Archive for New York

“Ikh hob ongehoybn shpiln a libe” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2022 by yiddishsong

Ikh hob ongehoybn shpiln a libe / I Began a Romance
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW], recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954, New York City

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman with her son, the linguist Mordkhe Schaechter.  1930s, Chernovitz, Romania.

COMMENTARY BY ITZIK GOTTESMAN

Another lyrical love song from the repertoire of LSW. The wonderful rhyme “blote” (mud, mire) and “akhote” (desire, enthusiasm) is rare but can be found in I. L. Cahan’s collection (YIVO, 1957, page 183),  in a similar verse but different melody. Also noteworthy is the curse that the girl wishes upon her boyfriend – may he become a beggar and at every door, may they say “You were here already”.  In today’s slang we would say – “We gave at the office.”

Ikh hob ongehoybn shpiln a libe
Mit groys kheyshik in mit akhote.
Mit groys kheyshik in mit akhote.
Arupgefirt hot dus mekh fun deym glaykhn veyg.
Arayngefirt in a tifer blote.

I began a romance
with great desire and with enthusiasm.
With great desire and with enthusiasm.
It led me astray off the straight path.
And led me into a deep mire.
It led me astray off the straight path.
And led me into a deep mire.

Ikh vel dir koyfn, mayn tayer, zis leybn
a goldenem zeyger mit a vazer. [vayzer]
A goldenem zeyger mit a vazer.
Der vos hot undz beyde tsesheydt,
er zol geyn in di hayzer. 

I will buy you, my dear, sweet one,
a golden clock with a clock hand.
A golden clock with a clock hand.
He who split us apart
should go begging among the houses.

In di hayzer zol er geyn.
Bay yeyder tir zol er blaybn shteyn.
Bay yeyder tir zol er blaybn shteyn
Un yeyder zol im dus zugn:
“Ba mir bisti shoyn geveyn.”
Un yeyder zol im dus zugn:
“Ba mir bisti shoyn geveyn.”

May he go begging among the houses and
at every door should he stop.
At every door should he stop.
And everyone should say to him
“You have already been here.”
And everyone should say to him
“You have already been here.”

איך האָב אָנגעהויבן שפּילן אַ ליבע
.מיט גרויס חשק און מיט אַכאָטע
.מיט גרויס חשק און מיט אַכאָטע
.אַראָפּגעפֿירט האָט דאָס מיך פֿון דעם גלײַכן וועג
.אַרײַנגעפֿירט אין אַ טיפֿער בלאָטע

.איך וועל דיר קויפֿן, מײַן טײַער זיס לעבן
.אַ גאָלדענעם זייגער מיט אַ ווײַזער
.אַ גאָלדענעם זייגער מיט אַ ווײַזער
,דער וואָס האָט אונדז ביידע צעשיידט
.ער זאָל גיין אין די הײַזער

.אין די הײַזער זאָל ער גיין
.בײַ יעדער טיר זאָל ער בלײַבן שטיין
.בײַ יעדער טיר זאָל ער בלײַבן שטיין
 :און יעדער זאָל אים דאָס זאָגן
„.בײַ מיר ביסטו שוין געווען”
:און יעדער זאָל אים דאָס זאָגן
„.בײַ מיר ביסטו שוין געווען”

“Di shteytishe meydelekh” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2022 by yiddishsong

Di shteytishe meydelekh [kh’bin geboyrn a dorfsmoyd]
The City Girls (I Was Born a Country Girl)

Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman. Recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NYC

Jewish girl from village outside of Zagreb, courtesy of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Di shteytishe meydalekh geyen shpatsirn
Zey geyen geuremt mit sheyne kavelirn.
In der puder aleyn
Er makht zey di bekelekh sheyn.

The city girls go for a walk.
They’re arm in arm with handsome suitors.
And just the powder
makes their cheeks pretty.

Ikh veyn in klug. Ikh ver nisht mid.
Keyner hert mayn veynen nit.
Of mir iz nebekh a noyt.
Kh’bin geboyrn a dorfsmoyd.

I cry and lament. I don’t get tired.
No one hears my weeping.
I have, alas, a fault:
I was born a country [village] girl.

Di shteytishe meydelekh trugn zikh net.
Zey libn nisht keyn yidn; nor ales kadet.
Nor af mir, iz nebekh aza noyt.
Kh’bin geboyrn a dorfsmoyd.

The city girls are so elegant.
They don’t love Jews, only cadets.
But alas, I have a fault –
I was born a country girl.

Ikh veyn in klug, Ikh ver nisht mid.
Keyner hert mayn veynen nit.
Oyf mir iz aza noyt.
Ikh bin geboyrn a dorfsmoyd.

I cry and lament. I do not tire.
No one hears my weeping.
I have, alas, this fault –
I was born a country girl.

COMMENTARY BY ITZIK GOTTESMAN

I could not find this song in any collection and it is not found in the play “Dos dorfs meydl” by Perlmutter and Wohl. It is probably from an old Yiddish musical play but whether the singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman learned it growing up in Bukovina, or in NYC when she was living there from 1908 to 1914 is not clear (she went back to Europe in 1914, and did not return to live in the US until 1951).

די שטעטישע מיידלעך
איך בין געבוירן אַ דאָרפֿמויד

געזונגען פֿון ליפֿשע שעכטער־ווידמאַן

.די שטעטישע מיידעלעך גייען שפּאַצירן
.זיי גייען געאָרעמט מיט שיינע קאַוואַלירן
,און דער פּודער אַליין
.ער מאַכט זיי די בעקעלעך שיי

.איך וויין און קלאָג; איך ווער נישט מיד
.קיינער הערט מײַן וויינען ניט
.אויף מיר איז נעבעך אַ נויט
.כ’בין געבוירן אַ דאָרפֿסמויד

.די שטעטישע מיידעלעך טראָגן זיך נעט
.זיי ליבן נישט קיין ייִדן, נאַר אַלעס קאַדעט
.נאָר אויף מיר איז נעבעך אַזאַ נויט
.כ’בין געבוירן אַ דאָרפֿסמו

.איך וויין און קלאָג, אן ווער נישט מיד
.קיינער הערט מײַן וויינען ניט
.אויף מיר איז נעבעך אַ נויט
.כ’בין געבוירן אַ דאָרפֿסמוי

.איך וויין און קלאָג, איך ווער נישט מיד
.קיינער הערט מײַן וויינען ניט
.אויף מיר איז אַזאַ נויט
.איך בין געבוירן אַ דאָרפֿסמויד

¨Dremlender yingele¨ Performed by Ita Taub

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2022 by yiddishsong

Dremlender yingele / Dozing Boy
Sung by Ita Taub. Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Circle Lodge, Hopewell Junction, NY, 1987.
Words by H. Leivick, music by Mikhl Gelbart. 

Dremlinder yingele, yingele mayn,
kukt nit tsu mir in di oygn arayn.
Tifer in tifer in shlof grob zikh ayn.
Dremlinder yingele, yingele mayn,
Dremlinder yingele, yingele mayn.

Dozing boy, my boy,
Don’t look me in the eyes.
Deeper and deeper fall into your sleep,
Dozing boy, my boy.
Dozing boy, my boy.

Ikh bin geshtorbn un zey durkhn toyt
vi du, gor mayn ershter, der letster fargeyt.
Iz dir bashert gur der letster tsu zayn?
Dremlinder yingele, yingele mayn,
Dremlinder yingele, yingele mayn.

I died and see through death
how you, though my first, is the last to go down.
Are you really fated to be the last?
[ in original poem: “Have you been sentenced (farmishpet) to be the last”]
Dozing boy, my boy.
Dozing boy, my boy.

COMMENTARY BY ITZIK GOTTESMAN

Ita Taub sings the first four verses of a seven verse poem written by the poet H. Leivick (Leyvik Halpern, 1888 – 1962). The complete poem “Dremlender yingele“ can be found in Leivick’s third volume of collected poetry “In Keynems land” (Warsaw, 1923). A scan of the poem is attached below.

I am not aware of any recording of Taub’s version with this melody of the poem. A version composed by the cantor Pinchos Jassinowsky was recorded by Sidor Belarsky on a 78rpm record. Sima Miller and Leon Lishner also recorded the song with Jassinowsky’s melody.

Chana and Yosl Mlotek in their folksong column in the Forverts newspaper “Leyner dermonen zikh lider”, June 3, 1987, print the words to the song and write that Mikhl Gelbart was the composer, not mentioning Jassinowsky. So it is fair to assume that Taub’s melody is the one to which they are referring, though I have yet to find it in Gelbart’s numerous publications.

You can hear the poet H. Leivick reciting the poem here:

Special thanks this week to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives and to Cantor Sharon Bernstein.

דרעמלנדער ייִנגעלע

ווערטער: ה. לייוויק.   מוזיק: מיכל געלבאַרט
געזונגען פֿון איטע טאַוב

.דרעמלנדער ייִנגעלע, ייִנגעלע מײַן
.קוק ניט צו מיר אין די אויגן אַרײַן
.טיפֿער און טיפֿער אין שלאָף גראָב זיך אײַן
.דרעמלנדער ייִנגעלע, ייִנגעלע מײַן
.דרעמלנדער ייִנגעלע, ייִנגעלע מײַן

איך בין געשטאָרבן און זע דורכן טויט
.ווי דו, גאָר מײַן ערשטער, דער לעצטער פֿאַרגייט
?איז דיר באַשערט גאָר דער לעצטער צו זײַן
.דרעמלנדער ייִנגעלע, ייִנגעלע מײַן
.דרעמלנדער ייִנגעלע, ייִנגעלע מײַן

From H. Leivick’s “In Keynems land” (Warsaw, 1923):

“Ikh bin oysgefurn di gantse velt” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 16, 2021 by yiddishsong

Ikh bin oysgefurn di gantse velt / I Traveled the Whole World Over
A love song from the 19th century sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW]
Recorded by Leybl Kahn, NYC 1954

TRANSLITERATION

LSW speaks: Fin mayn mamen a folkslid; dus iz shoyn…  Ekh hob ekh es gehert mit 60 yur.

Ikh bin oysgefurn a gantse velt.
Ikh ho’ gemeynt ikh vel eraykhn [erreichen]
dus greste glik.
Tse dir, tse dir mayn tayer zis leybm.
Tse dir hot mekh getsoygn tsurik.
Tse dir, tse dir mayn tayer zis leybm.
Tse dir hot mekh getsoygn tsurik.

Vi ‘zoy ken ikh dikh libn, vi ‘zoy ken ikh dikh ern.
Vi ‘zoy ken ikh dikh gants farshteyn?
Az di heyse libe, vus hot getin brenen,
Iz geloshn gevorn mit mayn geveyn.
Az di heyse libe vus hot getin brenen,
Iz geloshn gevorn mit mayn geveyn.

[alternate second verse as remembered by her daughter Beyle Schaechter Gottesman]]

Vi ken ikh dikh libn, vi ken ikh dikh shetshn
Vi ken ikh dekh den ern?
Az di heyse libe vus hot getin brenen,
Is ousgeloshn mit mayne trern]

TRANSLATION

LSW speaks: A folksong from my mother. I heard it 60 years ago.

I traveled the whole world over,
I thought I would attain the happiest joy.
To you, to you, my dear, sweet love [literally: life]
To you, I was drawn to return.
To you, to you, my dear, sweet love
To you, I was drawn to return.

How can I love you? How can I honor you,
How can I understand you completely,
when the passionate love that burned
was extinguished with my tears.

[alternate 2nd verse]

How can I love you, how can I appreciate you,
How can I honor you?
when the passionate love that burned
was extinguished with my tears.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman with her grandchildren, Itzik and Hyam Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

I have not found any variants of this beautiful lovesong that LSW remembers from the 1890s. She says that her mother Tobe knew about 30 songs but once Tobe’s husband died young, she was not in the mood to sing. But when Lifshe heard her singing a tune to herself, she asked her to sing it to her.

.ליפֿשע רעדט:  אַ פֿאָלקסליד פֿון דער מאַמען. איך האָב עס געהערט מיט 69 יאָר

.איך בין אויסגעפֿאָרן אַ גאַנצע וועלט
.איך האָב געמיינט איך וועל ערײַכן דאָס גרויסע גליק
.צו דיר, צו דיר מײַן טײַער זיס לעבן
.צו דיר, האָט מיך געצויגן צוריק

?ווי קען איך דיך ליבן, ווי קען איך דיק ערן
?ווי קען איך דיך גאַנץ פֿאַרשטיין
אַז די הייסע ליבע וואָס האָט געטין ברענען
.איד געלאָשן געוואָרן מיט מײַן געוויין.

ליפֿשעס טאָכטער, ביילע שעכטער־גאָטעסמאַן האָט געדענקט אַן אַנדער צווייטע סטראָפֿע ־ 
?ווי קען איך דיך ליבן, ווי קען איך די שעצן
?ווי קען איך דיך דען ערן
,אַז די הייסע ליבע וואָס האָט געטין ברענען
.איז אויסגעלאָשן מיט מײַנע טרערן

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman Performs “Ale meydelekh hobn khasene”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2021 by yiddishsong

Ale meydelekh hobn khasene / All the Girls are Getting Married
A children’s song sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, NYC

TRANSLITERATION 

LSW’s son, Mordkhe Schaechter, introduces the song: “Nokh a kinderlid” – “Another children’s song.”

Ale meydelekh hobn khasene,
Eykh blab aleyn.
Oy, mame, s’iz avade
nit sheyn.

Tate, gey afn ben-zukher,
un kloyb mir oys a bukher.
Ale meydelekh hobn khasene.
Un eykh blab aleyn. 

TRANSLATION

All the girls are getting married.
I remain alone.
Oy, mame, of course
it’s not nice.

Father, go to the ben-zokher
and pick out a groom for me. 
All the girls are getting married.
And I remain alone. 

,אַלע מיידעלעך האָבן חתונה
.איך בלײַב אַליין
אוי, מאַמע, ס’איז אַוודאי
.ניט שיין

 טאַטע, גיי אויפֿן בן־זכר
.און קלויב מיר אויס אַ בחור
.אַלע מיידעלעך האָבן חתונה
.און איך בלײַב אַליין

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman 

The third line of this short children’s song was difficult to understand, but thanks to Yiddish teacher and researcher Eliezer Niborski, I believe we have the complete correct version. 

A ben-zokher (“zukher” in LSW’s dialect) is a ritual on the Friday night following the birth of a boy. At the home of the new born, the parents serve guests and relatives wine and fruit. The phrase “ben zokher” is from Jeremiah 20:15. See Hayyim Schauss’ description of the tradition in his work The Lifetime of a Jew.

“Wedding” by Issachar Ber Ryback, c. 1930

Niborski also found the ben-zokher – bokher rhyme in two other sources. One in a children’s song that Ruth Rubin sings, “Tate, tate, gey afn ben-zukher”, as heard at YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Archive. The second he found in the essay by I. L. Peretz “Dos yidishe lebn loytn yidishn folkslid” (“Jewish Life as Depicted in Yiddish Folksong”)

Special thanks to Eliezer Niborski and the Ruth Rubin Archive at the YIVO Sound Archive. 

“Mit eyn un zekhtsik yor tsurik” Performed by Mimi (Simon) Forman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2021 by yiddishsong

Mit eyn un zekhtsik yor tsurik/Sixty-One Years Ago
A Yiddish birthday song sung by Mimi (Simon) Forman
Recorded by David (Dovid) Forman in Ithaca, NY, on the occasion of his birthday. May 2, 2021

Photo: Mimi Simon at Camp Boiberik in her bunk with a friend.

Guest commentary by David R. (Dovid) Forman

This week’s song is simple and charming– an alternative to the Yiddish birthday song most readers will know. But unlike Tsu dayn gebortstog, by the famous Avrom Goldfaden, it is little known. In fact, this writer, grateful recipient of the performance posted here, does not know who authored the song or when.

Mimi Forman, born Miriam Simon, is the youngest child of the Yiddish writer Solomon Simon. Here she is singing to her youngest but not-very-young son at a small post-vaccinated birthday gathering in May, 2021. Mimi believed she’d learned the song at Camp Boiberik (a Yiddish culture camp near Rhinebeck, NY) because her birthday is in late July. She spent nearly every summer there starting from age five, in the kinderheym on the guest side, to age fourteen as a mitle elste camper. Her friend Phyllis Tobin, who was Phyllis Onheiber when she was at camp, confirmed this is a Boiberik song. It dates back at least to the 1940s.

TRANSLITERATION

Mit eyn un zekhtsik yor tsurik
In a guter sho,
hot Dovid ongezogt “helo! Helo!
Ikh bin shoyn do!”

Iz gut, iz gut, iz gut vos du bist do.
Tra-a-la-la-la-lal
Mir vintshn dir in khor
Tra-la –la –la-la
Biz hundert tsvantsik yor.

TRANSLATION

Sixty one years ago,
in a fortunate hour,
Dovid announced “Hello, hello
I am here!.”

So good, so good, so good that you are here.
Tra-la-la-la-la.
We wish you all together [literally: in a chorus]
Tra-la-la-la-la
A hundred and twenty years.

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

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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):

“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.

“Vus a mul brent dus fayer greser” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2020 by yiddishsong

Vus a mul brent dus fayer greser / The Fire Burns Stronger Each Day
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn NY  1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Yet another lyrical love song from the repertory of Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW). In this dialogue, the women speaks first then the second and third verses are spoken by the man. postcardIn the Ruth Rubin Archive, Frida Lobell begins her version with the following verse:

Keyner veyst nisht vi mir iz biter (No one knows how bitter I feel)
keyner veyst nisht vi mir iz shlekht. (No one knows how bad I feel)
Keyner veyst nisht vi ikh tsiter (No one knows how I shake)
az di furst fin mir avek. (When you leave me) 

Other versions of this version can be found in “Folkslider in Galitsye”, Oyzer Pipe and Shmuel-Zaynvil Pipe, YIVO-bleter vol. Xl no. 1-2, 1937 songs #36 and #37 and Cahan Yidisher folklor, 1938, #55. But LSW’s last line, “Your beauty will fade like the dew in the open field” is the most poetic.

TRANSLITERATION

“Vus a mul vert dus fayer greser,
ven ikh zey dekh mit a tsveyter geyn.
Shtekhn vel ikh meykh mit a meser.
Mer zol ikh fin dir dus nisht zeyn.”

“Shtekh dekh nisht, mayn tayer zis leybn,
vayl dayn plage iz dokh gur imzist.
Ikh bin tsi mazl a khusn gevorn
in dir loz Got bashern veymen di vi’st.

Di vi’st dekh meynen, di bist di shenste,
in di angenemste af der velt.
Dan sheynkeyt vet fargeyn
azoy vi di rose afn frayen feld.
Oy, dayn sheynkeyt vet fargeyen
vi di rose afn frayen feld.”

TRANSLATION

“The fire burns stronger each day
when I see you standing with another.
I will stab myself with a knife –
I don’t want to see this any more.” 

“Don’t stab yourself my beloved
For your suffering is for naught.
I am now luckily engaged,
and may God grant you whomever you want. 

You thought you were the most beautiful
and the most pleasant in the world.
Your beauty will fade
like the dew in the open field.”

Screenshot 2020-04-29 at 1.27.20 PM

“Zishe Breitbart” Performed by Yitzchak Milstein

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2020 by yiddishsong

Zishe Breitbart Sung by Yitzchak Milstein
Recorded by Toby Blum-Dobkin, 2/19/1977, Brooklyn NY. 

Commentary by Toby Blum-Dobkin. Song lyrics and transcription appear at the end of the post, including Milstein’s opening and closing spoken remarks. 

About the Singer Yitzchak Milstein

I first recorded Yitzchak Milstein singing the ballad of Zishe Breitbart in 1973, when I interviewed Mr. Milstein for the YIVO Yiddish Folksong Project, directed by Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. The project team aimed to define and document Yiddish musical specialists and to compose portraits of such individuals [Blum-Dobkin 1975]. I again recorded the song in 1977, when I wrote an article about Zishe as a folk hero. I translated the song into English, and also transliterated it to reflect features of Milstein’s Yiddish pronunciation [Blum-Dobkin 1978].  

MilsteinPhoto

Yitzchak Milstein

I conducted ten interviews with Yitzchak Milstein for the Yiddish Folksong Project, between 2/27/1973 and 9/18/1974.  Each interview lasted approximately 90 minutes. All the interviews were conducted in Yiddish, with some songs and narrative in other languages. I translated portions of the interviews and songs into English, directly from the recordings. Bella Gottesman transcribed all the interviews and songs in Yiddish, also directly from the recordings. 

Mr. Milstein was born in Shidlovtse (Szidlowiec), Poland, in 1914. His mother Rokhl had a booth of ‘galenterye’ at the shtetl market. His father Motek (Mordkhe) was a ‘holts tokazh’ – a wood turner. Yitzchak worked as a tailor in Shidlovtse and seasonally in Warsaw. His childhood home was filled with music. He remarked, “In our home, almost everyone sang. . . were there better entertainments?. . . I remember that my father had a ‘liderbikhl’ – a Yiddish song book..  [with songs about] city girls and farmers’ girls…When my father was young he also acted in the drama circle, in [Goldfaden’s] Di Kishefmakherin – The Sorceress.” Even when Yitzchak’s father became more religious, he did not forbid Yitzchak from attending performances and acting in amateur dramatics. Yitzchak remembered that his father “said it was ‘b’yerushe’ – part of my legacy.”  The family had a mandolin, and Yitzchak learned by observing others.

In 1942 Yitzchak Milstein was forced into labor at the Skarszysko Hasag camp, and was subsequently incarcerated in several other Nazi camps. He was liberated in April 1945 and housed in the Displaced Persons camp in Feldafing, Germany. He emigrated to the the US in 1950 and settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, resuming work in his trade of tailoring.  He also resumed his avocation, singing. Mr. Milstein’s other avocation was keeping the memory of his shtetl Shidlovtse alive. He was active in the effort to publish Shidlovtse’s ‘yizker bukh’ – memorial book – for which he created artwork and essays  [Milstein 1974]. For Yitzchak Milstein, it was a matter of pride to reproduce a performance or song ‘genoy’ – as correctly and faithfully as possible. “I am a tape recorder,” he explained to me.

The Song ‘Zishe Breitbart’ 

Yitzchak Milstein had heard the ballad of Zishe Breitbart in the 1920’s from a ‘hoyfzinger’ – a street singer in Shidlovtse. The text of the ballad along with pictures of Zishe Breitbart were sold by street singers in broadside form. I am indebted to Chana Gordon Mlotek for directing me to other versions of the Breitbart song, and for pointing out the elements that the Breitbart ballad had in common with traditional ballads [Mlotek 1974].

PhotoBreitbart

Zishe (Sigemund) Breitbart

Zishe (Siegmund) Breitbart, son of a blacksmith, was born in Lodz, Poland, in 1883. His fame was based both on his physical strength and his unique personality. He toured widely, and in 1923 performed for the Keith vaudeville theaters in New York. The New York Times reported on Breitbart’s 1923 arrival in the United States:

“Among other feats of strength he claims to be able to lift ten or twelve persons with his hands, twist bars of iron like scraps of paper, crack Brazil nuts between his fingers, and haul a wagon with ten persons along the road by his teeth.” The article notes that Breitbart “says he is so sensitive that he would walk into the roadway to avoid trading upon a worm. . . he likes music and writes poems, but doesn’t like prize fighting. He declined an offer received by telegram at the pier to go to Saratoga Springs and have a tryout with Jack Dempsey, the heavyweight champion. ‘For me it is not,’ the strong man of Poland said.” [New York Times 1923].  

Breitbart’s death at the age of forty-two apparently resulted from blood poisoning initially contracted during a performance in Radom, Poland, when he scratched or punctured his leg with a nail.  He died in Berlin in 1925.

Zishe Breitbart’s crowd-pleasing persona and sense of mission as a Jewish hero made a lasting impression [Blum-Dobkin 1978; Bart 2014; Gillerman 2010].  He appeared in the silent film [Der Eisenkoenig 1923] and is the subject of a feature film [Invincible 2001].  It has even been posited that Zishe Breitbart was an inspiration for the character of Superman [Gordon 2011]. 

Milstein Comments

From Khane & Yosl Mlotek’s Song of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song (Workmens Circle, 2004):

Breitbart1Breitbart2Breitbart3

Selected Sources:

Bart, Gary.  Interviewed by Christina Whitney,  Wexler Oral History Project, National Yiddish Book Center, Amherst MA, November 21, 2014.

Blum-Dobkin, Toby.  “Case Study of a Traditional Yiddish Folksinger.” Unpublished paper, 1975.

Blum-Dobkin, Toby.  “Zishe, the Yiddish Samson.”  The Parade of Heroes: Legendary Figures in American Lore.” edited by  Tristram Potter Coffin and Hennig Cohen, Anchor Press, Garden City NY, 1978: 206-213, 557-558.

Der Eisenkönig.  Film directed by Max Neufeld, 1923. 

Gillerman, Sharon.  “The Strongest Man in the World.” YIVO Encyclopedia, 2010.

Gordon, Mel.  “Step Right Up and Meet the World’s Mightiest Human: A Jewish Strongman from Poland who Some Say Inspired the Creation of Superman.”  Reform Judaism, Summer 2011.  

Invincible.  Film directed by Werner Herzog, 2001.

Milstein, Yitzchak.  “Khronik fun khurbn in Shidlovtse.”  Shidlovtser Yizker Bukh/Yizkor Book Szydlowiec, edited by Berl Kagan  Shidlovtser Benevolent Association, NY (1974): 344-368.

Mlotek, Chana Gordon.  “Perl fun der yidisher poezye.” Forverts 1973.The New York Times August 27, 1923.