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