Archive for peysakh

One Song – Three Pogroms

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The last day of Passover 1903 coincided with Easter that year, and the tragic Kishinev pogrom began on that date. keshenevKishinev, aftermath of the pogrom (YIVO Archives)

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) sang this version of a song about the pogrom which was adapted for other pogroms, or perhaps  was itself already an adaptation of an earlier pogrom song. In this post we note two other pogroms with versions of the song.

A version of the same pogrom song is sung by the actress/singer Miriam Kressyn about Bialystok on the LP record Dos Goldene Land. Kressyn was from Bialystok, and the Bialystoker pogroms took place in 1905 – 1906.  (Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives for providing this recording)

The third pogrom where this song was used was in Volodarka, Ukraine. This pogrom took place in July 1919 amidst the Russian Civil War. The lyrics (as collected by S. Kupershmid) appears in the Tsaytshrift far yidisher geshikhte, demografye un ekonomik literatur-forshung, shprakh-visnshaft un etnografye 2-3 (Minsk, 1928) page 803. It too contains the lines of walking through feathers as through snow in winter, and this emerged as one of the primary pogrom images, as we see in our Kishinev pogrom examples and others.

volodarkaOn the Workmen Circle’s LP “Amol iz geven a mayse”, Sidor Belarsky sings two verses of an abbreviated version of The Kishiniev Pogrom song. The song begins at this link – double click on “Amol iz geven a mayse (cont.)”  and go to 12:30 minutes.

In the chapter “The Pogrom As Poem” in David G. Roskies’ work Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (1984) the author examines how the same pogrom song was adapted for different pogroms. He remarks “even when the singer invoked historical facts, the relics of the violence were organized into public symbols and thematic formulas, so that the details were applicable anywhere and only the place-name would have to be changed.”

Transliteration/Translation of LSW’s version:

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman “Lid funem Keshenever Pogrom”, recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, 1954

Akhron Shel Peysekh af der nakht
iz aroys a nayer “rozkaz.”
Az yidn zoln lign bahaltn.
Zey torn zikh nisht dreyen in gas.

Oy, ziser got in himl,
kuk shoyn arop af dr’erd.
Ze nor dem rash un getuml.
Vos hobn di yidn far a vert?

A hoyz fun dray gorn
hot men geleygt biz tsu dem grint.
Betgevant hot men gerisn,
di federn gelozt of dem vint.

In di federn iz men gegangen
azoy vi vinter in shney.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
mener gerisn of tsvey.
Vayber hot men geshlogn;
Di mener tserisn of tsvey.

Ziser got in himl
kik shoyn arup af dr’erd
Vuz zenen di yidn azoy zindik
Vus zey hobn gur keyn vert?

The last day of Passover
a new regulation was issued.
That Jews should lie hidden;
they aren’t allowed in the street.

Oy sweet God in heaven,
Look already down on the earth.
See the tumult and chaos.
Are the Jews worth anything?

A house three stories high
was destroyed down to the ground.
Bedding was torn apart;
the feathers blew in the wind.

In the feathers they walked
as in winter in snow.
Women were beaten;
men torn in two.

Sweet God in heaven
Look already down to the Earth.
Have the Jews so sinned
that they are of no worth. Lifshe PogromLifshe Pogrom2

A Polish “Khad-gadyo” Performed by Mordkhe Schaechter

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2015 by yiddishsong

A Polish Khad-gadyo
Sung by Mordkhe Schaechter
Recorded by Leybl Kahn in 1954 New York.
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Though not in Yiddish, we present this week’s short ditty in the spirit of celebrating the upcoming holiday of Passover and as a contrast to last week’s Yiddish Khad-Gadyo. This is either the beginning of a longer Khad-gadyo song or perhaps simply a children’s rhyme based on khad-gadyo.

Spoken by Mordkhe Schaechter:
„אַ פּויליש־ייִדיש פּסח־לידל פֿון מײַן מוטער, זוויניעטשקע, בוקעווינע”
A Polish-Jewish Passover song from my mother; Zvinyetchke, Bukovina

Words in Polish (thanks to Dr. Karolina Szymaniak and Dr. Agi Legutko who both sent in the Polish and translations)

Moj ojciec kupił za dwa dziengi, za dwa złote,
 ej-ha-hu, chad-gadju 

My father bought for two zlotes, ey-ha-hu,
khad-gadyu. [one kid]

(as I understand it, “dziengi” is slang for “cash”, from Russian – IG).

Below are lyrics published in Yivo-bleter 1952, volume 36  page  370 (, from a different Khad-gadyo in Polish from Sanok, Galicia. The commentary at the end also mentions a Ukrainian version. Readers – please let us know in the comments if you know of other Polish versions of Khad-gadyo.

khad godye polish1

khad godye polish2

Songs for Peysakh

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

As Passover comes to a close with “di tsveyte teg yontif” (the second days of the holidays), we acknowledge the website YouTube as a wonderful resource for Yiddish folksongs by posting three Yiddish Passover songs that were sent to us.  Yiddish dance teacher and researcher Steve Weintraub sent us the links to the first two and a person who wishes to remain nameless sent us the third one.
#1 is a Yiddish version of Khad gadyo which is unknown to me; any help identifying it would be helpful; it sounds like a relatively recent composition.The second song rhyming meydlekh and kneydlekh is a version of “Yontif peysekh…” or “Akh vi voyl, un akh vi gut“…and is in Michael Alpert’s repertoire. The song usually discusses all the holidays; a verse on Passover is already found in the Ginzburg/Marek collection of 1901, “Yiddish Folksongs in Russia”, St. Petersburg  Song #33.   In song #39, of the same volume, there appears Uncle Sidney’s stanza.
#2 Baba’s song is a version of “Pey Luhem” that we previously posted on the Yiddish Song of the Week. Since the Hallel prayer appears in the Haggadah and is the basis for the song, it is clear why this song is also considered a Passover song, while others sing it at Simkhes toyre to poke fun at the “other gods.”
#3 is Betty’s Yiddish Khad gadyo song – “Eyn tshigele” (Litvish Yiddish pronunciation of “tsigele” = one kid”) is a new one to me, but it’s interesting that the refrain is in Yiddish and does not repeat the Aramaic “Khad gadyo” as one usually hears.

“Sha, shtil nisht gezorgt” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This is among the more well-known songs that have been posted on the Yiddish Song of the Week, but I have included it more because of Tsunye Rymer‘s heartfelt singing (as usual!), than the song itself. He was in his 80s by the time of this recording, but how he expresses the “ay-ay-ays” is a lesson in Yiddish (male) folksinging style.

This was recorded in our dining room in the early 1980s, I would guess when Rymer came over Friday night after dinner, as he often did. My mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman is the woman‘s voice, and I hear my father, sister and uncle Mordkhe Schaechter there too.

According to Bob Freedman‘s database of recorded songs, particularly of LPs, only Ben Bonus and the Salomon Klezmorim have recorded the song, but it has been quite popular. You can find it with words and music in Chana and Joseph Mlotek‘s collection Pearls of Yiddish Song page 146, 147. Also printed in the earlier collections of Anna Shomer Rothenberg 1928, and Gelbart 1938.

As for the performance here: The line is usually sung „nishto keyn matses, nishto keyn vayn‟ since it‘s referring to Passover, so singing „broyt‟ – bread – is a mistake, I will leave to the Yiddish linguists among you to discuss Rymer‘s „hypercorrective‟ pronunciation of „shavous‟ and „sukes‟.

The printed versions all have „Ober khsidim‟ [Hasidim] zenen mir‟ not, as is sung here, „ober yidn zenen mir‟. Since they‘re traveling to the rebbe, Hasidim is the more obvious choice, but in our family we always sang „yidn‟. Listening to this performance, it seems that the version known by the audience sometimes overwhelms Rymer‘s version and he just adapts to our words.

Un az ez kumt der yontif peysekh
vider af s‘nay
nishto keyn broyt iz, nishto keyn vayn,
Ay,ay, ay, ay! ay, ay, ay, ay!
Sha, shtil un nisht gezorgt,
Got in himl iz a futer,
du gelien, du geborgt,
Ikh hob shoyn alts un puter.
Hay, hay, hay, hay, hay!
Vus mir zenen, zenen mir, ober yidn zenen mir,
un tsim rebn furn mir, undzer gantsn lebn.

And when the holiday Passover arrives,
once more anew:
there‘s no bread, no wine,
Ay,ay, ay ay! Ay, ay, ay ay!
Sha! Quiet! Don‘t you worry,
God in heaven is our father.
Here and there we borrow a little,
I have everything and that‘s all we need.
Hay, hay, hay, hay, hay!
What we are – we are,
But Jews are what we are
And to our Rebbe we travel
our whole life.

Un az s‘kumt der yontif shvues,
vider af s‘nay.
Nito keyn milikhiks, nito keyn grins,
Ay, ay, ay, ay! Ay, ay, ay,ay!
Sha shtil……

And when the holiday Shavous arrives –
Once more anew.
There‘s no dairy, no vegetables,
Ay, ay ay, ay! Ay, ay, ay ay!

Un az s‘kumt der yontif sukes,
Vider af s‘nay.
Nito keyn esrig, nito keyn liliv,
Ay, ay, ay, ay! Ay, ay, ay ay!
Sha sthil……

And when the holiday Sukes comes –
Once more anew.
There‘s no esrog, there‘s no lulav,
Ay, ay, ay, ay! Ay, ay, ay, ay!

“Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” Performed by Zinaida Lyovina and Dasya Khrapunskaya

Posted in Yiddish Song of the Week with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Dmitri Slepovitch

Nina Stepanskaya (1954–2007) and I recorded Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes (“שבת לכבֿד , טאָב-יום לכבֿוד “, In Honor of the Holiday, In Honor of Shabes) in Pinsk in June, 2005 from two sisters, Zinaida Lyovina (b.1928) and Dasya Khrapunskaya (b. 1931), both born in Turov, Zhytkavichy region (rayon), Gomel oblast, 169 km east of Pinsk. Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes is a variant of Gabe, vos vil der rebbe, which has been featured previously in the Yiddish Song of the Week.

The father of the sisters (they were four siblings) became their first source for learning the Yiddish songs. Not to a lesser extent he became a source of their inspiration as they created their own songs, translated several Russian songs into Yiddish and composed new verses for popular Yiddish songs. Zinaida and Dasya told us that the father would never take them with him to the synagogue, but he sang at home, infusing the Passover seder and other home ceremonies with the delicious taste of rare and beautiful Jewish songs.

One of their father’s songs is Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes (In Honor of the Holiday, In Honor of Shabes). It is a quite typical dialog song between a rebbe (Hasidic sect leader) and a gabe (gabbai, synagogue assistant) known in several melodic versions (e.g., the one in the Hazamir choir repertoire published in Copenhagen in 1937).

The rhythmical structure of this song brings together a free time recitative in the verse and the clear 6/8 time in the refrain. The given type is inherent to a vast corpus of Yiddish songs, primarily those representing either a dialog (as in this case) or a monologue in first person.

A remarkable feature of this performance (not only of this song, but also of many others that we heard from the two sisters) is that Dasya and Zinaida tend to sing in harmony, most typically in third, sometimes meeting in unison. The reason for that rather non-typical manner of Ashkenazi Jewish vocal performance lies – not surprisingly – in the Belarusian cultural milieu. The two sisters, as some of our other interviewees in Belarus, explained to us that they “felt like singing in harmony because it was customary among their Belarusian friends and they often used to sing with them (before the WWII) in such way.”

Singing in harmony is one of a few amazing regional markers in Yiddish music performance known from both recent recordings and Beregovsky’s and Maggid’s collections, that all give a clear perspective on a given regional style and, in a wider sense, represent a regional soundscape as adapted by and mirrored in a local Jewish tradition.

The following video of Zinaida Lyovina’s and Dasya Khrapunskaya’s remarkable performance of “Lekoved yontef, lekoved Shabes” is featured in Dmitri Slepovitch’s new program, “Traveling the Yiddishland,” produced for the Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater. The show integrates video taken from Slepovitch’s and Nina Stepanskaya’s field research in Belarus with live performances of the music arranged by Slepovitch for his ensemble.

Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – Latkes mit shmalts,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in haldz.
Gabbay! – What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? – Latkes with goose fat,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy throats.

Lekoved yontef,
Lekoved Shabes,
Lekoved yontef,
Lekoved Shabes, bim-bam.

In honor of the holiday,
In honor of Sabbath,
In honor of the holiday,
In honor of Sabbath, bim-bam.

Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – A telerl mit yoykh,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in boykh.

Gabbay! ­– What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? ­– A plateful of chicken soup,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy stomachs.
Gabe! ­– Vos vil der rebe?
Der rebe vil ­­– me zol im derlangen.
Vos? – A telerl mit fish,
Az der rebe mit der rebetsn
Zol zayn a gezunt in di fis.

Gabbay! ­– What does the rebbe wish?
When the rebbe wishes, he should be offered something.
What? ­– A plateful of fish,
So that the rebbe and his wife
Should have healthy feet.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 123 other followers