vostok.

3) Zay zhe mir gezunt mayn tayere muter.
Dir iz dokh shlekht un mir iz dokh biter.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen in dalniy vostok

4) Zay mir gezunt mayn tayere kale.
Nokh dir vel ikh benken, oy, mer vi nokh ale.
Oy, zay zhe mir gezunt un bet far mir Got,
Men zol mir nit naznatshen keyn dalniy vastok.

5) Dalniy vostok volt geven on a sakone
Es zol nor nit zayn vi a panske milkhome.
Oy, zayt zhe ale gezunt un bet far mir Got.
Men zol mir nit naznatshen oy, in dalniy vastok.

1) The year one thousand nine hundred and four,
there was a terrible recruitment/draft.
A few recruits were sent into service –
These were my worst four years.

2) Fare well my dear father,
Alas, four long years will you be rid of me
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

3) Fare well my dear mother,
You feel so bad and I feel miserable.
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

4) Fare well my dear bride.
I will long for you, o, more than the rest.
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

5) The Far East would be without danger
if there were no lordly war [war created by the Lords].
O, fare well and pray to God,
They should not assign me to the Far East.

1904a1904b1904c

SOvol25#51977-p1bd4ts7c7qcim261c0i1hcp1kq1Yudin2-p1bd4ttk761lg51o7810fc42vjhjYudin3-p1bd4tvit71g751v261cv0hm415f5Yudin4-p1bd4u08aq174gptkan5vjj1bbo

“Erev yon-kiper noent tsu kol-nidre” Performed by Sore Kessler

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2016 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

The singer of this week’s ballad, Erev yon-kiper noent tsu kol-nidre (The Eve of Yom-kippur, Right Before Kol-Nidre), is Sarah (Sore) Kessler. The recording is from the Ruth Rubin Collection at YIVO. Rubin recorded it in 1949.

This song tells of a Jewish girl running away with a non-Jewish boy on the eve of Yom-kippur. In Kessler’s version he is referred to as a “sheygets”.  In two other versions from the Sofia Magid collection (Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic, Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008) he is called an “eyn orl fun kristen geboyrn” (one who is uncircumcised born a Christian).

yom-kippur-3-erev
“Yom Kippur Eve” by Mayer Kirshenblatt from the book “They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland Before the Holocaust” (courtesy Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett)

We have included the Kessler audio, the transliteration and translation, scans of the Magid versions and a PDF of the Yiddish words in Yiddish as sung by Kessler. The transliteration reflects her Yiddish dialect.

The singer, Soreh Kessler, from the Polish town of Czyżew (Yiddish name:”Tshizheve”) between Warsaw and Bialystok, recorded songs for Ruth Rubin at the beginning of Rubin’s field recording project in New York, 1947 to 1949.

When comparing the Magid versions and Kessler’s version it is clear that a crucial scene has been left out of Kessler’s: the one in which the Christian boy tells the runaway girl that he never loved her and was just kidding. She then returns to find that her parents died from grief.

One word is not clear to me – the fourth line of the first two stanzas – “____ un tinkl”. In Magid’s versions the word is “nakht” but here it sounds like “khmurne”, which means gloomy.

Recording is courtesy the Max and Frieda Weinstein Archive of Recorded Sound at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (Lorin Sklamberg, Sound Archivist). Thanks also to Dr. Paul Glasser for help with the town name.

TRANSLITERATION

SPOKEN: Dos lid hob ikh gehert in mayn shtetl Czyzew in poyln. Az es vet shoyn zayn tsvantsik, oder finf un tsvantsik yor tsayt.

Erev-yon-kiper noent tsi kol-nidre,
ven me geyt shoyn in talis in kitl.
un der futer der frimer er bentsht zayn bas-yekhidl,
In droysn vert khmurne (?) un tinkl.

Di muter di frime bay Got burekh-hi tit zi beytn,
bay di veksene likhtlekh in vinkl.
Ze bentsht oykh ir tokhter, ir bas-yekhidl.
In droysn vert khmurne un tinkl.

Ven di bas-yekhidl iz in hoyz aleyn farblibn,
a simen hot es zi im gegeybn.
Dort kletert eyner ariber iber dem parkan.
Dos iz ir gelibter geveyzn.

Ven futer un miter zenen tsurik aheymgekimen
zeyer bas-yekhidl nisht getrofn.
Dort bay di shkheynim hert zikh a troyerike shtime,
az mit a sheygetz iz zi antlofn.

Borves un naket lozt zi zikh loyfn,
iber berg un shteyner un toln.
Azoy vi zi iz nor tsu ir elterns hoyz gekimen –
kayn futer, kayn muter nisht getrofn.

Oyf deym beys-almon lozt zi zikh loyfn.
Zi iz shoyn arunter fun zinen.
Oyf deym beys-almon oyf dem mamenyus keyver
a teyter hot men zi gefinen.

TRANSLATION

Spoken: I heard this song in my town Czyzew in Poland. It must be 20 or 25 years ago.

On the eve of Yom-Kippur just before Kol Nidre
When one goes in talis and kitl  [prayer shawl & white linen coat]
And the pious father blesses his only daughter
Outside it is gloomy and dark.

The pious mother prays to God, may he be blessed,
by wax candles in the corner.
She also blesses her daughter, her only daughter.
Outside is gloomy and dark.

When the only daughter remained alone at home,
she gave him a sign.
There climbs someone, over the fence –
that was her lover.

When father and mother returned home,
they did not find their only daughter.
From the neighbors you could hear a plaintive cry –
she ran off with a non-Jewish boy.

Barefoot and naked she wildly runs
Over mountains and stones and valleys
She approached her parent’s house –
but no father, no mother did she find.

To the cemetery she wildly runs.
She has already lost her mind.
On the cemetery on her mother’s grave
they found her dead.

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EREV YOM KIPUR FROM SOFIA MAGID COLLECTION (Grozinger and Hudak-Lazic, 2008):

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Shmad Ballads Performed by Zelda Roif and Libe Manuel

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

When ballads have been presented on the Yiddish Song of the Week we have sometimes emphasized the parallels with other international ballads. This week we present a ballad type that is not to be found internationally, certainly not in the Anglo-British-American tradition – a ballad that describes the conversion of a child to the Christian faith; a shmad-ballad. The verb shmadn in Yiddish means to convert to Christianity.

This week’s entry has two versions of the same shmad-ballad. There are a number of others and judging by the geographic spread of the singers, we could conclude that it is at least as old as the 19th century.

1) The first version Zitst di mome (As Mother is Sitting) comes to us courtesy of the AHEYM (Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memoirs) project at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. This project has been directed by professors Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeff Weidlinger. Special thanks to AHEYM project manager Anya Quilitzch who prepared the video clip.

The singer Zelda Roif  of Kishinev (Chișinău), Moldova, sings in her Bessarabian dialect, marked especially by her toto-mome-loshn. Tate (father) in her dialect becomes tote, mame becomes mome and geshmadt becomes geshmodt (converted). Her version has a distinctly Romanian flavor since the daughter Sonyele falls in love with a shepherd (cioban).

In classic ballad form, the first few verses set the action then turn into a dialogue between mother and daughter, in which the mother tries to convince her daughter not to convert. The mother fails and the last two lines spoken by the daughter – “I can’t stand the Jewish faith” is quite a powerful (unhappy) ending.

2) The second ballad Bentsik der shoykhet (Bentsik the Ritual Slaughterer) is sung by Lillian Manuel of Suchowola in northeast Poland, and the recording and comments were provided by her grandson, the Yiddish linguist Dovid Braun.

By comparing the two ballads we see the similar dialogue structure though in different settings. The ending of Bentsik der shoykhet is also quite shocking.

The Yiddish shmad-ballad song type deserves a longer analysis than is possible here. Among other versions collected is one in Sofia Magid’s work printed in “Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin” edited by Elvira Grozinger and Susi Hudak-Lazic (Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2008) – “Rokhele” (pages 288-289) recorded in Volyn, 1928. The Magid version is a variant of the two presented today and recounts how Rokhele ran away with the priest’s son. In the longer text provided (page 555) a similar dialogue between parent and daughter can be found. A recording of the song is included in the DVD that comes with the volume.

Please find Yiddish texts at the end of this posting.

ZITST DI MAME (Performed by Zelda Roif, Kishinev, Moldova)


Zitst di mame un
arbet a zok.
Kimt men ir zogn,
az ir tokhter Sonyele hot zikh geshmodt.


Mother is sitting and
mending a sock,
when they come to tell her
that her Sonyele has converted.

Loyft zi zi zikhn,
tsvishn ole shkheynim.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
iz nishtu bay keynem.

So she runs to search her
among all the neighbors.
And her daughter Sonyele
is not found by anyone.

Loyft zi zi zikhn
tsi tshubanes tir.
In ir tokhter Sonyele
shteynt akeygn ir.

So she runs to look for her
at the door of the shepherd.
And her daughter Sonyele
is standing across from her.

Sonyele, Sonyele
kim tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gibn
vus di vi’st aleyn.

Sonyele, Sonyele
Come home to me.
I will give you
whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gibn
kleyder un dan..
in a yidish yingele
far ayn man.

I will give you
clothes and then..
and a Jewish boy
for a husband.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit shikh un kaloshn.
Vest khasene hobm far tshuban (In Romanian= cioban)
vesti oysgeyn far a groshn.

At my place you wore
shoes and boots.
If you marry the shepherd
you will die for a penny.

Bay mir bisti ‘gan
mit a vas, zadn kleyd.
Vest khasene hobn far Tshuban
vesti vashn yidish greyt.

With me, you wore
a white, silk dress.
If you marry the shepherd
you will wash Jewish laundry.

[Spoken]
Hot zi geentfert der miter:
She answered her mother:

Trabt avek man miter
ikh ken zi nisht ladn.
Di yidishe nemune
Ikh ken zi nisht farladn.

Drive away my mother,
I can’t stand her.
The Jewish faith
I can’t stand it.

BENTSIK DER SHOYKHET (sung by Lillian Manuel, known in her shtetl Suchowola, NE Poland, as “Libe Yankl dem shvartsns”, to her grandson David / Dovid Braun, in the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged, Bronx, NY, ca. 1988)  *see comments by David/Dovid Braun at the end of this translation.

Bentsik der shoykhet mitn zaydenem khalat;
Feygele zayn tokhter hot zikh opgeshmadt.

Bentsik the [kosher] slaughterer with his silken robe;
Feygele his daughter has converted to Christianity.

Bentsik der shoykhet shpant ayn ferd-un-vogn
kedey er zol kenen zayn Feygelen deryogn.

Bentsik the slaughterer hitched up his horse and wagon,
So that he could catch up to his Feygele.

Bentsik der shoykhet geyt arayn in a kvartir.
Gefunen hot er Feygelen bam kloyster fun tir [in kloyster bam tir].

Bentsik the slaughterer goes into an inn.
What he’s found is Feygele in church by the door.

“Kum aher mayn tokhter, kum tsu mir aheym.
Ikh vel dir gebn vos du vilst aleyn.”

“Come here my daughter, come home to me.
I will give you whatever you want.

Ikh vel dir gebn gelt un nadan
un tsu dertsu a sheynem yungn-man.”

I will give you money and dowry
and on top of that a handsome young man.”

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di fis
un im af tselokhes dem sheygets a kish.

Bentsik the slaughterer, he falls to their feet
and to spite him, [she gives] the gentile boy a kiss.

Bentsik der shoykhet, er falt tsu di tishn [griber]
un im af tselokhes tseylemt zi zikh iber.

Bentsik the slaughterer falls to the tables [graves, pits],
and to spite him she crosses herself.

Feygele iz gegangen in zaydene zokn.
Az zi vet peygern vet klingen di glokn.

Feygele was wearing silken socks/stockings.
When she croaks, the [church] bells will ring.

Af morgn bay tog:   a yomer, a klog!
Bentsik der shoykhet iz geshtorbn in mitn tog.

The next afternoon:   alas and alack!
Bentsik the slaughterer died in the middle of the day.

Notes by David Braun:

In the Yiddish original, I have placed in square brackets [ ] a few words Mrs. Manuel sang on an occasion a few years earlier when in better health and with a yet crisper memory. It is clear how those words make better sense and/or form a more satisfactory rhyme. Also, the final two stanzas were reversed in that earlier rendition, which makes more sense: walking neither with shoes nor barefoot but in socks or stockings is a sign of mourning. So first her father Bentsik has died, then she has donned traditional Jewish mourning garb, and finally we are warned that when the end comes for her, the apostate, mourning will be signaled by church bells.

After first becoming acquainted with this song in her repertoire, I compared her version to others in the folkloristic literature and discovered that in some, the gentile youth who is the object of Feygele’s romantic interest is named. With that information, I jogged her memory and ended up eliciting this additional stanza that she doesn’t sing on the recording – it clearly belongs after the stanza following Bentsik’s promise of dowry and all other good things. Feygele insists:

Kh’vil nit kayne kleyder, kh’vil nit kayn nadan.
Aleksandern hob ikh lib un er vet zayn mayn man.

‘I don’t want any clothes, I don’t want any dowry.
Alexander is who I love and he will be my husband.’

With this stanza, we’re enlightened as to what’s behind Feygele’s conversion from yiddishkayt, and religious philosophy doesn’t seem to be the motivating factor.
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