Archive for suicide

“Erev-yon-kiper far der nakht”: A Yiddish Murder Ballad Performed by Yetta Seidman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2020 by yiddishsong

Erev-yon-kiper far der nakht / The Eve of Yom Kippur 
A Yiddish murder ballad sung by Yetta Seidman, recorded by Gertrude Nitzberg for the Jewish Museum of Maryland, 1979.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Jews praying in the synagogue on Yom-kippur, painting by Maurycy Gottlieb

This is another variant of this once popular 19th century Yiddish murder ballad about a rejected lover shooting his beloved. We have previously posted a version “Erev yonkiper nokh halbn tog” sung by Yankov Goldman, from the YIVO Institute’s Ruth Rubin Archive. 

Seidman’s melody is basically the same, as is the plot, but the words differ in interesting ways. In all the versions the boyfriend takes out a revolver and shoots her, but it is unusual for the ballad to end at that point in the story as it does here. There is usually a different concluding verse or two. Also in this version we learn the name of the woman, Dvoyre, (the same name as in Goldman’s version) but not the name of the shooter.

This ballad often begins with the line “Tsvelef a zeyger shpet bay nakht” and has no connection to Yom Kippur. We will post additional versions of this ballad in the future.

Seidman said that she learned this song from her mother in Russia. Her Yiddish has features of both southern and northern Yiddish dialects.  She immigrated to the United States in 1910.  


Erev-yon-kiper far der nakht,
ven ale mentshn tien esn geyn,
ven ale mentshn tien esn geyn.
Geyt a fraylen fin der arbet
in der gelibter antkegn ir. 

The eve of yom-kippur, before nightfall
when all the people are going to eat.
when all the people are going to eat.
Walks a young woman from work
and her lover meets her from the other direction.

Vi er hot ir derzeyn
azoy iz der o geblibn shteyn.
“Atsind, atsind mayn tayer zis leybn.
Di zolst mir zugn ye tsi neyn.”

As soon as he saw her
he stopped.
“Now, now my dear love
you must tell me yes or no”

“Ye tsi neyn vel ikh dir zugn
Az mayne eltern shtern mir.
Mayne eltern shtern mir.
Mayne eltern, oy, tien mir shtern,
az ikh zol far dir kayn kale nit vern.”

“Yes or no, I will tell you:
My parents prevent me.
My parents prevent me.
O, my parents prevent me
from becoming your bride.”

Vi er hot dus derhert
azoy hot es im fardrosn. 
Aroysgenemen hot er ayn revolver
un er hot Dvoyrelen geshosn. 

As soon as he heard this, 
he was peeved. 
He took out his revolver
and shot Dvoyrele.

Vi er hot ir geshosn,
azoy hot er zikh dershrokn.
Oysgedreyt hot er deym revolver
un hot zikh aleyn geshosn.

Right after he shot her
he became frightened.
He turned the revolver around
and shot himself.


ערבֿ־יום־כּיפּור פֿאַר דער נאַכט
.ווען אַלע מענטשן טוען עסן גיין
.ווען אַלע מענטשן טוען עסן גיין
גייט אַ פֿרײַלין פֿון דער אַרבעט
.און דער געליבטער אַנטקעגן איר

,ווי ער האָט איר דעזען
.אַזוי איז דער אָ געבליבן שטיין
,אַצינד, אַצינד מײַן טײַער זיס לעבן„
“דו זאָלסט מיר זאָגן יאָ צי ניין

,יאָ צי ניין וועל איך דיר זאָגן„
.אַז מײַנע עלטערן שטערן מיר
.מײַנע עלטערן שטערן מיר
,מײַנע עטלערן טוען מיר שטערן
“.אַז איך זאָל פֿאַר דיר קיין כּלה ניט ווערן

,ווי ער האָט דאָס דערהערט
.אַזוי האָט עס אים פֿאַרדראָסן
אַרויסגענעמען האָט ער אײַן [אַ] רעוואָלווער 
.און האָט דבֿורהלען געשאָסן

ווי ער האָט איר געשאָסן
.אַזוי האָט ער זיך דערשראָקן
אויסגעדרייט האָט ער דעם רעוואָלווער
.און האָט זיך אַליין געשאָסן

“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.


“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.”


“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

“Oy, di ershte zakh” Performed by Tsunye Rymer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2018 by yiddishsong

Oy, di ershte zakh
O, The First Thing
Sung by Tsunye Rymer
Recorded in NYC by Itzik Gottesman, 1985
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Tsunye (Isaac) Rymer learned this in his hometown of Krosne (Krasna), Ukraine, from a tailor who was a wonderful singer and therefore called “Kanarik” – canary.

RymerphotoTsunye Rymer

Just as Rymer was leaving for America in 1921, he visited Kanarik on the “Tailor’s Street.” It was summer but Kanarik was covered with a blanket.  It was said he had tuberculosis. He called Rymer over and asked him to sing something together with him. “This was the last song we sang together in Krosno”.

Often Yiddish songs that employ Russian/Ukrainian words for the rhymes use them to humorous effect, but in this serious song that is obviously not the case.

Thanks to Paula Teitelbuam for helping with this week’s blog.


Oy, di ershte zakh vel ikh dikh mamenyu beytn
in di zolst es mir tin tsilib.
Az Got vet helfn un az ikh vel shtarbn,
Zol men mekh derkhtrugn derkh mayn libstn shtib

Un nokh a zakh vel ikh dikh mamenyu beytn
in di zolst es yisponyayen. [carry out, execute]
Az mayn gelibter vet in shtib araynkimen
zolst im khotsh nisht obizhayen. [offend]

In dus iz mamenyu mayn letste bite –
di zolst im in gurnit obvinyayen. [blame, fault, accuse]
kh’hob man leybn zikh aleyn genemen
ikh zol nit darfn mer stradayen. [suffer]


O, the first thing, mother, that I ask of you,
and you should do it for my sake.
God willing, when I die,
they should carry me past my loved one’s house.

And another thing, I ask of you mother,
and you should carry it out.
If my loved one should enter our house,
at the least, do not offend him

And this, mother, is my last request:
you should not blame him for anything.
I took my own life,
I should no longer have to suffer.


“Oy vey mame” Performed by Ita Taub

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , on August 4, 2010 by yiddishsong

Notes by Itzik Gottesman

Ita (or Eta) Taub (1908 – 2003) was born in the Ukrainian town of Stidenitse on the Dniester river. She immigrated to Montreal and then New York. She published two volumes of autobiography in Yiddish, Ikh gedenk (I Remember), with one volume appearing posthumously. She also wrote a volume of poetry, In klem fun benkshaft (In the Fetters of Longing, Jerusalem, 1993) and published the Yiddish love poetry and love letters sent to her by an admirer (Libe briv un lider by Itzik Freiman).

She was well known for her philanthropic generosity and financially supported numerous Yiddish causes, especially those connected to Soviet Yiddish literature. She was a classy lady, as they say, with a huge apartment on 106th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. By the time I recorded her, her voice was clearly not very powerful, but she still could sing an unaccompanied Yiddish folksong in a compelling way.

Ita Taub in the Gottesman’s Sukke in the Bronx, 1990s

The song Oy vey mame was one of two she remembered from her shtetl. Ruth Rubin recorded her singing both in 1962 and they are in included in the publication Yiddish Folksongs in the Ruth Rubin Collection (Mlotek/Slobin, 2007). Oy vey mame is on page 54; a scan of that page is reproduced below. As Rubin notes, the closest variant found to this song is in I. L. Cahan’s collection Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (1957, #150). The dramatic last line that Ita sings about commiting suicide is not found in that version. This recording was made in the Bronx in the mid-1980s at the Gottesman’s house.

Ita’s other shtetl song, Got hob bashafn mentshn af der velt is found in the Rubin collection on pages 61-62. She picked up many other songs on her travels which we hope to present in future postings.

Pete Rushefsky adds: Each verse of Oy vey mame is comprised of two sections employing distinct modal characters. The modulation between the two sections creates a haunting sound that imbues the piece with gravity and tragedy. The first section is transcribed in B-major, but the melody initially implies the subdominant F# major. The second section shifts to a tonal center of C# in a mode described by the pioneering Jewish musicologist Abraham Zvi Idelsohn as the “Ahava Raba” scale, also known by cantors and klezmorim as “freygish” (an allusion to its similarity to the phrygian scale). Ahava Raba is additionally consistent with the Turco-Arabic maqam of hijaz/hicaz. Here, the melody descends from F# to the new C# tonal center, followed by a second descending passage from F# further down to the subtonic B.  Finally the section resolves through an ascending/descending sequence with an ending that mirrors the initial F# to C# descent. The written musical transcription below contains a few discrepancies from the recording – it is likely there are errors in the transcription, though I have not heard Rubin’s recording of Taub to analyze differences with the Gottesman recording made two decades later.