Archive for Warsaw

Gebirtig’s “Kivele” Performed by Jacob (Kobi) Weitzner

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2020 by yiddishsong

“Kivele” by Mordkhe Gebirtig, Sung by Jacob (Kobi) Weitzner
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Warsaw, 2017

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This week we honor the memory of Yiddish writer, playwright, scholar and journalist Jacob (Kobi) Weitzner  (March 24, 1951 – September 20, 2018). His second yortsayt will be Sept. 29. 2020

Jacob (Kobi) Weitzner

I had known Kobi since the early 1980s in NYC and worked together with him for years at the Yiddish Forverts newspaper. On the Forverts radio hour, his comic imitations of Ariel Sharon and other Israeli leaders attracted a large following, particularly among the Hasidim in NY. 

We last met in Warsaw in August 2017 and at that time, he asked me to identify this song that his mother sang to him as a child. The one verse he sang for me was from “Kivele” by Mordkhe Gebirtig. Someone along Kobi’s chain of performance changed the name from “Kivele” to “Yankele” (the name of a different, more well-known Gebirtig lullaby) and reduced an eight-line verse to four. 

“Kivele” is not among the better known songs by Gebirtig and has only been recorded by a few singers – “The Bashevis Singers” of Australia, Barbara Suie, Mariejan van Oort among them. I could find only a couple of recordings in the 20th century: Max Reichart and Mascha Benya.  Benya’s, version can be heard at this link.

I have attached the original words in Yiddish and music from a 1942 edition of Gebirtig’s songs Mayne lider, published by Arbeter-ring. Gebirtig’s text transliterated with German translation can be found at the Virtual Klezmer link.

Kobi Weitzner sings this one verse:

Shluf zhe man neshumele, mayn kleyn yingele,
Hay-liu-liu-liu, shluf zhe mir.
S’iz finem tatenyu gekimen a brivele,
toyznter zise kishn shikt er dir.

 Sleep my dear soul, my little boy
Hay-liu-liu go to sleep.
From your father a letter has arrived
thousands  of sweet kisses he sends you. 

שלאָף זשע מײַן נשמהלע, מײַן קליין ייִנגעלע
הײַ־ליו־ליו, שלאָף זשע מיר
ס’איז פֿונעם טאַטעניו געקומען אַ בריוועלע
טויזנטער זיסע קושן שיקט ער דיר

For more biographical information on Jacob Weitzner see this obituary by Marek Tuszweicki in Gazeta, pp.58-59. 

Kobi dedicated his life to enriching and preserving Yiddish culture and he will be missed.

כּבֿוד זײַן אָנדענק

An interview with Kobi in Yiddish by the Linguistic Heritage Project in Poland can be seen below:

“Of di grine felder/Dos fertsnte yor” – Two Performances

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 31, 2020 by yiddishsong

Of di grine felder/Dos fertsnte yor / On the green fields/The Year 1914

This week we are presenting two performances of this song:

1) Sara Nomberg-Przytyk (recorded by Wolf Krakowski, Way’s Mills, Quebec, Canada, 1986):

2) Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (BSG), Lifshe Schaechter-Widman (LSW) and Jonas Gottesman (recorded by Leybl Kahn, Bronx, 1954):

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman:

Though we have chosen to feature two versions of the song that begin “Of di grine felder, velder”, the song is also commonly known as “Dos 14te yor” with variants that begin with “Dos 14te yor is ongekumen, oy vey” (“The 14th Year Has Arrived”). Among the singers who have recorded versions of this song: Sidor Belarsky, Majer Bogdanski, Leibu Levin and more recently Michael Alpert, “Psoy and the Israelifts” and Lorin Sklamberg/ Susan McKeown.

Michael Alpert’s a capella version of the song can be heard here. Plus, below is a contemporary interpretation of the song by Psoy and the Israelifts titled “1914” found on YouTube:

In YIVO’s Ruth Rubin’s Archive there are field recordings by Martn Birnbaum, Chinke Asher and Hannah Rosenberg. In the volume Old Jewish Folk Music: The Collections and Writings of Moshe Beregovsky (Mark Slobin, U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982; Syracuse University Press, 2000) there are 7 versions with melodies!

The song became very popular over a wide area of Eastern Europe during and after the first world war. So popular that it was recalled with amusement in a chapter in B. Kuczerer’s [קוטשער] Yiddish memoirs of Warsaw Geven a mol varshe, (Paris, 1955). He begins the chapter on the 1914 German occupation of Warsaw in this way:

“The 14th year has arrived – oy vey!

And soon it [the song] enveloped everyone and everything as if by magic… Day and night. Wherever you go, wherever you stand. In every street, in every courtyard, in every corner.

Who sang it loudly to arouse pity. Who sang it quietly, for oneself, to get it off your chest. And everywhere the same song. Everywhere the same melody, the same moan, the same tears.

‘The 14th year has arrived – oy vey!'”  (p. 59)

But some versions of the song are about later years. In the Sofia Magid collection Unser Rebbe, unser Stalin, Basya Fayler sings about the “Dos akhtsnte yor” (“The18th year” p. 277 – 79). The linguist Prof. Moshe Taube remembers his father singing this song about “Dos 19te yor” referring to the Polish violence against Jews at that time (oral communication).

THE UKRAINIAN CONNECTION

This song can ultimately can be traced back to a Ukrainian song of the 1830s. In a review of a lecture by the Polish folklorist Jan Byston written by Max Weinreich, published in Yidishe filologye heft. 2/3, March-June, 1924, Weinreich refers to the first publication of this Yiddish song in the periodical Der Jude (n.1-2, April-May 1917 p. 123-124) in which the collector Anshl (Anselm) Kleynman remembers how in the trenches of 1914-1915 some Ukrainian soldiers sang their version, and Jewish soldiers heard it, translated it and it spread from there. In this lecture that Weinreich attended, Bystron pointed out that the song in Ukrainian was sung as far back as 1833.

Prof. Robert Rothstein found two versions of the Ukrainian song from 1834. He writes: “One stanza was found among Aleksander Pushkin’s papers, written on the back of a letter from Nikolai Gogol. Pushkin died in 1837.” He adds “It’s also known as Чорна рілля ізорана (Chorna rillia izorana – The Black Farm Field Has Been Dug Up). The reference is to the chornozem, the rich black soil of Ukraine.” [communication via email]

Inspired by the song, the Polish folk/death metal band Kryvoda uses a stark image of a crow on a dead soldier for their 2014 album entitled “Kruki”. Below you can hear their performance of Чорна рілля [“Chorna rillia”]:

The website “Yidlid.org” has written out a long version of the words in Yiddish, transliterated Yiddish, French and English and included the melody from Belarsky’s book

Longer versions can also be found in Shloyme Bastomski’s Yiddish folksong collection Baym kval pages 132-133 and Immanuel Olsvanger’s Rosinkess mit mandlen, 1920, pp. 259-261.

A note on the LSW/BSG version of “Oyf di grine felder, velder”: This is the only recording I have found which features my father, Jonas Gottesman (1914 – 1995), a physician born in Siret, Romania, singing along with Lifshe, his mother-in-law, and wife Beyle. He was a wonderful baritone singer and was the only one in the family who could harmonize, as can be heard on this recording.

Special thanks with help for this post to Wolf Krakowsky, Eliezer Niborski and Prof. Robert Rothstein.

TRANSLITERATION OF NOMBERG-PRZYTYK’s VERSION (Translation is on the video)

Of di grine felder un velder, oy vay, oy vay.
Of di grine felder un velder
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay

Shvartse foygl kimen tsi flien oy vay, oy vay.
kumt tsu flien a shvartser foygl
un dlubet im oys di bayde oygn, oy vay, oy vay
dlubet im oys di bayde oygn, oy vay, oy vay.

Ver vet nukh im kadish zugn oy vay, oy vay
Ver vet nukh im kadish zugn?
Ver vet nukh im vaynen un klugn oy vay, oy vay
Ver vet nukh im vaynen un klugn oy vay, oy vay

Of di grine felder un velder, oy vay, oy vay.
Of di grine felder un velder
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner oy vay, oy vay

TRANSLITERATION and TRANSLATION OF LSW/BSG/JG VERSION

Of di grine, felder velder, vey, vey
Of di grine, felder velder,
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner, vey, vey,
ligt mit koyln badekt a zelner, vey, vey.

On the green fields, woods, vey, vey!
On the green fields, woods
Lays covered with bullets a soldier, vey, vey
Lays covered with bullets a soldier, vey, vey

Kim tse flien shvartser foygl, vey, vey
kim tse flien shvartser foygl,
dzhibet oys bay im di oygn, oy vey.
dzhibet oys bay im di oygn, vey, vey.

Come fly here black bird, vey, vey
Come fly black bird
and peck his eyes out, vey, vey.
and peck his eyes out, vey, vey.

Sheyner foygl, shvartse vorone vey, vey
Sheyner foygl, shvartse vorona,
fli avek tsi mayn mame, vey vey,
fli avek tsi mayn mame, vey vey.

Black bird, black crow, vey, vey
Black bird, black crow
fly away to my mother, vey, vey.
fly away to my mother, vey, vey.

Zolst ir fin mayn toyt nisht zugn, vey, vey,
zolst ir fin mayn toyt nisht zugn,
anit vet zi nit oyfhern klugn vey, vey.
anit vet zi nit oyfhern klugn vey, vey.

Do not tell her of my death, vey vey
Do not tell her of my death
for she will cry and lament, vey, vey
for she will cry and lament, vey, vey.

Ver vet nukh mir veynen in klugn vey, vey
ver vet nukh mir veynen in klugn,
ver vet nukh mir kadish zugn? vey, vey.
ver vet nukh mir kadish zugn? vey, vey

Who will cry and lament for me? vey, vey
Who will cry and lament for me?
Who will say Kaddish for me? vey, vey.
Who will say Kaddish for me? vey, vey.

Nor dus ferdl, dus getraye, vey, vey
nur dus ferdl dus getraye
vet nukhgeyn nukh mayn levaye, vey, vey.
vet nukhgeyn nukh mayn levaye, vey, vey.

Only my faithful horse, vey, vey.
Only my faithful horse
Will follow at my funeral, vey, vey.
Will follow at my funeral, vey, vey.

TRANSCRIPTION OF NOMBERG-PRZYTYK’s VERSION:

nomberg 1914

TRANSCRIPTION OF LSW/BSG/JG’s VERSION:

LSW 1914 1LSW 1914 2

“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.

 

Three Yiddish Songs to the tune of the Italian pop classic “Return to Sorrento”

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 12, 2019 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In this posting, we examine three Yiddish Songs set to the tune of the Italian pop classic Return to Sorrento:

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter sung by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman, recorded in 1954 by
Leybl Kahn
2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets sung by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, and recorded by Itzik Gottesman in Mexico City, 1988.
3) Sore-Yente a song found in Meyer Noy’s collection at the National Library in Jerusalem, and performed by Sharon Bernstein, piano and vocal, and Willy Schwarz on accordion, Florence, Italy 2001.

sorrento

This week we highlight three Yiddish songs that use the melody of an Italian pop classic Torna a Surriento (Return to Sorrento) music by Ernesto De Curtis (1875 – 1937), copyright 1905. The original lyrics were by his cousin Giambattista De Curtis. Here is a Dean Martin recording of the Italian song which we chose because it has a translation of the Italian lyrics (click here to listen).

There are even more Yiddish songs that use this melody, among them: in 1933 after the murder of Haim Arlosoroff in Tel-Aviv, a song was composed to this melody and a song sheet was published (A tragisher mord in Tel-Aviv/A Tragic Death in Tel Aviv). A song about the Polish Jewish strongman Zishe Breitbard (1883 – 1925) also uses a version of the melody (see Mlotek, Songs of the Generations, page 147-148 ).

Thanks this week to Aida Stalnicovitz Vda Fridman and Sharon Bernstein.

1) Fil gelitn hob ikh miter (I Have Suffered Much Mother) 
Performance by Lifshe Schaechter Widman, recorded in 1954 by Leybl Kahn in NYC.

Lifshe introduces the song by saying “S’iz a lidl vus me hot gezingen in der ershter milkhume (It’s a song that was sung in the First World War).” The four verses are entirely in the mother’s voice, apparently addressed to her mother, as indicated in the first line.

TRANSLITERATION
Fil gelitn hob ikh miter
bay der as[ent]irung fun mayn kind.
Gearbet hob ikh shver in biter
Far vus lad ikh nokh atsind.?

Iz mayn zin nokh mayn nekhome
Vi iz er fin mir avek?
Afarshundn iz er in der milkhume.
Un a seykhl in un a tsvek.

Ziser Got ikh beyt ba dir
loz mikh nokh a nes gesheyn.
Eyder eykh vel shtarbn
Vil eykh mayn kind nokh eyn mol zeyn.

Dentsmult vel ikh riyik shtarbn.
Got tsi dir keyn tanes hubn.
Loz mayn kind khotsh eyn mul mir
nokh, “mamenyu” zugn.

TRANSLATION
Much have I suffered mother,
from the drafting of my child.
I worked hard and bitter.
Why do I still suffer?

My son is still my comfort
Where did he go and leave me?
Disappeared into the war,
for no logic, for no reason,

Dear God I pray to you
May another miracle take place.
Before I die,
I want to see my son once more.

Then I would calmly die
God, have no complaints to you..
Let my child say to me –
just once more “my mother dear”.

Fil Gelitn

2) Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter)
Performance by Reyzl Stalnicovitz, recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Mexico City, 1988.

StalnicovitzPhotoReyzl Stalnicovitz, photo by Itzik Gottesman

Reyzl Stalnicovitz was born in 1935 in Xalapa, district of Vera Cruz, Mexico. She was a teacher at the I. L. Peretz shul (“Di naye yidishe shul”) in Mexico City, and passed away in  1996.

Of the three songs presented in this post, this song was by far the most popular and has been printed in several collections and can be found in the field recordings of Ben Stonehill, Sarah Benjamin and at the National Library in Israel. As for commercial recordings: Lea Szlanger sings it on her CD Lea Szlanger In Song.

The text was originally a thirteen verse poem by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) that first appeared in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910 (see below). There it was titled Dem shoykhets tokhter: balade (The shoykhet’s daughter: ballad) followed by the inscription – Dos hobn kinder in shtetl dertseylt (This Was Told by Children in Town).

The plot – Reyzl wants to marry Motl but the father, a shoykhet (kosher slaughterer) boils with anger as she combs her hair because she refuses the match he made. He then cuts her golden locks. Then it gets “weird”: she swims into the Vistula (Yiddish = Vaysl) river and builds a little shelter for herself along the bank until her hair locks grow again.
Stalnicovch sings four verses. This ballad was almost always shortened when sung. For example in the Arbeter Ring’s extremely popular songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY), only five verses are printed (that scanned version, words and music, are attached below).

TRANSCRIPTION
Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets.
Zi hot a yunge harts on zorgn.
Zi tants un freyt zikh mit ir lebn.
Vi a shvalb mitn frimorgn.

Es bakheynen ir di oygn
Es bakreynen ir di lokn.
Un a shtoltse iz zi shtendik.
Zi vet far keynem zikh nit beygn.

Un ir tate iz a frumer
un dertsu a groyser kaysn.
Ven di tokhter kemt di lokn
Heybt er on di lipn baysn .

Un der tate veyst nokh gornisht
Vos in shtetl veysn ale:
Az Reyzl hot shoyn a khosn.
Un me ruft ir Motls kale.

TRANSLATION
Beautiful is the shoykhet’s daughter Reyzl
She has a young heart with no worries.
She dances and is joyful with her life
as a swallow is with the morning.

Her eyes make her pretty
Her locks are a crown on her;
And she is always proud.
She will bow for no one.

Her father is religious
and also quick to anger.
When he combs her locks,
he starts to bite his lips.

And her father doesn’t know anything
what everyone knows in town:
that Reyzl has a groom,
and they call her Motl’s bride.

Spoken (transliteration):
Dos iz vos ikh gedenk. Ober di mame flegt mir dertseyln az s’iz geven epes a gantse tragedye, vayl der tate hot nisht gevolt az zi zol khasene hobn. Vayl er iz geven a sotsyalist, a yingl, un er iz geven a frumer yid. Er hot gevolt zi zol khasene hobn mit a yeshiva bokher. Un zi’s antlofn mitn bokher.

Spoken (translation):
That’s what I remember. But the mother used to tell me that it was a whole tragedy because the father did not want her to get married. Because he (the groom) was a socialist boy and he (the father) wanted him to marry a Yeshiva student. And she ran away with the boy.

Sheyn iz Reyzele

3) Sore-Yente
Performance by Cantor Sharon Bernstein, Florence, 2001 (accompanied by Willy Schwarz on accordion)

The third song that uses the melody of Sorrienta is Sore-Yente – a word play on the original Italian title. This was collected by Meir Noy in Israel in 1962 from Shmuel Ben-Zorekh, who learned it from an immigrant from Minsk. A scan of Meir Noy’s original notation, words and music are attached below.

TRANSLITERATION
Mit a nign fun akdomes
shteyt baym fentster Yosl-Monish,
Far der sheyner Sore-Yente
Zingt er dort tsu ir a lid:

Kum tsu mir mayn sheynes benken,
Eybik vel ikh dikh gedenken.
Kh’vel mayn lebn far dir shenken.
Vayl ikh bin in dir farlibt.

Azoy lang iz er geshtanen
vi der groyser pipernoter
un zi hert im vi der koter
un geyt derbay af gikh avek.

TRANSLATION
With a melody from Akdometh
stands at the window Yosl-Monish
For the beautiful Sore-Yente
there, he sings this song:

Come to me my longed for beauty
I will long for you eternally.
I will give you my life
For I am in love with you.

He stood there for so long
like a giant dragon.
She totally ignores him
And walks quickly by him.

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) by Zusman Segalovitch (1884 – 1949) in the periodical Der shtrahl, Volume one, #2 Warsaw, 1910:
ReyzlWords1ReyzlWords3ReyzlWords4ReyzlWords5ReyzlWords2

Sheyn iz Reyzele dem sheykhets (Beautiful is Reyzele, the Shokhet’s Daughter) from the Arbeter Ring’s songbook Lomir zingen (1939, NY):

Arbeter Ring1
Arbeter Ring2

Sore-Yente in Meir Noy’s Notebook:
Sore Yente Vol 1, p74-page-0

“Borukh Shulman – Nokh a keyver, nokh a korbn” Performed by Leo Summergrad

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2019 by yiddishsong

Borukh Shulman – Nokh a keyver, nokh a korbn
Borukh Shulman – Another Grave, Another Sacrifice
Sung by Leo Summergrad, recorded in New York City, 1959 by Leo Summergrad

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

In 1906, in Warsaw, radical 19 year-old Borukh Shulman (Polish: Baruch Szulman1886 – 1906) threw a bomb and killed the hated Tsarist police chief Konstantinov. What happened next differs in various versions of the song.  In one version, he escapes on the trolley but when he heard a wounded comrade David Apt call him back, he returned to shoot three policemen before he was killed. In another version he killed himself after killing the police. 

ShulmanPhotoImage of Borukh Shulman published in Shmuel Lehman’s
collection Arbet un Frayhayt (Warsaw, 1921)

The majority of versions begin with the line “Vi s’iz gekumen der ershter Rusisher May” (“As soon as the Russian first of May arrived”). 

This song seems to have been quite popular before the 1950s. It appears in the Workmen’s Circle collection Zing mit mir (1945) with the music (see scan below). Leo Summergrad says he probably learned this two-verse version in his “Ordn” folkshule (secular Yiddish school) in NY.

In 1950, Yankl Goldman also sang a two-verse version that is preserved in the Ruth Rubin Archive at YIVO.  Goldman’s version was printed, words and music, in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive, p. 143 (Slobin/Mlotek Detroit, 2007).  According to the YIVO website, Goldman was born in 1885 in Warsaw, and had been a needle trades factory worker. Here is that recording:

The “Warsaw Revolutionary Choir” recently sang a longer version of Borukh Shulman at his grave in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery. Here is a link to video link.

A nine-verse variant with music appears in Shmuel Lehman’s collection Arbet un Frayhayt (Warsaw, 1921) p. 64-66 (see scan below). We have also transliterated and translated this version, the longest one. 

Other versions were printed in S. Bastomski’s Yidishe folkslider (Vilnius, 1923)  p. 90-91 (text only, see scan below), Aharon Vinkovetsky et al..  “Anthology of Yiddish Folksongs” (1987) volume 4 and Sofia Magid’s collection Unser Rebbe und unser Stalin (Grozinger/Hudak-Lazic) p. 244.  

Thanks this week to Karolina Szymaniak, the YIVO Sound Archives, Lorin Sklamberg and Leo Summergrad. 

TRANSLITERATION (Summergrad version)

Nokh a keyver, nokh a korbn
Nokh a lebn iz tseshtert fun der velt.
Nokh a kemfer iz opgeshtorbn
Borukh Shulman der bavuster held.

Veynt nit brider, veynt nit shvester.
veynt nit muter nokh ayer kind.
Az es falt, falt der bester:
Der vos hot undz getray gedint. 

TRANSLATION (Summergrad version)

Another grave, another sacrifice.
Another life destroyed in this world.
Another fighter has died –
Borukh Shulman the famous hero.

Don’t cry brother, don’t cry sister;
don’t cry mother for you child.
When someone falls, it is the best that falls.
He who served us faithfully.

Note regarding Lehman Version: The expression “gekrogn a khap”, literally “got a catch” is unkown to me and probably means “got what was coming to him” or “got a surprise”

TRANSLITERATION (Lehman’s Version)

Vi es iz gekumen der ershter rusisher may
hot men derhert in gas a klap:
Dos gantse folk hot zikh getun freyen:
Konstantinov hot gekrogn a khap. 

Borekh Shulman iz in gas gegangen,
gegangen iz er tsu dem toyt.
Gezegnt hot zikh mit zayne khaverim
mit der bombe in der hant. 

Borekh Shulman iz in gas gegangen,
bagegnt hot er dem tiran;
Mit der bombe hot ir im tserisn
Konstantinov dem tiran. 

Borekh Shulman iz afn tramvay arof,
hot Dovid Apt gegebn a geshrey;
“Borekh, Borekh! Vu lozstu mikh iber,
tsvishn di tiranen eyner aleyn?”

Borekh Shulman iz fun tramvay arop,
gegangen rateven zayn khaver Apt.
Aroysgenumen hot er dem revolver
un hot geharget dray soldatn. 

Nokh a keyver, nokh a korbn,
nokh a lebn iz tseshtert fun der velt.
Nokh a kemfer iz opgeshtrobn –
Borekh Shulman der bavuster held.

Veynt nisht shvester, veynt nisht brider,
troyert nisht muter nokh ayer kind!
Az es falt, falt der bester,
der vos hot nor getray gedint. 

Dayne khaverim, zey shteyen bay dayn keyver,
zey gisn trern yede minut.
Rakhe veln mir fun di tiranen nemen,
far undzer khavers fargosn blut. 

Sheyne blumen tuen blien,
bay Borekhs keyver af der velt.
Dos gantse folk vet kumen knien
far Borekh Shulman dem bavustn held. 

TRANSLATION (Lehman’s Version)

Upon the arrival of the Russian May 1st
an explosion was heard in the street.
All the people were celebrating –
Konstantinov got a “catch”. [surprise?]

Borekh Shulman was going in the street,
he was going to his death.
He bid farewell to his comrades
with a bomb in his hands. 

Borekh Shulman was going in the street,
and he met the tyrant.
With the bomb he ripped him apart –
Konstantinov the tyrant. 

Borekh Shulman got on the trolley,
Dovid Apt gave a yell:
“Borekh! Borekh! How can you leave me
Along among these tyrants!”

Borekh Shulman got off the trolley.
He went to save his friend Apt.
He took out his revolver
and killed three soldiers.

Another grave, another sacrifice,
another life destroyed in this world.
Another fighter has died –
Borekh Shulman the famous hero.

Cry not sister, cry not brother,
do not lament, mother, for your child.
When one of us falls, he is the best one –
he who served us faithfully.

Your friends, they stand at your grave
They pour tears every minute.
We will take revenge upon the tyrants,
for the spilled blood of our comrade.

Beautiful flowers blossom
at Borekh’s grave in this world [?]
All entire nation will come and kneel
for Borekh Shulman the great hero.

S. Bastomski’s Yidishe folkslider (Vilnius, 1923)  p. 90-91
BastomskiShulman

Shmuel Lehman’s collection Arbet un Frayhayt (Warsaw, 1921) p. 63-66:ShulmanLehman1ShulmanLehman3ShulmanLehman4

Zing mit mir (Workmen’s Circle, 1945), p. 70-71:ShulmanZingMitMIr

“Bald vet zayn a regn” Performed by Yudeska (Yehudis) Eisenman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 31, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

During a visit to our home in the Bronx in the 1993 by the Yiddish writer Tsvi/Zvi Eisenman and his wife Yudeska/Yehudis Eisenman (1916 – 1998), Ms. Eisenman sang three songs which are not well known.

Eisenman1993Yudeska and Tsvi Eisenman with Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (center)

Yudeska Eisenman was born in Pinsk 1916  and made aliyah to Israel in 1939. She died in 1998. For many years she and Zvi lived on the kibbutz Alonim (אלונים).

This week we present the first song from that recording session –  “Bald vet zayn a regn” (“Soon a Rain Will Come”). The recording was done by my mother, Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman. The words are by A. Lutsky (pen name for Arn Tsuker 1894 – 1957) and can be found in his volume Nemt es; s’iz gut far aykh, New York 1927.

This version of the song is the same as the one in the song collection Azoy hobn mir gezungen  (אזוי האָבן מיר געזונגען), published in Tel-Aviv, 1974, compiled by Khonen Pozniak. Only a line or two differ slightly.

Pozniak attended a Yiddish secular school in Warsaw, a “Borochov shul”, and his collection represents the songs he remembers from that school and the secular Tsysho Yiddish schools of Poland between the world wars (see Tsysho in the YIVO Encyclopedia).  Scans of the melody and text in the Pozniak collection are attached.

There are two recordings of this song on LP with different melodies. One is sung by Bella Sauer with a melody composed by Lazar Weiner. Another is by Morechai Yardeini, composed in 1960.

Through Eisenman’s performance of Bald vet zayn a regn one can imagine how the school children enjoyed singing the playful climax of the song “Un er laaaaakht….”

Thanks to Lorin Sklamberg and the YIVO Sound Archives and Bella Bryks-Klein for their help with this posting.

Spoken by Eisenman:
Bald vet zayn a regn, Lutskis

Bald vet zayn a regn
azoy dertseylt di gas;
shteyen ale hayzer,
farkhoyshekhte un blas. (2X)

Kumt a zun fun himl,
shtelt zikh op in gas. (2X)

Un er lakht, un er lakht, un lakht.
S’vet nit zayn keyn regn.
Ikh hob nor gemakht a shpas!

Soon a Rain Will Come

Spoken by Eisenman:
“‘Bald vet zayn a regn by Lutsky”

Soon a rain will come.
So says the street.
All the houses seem
dark and pale. (2X)

A sun comes down from the sky
and stops in the street. (2X)

And he laughs, and he laughs,
and he laughs!
“There won’t be any rain
I was only joking!”

bald1bald2baldpozniakBaldVetPozniakWords

 

“Di veverke” Performed by Chana Szlang Gonshor

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2015 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Currently on YouTube, one can hear “Bobe Chana” (Grandmother Chana) sing several Yiddish children’s songs, some less familiar than others. This week we present her song Di veverke (The Squirrel).

We obtained biographical information about Chana Szlang Gonshor from her daughter-in-law, the Montreal Yiddish teacher and scholar, Chana (Anna) Gonshor.

Chana Szlang Gonshor was born in Warsaw in 1919 where her family was very poor. As a young child there she attended the Borochov school and attended the Medem Sanitorium at least 10 times. Anna Gonshor believes she learned her repertoire from these sources. She currently lives in Montreal.

bobe chanaChana Szlang Gonshor

A video interview with Chana Szlang Gonshor conducted by Jordan Kutzik and Anna Gonshor for the Wexler Oral History Project of the Yiddish Book Center can be found by clicking here.

The song Veverke was composed, both text and melody by Rive Boiarskaia [Boyarski], and we are attaching the music as it is found in her song collection for small children – Klingen hemerlekh (Moscow, 1925). There are some textual changes as Gonshor sings it. The entire book can be downloaded here.

In a vald af a sosneboym –
a veverke gezesn.
Zi hot zikh niselekh geknakt,
di yoderlekh gegesn.

Tants zhe, tants zhe veverke.
Mir veln ale zingen.
Varf arop a nisele,
mir veln ale shpringen.

Un az di veverke derzet
kinderlekh in krantsn.
Aropgevorfn a nisele,
genumen mit zey tantsn.

Tants zhe, tants zhe veverke.
Mir veln ale zingen.
Varf arop a nisele,
mir veln ale shpringen.

In the woods on a pine tree
there sat a squirrel.
She cracked nuts,
and ate the kernels.

So dance, dance squirrel,
We will all sing.
Throw down a nut,
and we will all jump.

And when the squirrel sees
the children in circles,
It threw down a nut
and began to dance with them.

So dance, dance squirrel,
We will all sing.
Throw down a nut,
and we will all jump.

squirrelsquirrel2

“Dos fleshl/Tshort vos’mi” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2013 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Jane Peppler

Researching “Cabaret Warsaw,” a cd of music created and performed by Jews in Warsaw between the wars, I was pointed to a 1929 book called “35 letste teatr lider fun Azazel un Sambatiyon” (Azazel and Sambatiyon being two kleynkunst venues popular at the time). I found the book at Brooklyn’s Chasidic “Library Of Agudas,” along with six tiny books of theater songs and monologues (lyrics only) published in 1933 and 1934 by bookseller and record shop owner Itzik Zhelonek (Zielonek). I decided to track down the melodies for as many of these songs as possible (for more information click here); Itzik Gottesman sent me a version of one of them sung by Jacob Gorelik – this week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, known as “Dos fleshl” (the bottle) or “Tshort vos’mi” (The Devil Take’s It).
fleshele pic

Gorelik learned the song from a guy in Central Park – back when it was a place people went to “sing and play” (he contrasted that to its present reputation as a place to buy drugs). He didn’t know the man, or where the song came from, but he said it shares its melody with the Russian song “Kare Glaski” (“Brown Eyes,” see Russian lyrics below).

The words Gorelik sang were quite different from the lyric printed in “35 letste teatr lider” (texts to both versions are below). Sometimes singers “folk process” what they’ve heard, or they forget the words and re-imagine them from scratch.

Here is the song as sung by Jacob Gorelik, recorded in his NYC apartment, 1985, by Itzik Gottesman:

Gorelik’s spoken introduction, transcribed and translated by Itzik Gottesman:

Dos Fleshl introduction YiddishA special genre of songs are about drunks. Because, basically, the background of every drunk is a sad one: a person is not born drunk – troubles, bad habits, bad family; the father was a drunk. And here we have a song of a drunk, and he tells us, more or less, of his life. I don‘t know the father, the mother [of the song]; I don‘t know who wrote the song and who created the melody. Possibly it‘s an old theater song, very possiblew but it has the taste of a folksong. I heard it my first years in America in Central Park. I lived then at 110th street, near the park. And in those years the park was not just a place to sell drugs, or for other deviates. The park was the for the youth. We came and sang, played, sang. We were not afraid. We even slept there till 2:00 at night near the reservoir. And there I heard someone sing this song of a drunk. I don‘t remember his name.

The song of a drunk – ‘Tshort Voz’mi’, which means – The Devil Take It.
Gorelik’s version, transcribed and translated by Jane Peppler:

Yo, hob ikh in der velt alts farlorn
A yosim geblibn bin ikh fri
Mayne fraynt hob ikh, hob ikh shoyn lang farlorn
Mayn fraynt iz nor dos fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I’ve lost everything in this world,
I was orphaned at an early age.
I lost my friends long ago,
Only my bottle is my friend
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a nomen gehat
azoy vi di greste aristokrasi
un haynt hob ikh im shoyn lang fargesn
vi ruft men mikh, freg baym fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a name like the great aristocrats
Now I’ve forgotten my former reputation,
What people call me now, ask the bottle
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a heym gehat
Ergets vayt, ikh veys nisht vu
Haynt gey ikh arum na venad
Vu iz mayn heym?
Freg baym fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a home somewhere
Far away, I don’t know where.
Now I go around without a homeland.
Where is my home? Ask the bottle.
The devil take it.

Ikh hob a mol a gelibte gehat
Iz zi dokh tsu a tsveytn avek
Un haynt hob ikh fil, un lib nisht keyner
Mayn gelibte iz nor dos fleshl, tshort voz’mi

I used to have a sweetheart,
She’s left me for someone else.
And now I have so much, but I don’t love anybody
My sweetheart? Just this bottle.
The devil take it.

Here is the text printed in the 1929 collection:

Geven bin ikh a mentsh eyner
Bakant geven in der gantser velt
Haynt iz far mir alesding farlorn
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tshort vosmi!

I used to be well known in the whole world
Now everything is lost to me because of you, my bottle,
The devil take it

Gehat hob ikh a kale Gitele
Antlofn iz zi, der tayvl veyst vu
Zi hot mir geton mayn lebn derkutshen
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! tshort vosmi!

I had a bride, Gitele,
She’s run away, the devil knows where
She tormented my life thanks to you, my bottle
The devil take it

Men varft mir shteyner nokh in di gasn
“Shlogt im!” shrayt men, “dem bosyak.”
Zogt mir, menshn, farvos tut ir mikh hasn?
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tshort vozmi!


People throw stones at me in the street.
“Hit that bum,” they cry,
Tell me, people, why do you hate me?
Because of you, my little bottle,
Oh, the devil take it.

Vu iz mayn foter? Vu iz mayn muter?
Vu iz mayn heymat, zogt mir vu?
Fun vandern iz mir shoyn mayn lebn farmiest
Tsulib dir, mayn fleshele, okh! Tsort vozmi!

Where is my father? My mother?
My homeland? Tell me, where?
My life is ruined by wandering,
Because of you, my little bottle
The devil take it.

S’vert mir erger in di letste tsaytn
Kh’bin shoyn alt un krank un farshmakht
Un, ikh shtarb avek, mayne libe laytn,
durkh dir, mayn fleshele, oy, a gute nakht!

Lately things have gotten worse for me,
I’m old and sick and languishing
I’m dying, my dear people,
Because of you, my little bottle,
oy, good night!

Yiddish text – Gorelik’s version:

dos fleshele yiddish 1

dos fleshele yiddish 2

Карие глазки (Brown Eyes)

Карие глазки, где вы скрылись.
Мне вас больше не видать.
Куда вы скрылись, запропали,
Навек заставили страдать.

Выньте сердце, положите
На серебряный поднос.
Вы возьмите, отнесите
Сердце другу, пока спит.

Мил проснётся, ужахнётся.
Милый помнит обо мне.
Мил потужит, погорюет
По несчастной сироте.

“Yo, yo du vilst” Performed by Josh Waletzky

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

“Yo, yo du vilst” (Yes, yes, you want) is a version of the international ballad, often called “Impossible Tasks”, #2 “Elfin Knight” in the Child ballad canon (Scarborough Fair is another example of this ballad type). Many Yiddish versions have been collected over a wide area of Eastern Europe. Hardly any of them, however, included the music when published. A more popular version was recently printed with music in Yiddish Folksongs From the Ruth Rubin Archive, Wayne St. University Press, 2007, page 61 – 62. Adrienne Cooper recorded that version on her CD “Enchanted”. In The Folk Songs of Ashkenaz, edited by Philip Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel, 2007, the compilers compare two Yiddish variants to four German variants on pages 82 – 89, music included.

The version sung by Josh Waletzky (which I recorded from him in 2007) parallels several found in Noyekh Prilutski’s Yidishe folkslider volume 2 (1913), pages 96 – 104, seven versions in all, and another one in the supplement at the end, pages 164 – 165. Most of the variants are from the Warsaw area. Waletzky sings only two verses (which he learned from Leyele Klempner, who sings on screen in Waletzky’s documentary film “Image Before My Eyes”) but one can easily reconstruct a fuller Warsaw version of this song. I did so for the Advanced Yiddish Song Workshop this month at Yiddish Summer Weimar in Germany, but more work needs to be done. Ethel Raim played the class this recording; a beautiful melody quite different from the other melodies for this song.

“This is Josh Waletzky singing a song that I learned from Layele (Warsaw Yiddish pronunciation of Leyele) Klempner, from her repertoire. It’s a fragment and I sing it in my standard Yiddish; she sang it in her Polish Yiddish. She was from Warsaw. ”

Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo, du vilst
az ikh zol mit dir tnoyim shraybn.
Zolstu mir zibn kinder hobn,
un a meydl farblaybn.

Yes, yes you want, yes, yes you want.
that I should sign the engagement contract with you.
Let’s see you have seven children,
and a maiden remain.

Yo, yo du vilst, yo, yo du vilst
Az ikh zol zibn kinder hobn un a meydl farblaybn
Zolstu mir ale shtern tseyln
vifl in himl zenen.

Yes, yes you want, yes, yes, you want.
that I should have seven children and a maiden remain;
Let’s see you count the stars
as many as are in the sky.

Urke Nakhalnik’s “Din-toyre” Performed by M. Bauman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by yiddishsong

This week’s Yiddish Song of the Week, Urke Nakhalnik’s Din-toyre, was recorded by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman in the Bronx, 1980s. The singer was a neighbor, M. Bauman, from either Lodz or Warsaw.

Urke Nakhalnik (1897-1942?) was a convicted criminal and after his release from prison in 1933, he became  a writer in Yiddish and Polish writing a hit book based on his experiences in the Jewish underworld. During the Second World War, living in Otwock, he died a hero’s death. His life was truly amazing. See Edward Portnoy’s entry on him in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, but even better, see Portnoy’s article on him in Tablet in which he discusses the play Din-toyre (a “din-toyre” is a case before a rabbinic court) produced in Warsaw 1933. Portnoy believes this song was sung by the character who played Urke.

Urke Nakhalnik

Another Yiddish song that refers to a din-toyre is Levi-Yitskhok Bardichever’s 19th century “A din toyre mit Got” and one wonders whether this one is dialogically connected to the earlier one.

Bauman does not have a strong voice, and is barely on key, but he nicely captures the theatrical nature of the song– particularly his “Rex Harrison/My Fair Lady” spoken lines in the middle of the performance. The fine line between the underworld and revolutionaries is underscored in the text.

 Finster khoyskhek shpet bay nakht 
Tir un toyer zenen farmakht 
Krikh ikh, zikh ikh broyt far vayb un kind 
Sʼvert nor tinkl af der gas 
Nemt zi bald dem shvartsn pas*
In a vinkl, gants tinkl 
Farkoyft zi dort ir layb.

Dark, gloomy late at night, 
Door and gate are locked 
I crawl, I search a piece of bread for wife and child 
As soon as it gets dark on the street
She takes out her black pass*
In a corner, quite dark 
She sells her body.

Oy vi biter iz dos lebn fun a nash brat
Finster khoyshekh iz dos lebn fun undzers a yat. 
Es felt keyn mol key mure-skhoyre, skhoyre 
Shtendik nor in shrek, in moyre, moyre 
Vi shver kimt undz on dos trikn shtikl broyt.

Life is bitter for a fellow in crime 
Dark and gloomy is the life of one of us lads.
Gloom is never short in supply,
Always fearful, afraid, afraid,

How hard it is to get a piece of bread [to make a living]

Farvos kimt aynem raykhkayt farmegn 
dem tsvaytn nisht?
A din-toyre vil ikh fregn 
An entfer git.

Why is one rewarded with riches and wealth, 
and not the other?
I want a lawsuit [before a rabbinic court]
Give me an answer.

Farvos kimt aynem raykhkayt, ashires, ashires, 
Lukses oysgeputste, dires dires, 
Un azoy fil lebn in tsores un groyser noyt?

Why is one rewarded with wealth and riches 
luxurious decorated apartments,
and so many live with troubles in great poverty?

Ikh trakht un ken dos nisht farshteyn 
Farvos men halt undz far gemeyn 
Shpasn, undz hasn,
ver git zey dos rekht?

I think but I canʼt understand 
Why we are considered so vulgar,
Mocked, hated,
who gives them the right?

Farvos iz haynt aza min velt? 
As shtark iz der vos nor hot gelt
hipokritn, banditn,
men shekht, men blaybt gerekht. 

Why do we have such a world today? 
Where only the one with money is strong? 
Hypocrites, bandits,
They slaughter and are considered just.

Zey zaynen dos di faynste mentsn,
zey, alts far zey 
Far zey horoven oreme mentshn,
 far zey, alts far zey.

Hey are the finest people,
everything goes to them
 
Poor people slave for them,
everything goes to them.

Kleyne ganovim hengt men, hengt men. 
Groyse ganovim, shenkt men, shenkt men, 
Un azoy iz dos lebn, tomid ayngeshtelt. 

Small thieves get hanged 
Important thieves are rewarded
Thatʼs how life has always been.

Un azoy geyen di teg un di yorn
shnel, gikh farbay.
freg keyn kashes, un keyn khasroynes 
shtil ayngeshvaygt.

And so the days and years go by
 fast, quickly,

Donʼt ask questions, and see no faults, 
still, remain quiet.

Se helft kayn veynen un keyn trern, trern, 
keyner vil dem krekhts nit hern, hern, 
zey zaynen dos di faynste mentsn 
zey alts nor zey. 

Your crying and tears wonʼt help, 
No one wants to hear your groaning 
They are the finest people, 
All goes to them, only to them.

*shvartser pas = black permit. In interwar Poland, prostitutes could legally work with a “black permit”

Notes by Itzik Gottesman