Archive for poverty

“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.

 

“A Badekns/Veiling the Bride” Performed by M.M. Shaffir

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 7, 2019 by yiddishsong

A badekns/Veiling the Bride
Sung and composed by M.M. Shaffir, recorded in the Bronx, 1974

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In his Yiddish poetry collections, the Montreal poet M. M. Shaffir occasionally included folksongs, rhymes and jokes that he remembered from his home town in Romania, Suceava (“Shots” in Yiddish). This original badekns, words and music, was printed in his collection of Yiddish poetry Ikh kum aheym, and follows very closely the traditional badekns that the badkhn (wedding entertainer) would deliver at the veiling of the bride. The printed pages with the Yiddish words and music are attached as pdfs.

ShafirBildM.M. Shaffir, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Shaffir did not clearly indicate that the music is his composition and not a traditional tune remembered from Suceava, but since he did compose other melodies for his poetry, I am leaning toward crediting him as composer the music as original.

Shaffir’s badekns, as is typical of the genre, addresses mainly the bride, then al the women, telling her of her wonderful future and how a pious religious Jewish life will assure her a place in heaven.

Listening to Shaffir sing this song in the Bronx are Beyle and Jonas Gottesman, the Yiddish writer Vera Hacken and her husband, the composer Emanuel Hacken.

Because the song is longer than usual, we are alternating transliteration with translation.

TRANSLITERATION/TRANSLATION

Kalenyu, tsat tsi der khipe geyn –
bam khusn hosti deym zibetn kheyn.
Gefin azoy kheyn oykh ba Got un ba lat.
Az dan shem zol zikh trugn noent un vat.

Dear bride, time to go to the khupe.
The groom is enamored of you.
May God and all people see this charm,
so your reputation, will be heard near and far.

A shem-tov iz beser fun gutn eyl,
vi s’vert in di heylike sfurim dertseylt.
Far vur, er iz shener fin alerley tsir,
un er hit fin shlekhts deym erlekhns tir.

A good name is better than good oil,
as it is written in the holy books.
Indeed, it is more beautiful than all kinds of ornaments.
and protects from evil the honest one’s door

Nushim tsidkuniyes, beydns tsad –
aykh kimt hant der ershter vivat.
kalenyu, kik tsa di babes aher –
zey, vi zey shmeykhlen un lozn a trer.

Pious women on both sides –
you deserve the first praise.
Bride, look over to the grandmothers –
see how they smile and drop a tear.

Shtel zikh, kale, ba zey in rey,
un her mayne shloyshe dvurim tsvey –
az dort, vi mitsves hobn an ort,
iz shulem-bayes oykh do dort.

Bride, stand with them in row,
and hear my few words –
– there where mitsves find a place,
there is also peace at home.

Mitsves brengen di brukhe in hoyz,
in trabn fin dort deym dales aroys.
Zey bentshn mit gite doyres dus pur
in mit khayim- arikhim, gezinte yur.

Mitsves (good deeds/fulfillment of God’s commandments) bring blessings to the home,
and drive out poverty from there.
They bless the pair with good generations
and with a long and healthy life.

Fin mitsves hot men i du deym skhar,
un i s’iz af yener velt git derfar.
Vayl mitsves un maynsim toyvim nor
nemt mit der mentsh iber hindert yur.

From mitsves you receive both here a reward,
and in the word to come it will be good.
Because mitsves and good deeds
lasts for someone a hundred years.

Fin intern kisey-hakuved afir,
fin hinter a zilberner lekhtiker tir,
kimt di neshume arup of der erd,
aran inem gif, val azoy iz bashert.

From under God’s throne,
from behind a silver, illuminated door,
comes the soul down to earth,
and into the body for which he is destined.

Zi darf zikh du mitshen a lebn vist
un nisht vern farzindikt, nisht vern farrist,
un kimen tsirik far Got tsi geyn –
azoy vi geboyrn, tsikhtik un reyn.

It [the soul] must suffer here a life long
and not sin, not be torn away.
and return to God
the way it was born – pure and clean.

In gan-eydn shteyen shtiln gegreyt
in shan fin der shkhine, mit vasn geshpreyt,
batsirt un bahungen mit gildene tsikh –
in rifn di reyne neshumes tse zikh.

In paradise two chairs are prepared,
in the light of the shekhine, covered with white,
decorated and hung with a golden cover.
and call for the pure souls to come.

Un der vus hot af der zindiker erd
mitsves getin un gits geklert –
der zitst in gan-eydn oybn un
in bigdey-sheynkeyt ungetun.

And he who on this sinful earth
did mitsves and good deeds,
he sits in heaven at the head of the table,
and dressed in beautiful clothes.

In zkhis fin dan tsitkis, kalenyu kroyn,
zol zikh ekn der gulus bald un shoyn –
me zol zoykhe zan take gor in gikh
tsu hern dem shoyfer shel moshiakh.

Because of your piousness, dear bride,
may the exile soon end.
May we deserve right away
to hear the Messiah’s shofar.

Melukhim un surim zoln varfn fin shrek
tsin indzere tsures zol nemen an ek.
in Got zol mit zan rekhter hant
indz firn tsirik in heylikn land.

Let angels and seraphim shutter from fear,
our troubles should come to an end.
and God should with his right hand,
lead us back to the Holy Land.

Ikh heyb of mit a tfile dem bekher mit van
az halevay zol es nokh beyomeyni zan.
in ir, khusn-kale, in ir groys un kleyn –
zugt mir nokh af a kol un in eynem: “omeyn”

With a prayer I raise the goblet of wine,
that this should happen even in our own time.
And you, bride and groom, and you big and small,
say with me out aloud and together – “amen”
badekns music

badekns yid 1badekns yid 2

“Di farfirte” Performed by Leo Summergrad

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2019 by yiddishsong

Di farfirte / The Woman Who was Led Astray
Words and (music?) by Morris Rosenfeld
Sung and recorded by Leo Summergrad

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This poem appears in the first volume of Morris Rosenfeld’s  (1862 – 1923)  poetry. Leo Summergrad learned it from his mother and I have only found one reference to the song: a query in Chana and Yosl Mlotek’s Forverts column “Leyner dermonen zikh lider”. But the two compilers had never heard of the song.

photo (1)Leo Summergrad’s mother, Minnie, and father, Abram Summergrad, on the right side. His in-laws Moishe and Esther Korduner are on the left.

Rosenfeld’s original poem is composed of three 14-line stanzas and we have printed it this way, though in Summerfeld’s handwritten transcription, which we attached, he has divided it into the more common 4 line stanzas. We are also attaching the printed version from Volume I of Rosenfeld’s collected works.

Though we are not sure who composed the music, we do know that Rosenfeld composed melodies to his poetry and sang them at readings.

Thanks to Leo Summergrad for contributing this recording.

1
Gedenkstu vi du host mir libe geshvorn,
gegrint hot der eplboym tsvishn di korn.
Der foygl hot ruik geblikt fun di tsvaygn
un ales arum iz gelegn in shvaygn.
O, ver hot es damolst gevust dayn kavone.
Geshtumt hobn himl un erd un levone.
Ven du host geshvorn far mir mit a fayer,
az eybik farblaybstu mayn eyntsik getrayer.
Du hot mikh farkisheft, du host mikh batrunken.
Ikh bin vi batoybt in dayn orems gezunken.
O, dan iz dayn umreyner vuntsh dir gelungen.
Du host in mayn heyliktum frekh ayngedrungen.
Mayn ere geroybt un mayn lebn tserisn.
Mikh biter baleydikt un endlikh farshmisn.

Do you remember, you swore your love for me.
The apple tree was greening among the rye.
The bird calmly watched us from the branches
and everything around us lay in silence.
O, who could then have known your intention.
Silent were heaven and earth and the moon,
when you swore to me with a fire,
that eternally you would remain my one true one.
You cast a spell on me; you intoxicated me.
I was as if deaf when i lay in your arms.
O, then you succeeded with your filthy desire;
into my sacred shrine you insolently penetrated.
You robbed me of my honor and tore my life apart.
Insulted me bitterly and finally whipped me.

2
Bin orm un elnt vos darfstu zikh shtern?
Fleg ikh bay dir shtendik zikh betn mit trern.
Un du bist dokh raykh un gebildet un eydl.
Gey zukh dir a shenere, raykhere meydl.
O, zol mir der fayer fun elnt farbrenen,
fleg ikh tsu dir zogn du darfst mikh nit kenen.
Farges on mayn sheynkeyt, ikh darf nit keyn gvires.
O loz mikh in armut, ikh zukh keyn ashires.
Gedenkstu di nakht ven mir zaynen gegangen
der mond iz vi zilber in himl gehangen.
Fun goldene shtern bakranst undzer svive
vos hobn geshmeykhlt vi kinder nayive.
Gedenkstu yene nakht? O, du darfst ir gedenken.
Ikh shenk es dir, Got zol in himl dir shenken.

I am poor and alone, why bother yourself.
I had always with tears pleaded with you.
Yet you are wealthy, educated and gentle.
Go find yourself a prettier, richer girl.
O, let the fire of loneliness burn me up,
I used to say to you, you should not know me.
Forget about my beauty; I need no valor.
Leave me poor, I do not search for riches.
Do you remember the night when we walked;
the moon was like silver hanging in the sky.
Golden stars crowned our surroundings
and smiled like naive children.
Do you remember that night? O, you should remember it.
I give it to you as a gift; God should give you it as a gift in heaven.

3
Ikh hob zikh bay dir mit rakhmones gebetn.
O, rays mikh nit oys vest mikh shpeter tsetretn.
O, loz mikh! ikh vel mir tsvishn di mashinen
an erlekhn man, a gelibtn gefinen.
A shapmeydl bin ikh, vos hob ikh tsu klaybn.
Bin orem geborn, vel orem farblaybn.
Dokh, du host mit zise un kuntsike verter
geshvorn az du nor muzst zayn mayn basherter.
Tsu sheyn bin ikh, hostu gezogt, tsu farvyanen
far mir iz a beseres lebn faranen.
Gedenkstu di nakht tsi iz lang shoyn fargangen
der vint hot koym vos geshoklt di zangen.
Arum di natur hot gekukt un geshvign
o, ver hot gerekhnt du zolst mikh batribn.

With compassion I pleaded with you.
O, don’t tear me out; stomp on me later.
O, leave me, so that among the machines
I will find an honest man, a lover.
I’m a shopgirl, what is my choice –
I am poor and will remain poor.
Still, with sweet and artful words
you swore that you must be my destined one.
Too beautiful am I, you said, to every wilt.
For me there is a better life awaiting.
Do you remember the night or is it far in the past?
The wind barely moved the stalks.
The nature around watched and was silent.
O who would have thought you would sadden me so.

4
Atsind zogstu vilstu mikh mer nit bagegenen
ikh hob derkegn, ikh kum zikh gezegenen.
Ikh veys az du gist zikh an anderer iber.
Nu, vintsh ikh dir, mazel-tov, mazl mayn liber.
Du bist keyn bal-khayim, dayn shem iz genezn
Di shuld zi iz mayne, yo, mayne gevezn.
Ikh hob nit gegloybt az du vest mikh baroybn
Ikh hob nit gevust nokh dem umglik fun gloybn.
Ikh hob nokh di mentshn genoy nit bagrifn.
Ikh hob nit gevust az di tsung iz geshifn.
Neyn, du bist nit shuldik; Ikh kum dir fartsayen
Ikh vil dikh farlozn, ikh vil dikh bafrayen.
Vi kum ikh, an oysvorf, in elnt geshlosn
farlangen mayn maysters a zun far a khosn?

Now you say you no longer want to see me.
I, to the contrary, come to bid farewell.
I know that you now love another:
so I wish you good luck and good fortune my love.
You are a living creature, your name will recover.
Guilty am I, yes I was the guilty one.
I did not believe that you would rob me.
I did not know of the tragedy in believing.
I did not know that the tongue is sharpened.
No, you are not guilty; I come to ask your pardon.
I want to leave you; I want to liberate you.
How could I, an outcast, trapped in loneliness,
ask my boss’s son to be my groom?
farfirts1farfirts2farfirts3

“Der dishvasher” Performed by Harris

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2019 by yiddishsong

Der dishvasher / The Dishwasher
A song by Herman Yablokoff sung by “Harris”.
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman in the apartment of Tevye (Tobias)  un Merke (Mary) Levine, Bronx, 1983.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

This 1930s song is by Yiddish actor and singer Herman Yablokoff (1903 – 1981)  His original version can be heard here:

The song can be heard more recently at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music in 2001, sung by Cantor Robert Abelson. That web page also has extensive notes, translations and transliterations of the original version.

The singer “Harris”  (I only remember him by this name) has dropped and changed a number of lines from Yablokoff’s original song. An amazing coincidence: the song sheet I found on line and have used here as an illustration has the name “Harris” written on the front! Perhaps it was his. His performance gives one a good sense of the intended pathos, and Yablokoff, writer of the classic song Papirosn (Cigarettes), was indeed the master singer of Yiddish pathos.

TRANSLITERATION

In a restoran hob ikh gezeyn
an altn man in kitshen shteyt.
un in der shtil
zingt er mit gefil:

Oy, ikh vash mit mayne shvakhe hent.
Ikh vash un vash, fardin ikh a por sent.
Fun fri biz shpeyt far a trikn shtikl broyt.
Ikh vash un beyt af zikh aleyn dem toyt.

Kh’bin a mul geveyn mit mentshn glaykh.
Gehat a heym, geveyzn raykh.
Itst bin ikh alt.
Keyner vil mikh nit.

Oy kinder fir, gebildet[er?] ir.
Di tokhter, shnir,
shikn mir tsum zin. Der zin er zugt
“Ikh ken gurnit tin”.

Oy, ikh vash mit mayne shvakhe hent.
Ikh vash un vash, fardin ikh a por sent.
Fun fri biz shpeyt far a trikn shtikl broyt.
Ikh vash un beyt, oy, af zikh aleyn deym toyt.

TRANSLATION

In a restaurant I once saw
an old man standing in the kitchen
and quietly
he sang with feeling:

“O, I wash with my weak hands.
I wash and wash and earn a few cents.
From early to late for a dry piece of bread.
I wash and pray for my own death.”

I once was like all other people;
had a home and was wealthy.
Now I am old
No one wants me.

O, I have educated four children.
My daughter and daughter-in-law send me to my son.
My son says, ” I can do nothing”.

O, I wash with my weak hands.
I wash and wash and earn a few cents.
From early to late for a dry piece of bread.
I wash and pray, o, for my own death

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“In Odes af a shteyn” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2018 by yiddishsong

In Odes af a shteyn / In Odessa on a Stone
A song about the 1905 Kiev Pogrom
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded in 1960s Bronx by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In Odes af a shteyn is a variant of the previously posted pogrom ballad In Kiever gas. Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) tells us in her spoken introduction to this song that she learned it from a survivor of the Kiev pogrom of 1905 (October 31 – November 2, 1905) who came to her Bukovina town, Zvinyetchke. Lifshe was then 12 years old.

So the earlier version, In Kiever gas, which was sung soon after the 1881 Kiev pogrom, was reused for the second Kiev pogrom which took place almost 25 years later.

kiev-1905-pogrom-1

1905 Kiev Pogrom

In Ruth Rubin’s archive a “Mr. Auslander” sings In Ades af der gas, a combination of the two versions:

And here is another performance of the song by LSW from her 1954 recording session with Leybl Kahn. (The first few seconds have been cut off). Some of the lyrics are different in that earlier recording:

The featured LSW version that we have transcribed (the sound recording presented at the top of this posting) is from the 1960s and recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman in the Bronx. Though this version is shorter than Braginski’s, it also contains, as do almost all the versions, the rhyme katsapes (derogatory term for Russians) and lapes and the appeal to God in the last verse “to take her away from this world.”

Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and YIVO Sound Archives for help with this week’s blog post.

TRANSCRIPTION

SPOKEN by LSW: Nokh di Kiever pogromen inem yare [yor] finef, fir, finef,  zenen gekimen tsi loyfn fin Kiev tsi indz mentshn, hot eyner mikh oysgelernt dus lidl.

In Odes af a shteyn, zitst a meydele aleyn.
Zi zitst in zi veynt.
Zi zitst in zi veynt, ir harts iz farshteynt.
A neduve bay yeydn zi beyt.

Di Kiever katsapes mit zeyere lapes
hobn getin mayn faters hoyz tsebrekhn.
Dus hoyz tsebrokhn, deym tatn geshtokhn.
Di mame iz far shrek imgekimen.

Vi groys iz mayn shand oystsushtrekn di hant
un tsu beytn bay laytn gelt, un tsi beytn bay laytn gelt.
Oy, Got derbarem, shtrek oys dayn arem.
un nem mekh shoyn tsi fin der velt.

TRANSLATION

In Odessa on a rock, sits a girl alone.
She sits and she weeps.
She sits and weeps, her heart has turned to stone.
For alms from everyone she begs.

The Kiev “lousy Russians” and their paws,
Did destroy my father’s house.
The house destroyed, my father stabbed.
My mother died of fright.

How great is my shame to hold out my hand
and to beg for money from people,
and to beg for money from people.
O, God have mercy, and stretch out your arm,
and take me away from this world.  

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“In Kiev in gas” Performed by Frima Braginski

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2018 by yiddishsong

In Kiev in gas  / In Kiev on the Street: A Pogrom Ballad
Sung by Frima Braginski
Recorded by Michael Lukin in Israel, 2013.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The first Kiev (Kyiv) pogrom happened on April 26th, 1881, and to mark this event we feature the song In Kiev, in gas – In Kiev on the Street sung by Frima Braginski.  She was born in Teplyk (Yiddish – Teplik), Ukraine (Vinnytsia Oblast) in 1924. Braginski was recorded by the ethnomusicologist Michael Lukin in 2013 in Kiryat Gat, Israel.

The first Kiev pogrom took place in May 1881. A second larger pogrom occurred there on Oct. 18th 1905. The first printing of the song appeared in an early issue of Mitteillungen von Judischen Volkskunde in 1895. There it is printed with music and called Die Bettlerin. More versions were printed in the collection Evreiskiia narodnyia piesni v Rossii (Yiddish Folksongs of Russia) of 1901, edited by S.M. Ginzburg and P.M. Marek (#58 and #59). Therefore the song clearly refers to the first pogrom of 1881. At the end of the post, we are attaching the two versions that appear in the Ginzburg and Marek collection and in the Mitteillungen.

pogromPic

Another recorded version of this song – Dortn in gas is dokh finster un nas (There in the Street It’s Dark and Damp) by an anonymous singer can be heard on the CD The Historic Collection of Jewish Music 1912 – 1947 volume 3, produced by the Vernadsky Library in St. Petersburg.

In the Sofia Magid collection of Yiddish songs, Unser rebbe, unser Stalin, edited by Elvira Gorzinger and Susi Hudak-Kazic, Harrassowitz Farlag, Wiesbaden 2008, there are four additional variants – pages 330-332 with music and recordings that can be heard on the accompanying CD/DVD. Three more variations collected by Magid are on pages 568 – 580, texts only. In Shloyme Bastomski’s collection Baym kval: yidishe folkslider, 1923, Vilne, another version is found on page 86.

This pogrom song became a ganovim-lid entitled Dos ganeyvishe lebn (The Thief’s Life) and can be found in Shmuel Lehman’s collection Ganovim-lider (Warsaw, 1928), pages 25 – 27 with music. The original pogrom-song collected by Lehman can be found on 213-214 in the same volume. All of those pages are attached at the end.

Thanks to Michael Lukin who submitted the recording of Braginski and to Robert Rothstein and Michael Alpert for their linguistic assistance.

TRANSLITERATION

In Kiev, in gas s’iz fintser un nas.
Dort zitst a meydl a sheyne.
Zi zitst un bet, bay yedn vos farbay geyt.
“Shenkt a neduve a kleyne.”

“Oy di sheyn meydl, oy di fayn meydl.
Vos hostu aza troyerike mine?
Dayn sheyne figur un dayn eydele natur –
dir past gor zayn a grafine.”

“Kiever katsapes mit zeyere lapes,
zey hobn dos alts gemakht khorev.
Dos hoyz tsebrokhn, dem futer geshtokhn,
Di muter iz far shrek geshtorbn.

Un far groys tsorn, iz der bruder in kas gevorn
un hot a merder dershosn.
Kayn yid tor nisht lebn, kayn rakhe [German – rache] tsu nemen.
Me hot im in keytn fargosn.

Vi groys iz mayn shand, tsu shtrekn di hant
un betn bay laytn gelt.
Got derbarem, shtrek oys dayne orem
un nem mikh shoyn tsu fun der velt.”

TRANSLATION

In Kiev on the street, it’s dark and damp.
there sits a pretty girl.
She sits and begs from all who pass –
“Please give some alms”.

“O, you pretty girl,  O, you fine girl.
Why do have such a sad expression?
Your nice figure, your noble nature –
You could pass for a countess.”

“Those Kiev katsapes [see note below] and their paws
have wiped out everything.
My house was destroyed. My father stabbed.
From fright my mother died.

In great anger my brother became enraged
And shot one of the murderers.
No Jew is allowed to live who takes revenge,
They led him away in chains. [Literally: They poured chains on him]

How great is my shame to stretch out my hand
And beg money from people.
O God have mercy stretch out your arm
And take me away from this world.”

*Found in almost all the variants is the rhyme “Kiever katsapes” (katsapes = a Ukrainian derogatory term for a Russian) and “lapes” (paws).

From Evreiskiia narodnyia piesni v Rossii [Yiddish Folksongs of Russia] of 1901, edited by S.M. Ginzburg and P.M. Marek (#58 & #59):
GM1
GM2

Shmuel Lehman’s collection Ganovim-lider (Warsaw, 1928), pages 25 – 27, 213-214:

Lehman1

Lehman2

Lehman3

Lehman4

Lehman5

Mark Varshavski’s “Vi halt ikh dus oys?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2018 by yiddishsong

Vi halt ikh dus oys? – How Can One Stand It?
Words and Music: Mark Varshavski
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded by Leybl Kahn NYC 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Vi halt ikh dus oys is surely one of the saddest songs from a composer, Mark Varshavski (aka Warshavsky) known for his classic nostalgic and upbeat songs such as Oyfn pripetshok, Milner’s trern and Di mezinke oysgegebn.

In her brief discussion with Leybl Kahn before and after she sings, LSW connected the -message of the song to the Zionist movement; a commentary on the eternal wandering of the Jews. She also affirms that she learned it from an aunt in her small town of Zvinyetshke in the Bukovina.

For a full biography of Mark Varshavski (1848 – 1907) see the YIVO Encyclopedia.

mark varshavsky picMark Varshavski in Berdichev, 1900 (YIVO)

In her very emotional performance, the singer Lifshe Schaechter-Widman [LSW] stays remarkably close to the original text which is attached at the end of the post from the volume “Yidishe folkslider fun M. M. Varshavski” One interesting textual change, however, is in the line where LSW sings:

Farentfer di kashe, Got di bist groys
[Answer the question – God you are vast/supreme]

In Varshavski’s original text it reads:
S’farenfert di kashe, Got du bist groys
[The question is answered by – God you are vast/supreme]

The folklorized words by LSW address God directly, reflecting a more intimate relationship with God than in Varshavki’s version.

I could not find a previous recording of this song, neither on record, CD nor in field recordings. However, a song about Mendel Beilis and his infamous trial (1911-1913), accusing him of a blood libel is based on this Varshavski song. Lorin Sklamberg, YIVO sound archivist and lead singer for The Klezmatics, sang Dos lid fun Mendel Beilis at YIVO in 2013:

Thanks for help with this week’s post to Lorin Sklamberg.

TRANSLITERATION

Vi halt men dus oys? Farshtey ikh nisht kh’lebn.
Es iz shoyn fin Got azoy mir bashert.
Bay veymen s’iz a yontif dus shtikele leybn:
Bay mir iz dus leybn shvarts vi di erd.
Far vus un far ven, fregt mekh nit eyner.
Farentfer di kashe – Got di bist groys.
Es triknt in mir der marekh fun mayne beyner,
un ikh halt dus nit oys; ikh halt dus nit oys.

Vi halt men dus oys? Es iz avade a vinder.
Vi ikh shlep mayne krank, geshvolene fis.
Ikh blondze arim mit mayne ureme kinder
un vi ikh kim iz finster in vist.
A du ken ikh nisht shteyn, a du tor men nit lign.
azoy tsit men fin mir mayne koykhes aroys.
Vu ikh gey her ikh eyn nign –
Ikh halt dus nit oys; ikh halt dus nit oys.

A yeder fin aykh, say rakh say urem,
hot dus alte beys-oylem shoyn gezeyn.
Dort lign alte, tsebrokhene kvurim,
un fun dort hert men a geveyn.
Azoy iz tsebrokhn iz mir yeder eyver,
di velt iz mir fintster khotshe zi iz groys.
Oy, dek dikh af gikher, di fintserer keyver.
Vayl ikh halt dus nit oys, ikh halt dus nit oys.

TRANSLATION

How can one stand this? I swear I don’t understand.
It must be decreed from God.
For those who enjoy a little of life –
For me is life black as the earth.
Why and for what reason? No one asks me.
Answer the question, God you are supreme.
The marrow of my bones is drying
and I can no longer stand it, I can no longer stand it.

How can I stand it? It is truly a wonder.
I drag my sick, swollen legs.
I wander aimlessly with my poor children
and wherever I come, I feel dark and deserted.
There I may not stand; here I may not lay.
And in this way my strength disspipates.
Wherever I go I hear only one tune –
I cannot stand this; I can no longer stand this.

Each of you, the rich and the poor
has surely seen out Jewish cemetery.
There lay old, broken graves
and from deep in the graves one hears a cry.
Thus is broken in me every limb.
The world is as dark as it is vast.
O, cover me up you dark grave
Because I can no longer take it, I can no longer take it.

vi halt 1 yidvi halt 2 yid

warshavkiBookWarshavski1Warshavski2