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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):

“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.

 

“Tseyde-laderekh” Performed by Moti Friedman and Serl Birnholtz

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

Tseyde-laderekh / Provisions for the Journey (A Hasidic Song)
Commentary by Janet Leuchter and Itzik Gottesman

This week we bring two performances of a Hasidic song, Tseyde-laderekh (Provisions for the Journey). In Moti Friedman’s version we hear a representation of the Hasidic men’s singing tradition. In Serl Birnholtz’s version, the song becomes more “folky,” both textually and musically. The transcription and translation of both versions is found after the commentary. Birnholtz’s version is also presented in Yiddish, attached below. 

Version 1 sung by Moti Friedman, recorded by Janet Leuchter, New York City, 1985:

Version 2 sung by Serl Birnholtz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx 1985

Cantor Janet Leuchter has written an extensive article on this song “Provisions for the Journey; a Rarity in the Lost Field of Yiddish Song” in the Journal of Synagogue Music, Volume 35, 2010, which can be read at by clicking here (see pages 120-144).

For this Yiddish Song of the Week post Leuchter has written the following summation:

Tseydo laderekh (or ladorekh) is a song that likely originated in religious circles in the 19th century.  It’s rarely heard and has never appeared in printed collections, but a few variants are known orally among some Hasidim and their descendants.  Tseydo laderekh (Hebrew) is a biblical expression that means “food for the road”—or more broadly, “provisions for the journey.” In medieval rabbinic writing, the expression often came to mean the type of mitzvot (religious commandments) defined as good deeds (rather than rituals). In the 19th century, tseydo laderekh was used in moralistic literature that had wide circulation among the Jewish masses as well as in Lithuanian yeshivot and Hasidic circles. 

tseydu4

The song could be categorized as a musar lid, a didactic song with text urging moral behavior. The song’s relatively complex structure suggests a folklorized sermon or poem. Its melody is suggestive of traditional talmudic study mode (lernen shteyger). The broad melodic form is typical of a Yiddish religious genre that alternates between non-metered verses (as in Ashkenazi study and prayer) and a metered chorus. In another variant, the melody and text are more extended, with the melody rising in pitch and dramatic intensity like a hasidic nign (wordless melody). But instead of returning to the initial melody, it descends to a third section, before returning to a one-line metered chorus.  

Tseydo Ladorekh – Moti Friedman’s version
Transcribed and Translated by Janet Leuchter with assistance from Sheva Zucker

TRANLITERATION (Friedman/Leuchter)

Tseydo-ladorekh nemt aykh,
brider, mit.

Ven ayner gayt uf a veyg,
upgetsaylte tsvay dray teg,
esn darf er zakh mitneymen meyr.
In es kimt fur zeyer oft,
shlekhte tsaytn umferhof,
az der ban ken nisht vayter geyn.

Tsi ist amul a vint in a shney,
di veg iz in gantsn ferveynt [farveyt?-IG],
der ban ken nisht vayter geyn.

Derum ven ayner furt uf a rayze
darf er zakh mitneymen meyr shpayze
hingerik vet er nit darfn zayn.

(Refrain): Tseydo, tseydo-ladorekh
aykh, brider, mit. 

Der ver es tit zikh furbraytn der laydet kayn
Tseydo nemt aykh, brider, mit ahin,
vayl oyfn veyg ken men shoyn gur nisht tin.
Tseydo ladorekh nemt aykh, brider, mit.

Aroys, der groyser gevir,
vus shoymrim shteyen bay dayn tir.
Efsher hosti a mentshlekh gefil?
In ven es kimt ayn uremen tsi dir,
efen im oyf brayt dayn tir,
im empfangen mitn gantsn harts.

Bevurn ikh dir, brider, du,
kdey di zolst hubn of yenem shu,
in efsher vet dir dort beser zayn.

Bevurn ikh dir, brider, mayn leben,
in efsher vet men ayn shvakh upgeyben.
In efsher vet dir dort beser zayn.

(Refrain…)

Tsi hosti aynem gringer gemakht?
Tsi hosti aynem nitsn tsebrakht?
Tsi hosti geholfn oy an uriman?

(Bevurn ikh… )

(Refrain)

TRANSLATION (Friedman/Leuchter)

Provisions for the journey,
brothers, take with you. 

When one goes on his way
for two, three days,
he must bring more food with him.

And very often (hopefully not)
bad times occur
When the train cannot go further.

Sometimes there are wind and snow,
the road is bleary
the train cannot go farther.

Therefore when one goes on a trip,
he must bring with him more food
so that he does not go hungry.            

(Refrain) Provisions for the journey, 

The one who prepares never suffers.
Provisions, brothers, take with you there,
for on the road nothing more can be done. 

Provisions for the way, brothers, take with you.

Come out, wealthy man,
whose guards stand by your gate!
Have you maybe a human feeling?
And when a poor man comes to you,
open wide your door
and receive him with all your heart.

I warn you here, brother,
so that you will not go lacking at that hour
and perhaps you’ll be better off.
I warn you, my dear brother,
and perhaps you will be praised
and perhaps your way will be better there. 

(Refrain…)

Have you eased someone’s path?
Have you been of use to someone?
Have you helped a poor man?
(I warn you here brother….)

(Refrain)

A Note About the Singer Serl Birnholtz by Itzik Gottesman:

My father’s younger sister, Aunt Serl (nee Gottesman) Birnholtz, was visiting us in the Bronx from Holon, Israel and sang this Hasidic song at our dining room table. She was born in Siret, Romania (Seret in Yiddish) in 1927 and she emigrated to Israel after the war. Siret was home to one of the Vishnitzer rebbes and also had many followers of the Sadagerer Rebbe.

SerlGitlLouis

Serl Birnholtz with Louis Birnholtz and Serl’s mother Gitl Gottesman in Israel, late 1940s

I have heard only one recorded version of this song; that is on the CD Gramen fun altn kheyder, produced by the Bobov Hasidim in Brooklyn. (Yiddish text attached). This recording features the singing of the Ziditshoyver Rebbe, who stems from a Galician Hasidic dynasty. The third and fourth verses of his version are completely different from Birnholtz’s and she sings it with a much faster tempo. Also changed to a folkier Yiddish language are a number of Germanisms that one hears in Moti Friedman’s version. 

 TRANSLITERATION of Serl Birnholtz’s version by Itzik Gottesman

Chorus:

Tseydu, tseydu tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit.
Vayl der vos nemt zikh tseydu mit,
hingert keym mul nisht.
Tseydu nem dir mit ahin,
vayl oyf dem veyg kenst gornisht tin.
Tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit. 

Az eyner furt afn veyg
af getseylte tsvey, dray teyg,
tseydu zol er zikh mitnemen oyf mer.
Vayl es treft zikh zeyer oft,
az der shlekhter veyg farkhapt im dort.
Ungreytn darf men zikh af mer. 

Tseydu, tseydu tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit.
Vayl ver es nemt tseydu mit,
hingert keyn mul nisht.
Tseydu nem dir mit ahin,
vayl oyf dem veyg kenst gornisht tin.
Tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit. 

Her oys du groyser gvir,
vos vekhter shteyen far dayn tir
un dayn froy of pyane shpilt.
Az eyner munt bay dir
efnt zolst far im di tir.
Helf im gikher, zay nisht opgekilt.

Di mitsves ba dan leybn
kedey me zol dir a gitn shvakh nukhgeybn.
Barekhn dir ven du bist in der noyt.
Di neshume zi geyt oys;
far keyn shim gelt koyft men zi oys.
Ungreytn darf men zikh af mer 

Tseydu, tseydu tseydu-laderekh nem zhe  brider mit.
Vayl ver es nemt zikh tseydu mit,
hingert keyn mul nisht.
Tseydu nem dir mit ahin,
vayl oyf dem veyg kenst gornisht tin.
Tseydu-laderekh nem dir brider mit. 

TRANSLATION (Birnholtz/Gottesman)

Chorus:

Provisions for the journey take along,
for he who takes these provisions along
will never hunger.
Provisions take with you there
Because on the way you can do nothing
Provisions for the journey take along.

When someone travels on the way
for just a couple of days.
He should take more provisions along.
Because it happens very often
that the journey could be bad,
Prepare to take extra!

Listen you very wealthy man,
for whom guards stand at your door,
and your wife plays on the piano.
If someone asks you for something,
open wide the door for him.
Help him faster, do not turn cold.

The good deeds you have done in your life
so that one can praise you.
Think about it when you are in need.
The soul is extinguished.
and no amount of money can help you out.
Prepare yourself with more!

(Refrain)

Below transcription of of Tseydu-laderekh as sung by Serl Birnholtz, 1985 (transcription by Itzik Gottesman)

tseydu5

tseydu6tseydu7

Below transcription from the CD Gramen fun altn kheyder, produced by the Bobov Hasidim in Brooklyn:

tseydu1

tseydu2

tseydu3

“Lomir ale in eynem marshirn” Performed by Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2018 by yiddishsong

Lomir ale in eynem marshirn / Let’s All March Together
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG), recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx, 2010.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

BSG Picnic

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman on a picnic outside of Chernovitz with friends, mid 1930s. Probably from the group leftist Zionist group Hashomer Hatzair.

A Yiddish school song that Beyle Schaechter Gottesman learned in Chernovitz, Romania, later 1920s, early 1930s either in the Bundist Morgnroyt school or the more leftist Der yidisher shul-fareyn.

TRANSLITERATION

Lomir ale in eynem marshirn
Af di felder shpatsirn azoy — eyns, tsvey.
Lomir ale in eynem zikh rirn
Af di veygn zikh rirn azoy – eyns, tsvey

Purlekh, purlekh geshlosene reyen;
in der mit zol keyner nisht zan.
Lomir geyn in geshlosene reyen,
Lomir geyn, lomir geyn, lomir geyn.

TRANSLATION

Let’s all march together
In the fields, let’s go this way – one, two.
Let’s all move together;
on the roads let’s move – one, two.

As couples let us close ranks,
no one should remain in the middle.
Let’s close ranks,
Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.

Lomir Yiddish

“Di goldene land” Performed by Paul Lipnick

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2017 by yiddishsong

Di goldene land / The Golden Land
A song by Elyokum Zunser
sung by Paul Lipnick

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s Yiddish song comes from Houston resident Elton Lipnick: an old home recording of his father Paul Lipnick singing the Eliyokum Zunser (1836-1913) song Di goldene medine (The Golden Land).

Paul (Paltiel) Lipnick (1903 – 1997) was born in Balbirishuk, now Balbieriskis, Lithuania.  He arrived in Galveston, TX with is mother and older sister June 10, 1907 – the first year of the “Galveston Movement/Plan” which diverted immigrant Jews from the East Coast to the southwest US.

Paul’s father Sorach arrived earlier to Ellis Island in 1904, and it is in NYC that he apparently learned this song which his son then learned from him in Texas. According to Elton Lipnick the song was recorded sometime between 1962 – 1976. Paul spoke fluent Yiddish.

LipnickFotoThree generations of Lipnicks: Paul, his son Elton, and his grandson David (taken 1990 -1992).

The bracketed numbers in the transliteration correspond to the same lines in the original Zunser Yiddish text as found in The Works of Elyokum Zunser: A Critical Edition edited by Mordkhe Schaechter, YIVO 1964. By comparing the two, one can follow how this song was folklorized. This Yiddish text is attached, as is the music as found in Geklibene lider fun Eliyokum Zunser NY 1928.

According to Zunser’s biographer Sol Liptzin, he wrote “Columbus and Washington,” a song that lauds the American ideal of freedom and democracy, during his last days in Minsk and completed it on board the ship in 1889. Di Goldene Land was written in 1891 expresses his disappointment after just a couple of years in NYC.

On YouTube there is a more theatrical recording of this song by the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus, of New York from 2014, conducted by Binyumen Schaechter.

In Paul Lipnick’s performance the first few words are missing but have been added in brackets according to the printed version of Zunser’s songs. Though quite popular in its time, I have found no LP/CD version of this song. Followers of this blog will note the resemblance in the melody to an earlier posted Zunser song Rokhl mevakho a boneho.

Thanks to Dr. Melissa Weininger at Rice University for making the connection with Elton Lipnick and to Elton Lipnick for the tape, photo and biographical information.

TRANSLITERATION

 [Fun Amerike hob ikh]  als kind gehert [1]
ven tsvey fleygn redn banand.
Vi gliklekh me lebt af Columbus’ erd;
es iz dokh a goldene land.

Ikh bin ahingekumenת dem seyfer durkhgekukt [5]
fil trern, troyer, shteyt af yeder blat gedrukt.
In di enge gasn vu di mase shteyt gedikht,
fil oreme, fintsere; der umglik ligt zey afn gezikht.

Zey shteyen fun fri biz bay nakht [9]
di lipn farbrent un farshmakht.
Der iz mafkir zayn kind far a “sent”
dem varft men fun veynung far rent.

In shtub iz der dales dokh ful. [93]
Ot rayst men op kinder fun “skul.”
Zey blaybn fargrebt, on farshatnd,
un dos ruft men “a goldene land.”

In New Yorker downtown to git nor a blik [81]
vu di luft iz a “regeler” pest.
Men ligt in di tenements a kop oyf a kop
vi di hering in di barlekh geprest

Ver ken dos tsuzen dem tsar [89]
Vi kinderlekh shpringen fun kar
mit di newspapers ful in di hent.
vi zey farkiln zikh tsu fardinen a “sent.”

In shtub iz der dales dokh ful,
ot rayst men op kinder fun “skul”.
Zey blaybn fargrebt, on farshatnd,
un dos ruft men a “goldene land”.

Dem arbeters yor shvimt im arum[17]
in a taykh fun zayn eygenem shveys.
Er horevet in “bizi,” un hungert in “slek.”
Un iz shtendik in shrek mit zayn “plays”. [place]

Git eynem di mashine a ris.[29]
Ot blaybn di shteper on fis.
Der on a fus un der on a hant.
Un dos ruft men a “goldene land”.

Nor lebn, lebt dokh der gvir in ir. [97]
Er bazitst dokh a kenigraykh.
Vos in Europe a firsht iz in America a gvir.
Der makht iz fun beydn glaykh.

Es shat im keyn konkurentsi
zayn kapital iz greys. [103]
Er git a shpil a vaylinker
vern ale kleyner bald oys.

Vi groys iz zayn makht un zayn vort
Er hot dokh di deye in kort.
Iber im gilt nisht keyn shtand [111]
tsu im iz di goldene land.

TRANSLATION

[About America I ] had heard as a child
when two people conversed.
How lucky one lives on Columbus’ ground;
It is truly a Golden Land.

I arrived and read through this “holy book”.
Many tears, sorrow is printed on each page.
In the narrow streets where the masses are thick,
Poor, dark; bad fortune is seen on their faces.

They stand from morning to night.
The lips burnt and faint.
This one sacrifices his child for a cent,
That one gets thrown out of his flat because of rent.

The home is full of poverty.
Children are ripped out of school.
They remain ignorant, unintelligent,
and you call this “a Golden Land”

In downtown New York: take a look
where the air is regularly polluted.
The tenements are crowded with people,
like herrings squeezed in barrels.

Who could stand and watch this sorrow
as children jump from the car [trolley car]
with hands full of newspapers
as they catch cold to earn a cent.

The home is full of poverty.
Children are taken out of school.
They remain ignorant, unintelligent,
and you call this “a Golden Land”.

The worker’s year swims around him
in a river of his own sweat.
He labors when its busy, starves when its “slack” [no work]
And is always fearful of his “place” [place in line for work]

The machine gives someone a tear
leaving the leather workers with no legs.
This one has no foot, that one no hand
And this you call “a Golden Land”.

Yet there are the wealthy who live there,
he possesses an entire kingdom.
What in Europe was a prince, is in America a wealthy man;
the power of both is equal.

No competition can harm him;
his capital is large.
He plays with them awhile
and soon is rid of all the smaller ones.

How great is his power and his word.
He has the authority in his pocket.
No social position applies to him.
For him is this a “Golden Land.”

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“Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele” Performed by Yudeska (Yehudis) Eisenman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2017 by yiddishsong

 

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week’s post features a song, Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele (אָט הער איך ווידער אַ היימישע לידעלע / Now I Hear Again a Hometown Song), that was apparently very popular in the 1910s and 1920s but has been mostly forgotten today. This field recording of  the singer Yehudis Eisenman was made by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman at the same time as Bald vet zayn a regn in the Bronx, 1993.

The poem is by the poet Yoysef Yofe (יוסף יפֿה /Joseph Jaffe) and has been titled Hemat, Heim, and Mayn Litvishe shtetele among others. Yofe was born in 1865 in Salant, near Kaunas/Kovne. He came to the US in 1892 and died in 1938 in the Bronx, NY. (Scans of  Yiddish text taken from Yidishe khrestomatye, ed. Avrom Reisin, 1908 are attached). Yofe was also the writer of at least one other Yiddish song, Dem zeydns brokhe (Grandfather’s Blessing).

YofeImage

Yoysef Yofe

 In Zalmen Reisin’s Leksikon fun der yidisher literaturprese un filologye, volume 1, Vilna, 1926, this poem-turned-song by Yofe is specifically mentioned:

זייער פּאָפּולער איז בשעתו געווען זײַן ליד „היימאַט” (אָט זע איך ווידער מײַן היימישעס שטעטעלע) צו ערשט געדרוקט אין “יוד”, וואָס איז פֿיל געזונגען געוואָרן.

“Very popular in its time was his poem ‘Heimat’ (Here I see again my hometown), first published in Der Yud which was often sung.” I believe that Eisenman’s melody is the one sung in the 1920s.

In the Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive at the University of Pennsylvania, a version with the same melody can be heard on the CD Herman Snyder and Friends at Home which is from a field recording cassette made by Robert Freedman in Florida in the 1970s or 80s. We are attaching that wonderful recording at the end of the post.

If this is the Herman Snyder whom I think it is, then his Yiddish name was Khayim Shnayder and he and fellow folksinger Isaac Rymer were best friends in NY. Though I never met him and never heard him before, Shnayder was known for his wonderful Yiddish folksinging and I was so glad to hear this field tape recording. You can also hear Rymer talking or singing along in the background of many songs of this CD.

Sidor Belarsky recorded this song with a different melody under the title Mayn Shtetele on the LP Sidor Belarsky in a Yiddish Song Recital (1964). The composer of the Belarsky version was Paul Discount. Another melody by the composer David Botwinik was recorded by Cantor Henry Rosenblat, Cantor Moshe Ganchoff,  and Lisa Wilson with the title Di litvishe shtetele. Wilson’s performance can be heard on the CD of David Botwinik’s compositions From Holocaust to Life.

Chana and Joseph Mlotek discuss this song in their Forverts column Perl fun der yidisher literatur (Sept. 26, 1971, April 19, 1996), but I could not obtain a copy of these articles.

Thanks to Robert Freedman for his assistance with this week’s blog entry.

Recording of Yehudis Eisenman:

Recording of Herman Snyder:

Ot her ikh vider a heymishe lidele
Ot ze ikh vider dem eyruv, dem tsoym.
Bistu dos take mayn heymishe shtetele
Oder ikh ze dir in troym?

Ot shteyt di kretshmele noent lebn grobn do,
hekdeshl bedele, alts vi geven.
Kleyninke oreme, heymishe shtetele,
Lang hob ikh dir nit gezen.

Ot shteyt der beys-medreshl, a khurve, a moyerl.
Fentster tsebrokhene, krumlekhe vent.
Shtibelekh kvorimlekh, dekhelekh gezunkene,
vider hob ikh aykh derkent.

Zogt mir vu zaynen yetst mayne khaverimlekh
lebn zey, vandlen zey, zaynen zey toyt?
Zing fun dem vigele, zing fun dem tsigele,
zing fun der yidisher noyt.

Tsit zikh mayn lidele, eynzam un troyerik,
trerelekh heysinke gor on a shir.
Zise derinerungen, kindershe, herlekhe
lebn in harts uf bay mir.

Now I hear once again a hometown song,
now I see again the eruv, the fence.
Are you indeed my hometown
or am I seeing you in a dream?

Here stands the tavern near the ditch.
Poorhouse and bathhouse as they were before.
Delicate poor ones, my hometown,
Long have I not seen you.

Here stands the house of prayer, a ruin, a stone wall,
broken windows, crooked walls.
Little houses like graves, sunken roofs –
I have recognized you again.

Tell me where are my friends now?
Are they alive, have they wandered, are they dead?
Sing of the cradle; sing of the little goat,
sing of Jewish poverty.

My poem stretches lonely and sad.
Hot tears without end.
Sweet, beautiful memories of childhood,
live in my heart.

OtHerIkhYofeOtHerIkhYoffe2

“Bald vet zayn a regn” Performed by Yudeska (Yehudis) Eisenman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

During a visit to our home in the Bronx in the 1993 by the Yiddish writer Tsvi/Zvi Eisenman and his wife Yudeska/Yehudis Eisenman (1916 – 1998), Ms. Eisenman sang three songs which are not well known.

Eisenman1993Yudeska and Tsvi Eisenman with Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (center)

Yudeska Eisenman was born in Pinsk 1916  and made aliyah to Israel in 1939. She died in 1998. For many years she and Zvi lived on the kibbutz Alonim (אלונים).

This week we present the first song from that recording session –  “Bald vet zayn a regn” (“Soon a Rain Will Come”). The recording was done by my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. The words are by A. Lutsky (pen name for Arn Tsuker 1894 – 1957) and can be found in his volume Nemt es; s’iz gut far aykh, New York 1927.

This version of the song is the same as the one in the song collection Azoy hobn mir gezungen  (אזוי האָבן מיר געזונגען), published in Tel-Aviv, 1974, compiled by Khonen Pozniak. Only a line or two differ slightly.

Pozniak attended a Yiddish secular school in Warsaw, a “Borochov shul”, and his collection represents the songs he remembers from that school and the secular Tsysho Yiddish schools of Poland between the world wars (see Tsysho in the YIVO Encyclopedia).  Scans of the melody and text in the Pozniak collection are attached.

There are two recordings of this song on LP with different melodies. One is sung by Bella Sauer with a melody composed by Lazar Weiner. Another is by Morechai Yardeini, composed in 1960.

Through Eisenman’s performance of Bald vet zayn a regn one can imagine how the school children enjoyed singing the playful climax of the song “Un er laaaaakht….”

Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives and Bella Bryks-Klein for their help with this posting.

Spoken by Eisenman:
Bald vet zayn a regn, Lutskis

Bald vet zayn a regn
azoy dertseylt di gas;
shteyen ale hayzer,
farkhoyshekhte un blas. (2X)

Kumt a zun fun himl,
shtelt zikh op in gas. (2X)

Un er lakht, un er lakht, un lakht.
S’vet nit zayn keyn regn.
Ikh hob nor gemakht a shpas!

Soon a Rain Will Come

Spoken by Eisenman:
“‘Bald vet zayn a regn by Lutsky”

Soon a rain will come.
So says the street.
All the houses seem
dark and pale. (2X)

A sun comes down from the sky
and stops in the street. (2X)

And he laughs, and he laughs,
and he laughs!
“There won’t be any rain
I was only joking!”

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

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

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRANSLITERATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRANSLATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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