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Shteyt of lavoydes-haboyre!: The Shulklaper’s Call to Prayer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2021 by yiddishsong

Shteyt of lavoydes-haboyre! / Wake up to pray! 
Five versions of the call to prayer of the shulklaper in Eastern Europe.

Painting of a shulklaper by Mayer Kirshenblatt from the book “They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland before the Holocaust” (University of California Press, 2007)

COMMENTARY BY ITZIK GOTTESMAN

This week we present five different recordings of the call of the shulklaper or shammes [synagogue sexton] to the congregants to prayer. In the towns of Eastern Europe the shulklaper went door to door, knocking on the window shutters. This was done before the Sabbath, for the Selihot/slikhes prayers in the month of Elul and for the midnight service “khtsos” חצות. 

We have transcribed and translated the words to three of the versions after the mp3s.

The five recordings are:

1) “Am kodoysh” A Galician version by Berish Katz from the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO. It can also be heard on Ruth Rubin’s LP “The Jewish Life: The Old Country”.

2) “Shteyt of” from the Stonehill Collection. Singer unidentified (1948).

3) Leah Israelit from her LP record “Songs That I Remember: Melodies from Eretz Yisroel and Bessarabia” (Tikva T-79). A Bessarabian version.

4) A field recording made by Moshe Beregovski, entitled “Khtsos” sung by Eli Spivak, Kiev, 1929, from Volume 6 “Historical Collection of Jewish Musical Folklore 1912 – 1947”. Clearly related to Israelit’s version.

5) A contemporary Hasidic version that we found on Youtube, sung by Belzer khosid, Yermiah Damen (2009)

6)  In addition, at the bottom of this post, we have added a scan of this “call” from Marcy Nulman’s Concise Encyclopedia of Jewish Music (1975). We include his entire entry for “schulklapper” which he learned from a Vilna cantor. He also presents the melody and text of a selikhot call in the Sephardic tradition. 

I have written a more extensive article on the “shulklaper” in the Yiddish Forverts newspaper, Sept. 23, 2019.

TRANSLITERATION / TRANSLATION OF TEXTS

1) The Beresh Katz version (from Galicia)

Spoken: 

All the Jews woke up for “khtsos” [midnight prayers] almost every day. By knocking with a hammer the shammus [sexton] called.

Friday night, when Jews cannot carry a hammer and cannot knock, he sang a melody with all his heart with these words:

עם קדוש! שטייט אויף און גייט לעבֿודת-הבורא
כּי לכּך נוצרתּי
עצל עד מתי תּשכּבֿ

Am kodoysh!
Shteyt of un geyt lavoydes-haboyre.
Ki lekekh notsarti.
Eytsl ladmusay tishkov

Holy people!
Wake up to serve the creator!
For this we were born.
Hurry! How late will you sleep?

2)  Unidentified female singer from the Ben Stonehill Collection:

!שטייט אויף! שטייט אויף!   שטייט אויף! שטייט שוין אַלע אויף
צו עבֿודת־הבורא
אָן פּחד און אָן מורא
שטייט אויף צו עבֿודת־הבורא
שלאָף שוין ניט יידעלע,  שפּיל אויף דיין פֿידעלע
.אין ירושלים
!שטייט אויף

Shteyt of! Shteyt of! Shteyt of!
Shteyt shoyn ale of!
Tsi avoydes-haboyre.
Un pakhad in un moyre.
Shteyt of tsi avoydes-haboyre.
Shluf shoyn nit yidele.
Shpil of dayn fidele
in Yerushelayim. 
Shteyt of!

Awaken! Awaken! Awaken!
Wake up for everyone
to serve the creator [to pray].
Sleep no longer dear Jew.
Play on your fiddle
in Jerusalem.
Awaken!

3)  Singer Leah Israelit from Markulesht, Bessarabia (Mărculeşti, Moldova): 
Israelit learned it from “Shmuel the sexton.”

!שטייט אויף, שטייט אויף
לעבֿודת־הבורא
—עצל עצל למה תּשכּבֿ
קום לעבודת־הבורא
אדם דואג לאבוד דמיו
ואינו דואג לאבוד ימיו
!אוי, שטייט אויף

דמיו, דימיו אינם עוזרים
ימיו, ימיו אינם חוזרים
!אוי, שטייט אויף

.אויף דרײַ זאַכן וועק איך אײַך יידעלעך
אויף חורבן־בית־המיקדש
און אויף גלות־השכינה
.אוי, און אויף צרות־ישראל
שטייט אויף, שטייט אויף
!לעבֿודת־הבורא

Shteyt of! shteyt of!
Lavoydas-haboyre.
Eytsl, eytsl lama tishkov.
Kum lavoydat [lavoydes] haboyre.
Udem doyeg al ibed yumov
veeynu doyeg al ibed yumov
Oy, shteyt of!
Dumov, dumov eynom ozrim.
Yumov, yumov eynem khozrim.

Oy, shteyt of! Lavodas-haboyre
af khurbn beys-hamikdesh
un af gules-haskhine
Oy! un af tsores-yisrol.
Shteyt of! shteyt of!
Lavodas-haboyre!

For three things do I awaken you dear Jews:
for the destruction of the Temple
Oy! and for the exile of the Shekhinah [=Divine Presence] and for the troubles of the Jewish people.
Wake up!  Wake up to pray!

Wake up! Wake up!
To serve the creator. [ = to prayer]
Hurry, hurry, why do you sleep?
Awaken for prayer.
Man worries about losing his money
and man worries about losing his days.
His days do not return.

Below: entry on “Schulklopfer” from Marcy Nulman’s Concise Encyclopedia of Jewish Music (1975):

“Eyns ver veyst” A Passover Song Performed by Dr. Thelma Borodkin

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Eyns ver veyst? / Who Knows One?
A Passover song sung by Dr. Thelma Borodkin. Recorded by Dr. Hankus Netsky, 2021

Dr. Thelma Borodkin

Eyns ver veyst?                                  Who knows one?
Eyns, eyns, ikh, ikh veys.                   One, one, I, I know.
Ikh, ikh veys                                        I, I know                                  
Eyns iz Got aleyn, iz Got aleyn.          One is God himself, is God himself.
Der har funem himl un fun der erd.    The Lord of heaven and earth, 

Tsvey ver veyst?                                       Two who knows?
Tsvey, tsvey, ikh, ikh veys.                        Two, two I , I know
Ikh, ikh veys                                               I, I know
Tsvey likhes.                                             Two tablets
Eyns iz Got aleyn, iz Got aleyn.   One is God himself, is God himself.
Der har funem himl un fun der erd.          The Lord of heaven and earth,

Dray ver veyst?                                          Three who knows?
Dray, dray, ikh, ikh veys.                            Three, three I , I, know.
Ikh, ikh veys.                                              I, I know
Dray futers.                                                Three fathers [patriarchs]
Tsvey likhes.                                               Two tablets
Eyns iz Got aleyn, iz Got aleyn.   One is God himself, is God himself.
Der har funem himl un fun der erd.   The Lord of heaven and earth.

Fir ver veyst?                                               Four who knows?
fir, fir  ikh, ikh veys.                                       Four, four I, I know.
Ikh, ikh veys.                                                 I, I know
Fir muters.                                            Four mothers [matriarchs]
Dray futers…..                                                Three fathers….etc.

Finef ver veyst?                                            Five how knows?
Finef, finef  ikh, ikh veys.                               Five, five I, I know
Ikh ikh veys                                                     I, I know
Finef khamushim fin der Toyre          Five books of Moses in the Torah
Fir muters….                                                  Four mothers…etc.            

Zeks ver veyst?                                      Six who knows?
Zeks, zeks  ikh, ikh veys.                        Six, six I, I know.
 Ikh, ikh veys.                                          I, I know.
Zeks mishnayes.                                     Six “orders” of the Mishnah.
Finef khamushim in der Toyre….             Five books of Moses in the Torah…etc.

Zibn ver veyst?                               Seven who knows?
Zibn, zibn. ikh, ikh veys.                 Seven, seven I, I know
 Ikh, ikh veys.                                  I, I know
Zibn teyg in der vokh.                    Seven days in the week
Zeks mishnayes…                          Six orders of the Mishnah...

Akht ver veyst?                            Eight who knows?
Akht, akht,  ikh, ikh veys.             Eight, eight, I, I, know.
 Ikh, ikh veys.                                 I, I know.
Akht teyg tsi der mile.                    Eight days to the bris
Zibn teg in der vokh…                    Seven days in the week….etc.

Nayn ver veyst?                               Nine who knows?
Nayn, nayn  ikh, ikh veys.               Nine, nine, 
 Ikh, ikh veys.                                   I, I know
Nayn khadoshim in deym trugn.      Nine months of pregnancy
Akht teyg tsi der mile…                     Eight days to the bris…etc

Tsen ver veyst?                                  Ten who knows?
Tsen, tsen,  ikh, ikh veys.                  Ten, ten, I, I know
Ikh, ikh veys.                                       I , I know
Tsen dibres.                                       Ten commandments
Nayn khadushim….                          Nine months to the pregnancy….etc.

Elef ver veyst?                              Eleven who knows?
Elef, elef,  ikh, ikh veys.               Eleven, eleven, I, I know.
 Ikh, ikh veys.                                 I, I know
Elef shtern in deym himl.            Eleven stars in the sky
Tsen dibres…                               Ten commandments….etc.   

Tsvelef ver veyst?                           Twelve who knows?
Tsvelf, tsvelf, ikh ikh veys.             Twelve, twelve I, I know.
ikh ikh veys.                                     I, I know.
Tsvelef shvotim, Twelve tribes
Elef shtern in deym himl…            Eleven starts in the sky…etc.

Draystn ver veyst?                          Thirteen who knows?
Draytsn, draytsn, ikh, ikh veys.     Thirteen, thirteen I, I know.
 Ikh, ikh veys.                                   I, I know.
Draytsn mides hot der Got.          Thirteen attributes has God 
Tsvelef shvotim…                          Twelve tribes….etc.

………….

Eyns iz Got aleyn, iz Got aleyn.        One is God himself, God himself
Der har fun dem himl un fun der erd.  Master of heaven and earth
Der har funem himl un fun der erd.      Master of heaven and earth

Commentary by Hankus Netsky

Dr. Thelma Borodkin grew up on Hopkinson Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn.  Her parents came from Ukraine, her mother from Dnietopietrovsk and her father from Stara Constantine.  She remembers her mother singing constantly in Yiddish, Russian, Ukrainian and English while she worked, and her mother taught her a wide array of Yiddish Theatre songs that she heard at the nearby Hopkinson Theatre.  

Dr. Borodkin attended Jefferson High School and the local Hebrew Educational Society School.  She became fluent in Hebrew and made Aliyah twice.  She received her Ph.D in English and taught writing for twenty-three years at Lehman College.  Most recently (pre-pandemic), she taught a course on works by female Yiddish writers at Lester Senior Housing in New Jersey.  She remembers this wonderful and little-known Yiddish version of “Echod Mi Yodea” from her childhood family seders in Brooklyn, and her children and grandchildren keep the tradition going to the present day.

Thanks for this week’s post to Thelma Borodkin, Hankus Netsky and Arun Viswanath. 

?איינס ווער ווייסט
געזונגען פֿון  תּמר ד״ר באָראָדקין
רעקאָרדירט פֿון  ד״ר הענעך נעצקי, 2021

?איינס ווער ווייסט
איינס, איינס, איך, איך ווייס
איך, איך ווייס
.איינס איז גאָט אַליין, איז גאָט אַליין
.דער האַר פֿונעם הימל און פֿון דער ערד

?צוויי ווער ווייסט
.צוויי, צוויי, איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
.צוויי לוחות
.איינס איז גאָט אַליין, איז גאָט אַליין
.דער האַר פֿונעם הימל און פֿון דער ערד

?דרײַ ווער ווייסט
.דרײַ, דרײַ, איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
דרײַ פֿאָטערס
…צוויי לוחות

?פֿיר ווער ווייסט
.פֿיר, פֿיר איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
,פֿיר מוטערס
…דרײַ פֿאָטערס

?פֿינעף ווער ווייסט
.פֿינעף, פֿינעף איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
,פֿינעף חומשים אין דער תּורה
…פֿיר מוטערס

?זעקס ווער ווייסט
.זעקס, זעקס איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
זעקס משניות
…פֿינעף חומשים אין דער תּורה

?זיבן ווער ווייסט
.זיבן, זיבן איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
.זיבן טעג אין דער וואָך
…זעקס משניות

?אַכט ווער ווייסט
.אַכט, אַכט איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
אַכט טעג צו דער מילה
…זיבן טעג אין דער וואָך

?נײַן ווער ווייסט
.נײַן, נײַן איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
נײַן חדשים אין דעם טראָגן
…אַכט טעג צו דער מילה

?צען ווער ווייסט
.צען, צען איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
צען דיברות
…נײַן חדשים אין דעם טראָגן

?עלעף ווער ווייסט
.עלעף, עלעף, איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
,עלעף שטערן אינעם הימל
…צען דיברות

?צוועלעף ווער ווייסט
.צוועלעף, צוועלעף, איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
,צוועלעף שבֿטים
…עלעף שטערן אינעם הימל

?דרײַצן ווער ווייס
.דרײַצן, דרײַצן, איך, איך ווייס
.איך, איך ווייס
דרײַצן מידות האָט דער גאָט
…צוועלעף שבֿטים

“A kheyder” from Simkhe Shvartz’s Kamelyon Theater Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

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A scene from Simkhe Shvartz’  Kamelyon theater in Chernovitz, Romania early 1930s.
As remembered and sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG], recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Bronx 1990s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman.

From right: Simkhe Shvarts, Itzik Manger, Helios Hecht, Rose Auslander, Chernovitz, 1934.
Photo from Efrat Gal-Ed Niemandssprache

BSG spoken: 

Dus iz a sene vus Simkhe Shvarts hot ofgefirt in Chernovitz mit der amatorn-trupe Kamelyon.  “A kheyder” hot dus geheysn. 

This is a scene that Simkhe Shvarts put on in Chernovitz with the amateur troupe “Chameleon”.  It was called “A kheyder”. [traditional elementary school]

Tsigele, migele, kotenak
Royte pomerantsn.    
Az der rebe’z nishtu in kheyder, 
Geyen khevre tanstn. 

Nem zhe Tshaykl dem rebns kantshik 
Un varf im aran in hribe.
Ikh’n helfn dos kind talepen [telepen] 
Der rebetsin Teme-Libe.  

Avek di mamzer, di pachuk
Moykhl dir dus vign
Bald vet der rebe kimen. 
Vesti dans shoyn krign

Kinder der rebe’z in shil. 
Kimt zhe tsi aher in 
lernt dus naye shpil    
Shpiln zikh iz git, oy git.
ernen zikh, oy nit oy nit.
Shpiln zikh iz tayer    
Der kantshik ligt in fayer.   

A gitn-uvnt Libe! 
A gitn yingnmantshik.   
Freyg im nor deym takhsit. 
Vi es ligt der kantshik. 

[4 pupils reply]
“Rebe, ikh veys nisht”
¨Ikh veys gurnisht rebe.”  
“Rebe, ikh oykh nisht.”  
“Ikh veys oykh nisht rebe”

“Az s’i nishtu keyn kantshik 
iz du a rimen mit a shprontshik.
Arinter, lernen!¨   

Little goat, little kitten
Red oranges
When the teacher is not in school
The gang starts to dance. 

So Tshaykl take the teacher’s s whip  
and throw it into the heating stove.
I will help the teacher’s wife, Teme-Libe 
knock around the child

Get away you scoundrel, you rat
I don’t need your rocking. 
Soon the teacher will come
and you will get yours.

Children, the teacher is in the synagogue
so come over here
and learn the new game.
Playing is good, oy good.
Learning is not, oy not.
Playing is precious
The whip is in the fire. 

“Good evening Libe”
“Good evening, my young man.
Just ask this brat
where he put the whip”.


 “Teacher, I know nothing”
 ¨I know nothing, teacher.¨
“Teacher, I too know nothing”
“I too know not, teacher”

¨Well if there’s no whip
There is the leather strap with a buckle.
Sit down and learn!¨ 

BSG added later, spoken: Everyone then sat down around the long table and started to rock back and forth and learn. Meanwhile the teacher fell asleep, so they took his leather strap and threw it into the fire. Then they sang again the first verse again:

Tsigele, migele, kotinak….

The Kamelyon [Chameleon] theater in Chernovitz was founded  in 1929 and directed by Simkhe Schvartz (aka Simcha Schwartz – September 1, 1900 – August 14, 1974),  a leader of Yiddish culture between the world wars in the Romanian city Chernovitz (today in the Ukraine –  Cernivtsi). He was a sculptor, dramaturge, director, and songwriter. He is perhaps most known for his Parisian Yiddish puppet theater Hakl-bakl (1949 – 52) in which Marc Chagall and Itsik Manger participated. Simkhe Shvartz had two younger brothers, Julian Shvartz and Itzik Shvarts (aka I. Kara), also writers and important figures in the Yiddish cultural world in Romania.

The skits of Kamelyon , created by Shvarts, often were comprised of adapted Yiddish folksongs strung together to form a plot. “A kheyder” uses folky elements: the opening rhyme is adapted from the children’s rhyme  “Tsigele, migele kotinke” (two examples in Ginzburg/Marek, 1901 and two more in I. L Cahan, 1952). Ruth Rubin sings two versions that can be listened to in YIVO’s Ruth Rubin Archive. https://ruthrubin.yivo.org/categories/browse/Dublin+Core/Title/Tsigele%2C+migele%2C+kotinke?site=site-r

More recently, Israeli singer Ruth Levin sings a song that begins with Tsigele-migele, words by J. Joffe, music by N. Zaslavsky on her CD of children’s songs Tsigele-migele

Singer/composer Efim Chorney has set music to Yiddish poet Meir Charat’s song “Tsigele-migele” and it can be found on the Klezmer Alliance CD Mir Basaraber.

Another folk element in “A kheyder” – the melody of the Yiddish folksong, “Dire-gelt” is used (can be found in the Mlotek songbook Mir trogn a gezang.) starting with the line “Shpiln zikh iz git.”

Please note that the teacher in the traditional elementary school, the kheyder, is addressed as “rebe” and is not to be confused with a Hasidic leader also called “rebe”.

Special thanks this week to Eliezer Niborski.



“Di zin fargeyt far nakht” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman

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די זון פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט / Di zin fargeyt far nakht / The Sun Sets at Dusk
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded by Leybl Kahn, NYC 1954.

Lifshe Schaechter-Widman at a NY bungalow colony, 1950s

TRANSLITERATION

Di zin fargeyt far nakht. Dus meydele shteyt in drosn.
Di bekelekh vern ir nas.  Di koykhes geyen ir os.
Zi shteyt in vart af deym ort,vi zi fleygt im tumid zeyn.
Itst shteyt zi azoy lang in vart du aleyn. 

Du vi ikh shtey in mayne trern tien gisn.
O du, o du iz dus ertele vi mir fleygn mir beyde shmisn. 
Ot du o iz do iz dus ertele vi mir fleygn beyde shteyn.
Itstert bin ikh nebekh geblibn aleyn. 

Mamenyu getraye, vus eksti mir mayn leybn.
Di ‘ost bay mir tsigenimen mayn khayes, mayn gold.
Host bay mir tsigenemen mayn rekhte hant.
Host im farshikt in a fremd land.

Sheyn bisti lyube af deym tuvl tse muln.
Se nishtu aza keyser dayn sheynkeyt tsi batsuln.
Sheyn bisti lyube tsi sheyn iz dayn numen.
Dayne sheyne bekelekh vi di sheyne blumen.

Mamenyu, ikh beyt ‘ekh breng im tsirik.
Breyng mir mayn leybn breng mir mayn glik. 

TRANSLATION

The sun sets at dusk. The girl is standing outside.
Her cheeks are getting wet. Her strength is weakening.
She stands and waits at that place where she always saw him. 
Now she stands, alas, so long waiting alone.

Here where I stand and my tears gush.
Oh, here is the place where we always used to talk.
Here is the spot where we used to stand.
Now I , alas, am left alone.

Mother dear, why do  you shorten my years?
You took away my life, my gold.
You took away my right hand.
And sent him away to a strange land.

Beautiful, you are my love to paint on the tablet.
There is no emperor who can pay for your beauty.
Beautiful, you are my love, too beautiful is your name.
Your beautiful cheeks, like the beautiful flowers.


Mother, I beg you, bring him back.
Bring me my dearest, bring me my happiness.

די זין פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט
געזונדען פֿון ליפֿשע שעכטער־ווידמאַן
רעקאָרדירט פֿון לייבל כּהן, 1954, ניו־יאָרק

.די זון פֿאַרגייט פֿאַר נאַכט, דאָס מיידעלע שטייט אין דרויסן
.די בעקעלעך ווערן איר נאַס, די כּוחות גייען איר אויס
.זי שטייט און וואַרט אויף דעם אָרט, וווּ זי פֿלעגט אים תּמיד זען
.איצט שטייט זי אַזוי לאַנג און וואַרט דאָ אַליין

.דאָ וווּ איך שטיי ־ און מײַנע טרערן טוען גיסן
.אָט דאָ אָ דאָ איז דאָס ערטעלע, וווּ מיר פֿלעגן מיר ביידע שמיסן
.אָט דאָ אָ דאָ איז דאָס ערטעלע, וווּ מיר פֿלעגן ביידע שטיין
.איצטערט בין איך, נעבעך, געבליבן אַליין

.מאַמעניו געטרײַע, וואָס עקסטו מיר מײַן לעבן
.דו האָסט בײַ מיר צוגענעמען מײַן חיות, מײַן גאָלד
.האָסט בײַ מיר צוגענעמען מײַן רעכטע האַנט
 .האָסט אים פֿאַרשיקט אין אַ פֿרעמד לאַנד

.שיין ביסטו ליובע, אויף דעם טאָוול צו מאָלן
.סע נישטאָ אַזאַ קייסער דײַן שיינקייט צו באַצאָלן
.שיין ביסטו ליובע, צו שיין איז דײַן נאָמען
.דײַנע שיינע בעקעלעך, ווי די שיינע בלומען

.מאַמעניו, איך בעט דיך, ברענג אים צוריק
.ברענג מיר מײַן לעבן. ברענג מיר מײַן גליק

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Di zin fargeyt far nakht is among Lifshe Schaechter Widman’s (LSW’s) most moving performances– and that ending!

I have found 3 other variants of the song which I am attaching: one from Zhitomir (Ukraine) in Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153;  one from the Kovensk region in Lithuania in the Ginzburg and Marek collection Yidishe folkslider in Rusland (1901) p. 168; and one in Nukhem (Natan) Shakhnovskiy’s Lider gezungen funem folk (1948) p. 20. Shakhnovsky was from Kremenchuk in the Ukraine and it seems most of the songs were heard there. In Shakhnovsky is there a printed melody similar to LSW’s. The texts of the two versions from the Ukraine are quite similar while the Lithuanian one has a refrain not found in the others. All of these variants are attached below.

The folk poetry of this song is quite striking and I believe it is quite old. I translated “tovl”, which usually means blackboard, as “tablet”, but “slate” or “board” are also possible translations. The emphasis on the place where they met and spent time together is beautiful in its simplicity. 

Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153:

Nukhem (Natan) Shakhnovskiy’s Lider gezungen funem folk (1948) p. 20:

Skuditski’s Folklor-lider (1936) p.153:

“Bay indz azoy fil kodres grine”, a Doina Performed by Anna Esther Steinbaum

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2021 by yiddishsong

Bay indz azoy fil kodres grine (“Doina”)
A Romanian poem adapted into a Yiddish song.
Sung by Anna Esther Steinbaum, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Jerusalem 1997.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The singer, Anna Esther Steinbaum (also known as Anna Rauchwerger Steinbaum), was from Chernovitz, Romania, and was active in the Yiddish cultural life there before the war. After the war, in Israel, she remained close to the Chernovitz intellectuals and translated Itzik Manger’s ballads into German.

Romania’s Mureș River

What makes this week’s song extraordinary is that though the text was written by an anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist Romanian poet, whose politics were well known, a Yiddish poet found his poetry moving enough to adapt into a Yiddish song.

I met with her several times in 1997-98 in her apartment in Jerusalem. At this particular meeting my mother Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman was also present and occasionally can be heard as Steinbaum sings. Steinbaum found this song in a written notebook she had kept where she wrote down the songs she remembered. 

In her notebook the song is entitled “Doina” but it is  an adaptation of a Romanian poem “Noi” [“We”]  by Octavian Goga (1881 – 1938), a virulent fascist Romanian nationalist and anti-Semite, who was briefly the Romanian Prime Minister in 1938, when he stripped the Jews of their Romanian citizenship  

The Yiddish reworking of the song was done, according to Steinbaum, by the Romanian Yiddish writer Herts Rivkin, the author of the song “Nakhtishe lider” previously posted on the Yiddish Song of the Week

Here is a link to the longer original poem by Goga recited in Romanian with an English translation. 

Bay indz azoy fil kodres grine 

A Romanian poem by Octavian Goga, adapted in Yiddish by Hertz Rivkin. 

Bay indz azoy fil kodres grine [kodres=codri ]וועלדער 
velder fil mit korn. 
Bay undz azoy fil blumen, lider,
in shtiblekh fil mit tsorn. 

We have so mayn green woods,
forests full of rye.
We have so many flowers, songs,
in homes that are full of rage.

Kimen feygelekh fin vaytn
indzer doina hern. 
Bay indz azoy fil shmeterlingen
in taykhn trern, trern.

Birds come to us from afar
to hear our doina.
We have so many butterflies
in rivers of tears, tears.

Umet flist in shtiln muresh [Murăşul = Romanian river]
troyer rint in ovnt.
Es dertseylt fin indzer benkshaft
yeyder boym in vald.

Sadness flows quietly into the Murasul river;
Sadness runs in the evening.
Our longing is told by
every tree in the forest.

Zitsn mames gantse nekht,
shpinen layvnt, veybn. 
Tates, mames in oykh zin 
baveynen dus zeyer leybn.

Mothers stay up all night
spinning linen, weaving. 
Fathers, mother and sons too
lament their lives. 

Benkt zikh indz azoy nukh freyd.
Der vald iz undzer eydes.
Oysgevaremt hot di benkshaft
zeydes, elter-zeydes.

We yearn so for joy;
the woods are our witness.
This yearing was hatched 
by our grandfathers and their fathers. 

Un biz haynt iz ot der khulem
mekiyem nisht gevorn:
felder oysgebet mit veyts
shtiblekh fil mit tsorn. 

And till today this dream has
not been realized:
fields covered with wheat,
homes full of rage.

בײַ אונדז אַזוי פֿיל קאָדרעס גרינע
אַ רומעניש ליד פֿון אָקטאַוויאַן גאָגאַ
באַאַרבעט אויף ייִדיש פֿון הערץ ריווקין
געזונגען פֿון אַנאַ אסתּר שטיינבאַום

,בײַ אונדז אַזוי פֿיל קאָדרעס גרינע
.וועלדער פֿיל מיט קאָרן
,בײַי אונדז אַזוי פֿיל בלומען, לידער
.אין שטיבלעך פֿיל מיט צאָרן

זיצן מאַמעס גאנצע נעכט
.שפּינען לײַוונט, וועבן
טאַטעס, מאַמעס און אויך זין
.באַוויינען דאָס זייער לעבן

קומען פֿייגעלעך פֿון ווײַטן
.אונדזער דוינע הערן
בײַ אונדז אַזוי פֿיל שמעטערלינגען
.אין טײַכן טרערן, טרערן

אומעט פֿליסט אין שטילן מורעש
טרויער רינט אין אָוונט
עס דערציילט פֿון אונדזער בענקשאַפֿט
יעדער בוים אין וואַלד

.בענקט זיך אונדז אַזוי נאָך פֿרייד
.דער וואַלד איז אונדזער עדות
אויסגעוואַרעמט האָט די בענקשאפֿט
.זיידעס, עלטער־זיידעס

און ביז הײַנט איז אָט דער חלום 
.מקוים נישט געוואָרן
,פֿעלדער, אויסגעבעט מיט ווייץ
.שטיבלעך פֿול מיט צאָרן

“Senderl (Ayzikl) mayn man” Performed by Rose Serbin and Bella Cutler

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 27, 2020 by yiddishsong

Senderl (Ayzikl) mayn man / Sender (or Ayzikl) My Husband
Two versions Sung by Rose Serbin and Bella Cutler
Ruth Serbin recorded by Ruth Rubin in Patterson, New Jersey, 1956, from Ruth Rubin Archive at the YIVO Sound Archives. Bella Cutler recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, 1988, in Daughters of Jacob Nursing Home, Bronx

Bella Cutler version:

Rose Serbin version: Click here to listen to the Rose Serbin recording (at the Ruth Rubin Archive).

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Research into the one verse remembered by Bella Cutler (from Bolokhov, Galicia, today Bolekhiv, Ukraine) led me to a printed version of the song with music entitled “Senderle [sic] mein Man” in the collection Jewish Folk Songs from the Baltics: Selections from the Melngailis Collection edited by Kevin C. Karnes, 2014. (Scans attached – Karnes 1,2). According to Karnes, Melngailis possibly heard the song in Keidan (today Lithuania, Kedainei) in 1899. 

The innkeeper and his wife in Suchestaw, Eastern Galicia. (YIVO)

In the Ginsburg and Marek (GM) collection of 1901, Yidishe folkslider fun rusland, there are two versions, # 305, #306, one with 8 verses from Kaunas; one with 4 verses from Minsk.

In Der pinkes, ed. Shmuel Niger, Vilna, 1913, there is a version in the collection “Folklsider” of L. B-N  [Leyvi Berman].

Rose Serbin (1890 – 1974)  was born in Bohopolye, Podolia, Ukraine. In the Ruth Rubin Archive this song is entitled “Vi vel ikh nemen”.

All evidence indicates that it originates in Lithuania or other countries “up north”. Of the six versions of the song (all from the 19th century), three were written down in Lithuania, one in Belarus, one in Galicia, one in Ukraine. The important rhyme at the end of each verse “kroyn” and “aleyn” only rhymes in the “Litvish dialect” where “kroyn” is pronounced as “kreyn”.

The textual differences are also intriguing. Is the husband leaving? Is he dying? The question “Where should the wife get bread for the children?” is answered in four ways. In GM #306  and Serbin – “from the lord of the estate”,  in GM #307 “at the stall”, in Karnes “at the store”, in Berman ” from the baker”.

Serbin’s version is the most satisfying, not only because she is such a wonderful singer, but also because it ends with a wedding which is where many folk narratives conclude. 

Thanks for help with this week’s blog to: Paul Glasser, David Braun, Arun Viswanath, Philip Schwartz, Michael Alpert, Sergio Lerer and YIVO Sound Archives.

RUTH SERBIN: Transliteration and Translation

Oy, vi vel ikh nemen mayne kinderlekh oyf broyt,
Senderl mayn man?
Vi vel ikh nemen mayne kinderlekh oyf broyt,
Senderl mayn man?

Baym purits mayn tayer vaybele,
Baym purits mayn tayer taybele,
Baym purits, mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn. 

Where will I get bread for my children,
Senderl my husband?
Where will I get bread for my children
Senderl my husband?

From the lord of the estate, my dear wife.
From the lord of the estate, my dear dove.
From the lord of the estate, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone. 

Bam purits iz du hintelekh,
Senderl mayn man?
Bam purits iz du hintelkeh,
Senderl mayn man?

Mit a shtekele, mayn tayer vaybele,
Mit a shtekele, mayn tayer taybele,
Mit a shtekele, mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn.

On the lord’s estate there are dogs,
Senderl my husband.
On the Lord’s estate there are dogs
Senderl my husband.

With a stick, my dear wife.
with a stick, my dear dove.
with a stick, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone.

Mit veymen vel ikh firn mayne kinderlekh tsi der khipe,
Senderl mayn man?
Mit veymen vel ikh firn mayne kinderlekh tsi der khipe
Senderl mayn man?

Aleyn, mayn tayer vaybele
Aleyn, mayn tayer taybele
Aleyn mayn tayere kroyn.
Di blabst do shoyn aleyn. 

With whom shall I lead my children to the marriage canopy,
Senderl my husband?
With whom will I lead my children to the marriage canopy
Senderl my husband?

Alone, my dear wife.
Alone, my dear dove.
 Alone, my dear love [crown]
You will remain here all alone.

Bella Cutler’s version: translation and transliteration. 

Vos veln mir geybn di kinder esn,
Ayzikl mayn man?
Vos veln mir geybn di kinder esn,
Ayzikl mayn man?

Broytenyu mayn vaybele
Broytenyu mayn taybele
Broytenyu mayn kroyn 
Du veyst dos shoyn aleyn.

?סענדערל מײַן מאַן/ וווּ וועל איך נעמען
געזונגען פֿון ראָוז סערבין

,וווּ וועל איך נעמען מײַנע קינדערלעך אויף ברויט
?סענדערל מײַן מאן
וווּ וועל איך נעמען מײַנע קינדערלעך אויף ברויט
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,בײַם פּריץ מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,בײַם פּריץ מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,בײַן פּריץ מײַן טײַער קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

בײַם פּריץ איז דאָ הינטערלעך
.סענדערל מײַן מאַן
בײַם פּריץ איז דאָ הינטערלעך
.סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,מיט אַ שטעקעלע מײַן טײַער קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

,מיט וועמען וועל איך פֿירן מײַנע קינדערלעך צו דער חופּה
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן
,מיט וועמען וועל איך פֿירן מײַנע קינדערלעך צו דער חופּה
?סענדערל מײַן מאַן

,אַליין, מײַן טײַער ווײַבעלע
,אַליין, מײַן טײַער טײַבעלע
,אַליין, מײַן טײַערע קרוין
.דו בלײַבסט דאָ שוין אַליין

 Jewish Folk Songs from the Baltics: Selections from the Melngailis Collection edited by Kevin C. Karnes, 2014:

Ginsburg and Marek Yidishe folkslider fun rusland, 1901 # 305 and #306, one with 8 verses from Kaunas; one with 4 verses from Minsk:

Der pinkes, ed. Shmuel Niger, Vilna, 1913, in the collection “Folklsider” of L. B-N  [Leyvi Berman]:

About Lyricist Harry Bennett (Boens) by Michael Bennett

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2020 by yiddishsong

I never met my paternal grandfather Harry Boens (pictured left, b. March 17, 1891, Odessa; d. August 9, 1943, Los Angeles), and practically nothing about him was revealed to my brother and me. Innocent childhood questions about family history were met with stoicism and the subject quickly changed. Eventually, I did learn quite a bit about Harry through discovery of hidden documentation and much research. The journey to those revelations began in 2004, weeks before my father’s death in the hospital.

Harry Boens/Bennett. Image courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

Originally admitted for a respiratory virus, my father had become infected with multiple strains of hospital-spread bacteria. Months into his illness, through an internet search for Harry Boens, I discovered a piece of Yiddish sheet music entitled Di Shpanishe cholera (The Spanish Influenza) for sale. The cover sheet featured a photograph of the composer Nathan Hollandar and the lyricist Harry Boens. My father’s younger brother Philip had years earlier told me that Harry had changed the family name from Boens to Bennett and shared with me an old, color-dyed photograph of Harry and my father taken in 1933. From that photograph I saw a strong resemblance to the Harry Boens featured on the cover of Di Shpanishe cholera. I purchased the sheet music, printed out a copy of the title page, and brought it to my father in the hospital for verification. “Absolutely,” my father responded when I asked if the picture was that of his father, and then he added, “I never knew about this,” before angrily handing back the picture. Nothing further was discussed about the topic. However, the fact that my father was dying from infectious diseases struck me as tragically ironic in light of the subject of Harry’s song and my discovery of it at that heart-wrenching time.

Image courtesy of Michael Bennett; all rights reserved.

My father’s last request to me before he passed on June 13, 2004, was to write a book about his life. And so began years-long research into my father’s life, which of course included an in-depth look into Harry Boens, including the circumstances of his writing and co-publishing Di Shpanishe cholera. I fulfilled my father’s charge and self-published My Father: an American Story of Courage, Shattered Dreams, and Enduring Love in 2011.

Harry Boens immigrated to America in 1907. In about 1913 he married a Bessarabian émigré named Dora Ladyzhensky, and settled into a 3-room tenement apartment in New York’s Lower East Side. Harry worked as a waiter and accordionist in a subterranean diner on the corner of Rivington and Allen Streets in the same neighborhood. Dora worked as a seamstress in a sweatshop. Their first child, Clara, was born in 1914, their second, Irving (who would become my father) in 1915. Three months after Irving’s birth, Harry left his family. He returned in early 1917 and later that year Dora gave birth to the couple’s third child, Philip. Shortly after Philip’s birth, Harry left his family again. He returned in August 1920, but the reconciliation lasted only six weeks. This time he left his family for good.

The problem of male abandonment was common amongst Russian immigrants at that time—so common that Jewish organizations formed the National Desertion Bureau (NDB). The NDB served as a Jewish FBI whose goal was to locate AWOL husbands and fathers and force them to reconcile with their spouses, or at least support their families. Dora reported Harry to the NDB after his first desertion, and it was at that time that Harry began to pursue a career in music. He partnered with Nathan Hollandar who had a small recording studio where would-be immigrant artists could realize their dreams. The two developed a strong friendship and collaborated on several musical compositions. When the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic emerged, Harry aptly wrote the lyrics to Di Shpanishe Cholera; Nathan composed the music. They filed copyright for the piece in 1919, when Harry was twenty-eight years old.

But Harry’s musical career did not generate income. Instead, he moved to Brooklyn, partnered in a liquor store business and bought an automobile. Dora, meanwhile, languished on the Lower East Side. The children eventually were placed in foster homes and ultimately became inmates of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum (HOA) due to Dora’s inability to care for them. My father was not yet six years old at the time and he remained in HOA for the next twelve years. Harry’s liquor store business folded with the passing of the Prohibition amendment. Harry then left New York and settled in Los Angeles (a common destination in those days for wayward husbands and fathers like Harry). His surname now Bennett, Harry married a wealthy California socialite who was decades his senior. He used her money to start a Yiddish newspaper, buy a gas station, and build a small real estate empire. He returned to New York to visit his children and financially supported them in the HOA. When his children reached the age of liberation from orphanage, Harry invited them to join him in California.

Spurred by his wealthy father’s promises of a college education and membership in an exclusive beach club, in 1933 my father eagerly boarded a steam ship headed for the California coast. Harry waited for him in his legendary Stutz automobile. Harry’s promises of a new life for his son never materialized, and he reneged on his commitment to pay for college tuition. Instead, Harry wanted his son to work for him managing his businesses. My father grew increasingly resentful, and eventually sued Harry for past child support and college tuition. Harry disinherited his son. After my father was drafted in to the United States Army and shipped overseas, Harry reinstated him into his will. Harry Boens died in 1943 at the age of fifty-two; his early demise likely brought about by his five-and-half-pack-a-day cigarette habit. My father’s angry reaction to seeing Harry’s picture on the cover of Di Spanishe Cholera in 2004 was certainly understandable in light of all that I later discovered. However, I believe my father reconciled those emotions when he said to me days before his passing, “I don’t hate anybody.” I too reserve judgement of my grandfather in favor of understanding him in the context of his times and circumstances.

In 2010, while completing the book about my father, I had a desire to hear what my grandfather’s song actually sounded like. So I asked longtime family friend Cantor Sam Weiss—an accomplished singer, musician, and specialist in Yiddish music—if he would get Di Spanishe Cholera recorded for me. Cantor Weiss obliged in short order by recording it himself, and sent me the MP3 file that you hear on this page. Fast-forward to 2020: During this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a strange sort of way, the words and music of Di Spanishe Cholera provide some comfort in knowing that our ancestors—in fact the entire world—went through a similar experience. For that I thank the grandfather whom I never knew.

“Fin mitvokh in der fri (Hot a yid a vaybele)” Performed by Lifshe Schaecther Widman and Beyle Schaechter Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2020 by yiddishsong

Fin mitvokh in der fri (Hot a yid a vaybele) / From Wednesday Morning (A Man Has a Wife)
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) and Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. LSW recorded by Leybl Kahn, 1954 NYC

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This popular song was copyrighted in the US in 1922 by Morris Goldstein, who is listed as composer and lyricist. But this is doubtful since Pepi Litman and Helen Gespass recorded a version in 1912/1913 in Budapest or Lemberg. Apparently even earlier, in 1907, Hungarian singers recorded it (see Bob Cohen’s comments below).

Here is LSW, recorded by Leybl Kahn in New York, 1954:

More recently LSW’s daughter Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman recorded Lifshe’s version on her CD Bay mayn mames shtibele with Nigel Jacobs on violin, recorded live at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, November 9th, 1993. Her lyrics are basically the same as LSW, though I do prefer her word “badekn” to LSW’s word “dekn”.

Here is the Peppi Litman version:

And here is the Gespass version:

Since the instrumental version of the song on the recording Maramaros: The Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania of the Hungarian group – Muzsikas, made such an impression, I asked Budapest resident Bob Cohen, researcher of Roma and Hungarian and Jewish musical connections, leader of the pioneering klezmer ensemble Di naye kapelye, for his take on the song.

Bob Cohen writes:

“Hot a yid a vajbele” is definitely the most popular and widespread Yiddish song in the Hungarian language area. Almost everyone I spoke with in the early 1990s knew it, and it was a standard at our old-age home gigs. It remains in the repertoire of Roma bands in Transylvania as “the Jewish song” and some even sing along to it in macaronic yid-speak as “Itta, Itta Babele”. I’ve also heard it played by Roma orchestras in Slovakia.  What is interesting is the fact that knowledge of the tune seems to have completely been forgotten among the post WWII generation of Jews, given the popularity it had among older folks I met in around 1990.

A testament to its staying power is this recording by Zoldi Marton in 1907 (Most of Zoldi’s other songs are comical Hungarian nota style in Hungarian). Also a 1912 version by the Toll Jancsi Orchestra, or the same band in 1907.

The version I played on our (Di naye kapelye’s) first recording back in 1997 came from the Gypsy primas (lead violinist) Andras Horvath of Jankamajitis, near Csenger on the Romanian border. He learned his Jewish tunes from a Jewish musician family named “Markus” before the war. He became a Seventh Day Adventist in later life, and he called me over once to tell me his life story and his relationship to Jews.

Thanks this week to Robert Cohen and Martin Schwartz. Please note: though still performed today, the song’s dated humor is misogynistic.

Fin mitvokh in der fri
biz fraytik far nakht
hot Surele mayn vayb
deym kigl gemakht.

From Wednesday in the morning
until Friday twilight,
Surele my wife
made a kugel. 

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
Hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she gives him trouble,
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Vi s’iz gekimen
shabes tsim esn,
hot Surele mayn vayb
fin deym kigl gur fargesn.

When the Sabbath arrives
and  it’s time to eat.
Surele, my wife
forgot all about the kugel.

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man has a wife;
she gives him trouble.
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Hot er gekhapt 
deym grobn shtekn
Un hot ir ungehoybn 
git tsi dekn.

So he got
his thick cane
and started to 
beat [cover] her. 

Hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she gives him trouble,
A man has a wife
and she is not good for anything.

Hot zi gekhapt
di alte shkrabes,
tsim tatn iz zi 
avek deym shabes.

So she grabbed
her old worn-out shoes
and went to her father
for the Sabbath.

Hot a yid a vaybele
toyg zi af kapures
hot a yid a yidene
hot er fin ir tsures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
she is good for nothing.
A man has a wife
and she gives him trouble.

Hobn di shkeynim
ungehoybn shpekulirn
me zol dus porfolk
vider tsuzamen firn. 

So the neighbors
started to speculate/plan
how to bring the couple
together again.

Hot a yid a vabele
hot er fin ir tsures.
hot a yid a vaybele
hot er fin ir tsures.

A man [Jew] has a wife;
and she gives him trouble.
A man has a wife
and she gives him trouble

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
געזונגען פֿון ליפֿשע שעכטער-ווידמאַן

פֿון מיטוואָך אין דער פֿרי
ביז פֿרײַטיק פֿאַר נאַכט
האָט שׂרהלע מײַן ווײַב
.דעם קוגל געמאַכט

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

ווי ס’איז געקומען
,שבת צום עסן 
האָט שׂרהלע מײַן ווײַב
.פֿון דעם קוגל גאָר פֿאַרגעסן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

האָט ער געכאַפּט 
,דעם גראָבן שטעקן
און האָט איר אָנגעהויבן
.גוט צו דעקן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.טויג זי אויף כּפֿרות

האָט זי געכאַפּט
די אַלטע שקראַבעס
צום טאַטן איז זי
.אַוועק דעם שבת

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
,האָט ער פֿון איר צרות
האָט אַ ייִד אַ ייִדענע
.האָט ער פֿון איר צרות

האָבן די שכנים
אָנגעהויבן שפּעקולירן
מע זאָל דאָס פּאָרפֿאָלק
.ווידער צוזאַמענפֿירן

האָט אַ ייִד אַ ווײַבעלע
.האָט ער פֿון איר צרות

“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.

TRANSLITERATION

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”. 

(sung)

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. 

TRANSLATION

[spoken]

“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”

[sung]

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.

TRANSCRIPTION

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

“Ziser Got, vi dank ikh dir?” Performed by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman and “Reboyne-shel-oylem vi dank ik dir?” Performed by Freda Lobell

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2020 by yiddishsong

Ziser Got, vi dank ikh dir? / Sweet God, How Can I Thank You?
Sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW), recorded by Leybl Kahn 1954, with another version, Reboyne-shel-oylem vi dank ik dir? / Master of the Universe How Can I Thank You? sung by Freda Lobell, and recorded by Ruth Rubin 1948

Freda Lobell’s rendition can be heard at the YIVO Ruth Rubin Archive website.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song, in which a mother gives thanks for the marriage of her mezinke (youngest daughter), is not the first time and not the last time that these two singers will be paired together. And it is not surprising: Freda Lobell came from Chernovitz, Bukovina (today Ukraine) and LSW came from a small town in the same Bukovina region and later lived in Chernovitz. In the song “Vus a mul brent dos fayer greser” previously posted on this blog, one can also hear their two versions of the same song.

A Wedding in Cuba

In addition to Lobell’s recordings in the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO, she can also be heard on Rubin’s Folkways record “The Old Country”. The printed collection “Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive” includes three of her songs, words and music, but not this one.

The melody of this song is used by the Breslover/Broslover/Bratslover Hasidim with the words “Mitsve gedola lehiyot besimkhe tomid” (מיצווה גדולה להיות בשׂימחה תּמיד).

Here is a version with a Middle Eastern beat:

In LSW’s joyous version I believe that part of the fun is trying to intentionally squeeze in too many words into one line. The line beginning with “Shnirelekh….” As you hear she does not succeed but laughs at the attempt.

The klezmer fiddler Ilana Cravitz found the nigun in Moshe Beregovski’s writings, No. 187 (Skotshne) in Jewish Folk Music Vol. 4 Tish-Nigunim. It is to be found in Part II – the section with dances (see attached). She adds, “Definitely pre-WWI. The background note in Beregovski about the source is: No. 187. Sound recording No. 268/1 from Sh. Kulish in the town of Lyudmir [Ukraine] on July 17, 1913. Alternative version:  auditory record K-888 from A.-I. Berdichevsky in the town of Bogopol [Ukraine] in 1913. The performer reported that he had borrowed this tune from the clarinetist, who performed it like a skotshne.”

Thanks this week to Ilana Cravitz, Jordan Hirsch, Hankus Netsky, Yelena Shmulenson and the YIVO Sound Archive. 

TRANSLITERATION – LSW’s “Ziser Got”

Ziser Got vi dank ikh dir
vus di host geholfn mir;
aza gedile tse derleybn. 
Di host mekh tse shtand gebrakht
haynt hob ekh khasene gemakht. 
Kh’ob shoyn mayn mezinke oysgegeybn.
Ikh o’ dekh mir ayngehandlt skhoyre:
Shnirelekh, blit in milekh, eydem fil mit toyre.
Mayn harts iz fil mit freyd
Di eyniklekh shlepn mikh baym kleyd.
in eykh tsishn zey in der mit.
Ekh bin dekh vi der keyser rakh.
Mir iz haynt keyner glakh.
Lomir tantsn ale drit. 

TRANSLATION – “Ziser Got”

Sweet God how do I thank you
for helping me;
to live to see such a big event.
You brought this about:
today to marry off
my youngest daughter.
I have obtained my wares:
Youthful daughters-in-law and sons-in-law full of Torah.
My heart is full of joy.
My grandchildren pull at my dress,
and I in the middle of them. 
I am as rich as the emperor.
Today no one equals me.
Let’s dance us three. 

זיסער גאָט ווי דאַנק איך דור
וואָס דו האָסט געהאָלפֿן מיר
.אַזא גדולה צו דערלעבן
,דו האָסט מיך צו שטאַנד געבראַכט
הײַנט האָב איך חתונה געמאַכט
.כ’האָב שוין מײַן מיזינקע אויסגעגעבן
.איך האָב דאָך מיר אײַנגעהאַנדלט סחורה
.שנירעלעך, בלוט און מילעך, איידעם פֿול מיט תּורה
,מײַן האַרץ איז פֿול מיט פֿרייד
.די אייניקלעך שלעפּן מיך בײַם קלייד
.און איך צישן [צווישן] זיי אין דער מיט
איך בין דאָך ווי דער קייסער רײַך
,מיר איז הײַנט קיינער גלײַך
.לאָמיר טאַנצן אַלע דריט

TRANSLITERATION – Freda Lobell’s Reboyne-shel-oylem

Reboyne shel-oylem vi dank ekh dir
vu’ di ‘ost geholfn mir
aza gdile tse derleybn. 
Az ikh ‘ob dus tsi shtand gebrakht
der [di] mezinke khasene gemakht.
nagidemlekh mit zey’r farmeyg.
ikh lakh shoyn fin der gantser velt.
ikh ‘ob mane kinderlekh tsufridn geshtelt;
negidimlekh mit zeyer farmeygn. 
Bin ikh mir a shviger
‘ob ikh mir an eydem.
tants ikh mir in intershtibl [hintershtibl]
shoklt zikh der boydem.

TRANSLATION – Freda Lobell’s Reboyne-shel-oylem

Master of the universe how I thank you
for helping me
to live to see such a big event.
I made this happen:
married off my youngest daughter
with Jews of wealthy means.
I can laugh at the whole world.
I have made my children happy.
Rich men with their possessions.
And so I am a mother-in-law
and have a son-in-law.
So when I dance in the backroom
the attic shakes.

רבונו-של-עולם ווי דאַנק איך דיר
וואָס דו האָסט געהאָלפֿן מיר
.אַזאַ גדולה צו דערלעבן
אַז איך האָב דאָס צו שטאַנד געבראַכט
,די מיזינקע חתונה געמאַכט
.ייִדעלעך מיט זייער פֿאַרמעג
.איך לאַך שוין פֿון דער גאַנצער וועלט
איך האָב מײַנע קינדערלעך צופֿרידן געשטעלט
נגידעלעך מיט זייער פֿאַרמעגן
,בין איך מיר אַ שוויגער
,האָב איך מיר אַן איידעם
טאַנץ איך מיר אין הינטערשטיב
.שאָקלט זיך דער בוידעם

No. 187 (Skotshne) in Jewish Folk Music Vol. 4 Tish-Nigunim, by Moshe Beregovski: