Archive for New York City

“Zay zhe mir gezint, zay zhe mir gezint” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2021 by yiddishsong

Zay zhe mir gezint, zay zhe mir gezint / Fare thee well, fare thee well.
A version of “Di goldene pave”, sung by Lifshe Schaecter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn, NYC 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is LSW’s version of the old and popular song more commonly called “Di gildene/goldene pave”, the “Golden Peacock”. It seems that the song gave rise to the golden peacock as a symbol referring to Yiddish folksong and Yiddish artistic creativity in general. 

Illustration by Shirley Knoring

The peacock, needless to say, has been a cross-cultural symbol for millenia. On her blog “Jewish Folk Songs” Batya Fonda discusses the various interpretations of the golden peacock and has transcribed and translated into English a couple of versions of the Yiddish folksong.

In YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Archive collection, Mary Michaels sings a version, recorded in 1956. Click here to listen.

More recently, Ruth Levin, accompanied by Alexei Belousov on guitar sings it on her recording Atlandish (2019):

LSW’s version makes no mention of the gildene pave, but a bird does remain as the central character along with the unhappy daughter/daughter-in-law. The line about having one hand appears in no other versions, and seems to me to be improvised at the moment of performance. The verses about “shver un shviger’s kest” and “a shlekhtn man” appear in all versions. 

Interestingly, Moshe Beregovski pointed out the similarity of the melody of the song’s first line to a Ukrainian song (Old Jewish Folk Music, Slobin, p. 514) But LSW starts off the song with a different melody than other versions. 

 The song is included in many collections: to name a few with musical notation: Yidishe folks-lider, Beregovski and Fefer, 276-77; Die Schonsten Lieder Der OstJuden, Kaufmann, 80-81; Thesaurus of Hebrew Oriental Melodies, vol. 9, Idelsohn, #33, page 12; Jewish Folksongs from the Baltics, Karnes, p. 20-21; Mir trogn a gezang, Mlotek, 106-107.Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive, Mlotek and Slobin, p. 45-46.; just text – Yidishe folkslider in rusland, Ginzburg and Marek, #264-265, p. 215 – 217

—————————————————

Zay zhe mir gezint
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Zay zhe mir gezint, zay zhe mir gezint
mayn tayere mame,
Ekh fur fin dir avek
Say es vet mir git zayn, say es vet mir
shlekht zayn
Kimen vel ekh mer nisht tsirik. 
Say es vet mir git zayn, say es vet mir
shlekht zayn
Kimen vel ekh mer nisht tsirik. 

Farewell, farewell, my dear mother.
I am going away.
Whether it will be good, whether it will be bad
I will not be coming back.

Azoy vi s’iz biter mayn mame, miter
A feygele oyf deym yam. 
A feygele oyf deym yam.
Azoy i’ dekh biter, mayn mame, miter,
az me hot a shlekhtn man.

Just as it is bitter mother dear,
for a bird over the sea,
so it is bitter mother dear
to have a cruel husband.

Azoy vi s’iz biter, mayn tayere miter,
a feygele in a fremd land.
a feygele in a fremd land.
Azoy iz biter mayn mame, miter
az m’ot nor eyn hant.
Azoy iz biter mayn mame, miter
az men hot nor eyn hant.

Just as it’s bitter dear mother
for a bird in a strange land,
so it is bitter mother dear,
when you have just one hand.

Azoy vi s’iz biter mayn tayere miter
a feygele un a neyst.
a feygele un a neyst.
Azoy iz biter mayn mame, miter
shver un shvigers kest.
Azoy iz biter mayn mame, miter
shver un shvigers kest.

Just as it’s bitter my dear mother
a bird without a nest,
so it is bitter my dear mother
to live with my in-laws. 

Zay mir gezint mayn tayere mame,
ikh fur fun dir avek. 
Say es vet mir git zayn,
say es vet mir shlekht zayn. 
ikh vel nit kimen tsirik.
Say es vet mir git zayn,
say es vet mir shlekht zayn. 
Ikh kim nit mer tsurik. 

Farewell, farewell my dear mother,
I am going away.
Whether it will go well for me, 
or go poorly,
I will not be coming back. 

,זײַ זשע מיר געזונט, זײַ זשע מיר געזונט
.מײַן טײַערע מאַמע, איך פֿאָר פֿון דיר אַוועק
,סײַ עס וועט מיר גוט גיין
,סײַ עס וועט מיר שלעכט גיין
.קומען וועל איך מער נישט צוריק

,אַזוי ווי ס’איז ביטער, מײַן מאַמע־מוטער
.אַ פֿייגעלע אויף דעם ים, אַ פֿייגעלע אויף דעם ים
,אַזוי איז ביטער מײַן מאַמע־מוטער
.אַז מע האָט אַ שלעכטן מאַן

,אַזוי ווי ס’איז ביטער, מײַן מאַמע־מוטער
,אַ פֿייגעלע אין אַ פֿרעמד לאַנד
,אַזוי איז ביטער מײַן מאַמע־מוטער
.אַז מע האָט נאָר איין האַנט

,אַזוי ווי ס’איז ביטער, מײַן מאַמע־מוטער
,אַ פֿייגעלע אָן אַ נעסט
,אַזוי איז ביטער מײַן מאַמע־מוטער
.שווער און שוויגערס קעסט

. מען האָט נאָר איין האַנט

,זײַ זשע מיר געזונט, זײַ זשע מיר געזונט
.מײַן טײַערע מאַמע, איך פֿאָר פֿון דיר אַוועק
,סײַ עס וועט מיר גוט גיין
,סײַ עס וועט מיר שלעכט גיין
.קומען וועל איך מער נישט צוריק

“Kinder kumt der friling ruft” Performed by Harry Mervis

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2021 by yiddishsong

Kinder kumt der friling ruft / Children come, Spring calls
Sung by Harry Mervis, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg, Baltimore, 1979. From the Jewish Museum of Maryland collection.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman and Peter Rushefsky

Jewish Museum of Maryland

Kinder kumt as sung by Harry Mervis. 

Kinder kumt, der friling ruft
Blo der himl, klor di luft.
Shmekn zis di frishe blumen
un di taykhlekh freylekh brumen.
Leyft [loyft] in frayen feld.

Children come, Spring calls.
Blue the sky, clear the air.
Smell the fresh flowers
and the rivers gaily roar.

Hert, di feygelekh zingen,
flien heykh [hoykh] un klingen,
Helft zey, kinderlekh, shpringen.
Leyft in frayen feld. 

Listen to the birds sing,
flying high and resound.
Help them, children, to jump.
Run in the open field.

Kinder yetst iz ayer tsayt,
S’iz sheyn bald nor gor nit vayt.  
Er makht gel di grine bleter
Er makht di zise bleter,  
azoy on a sof.          

Children now is your time.
It is soon not far. 
He makes the green leaves yellow. 
He makes the sweet leaves.
Thus without end.   

Kinder aylt zikh unter,
Zayt zikh freylekh, munter.
Vayl der langer vinter
varft af alemen a shlof.

Children hurry yourselves.
Be happy and brave
because the long winter
throws on everyone a slumber.

COMMENTARY BY ITZIK GOTTESMAN

The lyrics to the song are by Mordkhe Rivesman (1868 – 1924), the same author of such songs as “Haynt is Purim Brider” and “Khanike Oy Khanike”.  the melody is almost always referred to as “a folk melody”. The first printing of the song that I have found is in Z. Kisselgof’s  collectin Lider-zamlbukh far der yidisher shul un familye, 1912There it is called “Kinder kumt der friling ruft”. It was also called “Likhik iz Gots velt”. Yiddish music archivist Robert Freedman remembers singing this song in his Chaim Nakhman Bialik Folk Shul and from memoirs it is clear that the song was also popular in Zionist circles in Eastern Europe. 

Recently singer, composer and choir director Polina Shepherd has revived the song. She newly arranged and recorded the song with her London Yiddish Choir and Chutzpah choir. Here is a link to that performance.

Shepherd also printed the music and original words at this link.

The song was translated into Hebrew by the Israeli Yiddish scholar Dov Sadan and can be found at this link in the website Zemereshet. זמרשת

The original lyrics by Rivesman in Yiddish has been scanned form  Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamelbukh, St. Petersburg 1912 and are attached below.

We know of one recording of the song on the album Ilamay Handel Sings Portraits of Jewish Live in Song.

COMMENTARY ON THE MUSIC BY PETE RUSHEFSKY

The song uses a variant of a Hasidic-flavored melody recorded by Belf’s Romanian Ensemble for the Syrena record label as “Nakhes fun Kinder”. The melody was also recorded as part of a suite by the Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia-based Lepiyansky Family of tsimbl (dulcimer) players and released on the Soviet MusTrust label.

Let’s take a closer look at the Belf version, which presents this beautiful melody in its fully-rendered form. The instrumental version of the piece is best known for its syncopated melodic gesture beginning with a rest on the first beat (a rhythmic device seen in many Hasidic nigunim):

However, the song version from Rivesman simplifies the melody, substituting four quarter notes for the first measure.

Composed in the freygish/Ahava Raba scale, the first section sets up the mode by emphasizing the first and then third degrees, repeating the phrases to create a sense of gravity. The second section switches to a call-and-response form to expand the melodic range to the fourth and fifth degrees, and hints at what will come in the final section with a quick reach up to the octave. Finally the third section lifts the melody to its climax (known in Arabic music as the “awj”) with three beats on the octave, initiating a lovely four-part walk down the freygish scale that continues into the mode’s subtonic range before resolving back up to the tonic.

There is an interesting difference between the Mervis version and the better-known version that Shepherd’s choir performs. The second section of Mervis’s version of “Kinder kumt” (starting with “Hert, di feygelekh zingen”) is reminiscent of the second section of the Belf “Nakhes fun Kinder”. In contrast, the second section of Shepherd jumps immediately up the octave like the third section of Belf. Perhaps Mervis (or whomever he learned his version from) was aware of the full melody ala Belf, and chose to sing it this way. Or possibly the variant is a result of confusion between the two melodies.

As I was contributing to this post, the wonderful Yiddish singer Eleonore Weill happened to be over giving my son Gabriel his weekly piano lesson. She graciously agreed to record herself performing the song on my iPhone (recorded April 6, 2021 in Brooklyn):

Lyrics by Rivesman published in Z. Kisselgof’s Lider-zamelbukh, St. Petersburg 1912:

“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.



Badkhn Toyvye Birnbaum’s Improvisation of “Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn”

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

Badkhn Toyvye Birnbaum’s  Improvisation  of  “Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn”
Recorded in Brooklyn circa 1982 by Itzik Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Birnbaum sings the refrain of the popular song “Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn” and then improvises the verses in the tradition of a badkhn, the Jewish wedding entertainer. Birnbaum referred to these improvisations as “shtey gramen“, rhymes created at the moment, while standing. 

Toyvye (Tobias) Birnbaum was born in Nowy Sacz, Poland, (Yiddish = Tsanz) in 1916. I met him in 1981 in Brighton Beach, NYC in the street. I was was walking with Yiddish actor Zvi Scooler, and Birnbaum recognized Scooler and came over. When he told us that he was a badkhn in Eastern Europe, I took his phone number and we became friends. 

Toyvye Birnbaum, Collection of the Museum at Eldridge Street

The song “Yiddish redt zikh azoy sheyn” was written by Isidore Lillian and the music composed by Maurice Rauch. The original text and music were printed in the Mlotek collection Songs of Generations and we are attaching those scans. But it seems that just about no one sings the words as originally written. This is also reflected in this performance during which the guests sing along with different words.

Among those who have recorded this song are Ben-Zion Witler, Henri Gerro, Johnny Grey, and more recently Myriam Fuks, the Klezical Tradition, Clarita Paskin, Harold Goldfarb and Mirele Rozen. The texts of their versions vary, especially in the verses. Witler’s and Gerro’s versions were particularly popular and Birnbaum’s way of singing owes quite a bit to them. His punctuation of  the word “Yiddish” in the refrain is a nice touch.

Here is a link to Gerro’s version:

This song was recorded at a “fraytik-tsu-nakhts” (friday night, sabbath eve) at my apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, approximately 1982.  Among the people at this event that I recall or can be hear are Michael Alpert, Joshua Waletzky, Zwi Kanar. One of Birnbaum’s rhymes refers to two Germans in attendance that evening who had come to study Yiddish (at YIVO/Columbia). I do not remember who that was. 

The Yiddish scholar Vera Szabo interviewed Birnbaum, and her papers and recordings are at YIVO. Klezmer musican and researchers Joshua Horowitz and Michael Alpert have also worked or interviewed with Birnbaum.

Thanks this week to Joshua Horowitz and Vera Szabo.

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn

Ikh gedenk di kinder-yurn,
sheyninke kinder-yurn.
In hartsn ayngekritst zenen zey bay mir.
Di yinge zikhroynes, di sheyne khaloymes
leygn in hartsn bay mir.

I remember my childhood
wonderful childhood. 
They are inscribed in my heart.
The memories of youth, the sweet dreams
lay deep in my heart.

Freyg ikh aykh tsi besers iz den farhan?
Ven di khaveyrim fun Itziklen kimen zikh tsuzam?
Men est, me trinkt, keyad hameylekh,
der oylem fraylekh.
Vil ikh aykh, zayt zeh azoy git,
Lernt aykh os dus lidele un zingt zhe mit mir mit.  Vus?

So I ask you, is there anything better?
When friends come together to Itzik’s place?
We eat, we drink, as if we were kings.
The people are happy.
So I ask you please,
learn this song
and sing along with me. What?

REFRAIN
Yidish redt zikh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing
Yidish redn ales
Zaydes, tates mames
Oy, adarebe, zug oyf goyish
“Git shabes”.
Yidish iz dekh azoy sheyn
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes, fun fremde zikhroynes.
Az yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.

Speaking Yiddish is so easy.
Yiddish is easy to pronounce.
Yiddish is spoken  by everyone
Grandfathers, fathers, mothers.
Just try to say in any foreign tongue – 
 “gut shabes” [good sabbath]
Yiddish is so beautiful
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
What do I need languages from other memories
When Yiddish sounds so sweet. 

Tsi iz den epes besers farhan,
ikh miz aykh zugn nokh a mol ven me kimt zikh tsizam, 
Durkh deym vil ikh aykh nisht dertserenen
un ikh vel aykh a lidele oyslernen
zayt zhet ale azoy git, lern akykh oys dus lidele
zingt zhe mit mir mit.

Is there anything better,
may I repeat, when we all get together?
With this I don’t want to make you angry
and I will teach you a song.
So please learn the song and sing along.

Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Yidish redn ales”
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zug af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes fun andere mikoymes.
Az Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in another language. 
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places. 
Yiddish sounds so sweet. 

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn
yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
yidish redn ales
zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
vus toygn mir leshoynes fun andere mikoymes.
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places.
When Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Oy az yidn redn yidish,
vus iz den du der khidesh?
yidish vet azoy sheyn klingen,
say bam redn, un shener bam zingen.
Duz iz klur vi der tug.
Duz beyt’ ekh der batkhn 
un hert zhe vus ikh zug.

Oy, that Jews speak Yiddish,
what’s the big deal?
Yiddish will sound wonderful
both when you speak it, and evern more so when you sing it.
This is clear as day.
So the badkhn asks you
and hear what I say.

Yidish redt zikh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn.
Yidish redn ales,
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”.
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes
fin andere mikoymes?
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places, when Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Di gantse velt zugt az yidish hot azoy fil kheyn.
Ven yidish i’ nisht geveyn git, volt yidish nisht gekimen tsu Itziklen tsi geyn. 
Un nokh deym vil ikh aykh nisht dertserenen.
Ir mizt dokh hobn a fink fin yidish, vus ir vilt zikh yidish oyslernen. 
S’iz nisht keyn kharpe, s’iz nisht keyn shand.
Tsvay mentshn zenen gekimen zikh lernen yidish
azsh fin Daytshland. 
Nokh deym vintsh ikh aykh ale du, hatslukhe un a shir.
Dus letste zug ikh  zingt zhe mit mit mir.

The whole world says that Yiddish has so much charm.
If Yiddish weren’t good, then Yiddish would not come to Itzik.
And after all I don’t want to enrage you.
You must have a spark of Yiddish to want to learn it.
There’s no shame, no disgrace.
Two people came to study Yiddish
all the way from Germany.
So after all, I wish you all success without end.
For the last time, sing along with me. 

Yidish iz dokh azoy sheyn.
Yidish hot a toyznt kheyn. 
Yidish redn ales
Zaydes, tates, mames
Oy, adarebe zugt af goyish:
“Git shabes”
Yidish iz dokh azoy gring.
Yidish leygt zikh oyf der tsing.
Vus toygn mir leshoynes
fin andere mikoymes?
Az yidish redt zikh azoy gring.

Yiddish sounds so sweet.
Yiddish has a thousand charms.
Yiddish is spoken by all,
grandfathers, fathers and mothers.
Just try to say “Gut shabes” in a foreign tongue.
It’s so easy to speak Yiddish.
It’s so easy to pronounce Yiddish.
What do I need languages 

from far other places, when Yiddish sounds so sweet.

Az ikh hob aykh du gezugt gramen
s’hot aykh afile farshaft a bisele tamen. 
Her zhe Itzikl tsi zikh tsi mayn shmis
der mentsh iz shoyn geveyn in der gantser velt
un oykhet in Pariz.
Lomir nor zan gezint in shtark. 
Men iz gekimen hern a yidishe drushele 
keyn Prospekt Park. 
Mit deym vil ale zugn aykhץ
Un zayt aykh matriekh
un dus lidele lernt zikh oys vus gikh.
Dus hob ikh ale simunim 
ven ir zingt yidish keyn-hore laytish
shaynt af ayer punim. 
Atsindert vil ikh aykh tsvingen
Dus letste mul, beyt ikh aykh, 
nokh a mol mit mir mittsuzingen.

And so I have said some rhymes here.
It even gave you some pleasure.
So listen Itzik to my converstion.
He has gone all over the world, and also Paris.
Let us all be healthy and strong.
People came to hear my talk to Prospect Park. 
And with this I say to you.
Please try to learn this song quickly.
For this I have all the signs:
when you sing Yiddish right, no evil eye,
your face shines. 
So now I demand of you all
to sing for the last time, I ask you,
to sing along with me. 

דער בדחן טובֿיה בירנבוים זינגט 
„ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין”
רעקאָרדירט פֿון איציק גאָטעסמאַן
 אין ברוקלין, אַן ערך 1982

.איך געדענק די קינדעריאָרן, שיינינקע קינדעריאָרן
.אין האַרצן אײַנגעקריצט זענען זיי בײַ מיר
די יונגע זכרונות, די שיינע חלומות
.לייגן [ליגן] אין האַרצן בײַ מיר
?פֿרעג איך אײַך, צי בעסערס איז דען פֿאַרהאַן
?ווען די חבֿרים פֿון איציקלען קומען זיך צוזאַם
,מען עסט, מע טרינקט, כּיד־המלך
.דער עולם פֿריילעך
,וויל איך אײַך, זײַט אַזוי גוט
לערנט אײַך אויס דאָס לידעלע און זינגט זשע 
?מיט מיר מיט.  וואָס

:צוזינג
.ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
ייִדיש רעדן אַלעס
,זיידעס, טאַטעס, מאַמעס
.אַדרבא, זאָגט אויף גוייִש  „גוט שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות, פֿון פֿרעמדע זכרונות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

.צי איז דען עפּעס בעסערס פֿאַרהאַן
.איך מוז אײַך זאָגן נאָך אַ מאָל, ווען מע קומט זיך צוזאַם
דורך דעם וויל איך אײַך נישט דערצערענען
.און וועל אײַך אַ לידעלע אויסלערנען.
,זײַט זשעט אַלע אַזוי גוט, לערנט אײַך אויס דאָס לידעלע
.זינגט זשע מיט מיר מיט

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

,אוי, אַז ייִדן רעדן ייִדיש
?וואָס איז דען דאָ דער חידוש
,ייִדיש וועט אַזוי שיין קלינגען 
.סײַ בײַם רעדן, און שענער בײַן זינגען
.דאָס איז קלאָר ווי דער טאָג
דאָס בעט אײַך דער בטחן
.און הערט זשע וואָס איך זאָג

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַנדערע מקומות,
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

.די גאַנצע וועלט זאָגט, אַז ייִדיש האָט אַזוי פֿיל חן
ווען ייִדיש וואָלט נישט געווען גוט, וואָלט ייִדיש נישט געקומען צו 
.איציקלען צו גיין
.און נאָך דעם וויל איך אײַך נישט דערצערענען
איר מוזט דאָך האָבן אַ פֿונק פֿון ייִדיש, אויב איר ווילט זיך
.ייִדיש אויסלערנערן

.ס’איז נישט קיין חרפּה, ס’איז נישט קיין שאַנד
צוויי מענטשן זענען געקומען זיך לערנען ייִדיש
.אַזש פֿון דײַטשלאַד
.נאָך דעם ווינטש איך אײַך אַלע דו, הצלחה אָן אַ שיעור
.דאָס לעצטע זאָג איך זינגט זשע מיט מיט מיר

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

,אַז איך האָב אײַך געזאָגט גראַמען
.ס’האָט אײַך אַפֿילו פֿאַרשאַפֿט אַ ביסעלע טעמען
.הער זשע איציקל צו זיך צו צו מײַן שמועס
דער מענטש איז שוין געווען אין דער גאַנצער וועלט
.און אויכעט פּאַריז
.לאָמיר נאָר זײַן געזונט און שטאַרק
.מען איז געקומען הערן אַ ייִדיש דרשהלע קיין פּראָספּעקט־פּאַרק
מיט דעם וויל איך זאָגן אײַך
טאָ זײַט איר מטריח
.און דאָס לידעלע לערן אויס וואָס גיך
.דאָס האָב איך אַלע סמנים
,ווען איר ייִדיש, קיין עין־הרע, לײַטיש
.שײַנט אויף אײַער פּנים
,אַצינדערט וויל איך אײַך צווינגען
דאָס לעצטע מאָל, בעט איך אײַך
.נאָך אַ מאָל מיט מיר מיטזינגען

.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי שיין
.ייִדיש האָט אַ טויזנט חן
ייִדן רעדן אַלעס
זיידעס, טאַטעס מאַמעס
אוי, אַדרבא זאָגט אויף גוייִש 
.”גוט־שבת”
.ייִדיש איז דאָך אַזוי גרינג
.ייִדיש לייגט זיך אויף דער צונג
,פֿון אַדער מקומות
וואָס טויגן מיר לשונות
.אַז ייִדיש רעדט זיך אַזוי שיין

From Eleanor and Joseph Mlotek’s, Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song (NY, Workmen’s Circle, 1995):

“Di zin fargeyt far nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

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

די זון פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט / Di zin fargeyt far nakht / The Sun Sets at Dusk
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn, NYC 1954.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman at a NY bungalow colony, 1950s

TRANSLITERATION

Di zin fargeyt far nakht. Dus meydele shteyt in drosn.
Di bekelekh vern ir nas.  Di koykhes geyen ir os.
Zi shteyt in vart af deym ort,vi zi fleygt im tumid zeyn.
Itst shteyt zi azoy lang in vart du aleyn. 

Du vi ikh shtey in mayne trern tien gisn.
O du, o du iz dus ertele vi mir fleygn mir beyde shmisn. 
Ot du o iz do iz dus ertele vi mir fleygn beyde shteyn.
Itstert bin ikh nebekh geblibn aleyn. 

Mamenyu getraye, vus eksti mir mayn leybn.
Di ‘ost bay mir tsigenimen mayn khayes, mayn gold.
Host bay mir tsigenemen mayn rekhte hant.
Host im farshikt in a fremd land.

Sheyn bisti lyube af deym tuvl tse muln.
Se nishtu aza keyser dayn sheynkeyt tsi batsuln.
Sheyn bisti lyube tsi sheyn iz dayn numen.
Dayne sheyne bekelekh vi di sheyne blumen.

Mamenyu, ikh beyt ‘ekh breng im tsirik.
Breyng mir mayn leybn breng mir mayn glik. 

TRANSLATION

The sun sets at dusk. The girl is standing outside.
Her cheeks are getting wet. Her strength is weakening.
She stands and waits at that place where she always saw him. 
Now she stands, alas, so long waiting alone.

Here where I stand and my tears gush.
Oh, here is the place where we always used to talk.
Here is the spot where we used to stand.
Now I , alas, am left alone.

Mother dear, why do  you shorten my years?
You took away my life, my gold.
You took away my right hand.
And sent him away to a strange land.

Beautiful, you are my love to paint on the tablet.
There is no emperor who can pay for your beauty.
Beautiful, you are my love, too beautiful is your name.
Your beautiful cheeks, like the beautiful flowers.


Mother, I beg you, bring him back.
Bring me my dearest, bring me my happiness.

די זין פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט
געזונדען פֿון ליפֿשע שעכטער־ווידמאַן
רעקאָרדירט פֿון לייבל כּהן, 1954, ניו־יאָרק

.די זון פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט, דאָס מיידעלע שטייט אין דרויסן
.די בעקעלעך ווערן איר נאַס, די כּוחות גייען איר אויס
.זי שטייט און וואַרט אויף דעם אָרט, וווּ זי פֿלעגט אים תּמיד זען
.איצט שטייט זי אַזוי לאַנג און וואַרט דאָ אַליין

.דאָ וווּ איך שטיי ־ און מײַנע טרערן טוען גיסן
.אָט דאָ אָ דאָ איז דאָס ערטעלע, וווּ מיר פֿלעגן מיר ביידע שמיסן
.אָט דאָ אָ דאָ איז דאָס ערטעלע, וווּ מיר פֿלעגן ביידע שטיין
.איצטערט בין איך, נעבעך, געבליבן אַליין

.מאַמעניו געטרײַע, וואָס עקסטו מיר מײַן לעבן
.דו האָסט בײַ מיר צוגענעמען מײַן חיות, מײַן גאָלד
.האָסט בײַ מיר צוגענעמען מײַן רעכטע האַנט
 .האָסט אים פֿאַרשיקט אין אַ פֿרעמד לאַנד

.שיין ביסטו ליובע, אויף דעם טאָוול צו מאָלן
.סע נישטאָ אַזאַ קייסער דײַן שיינקייט צו באַצאָלן
.שיין ביסטו ליובע, צו שיין איז דײַן נאָמען
.דײַנע שיינע בעקעלעך, ווי די שיינע בלומען

.מאַמעניו, איך בעט דיך, ברענג אים צוריק
.ברענג מיר מײַן לעבן. ברענג מיר מײַן גליק

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Di zin fargeyt far nakht is among Lifshe Schaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) most moving performances– and that ending!

I have found 3 other variants of the song which I am attaching: one from Zhitomir (Ukraine) in Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153;  one from the Kovensk region in Lithuania in the Ginzburg and Marek collection Yidishe folkslider in Rusland (1901) p. 168; and one in Nukhem (Natan) Shakhnovskiy’s Lider gezungen funem folk (1948) p. 20. Shakhnovsky was from Kremenchuk in the Ukraine and it seems most of the songs were heard there. In Shakhnovsky is there a printed melody similar to LSW’s. The texts of the two versions from the Ukraine are quite similar while the Lithuanian one has a refrain not found in the others. All of these variants are attached below.

The folk poetry of this song is quite striking and I believe it is quite old. I translated “tovl”, which usually means blackboard, as “tablet”, but “slate” or “board” are also possible translations. The emphasis on the place where they met and spent time together is beautiful in its simplicity. 

Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153:

Nukhem (Natan) Shakhnovskiy’s Lider gezungen funem folk (1948) p. 20:

Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153:

“Fin mitvokh in der fri (Hot a yid a vaybele)” Performed by Lifshe Schaecther Widman and Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2020 by yiddishsong

Fin mitvokh in der fri (Hot a yid a vaybele) / From Wednesday Morning (A Man Has a Wife)
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) and Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. LSW recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This popular song was copyrighted in the US in 1922 by Morris Goldstein, who is listed as composer and lyricist. But this is doubtful since Pepi Litman and Helen Gespass recorded a version in 1912/1913 in Budapest or Lemberg. Apparently even earlier, in 1907, Hungarian singers recorded it (see Bob Cohen’s comments below).

Here is LSW, recorded by Leybl Kahn in New York, 1954:

More recently LSW’s daughter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman recorded Lifshe’s version on her CD Bay mayn mames shtibele with Nigel Jacobs on violin, recorded live at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, November 9th, 1993. Her lyrics are basically the same as LSW, though I do prefer her word “badekn” to LSW’s word “dekn”.

Here is the Peppi Litman version:

And here is the Gespass version:

Since the instrumental version of the song on the recording Maramaros: The Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania of the Hungarian group – Muzsikas, made such an impression, I asked Budapest resident Bob Cohen, researcher of Roma and Hungarian and Jewish musical connections, leader of the pioneering klezmer ensemble Di naye kapelye, for his take on the song.

Bob Cohen writes:

“Hot a yid a vajbele” is definitely the most popular and widespread Yiddish song in the Hungarian language area. Almost everyone I spoke with in the early 1990s knew it, and it was a standard at our old-age home gigs. It remains in the repertoire of Roma bands in Transylvania as “the Jewish song” and some even sing along to it in macaronic yid-speak as “Itta, Itta Babele”. I’ve also heard it played by Roma orchestras in Slovakia.  What is interesting is the fact that knowledge of the tune seems to have completely been forgotten among the post WWII generation of Jews, given the popularity it had among older folks I met in around 1990.

A testament to its staying power is this recording by Zoldi Marton in 1907 (Most of Zoldi’s other songs are comical Hungarian nota style in Hungarian). Also a 1912 version by the Toll Jancsi Orchestra, or the same band in 1907.

The version I played on our (Di naye kapelye’s) first recording back in 1997 came from the Gypsy primas (lead violinist) Andras Horvath of Jankamajitis, near Csenger on the Romanian border. He learned his Jewish tunes from a Jewish musician family named “Markus” before the war. He became a Seventh Day Adventist in later life, and he called me over once to tell me his life story and his relationship to Jews.

Thanks this week to Robert Cohen and Martin Schwartz. Please note: though still performed today, the song’s dated humor is misogynistic.

Fin mitvokh in der fri
biz fraytik far nakht
hot Surele mayn vayb
deym kigl gemakht.

From Wednesday in the morning
until Friday twilight,
Surele my wife
made a kugel. 

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
Hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she gives him trouble,
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Vi s’iz gekimen
shabes tsim esn,
hot Surele mayn vayb
fin deym kigl gur fargesn.

When the Sabbath arrives
and  it’s time to eat.
Surele, my wife
forgot all about the kugel.

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man has a wife;
she gives him trouble.
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Hot er gekhapt 
deym grobn shtekn
Un hot ir ungehoybn 
git tsi dekn.

So he got
his thick cane
and started to 
beat [cover] her. 

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she gives him trouble,
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Hot zi gekhapt
di alte shkrabes,
tsim tatn iz zi 
avek deym shabes.

So she grabbed
her old worn-out shoes
and went to her father
for the Sabbath.

Hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures
hot a yid a yidene
hot er fin ir tsures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she is good for nothing.
A man has a wife
and she gives him trouble.

Hobn di shkeynim
ungehoybn shpekulirn
me zol dus porfolk
vider tsuzamen firn. 

So the neighbors
started to speculate/plan
how to bring the couple
together again.

Hot a yid a vabele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
and she gives him trouble.
A man has a wife
and she gives him trouble

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
געזונגען פֿון ליפֿשע שעכטער-ווידמאַן

פֿון מיטוואָך אין דער פֿרי
ביז פֿרײַטיק פֿאַר נאַכט
האָט שׂרהלע מײַן ווײַב
.דעם קוגל געמאַכט

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

ווי ס’איז געקומען
,שבת צום עסן 
האָט שׂרהלע מײַן ווײַב
.פֿון דעם קוגל גאָר פֿאַרגעסן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

האָט ער געכאַפּט 
,דעם גראָבן שטעקן
און האָט איר אָנגעהויבן
.גוט צו דעקן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

האָט זי געכאַפּט
די אַלטע שקראַבעס
צום טאַטן איז זי
.אַוועק דעם שבת

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ייִדענע
.האָט ער פֿון איר צרות

האָבן די שכנים
אָנגעהויבן שפּעקולירן
מע זאָל דאָס פּאָרפֿאָלק
.ווידער צוזאַמענפֿירן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.האָט ער פֿון איר צרות

“Bay dem rebn” Performed by an Unidentified Singer at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2020 by yiddishsong

Bay dem rebn / At the Rabbi’s House 
Unidentified singer, recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG] at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home, Bronx  1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song begins with the Hebrew song “Hayta tsira bikineret” (There was a Young Woman at the Kinneret), which is then followed by a Yiddish verse. which then returns to the Hebrew beginning and so on and so forth. Israel’s Kinneret (also known as the Kinnereth, the Sea of Galilee and Lake Tiberius) is the world’s lowest-altitude freshwater lake.

The melody is from a Ukrainian folk song “Тече річка” “The River Flows”, which you can listen to here:

The most common version of the Yiddish verse involves a cat. However the one we present this week tells of a goat that eats up the skhakh, the sukkah covering (a sukkah or suke is the temporary structure that Jews build for the Sukkot holiday); so we felt this was an appropriate post during the current holiday of Sukkot.

Photo courtesy the Treehugger Blog

A thorough look at the origins and development of the Hebrew song including the Yiddish variants (but not this one) can be found at David Assaf’s Hebrew “Oneg Shabat” blog.

A recording of the song with the more common Yiddish verse about a kitten can be heard in the collection of recordings made by ethnomusicologists Sofia Magid and Moshe Beregovski, Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin. In that recording, singer Rakhmil Grin (1910 – 1943)  sings it for Beregovski in 1941, probably in Kiev (listen below).

Inge Mandos, a Yiddish singer from Hamburg, released a CD entitled Waks  (וואַקס, 2005) in which she re-imagines old Yiddish field recordings and includes Grin’s recording of “Bay mayn rebn iz geven a ketsle”

The Yiddish words and music to Grin’s version (the more popular version) can also be found in Undzer gezang (Bina Steinberg, ed. 1984), and are attached.

This is the first of a number of Yiddish songs that BSG recorded at the Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home in the Bronx. She was asked to edit a monthly Yiddish journal comprised of memoirs and folklore that she recorded from the elderly Jews living there. Unfortunately on the original cassette recording of this song the name of the singer was not mentioned. His Hebrew words do not match up entirely with the usual lyrics, and he makes a grammatical mistake. 

Thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski.

TRANSLITERATION (Daughters of Jacob version)

Hayta alma bakineret
asher bigalil.
Kol hayom hayta shira [!]
lanu mishirey galil.
Kol hayom hayta shira [!]
Shir akheyr hi lo yada..
hey!

Bay dem rebn hot di tsig
far hinger ofgegesn dem skhakh.
Hot di rebetsin mit der kotshere
ir gemakht di zakh. 
Tse keyver yisrul hot men zi gebrakht 
in an ofshrift hot men ir gemakht, hey…

Hayta alma….

TRANSLATION (Daughters of Jacob version)

There was a young lady at the Kinneret
that was in the Galilee.
She used to sing for us of
the songs of the Galilee.
A whole day she would sing –
no other song did she know. Hey!..

At the Rabbi’s house the goat
got hungry and ate up the skakh.
So the Rabbi’s wife with a poker
put an end to her. 
[literally: did the thing to her]
They gave her a Jewish burial
with an inscription, hey!

There was a young lady…

TRANSCRIPTION (Daughters of Jacob Version)

הָיְתָה עַלְמָה בַּכִּנֶּרֶת
,אֲשֶׁר בְּגָּלִיל
!כָּל הַיּוֹם הָיְתָה שִׁירָה
,לָנוּ מִשִּׁירֵי גָּלִיל
!כָּל הַיּוֹם הָיְתָה שִׁירָה
שִׁיר אַחֵר הִיא לֹא יָדְעָה
!היי

בײַ דעם רבין האָט די ציג
.פֿאַר הונגער אויפֿגעגעסן דעם סכך
האָט די רביצין מיט דער קאָטשערע
.איר געמאַכט די זאַך
צו קבֿר־ישׂראל האָט מען זי געבראַכט
.און אַן אויפֿשריפֿט האָט מען איר געמאַכט

…הָיְתָה עַלְמָה בַּכִּנֶּרֶת

 “Bay mayn rebn iz geven a ketsle” from Undzer gezang (Bina Steinberg, ed. 1984):

“Ziser Got, vi dank ikh dir?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman and “Reboyne-shel-oylem vi dank ik dir?” Performed by Freda Lobell

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2020 by yiddishsong

Ziser Got, vi dank ikh dir? / Sweet God, How Can I Thank You?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, with another version, Reboyne-shel-oylem vi dank ik dir? / Master of the Universe How Can I Thank You? sung by Freda Lobell, and recorded by Ruth Rubin 1948

Freda Lobell’s rendition can be heard at the YIVO Ruth Rubin Archive website.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song, in which a mother gives thanks for the marriage of her mezinke (youngest daughter), is not the first time and not the last time that these two singers will be paired together. And it is not surprising: Freda Lobell came from Chernovitz, Bukovina (today Ukraine) and LSW came from a small town in the same Bukovina region and later lived in Chernovitz. In the song “Vus a mul brent dos fayer greser” previously posted on this blog, one can also hear their two versions of the same song.

A Wedding in Cuba

In addition to Lobell’s recordings in the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO, she can also be heard on Rubin’s Folkways record “The Old Country”. The printed collection “Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive” includes three of her songs, words and music, but not this one.

The melody of this song is used by the Breslover/Broslover/Bratslover Hasidim with the words “Mitsve gedola lehiyot besimkhe tomid” (מיצווה גדולה להיות בשׂימחה תּמיד).

Here is a version with a Middle Eastern beat:

In LSW’s joyous version I believe that part of the fun is trying to intentionally squeeze in too many words into one line. The line beginning with “Shnirelekh….” As you hear she does not succeed but laughs at the attempt.

The klezmer fiddler Ilana Cravitz found the nigun in Moshe Beregovski’s writings, No. 187 (Skotshne) in Jewish Folk Music Vol. 4 Tish-Nigunim. It is to be found in Part II – the section with dances (see attached). She adds, “Definitely pre-WWI. The background note in Beregovski about the source is: No. 187. Sound recording No. 268/1 from Sh. Kulish in the town of Lyudmir [Ukraine] on July 17, 1913. Alternative version:  auditory record K-888 from A.-I. Berdichevsky in the town of Bogopol [Ukraine] in 1913. The performer reported that he had borrowed this tune from the clarinetist, who performed it like a skotshne.”

Thanks this week to Ilana Cravitz, Jordan Hirsch, Hankus Netsky, Yelena Shmulenson and the YIVO Sound Archive. 

TRANSLITERATION – LSW’s “Ziser Got”

Ziser Got vi dank ikh dir
vus di host geholfn mir;
aza gedile tse derleybn. 
Di host mekh tse shtand gebrakht
haynt hob ekh khasene gemakht. 
Kh’ob shoyn mayn mezinke oysgegeybn.
Ikh o’ dekh mir ayngehandlt skhoyre:
Shnirelekh, blit in milekh, eydem fil mit toyre.
Mayn harts iz fil mit freyd
Di eyniklekh shlepn mikh baym kleyd.
in eykh tsishn zey in der mit.
Ekh bin dekh vi der keyser rakh.
Mir iz haynt keyner glakh.
Lomir tantsn ale drit. 

TRANSLATION – “Ziser Got”

Sweet God how do I thank you
for helping me;
to live to see such a big event.
You brought this about:
today to marry off
my youngest daughter.
I have obtained my wares:
Youthful daughters-in-law and sons-in-law full of Torah.
My heart is full of joy.
My grandchildren pull at my dress,
and I in the middle of them. 
I am as rich as the emperor.
Today no one equals me.
Let’s dance us three. 

זיסער גאָט ווי דאַנק איך דור
וואָס דו האָסט געהאָלפֿן מיר
.אַזא גדולה צו דערלעבן
,דו האָסט מיך צו שטאַנד געבראַכט
הײַנט האָב איך חתונה געמאַכט
.כ’האָב שוין מײַן מיזינקע אויסגעגעבן
.איך האָב דאָך מיר אײַנגעהאַנדלט סחורה
.שנירעלעך, בלוט און מילעך, איידעם פֿול מיט תּורה
,מײַן האַרץ איז פֿול מיט פֿרייד
.די אייניקלעך שלעפּן מיך בײַם קלייד
.און איך צישן [צווישן] זיי אין דער מיט
איך בין דאָך ווי דער קייסער רײַך
,מיר איז הײַנט קיינער גלײַך
.לאָמיר טאַנצן אַלע דריט

TRANSLITERATION – Freda Lobell’s Reboyne-shel-oylem

Reboyne shel-oylem vi dank ekh dir
vu’ di ‘ost geholfn mir
aza gdile tse derleybn. 
Az ikh ‘ob dus tsi shtand gebrakht
der [di] mezinke khasene gemakht.
nagidemlekh mit zey’r farmeyg.
ikh lakh shoyn fin der gantser velt.
ikh ‘ob mane kinderlekh tsufridn geshtelt;
negidimlekh mit zeyer farmeygn. 
Bin ikh mir a shviger
‘ob ikh mir an eydem.
tants ikh mir in intershtibl [hintershtibl]
shoklt zikh der boydem.

TRANSLATION – Freda Lobell’s Reboyne-shel-oylem

Master of the universe how I thank you
for helping me
to live to see such a big event.
I made this happen:
married off my youngest daughter
with Jews of wealthy means.
I can laugh at the whole world.
I have made my children happy.
Rich men with their possessions.
And so I am a mother-in-law
and have a son-in-law.
So when I dance in the backroom
the attic shakes.

רבונו-של-עולם ווי דאַנק איך דיר
וואָס דו האָסט געהאָלפֿן מיר
.אַזאַ גדולה צו דערלעבן
אַז איך האָב דאָס צו שטאַנד געבראַכט
,די מיזינקע חתונה געמאַכט
.ייִדעלעך מיט זייער פֿאַרמעג
.איך לאַך שוין פֿון דער גאַנצער וועלט
איך האָב מײַנע קינדערלעך צופֿרידן געשטעלט
נגידעלעך מיט זייער פֿאַרמעגן
,בין איך מיר אַ שוויגער
,האָב איך מיר אַן איידעם
טאַנץ איך מיר אין הינטערשטיב
.שאָקלט זיך דער בוידעם

No. 187 (Skotshne) in Jewish Folk Music Vol. 4 Tish-Nigunim, by Moshe Beregovski:

“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.

¨Me geyt shoyn tsi der khipe” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2020 by yiddishsong

Me geyt shoyn tsi der khipe / They’re Already Walking to the Khupe!
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954 NYC.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Though Lifshe Schaechter Widman (LSW) introduces the song by saying it used to be sung on the way to the khupe (wedding canopy), it is a song mocking the wedding, not a part of the ceremony by any means.

Screenshot 2020-08-14 at 5.10.13 PMImage of a Wedding Procession by Isaak Ashknaziy, 1893

The melody to this song was probably inspired by the klezmer tune known as the “Odesser Bulgar” found in Kammen collection “Dance Folio No.1 #18. (Thanks to Michael Alpert for pointing this out). Here is a link to the Alexandria Kleztet from the D.C. area and their version of the Odesser Bulgar:

In addition to LSW’s, two other texts to this song can be found in the Shmuel Zanvel Pipe song collection Folklore Research Centre Studies, Volume 2, Jerusalem, 1971, (edited by Meir and Dov Noy). They have been scanned and attached. The first version is in the body of the text and includes the melody. The second is in the end notes and includes different words and a second section of the melody as Meir Noy, also a Galitsyaner from Kolomyia (Yid = Kolomey) remembered it. LSW’s melody also has a second section or the begining of one.

The image of the fiddle “speaking” at the wedding (in essence warning the young couple) reminds one of the Itzik Manger poem “Der badkhn”, music by Henekh Kon.

Nor vos zogt der fidl, zog fidele zog!
¨Di sheynkayt iz sheyn, nor sheynkeyt fargeyt.¨
Azoy zogt der fidl un vos zogt di fleyt?

What does the fiddle say, tell us fiddle!”
“Beauty is nice, but beauty fades.”
So says the fiddle and what says the flute?

The only word in LSW’s version that is still not clear is “sekl” or “seke”; a word not found in the Yiddish dictionaries but “seke” does also appear in the second version in the notes of the Pipe collection. Michael Alpert suggests it could be a klezmer term for the sekund; the rhythmic and harmonic fiddle in klezmer music.

The word “opgeklogt”, pronounced by LSW as “u’geklugt” is open to interpretation, but I believe she means “good riddance, the parents have suffered enough”. In Pipe’s versions the line is “A yingl hot a meydl ongeklogt” which has a completely different meaning, but also open to interpretation.

Special thanks for helping with the blog post this week: Eliezer Niborski who transcribed LSW’s version, Michael Alpert, Josh Waletzky, Mark Slobin, Pete Rushefsky.

TRANSLITERATION AND TRANSLATION

LSW speaks: “A lid vus me fleyg zingen az me geyt tsi der khipe in Galitsye, in Bukovina.”
A song that used to be sung on the way to the khupe [marriage canopy] in Galicia and Bukovina.

[Un] Me geyt shoyn tsi der khipe, me geyt!
Me trasket un me fliasket, s’iz a freyd!
Herts nor vus der fidl zugt:
“A bukher mit a moyd u’geklugt” [opgeklugt]

[And] They’s already walking to the khupe!
People are banging and celebrating, what a joy!
Listen to what the fiddle says:
“Good riddance to the bride and groom”

Un dort der bas mit der sekl (seke?):
Niech będzie na długo i na wieki’ [Polish]

And there the bass and the sekund (fiddle)
[Polish]: May it be for long and forever.

Un aykh makhuteyniste – git-morgn!
Ir hot shoyn frishe zorgn:
Me bayt di rayneshlekh af kronen.
Me zikht a voynung vi tse voynen.

And you my mother-in-law – good morning!
You have fresh worries:
You have to exchange the Rhenish for Kronen [currency]
and find a place to live.

REPEAT FIRST VERSE

Screenshot 2020-08-14 at 3.47.42 PM

Screenshot 2020-08-14 at 3.47.59 PM

Instrumental klezmer version of the melody  found in J. & J. Kammenś collection Dance Folio No.1, #18:

Screenshot 2020-08-14 at 4.03.18 PM

Version found in Shmuel Zanvel Pipeś song collection Folklore Research Centre Studies, Volme 2, Jerusalem, 1971, (edited by Meir and Dov Noy):

Screenshot 2020-08-14 at 4.04.06 PMScreenshot 2020-08-14 at 4.04.26 PM