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“Geltenyu” Performed by Clara Crasner

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2020 by yiddishsong

Geltenyu / Money
Sung by Clara Crasner, recorded by Bob Freedman, Philadelphia, 1972

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

A most unusual song about Jews oppressing (or “taking advantage”, in Crasner’s words), of fellow Jews.

Ukrainian Jews escaping pogroms and the Russian Civil War crossed over into Romania. 1919-1921.  This song documents the hard times these Jews faced, apparently because of the Bessarabian Jews who extorted money from them once they crossed the border.  The “Ukrainians” were forced to do manual labor and sleep in horrible conditions in order to secure passports. 

In an earlier post on this blog where Clara Crasner sings the song “Eykho” she mentions the Bessarabian town of Yedinitz (today in Molodova – Edinets); perhaps that is the town in question. There she refers to her fellow refugees as “yoridnikes”, impoverished ones. In the Yedenitz Yizkor (Memorial) Book, there is indeed a chapter that recalls the Ukrainian Jews who crossed the border to escape the violence and came to Yedinits (legendary klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras, was one of these migrants).

Committee for Assistance of Ukrainian Refugees, Yedenitz, 1920-1921

The first two verses of the song are from the perspective of the money-hungry Bessarabians. The third verse is from the refugee’s perspective.

This is the fifth song sung by Clara Crasner from Shargorod, Ukraine, that we have posted. They were all recorded by her son-in-law, Robert Freedman in Philadelphia 1972. Freedman and his wife Molly Freedman are the founders of the “Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive” at the University of Pennsylvania Library, an invaluable resource in researching Yiddish song.


Crasner (spoken)

 “Ot di lid hob ikh gehert in Rumenye, Basarabye, in 1919, 1920. Nokh der ershter milkhume, ven di yidn fin rusland zenen antlofn, iz dus geveyn di neyvnste greynets far indz, fin vonen ikh kim un nokh mentshn. Kimendik kin Basarabye obn mir geheysn “Ukrayiner.” Di Basarbyer hobn genemen …zey hobn genemne “advantage’ fin indz. M’o’me nisht gekent aroysfurn finem shtyetl. M’ot indz nisht gevolt geybn keyn peser, obn di mentshn gemakht a lid. Ikh denk az s’iz a “satire”. In di lid heyst “gelt”. 


Tsu indz keyn Besarabye kimen Ukrainer a sakh.
Zey shvimen in der blote, azoy vi di fish in takh.
Zey loyfn im, imedim nor vi a vint
ergets vi, nor tsi krign a dokument.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey:
Geltenyu, hot ir geltenyu?
Git indz gelt nor a sakh
Val mir viln vern rakh.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh.

In der Ukrainyer er lozt arop di nuz.
Er miz nebekh geyn in shlufn in kluz.
Dort iz fintster ,kolt un vist; nor azoy vi in der erd.
Zey hakn holts un trugn voser in horeven vi di ferd.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey: 
Geltenyu, hot ir geltenyu?
Git indz gelt mit beyde hent
krigt ir bold a dokument.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh. 

Ober es kimt a tsat ven di Ukrayner zey leybn hoykh a velt.
Ven es kimt zey un di pur daler gelt. 
Zey rasn zikh aroys fin donen nor vi fin a shtag.
In ale Beseraber yidn tsaygn zey a fag.
Freygn zey far vos kimt indz dos?
Entfert men zey:
Geltenyu, mir hobn mir oykh geltenyu.
Mir darfn shoyn mer nit nitsn [?] aykh.
Mir hern aykh vi dem kuter,
vayl ayer Got iz indzer futer.
Geltenyu iz a gite zakh. 



“This song I heard in Romania, Bessarabia, in 1919, 1920. After the First War, when the Jews from Russia escaped, this was the closest border to us, from where I am from and others. Coming into Bessarabia, we were called “Ukrainians” and Bessarabians took advantage of us. We were not able to leave the town. We were not given passports, so the people created a song. I think it’s a satire and the song is called “Gelt” – “Money”


To us in Bessarabia come many Ukrainians
They swim in the mud, as fish in a river.
They run around everywhere like the wind;
anywhere just to get a document.
So they ask – why do we deserve this?
And they are answered:
money, do you have money?
Give us a lot of money
because we want to become rich.
Money is a good thing.

And the Ukrainian, he drops down his nose.
He must, alas, go to sleep in the synagogue.
There it is dark, cold and deserted.
Just like being in the ground.
They chop wood and carry water
and work hard as a horse.
So they ask why do we deserve this?
And they are answered: 
Money, do you have money?
Give us money with both hands
and you’ll get back a document.
Money is a good thing.

But a time will come when the Ukrainians
will live in luxury when they get their few dollars.
They will tear out of here as if from a cage.
And at all Bessarabian Jews they will thumb their noses
at them. [literally show them the fig = finger]
So they ask why do we deserve this?
They are answered:
Money, we also have money.
We don’t need you anymore
we totally ignore you
because your God is our father.
Money is a good thing.


אָט די ליד האָב איך געהערט אין רומעניע, באַסאַראַביע, אין 1919, 1920. נאָך דער ערשטער מלחמה, ווען די ייִדן פֿון רוסלאַנד זענען אַנטלאָפֿן, איז דאָס געווען די נאָענססטע גרענעץ פֿאַר אונדז, פֿון וואַנען איך קום און נאָך מענטשן. קומענדיק קיין באַסאַראַביע האָבן מיר געהייסן „אוקראַיִנער”. די באַסאַראַבער האָבן גענעמען פֿון אונדז. מ’ אָ’ מיר נישט געקענט אַרויספֿאָרן פֿונעם שטעטל. מ’האָט אונדז נישט געוואָלט געבן קיין פּעסער, האָבן די מענטשן געמאַכט אַ ליד. איך דענק, אַז ס’איז סאַטירע. און די ליד הייסט געלט

.צו אונדז קיין באַסאַראַביע קומען אוקראַיִנער אַ סך
.זיי שווימען אין דער בלאָטע, אַזוי ווי די פֿיש אין טײַך
.זיי לויפֿן אום, אימעדים נאָר ווי אַ ווינט
.ערגעץ ווי נאָר צו קריגן אַ דאָקומענט
?פֿרעגן זי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
?ענטפֿערט מען זיי ־ געלטעניו, האָט איר געלטעניו
גיט אונדז געלט, נאָר אַ סך
.ווײַל מיר ווילן ווערן רײַך
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

.און דער אוקראַיִנער, ער לאָזט אַראָפּ די נאָז
.[ער מוז נעבעך גיין און שלאָפֿן אין קלוז [קלויז]
,דאָרט איז פֿינצטער, קאַלט און וויסט
.נאָר אַזוי ווי אין דער ערד
זיי האַקן האָלץ און טראָגן וואַסער
.און האָרעווען ווי די פֿערד
?פֿרעגן זיי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
?ענטפֿערט מען זיי ־ געלטעניו ־  האָט איר געלטעניו
,גיט אונדז געלט מיט ביידע הענט
.קריגט איר באַלד אַ דאָקומענט
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

אָבער עס קומט אַ צײַט ווען די אוקראַיִנער
.זיי לעבן הויך אַ וועלט
ווען עס קומט זיי אָן
.די פּאָר דאָלער געלט
זיי רײַסן זיך אַרויס פֿון דאַנען
.נאָר ווי פֿון אַ שטײַג
און אַלע באַסאַראַבער ייִדן
.צײַגן זיי אַ פֿײַג
?פֿרעגן זיי פֿאַר וואָס קומט אונדז דאָס
:ענטפֿערט מען זיי
.געלטעניו, מיר האָבן  אויך געלטעניו
.מיר דאַרפֿן שוין מער ניט ניצן אײַך
,מיר הערן אײַך ווי דעם קאָטער
.ווײַל אײַער גאָט איז אונדזער פֿאָטער
.געלטעניו איז אַ גוטע זאַך

“Fun vanen nemen zikh di libes?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2019 by yiddishsong

Fun vanen nemen zikh di libes? / How do romances begin?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, The Bronx, New York City

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Though once fairly well-known and found in field recordings and several printed collections, I do not believe this lyric love song was ever recorded commercially other than on the CD Bay mayn mames shtibele, sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman’s (LSW’s) daughter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. Here we present a version by LSW herself.

Lifshe1972Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, 1972

In the I. L. Cahan collection (1957) there are three versions of the song (#26, 27, 28) from the Kiev region, the Vilna region and Podolia region; so the song has been “traveling” over a wide area for a while. One of the verses in those versions (#27)  continues the counting of excuses:

Dem dritn terets zolstu zogn,
du host dikh gelernt shvimen.
Dem fertn terets zolstu zogn,
az du host dayn tsayt bakumen [bakimen]

The third excuse you should give
is that you were learning how to swim.
The fourth excuse you should give
is that you are having your period.

Thus making this the only Yiddish song I have found so far that mentions menstruation.


Fun vanet nemen zikh di libes
fin deym shpeytn in fin dem lakhn.
Indzer libe hot zikh geshlosn,
in eyne, tsvey of der nakhtn.

How do romances begin?
From mocking and from laughing.
Our love was sealed –
during one, two evenings.

Tsvelef shlugt zikh shoyn der zeyger.
Fir mekh up aheym.
Vus far a terets vel ikh zugn
Bay mayn mamen in der heym?

The clock has already rung twelve.
Take me home.
What excuse will I say
at my mother’s at home?

Dem ershtn teyrets zo’sti zugn,
az di host geneyet shpeyt.
Dem tsveytn teyrets vesti zugn –
az di host geblondzet dem veyg.

The first excuse you should give
is that you sewed late.
The second excuse you should give
is that you got lost on the way.

Vus toyg mir dayne teyritsem.
Fir mekh up ahem.
Di mame vet dus tirele farshlisn,
in droysn vel ikh blaybn shteyn.

What do I need your excuses for?
Take me home.
Mother will lock the door
and I will be stuck outside.

“Di levune shaynt in der fintsterer nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2018 by yiddishsong

Di levune shaynt in der fintsterer nakht
The moon shines in the dark night

Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman
Recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx 1954

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman


Lifshe Schaechter-Widman with her 2nd husband, Isaac Widman,
approximately at the time of the recording of this song, 1950s. 

This lyrical love song from the man’s perspective contrasts with the ballads in Lifshe Schaechter Widman’s repertoire which have a single narrative plot. The three verses barely relate to each other other than the two lines about sending letters that connect the second and third verse, and the reptition of the woman’s name Libele. As in most lyrical songs, the song emphasizes the emotion rather than the storyline. The lines about swimming in a deep river would usually signal an upcoming tragedy but nothing is made of it.


Di levune shaynt in der fintsterer nakht.
Libele zitst dort baym fentster un trakht.
Es dakht zikh ir az Itzikl geyt
in nayem mantl ungetin.

Gebudn hob ikh mikh in a takhele.
Dus takhlele iz geveyzn tif.
Veyn nit, veyn nit Libele,
ikh vel dir shikn briv.

Brivelekh vel ikh dir shikn.
Brivelekh vesti leynen.
Az ikh vel mekh dermanen in dan tayer zis punim,
klugn vel ikh in veynen.


The moon shines in the dark night.
Libele sits there at the window and thinks.
She imagines that Itzikl is coming
dressed in a new coat.

I was bathing in a river;
the river was deep.
Don’t cry, don’t cry Libele,
I will send you letters.

Letters I will send you
Letters you will read.
And when I think of your dear, sweet face,
I will lament and cry.
dilevune yid1

dilevune yid2

“Oy, tsum ban vel ikh nit geyn” and “Ven ikh volt geven a foygele” – Two Songs Performed by Tsunye Rymer

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

Oy, tsum ban vel ikh nit geyn and Ven ikh volt geven a foygele
Two songs combined and sung by Tsunye Rymer 
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, NYC 1985
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this performance, Isaac “Tsunye” Rymer combines two distinct lyrical Yiddish love songs. The first two verses are a song beginning with the line Tsum ban vil ikh nit geyn [I don’t want to go to the train] and the third and fourth verses are a different song that begins with the line – Ven ikh volt geven a foygele [If I were a bird]. Whether he learned the songs this way or combined them himself is unknown.

Rymer says he learned this in Bessarabia on the way to America. It took him and his wife 4 years to arrive in the US once they left their town in the Ukraine.

RymerPhoto3Tsunye Rymer at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center, Bronx, NYC, 1980s. From right:  Jacob Gorelik, Dr. Jonas Gottesman, Tsunye Rymer. 

Ven ikh volt geven a foygele has motifs found in other Yiddish folksongs among them a Hasidic Lubavitch song attributed to Reb Mendele from Horodok called The Outpouring of the Soul  השתפכות הנפש, number 25 in the Lubavitch nigunim collection Sefer HaNigunim. One can also find these motifs in songs in the Beregovski/Slobin collection Old Jewish Folk Music and the I. L. Cahan collection Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (1952)

Recently singer Inna Barmash recorded a song, accompanied by violist Ljova (Lev Zhurbin) with these motifs from the Beregovski/Slobin collection on her CD Yiddish Love Songs and Lullabies (2013).

Why the combination of songs? The singer (if not Rymer, then the one he learned it from?) perhaps added the third and fourth verses to add a little hopefulness and not end the song on such a bleak note.


Oy tsim ban vel ikh nit geyn,
oy tsim ban vel ikh nit geyn.
Oy ikh ken dus shoyn mer nit zeyn:
Az du vest darfn in poyez zitsn
un ikh vel blaybn af der platforme shteyn.
Az du vest darfn in poyez zitsn
un ikh vel blaybn af der ploshchatke shteyn.

Tsum ershtn mul a kling un tsum tsveytn mul a fayf
un tsum dritn mul iz shoyn nishtu keyn mentsh.
Ikh hob nit pospeyet di hant im derlangen.
Di ban iz shoyn avek fin undz gants vayt.
Ikh hob nit pospeyet di hant im derlangen.
Di ban iz shoyn avek fun undz gants vayt.

Ven ikh volt geveyn a foygele [feygele],
volt ikh tsu dir gefloygn.
in efsher volstu rakhmones gehat
oyf mayne farveynte oygn – oyf mayne farveynte oygn.

Ven ikh volt geveyn a fishele
volt ikh tsu dir geshvumen.
in efsher volstu rakhmones gehat
un du volst tsu mir gekumen.
un du volst tsu mir gekumen.


Oy to the train I will not go.
To the train I will not go.
I can’t stand to see this anymore:
you will be sitting on the train
and I will remain standing on the platform.

First the bell rings once; then the whistles blows;
then no one remains.
I did not even manage to give him my hand.
The train had gone by then quite far.

If I were a little bird,
I would fly to you.
And perhaps you would have pity on me
on my weeping eyes.

If I were a fish,
I would swim to you.
And perhaps you would have pity on me
and you would then come to me.

Rymer Oy1Rymer Oy2Rymer OY3