Archive for Workmen’s Circle

“Az got hot bashafn mentshn af der velt” Performed by Ita Taub

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2016 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Since we start reading the book of Breyshis (Genesis) this week of Sukes, I thought it would be appropriate to post this recording of Ita (Eda) Taub singing a song about Adam and Eve and the snake. I recorded it from her in 1984 at the Circle Lodge Workmen’s Circle camp in Hopewell Junction, NY.

The words and music appear in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin. Wayne State University Press, 2007. Rubin recorded this song [tape 26] in 1962, and I recorded it again 20 years later at Circle Lodge, a camp for adults in upstate New York.The two versions are the same except for one or two words.

In the Rubin book she translates “Hot Got tsigenimen di reyd fun zayn layb” as “God perceived the needs of Adam’s body”. Literally, one should translate this line as “So God took away the speech from his body.” But I would think that the line once was “Hot Got tsigenimen di rip fun zayn layb” (God took out the rib from his body). This is supported by the version in Yiddisher folklor, ed. Y. L. Cahan (YIVO, Vilna, 1938), song #199 that is attached at the end (we’ve also included #200, for a similar melody).

The song, I believe, is very old and includes midrashim (interpretations or extensions) of the Biblical telling of Adam and Eve and the snake. Similar motifs can be found in the so-called “Women’s Bible”(the Tsene Rene) and the classic midrashic collections. The line “Eve, Eve what have you done? An entire world you did destroy” reflects the midrash that Eve had all the animals take a bit of the apple (except the immortal Phoenix bird) and therefore mortality was introduced into the world (see also Louis Ginzburg’s Legends of the Jews, Volume One).

adam-eve-serpent

Given the simplicity of the melody, almost a recitative, and the subject matter, my feeling is that the song evolved from a Yiddish woman’s prayer, a tkhine.

After the song Taub talks about the impression this song and her other song, Oy vey mame (also on the Yiddish Song of the Week Blog) left on her friend, the historian Raphael Mahler (who also recorded songs and nigunim for Ruth Rubin). She then tells us where she learned the songs.

The footnote in the printed Rubin version adds that the last verse refers to biting the umbilical cord, but this is not clear to the listener I believe.

Additionally, Michael Alpert and Julian Kytasty have recorded the song on their wonderful album Night Songs From a Neighboring Village (Oriente, 2014). You can hear it at the beginning of this video:

LYRICS TO TAUB’S VERSION:

1) Az got hot bashofn mentshn af der velt
oy, mentshn af der velt.
Oy, udem harishen tsum ershtn geshtelt.

2) Udem harishen iz shpatsirn gegangen in vayngurtn aran.
Oy iz im a vab in zin aran.

3) Hot Got tsigenimen di reyd fin zan lab,
Un hot im gegegeybn Khoven far a vab.

4) Oy Khove mit Udem zenen shpatsirn gegangen in vangurtn aran.
Iz Khoven an epl in der rekhter hont aran.

5) Iz tsigekimen di beyze shlong “Khove, Khove,
gib a bis dem epl, vesti zen vi zis er iz.”

6) Oy hot zi genimen un gegebn a bis deym epl.
Oy hot zi gezen vi zindik zi iz.

7) Hot zi genemen a blot kegn der levone,
un hot zikh tsigedekt dos zindike punim.

8) Hot zi genimen a blot kegn mist,
un hot zikh tsigedekt di zindike brist.

9) Khove, Khove vus hosti getrakht?
A velt mit mentshn imgebrakht.

10) “Nisht ekh hob es getun, nisht ekh hob es getun
di beyze shlong hot es tsigetrakht.”

11) “Zibn yur zolsti trugn, shver un biter zolsti hubn.
Af di skoles zolst dikh rasn, un ven di vest es hubn, zolst es tsebasn.”

Dialogue After the Song:

Dus iz take epes zeyer, zeyer originel. Vu’ zhe iz – hot er [Raphael Mahler] gevolt nemen di tsvey lider, un nokh tsvey lider, ikh gedenk shoyn nisht vus. Ober di zenen geveyn di ershte. Az er vil nemen un mekh arimfirn iber di kibutzim. Zol er zey vazn vus se meynt originele ekhtkayt. Un az zey farshteyn nisht di shkutsim, vel ikh zey shoyn derklern. Ikh vel shoyn derklern vus dus iz. Zey veln dus zeyer shtark upshatsn, zugt er. ___kibutz.]

Gottesman: Fin vanen kent ir dus lid?

Taub: Fin vanen dus lid? Dus lid gedenk ikh fin der heym ___ Dortn vi me hot geneyt. Es fleygn zan a pur meydlekh un zey fleygn zingen. Dus ershte lid [Oy mame ikh shpil a libe] hot gezingen man miters a shvester. Zi iz geveyn farlibt, hot zi demlt gezingen dus lid.

Gottesman: Vi hot ir dus gezingen?

Taub: In Skedinits, mayn shteytl.

Gottesman: Ven hot ir dus gehert, ven zi hot gearbet?

Taub: Zi hot gemakht di breyte kleydlekh vus di poyertes trugn. Fleyg zi neyen far zey.  Iz zi gezesn bay a mashin un hot geneyt un ikh hob es zikh oysgelernt.

Gottesman: Tsi hot zi gezingen andere lider?

Taub: Ir veyst vifl yurn di ale zikhroynes…dus iz tsulib aykh vus ikh grub aroys ikh zol zikh dermanen. Ober ikh ken nisht gedenken.

TRANSLATION:

When God created people in this world
O, people in this world,
O, Adam was the first one he made.

Adam went walking into the vineyard,
O, then a wife came into his head.

So God took out his speech from his body,
and gave him Eve for a wife.

O, Adam and Eve went walking in the vineyard
And a red apple came into Eve’s hand.

Then the evil snake came over – “Eve, Eve, Eve
Take a bite out of the apple,
So you will see how sweet it is.”

O, then she took a bite out of the apple,
and realized how sinful she is.

Then she took a leaf against the moon,
and covered up her sinful face.

Then she took a leaf against her waste,[?]
and covered up her sinful breast.

Eve, Eve what were you thinking?
A whole world full of people you’ve condemned to death.

“It was not I who did it, it was not I who did it –
the evil snake thought it up.

” Seven years you should be pregnant,
hard and bitter should your birth be, on the cliffs may you climb,
and when you give bith, you should bite it to death”.

Dialogue after the song:

Gottesman: Where do you know this song from ?

Taub: Where do I know this song from? This song I remember from home. ____ The place where we sewed. There used to be a few girls who used to sing.

The first song [Oy mame ikh shpil a libe] was sung by my mother’s sister. She was in love so she sang that song.

Gottesman: Where did you sing it?

Taub: In Skedinits (Stidenitse, Ukraine), my shtetl.

Gottesman: When did you hear it, when she worked?

Taub: She made the broad dresses that the peasant women used to wear.. She used to sew for them.  So she sat at the [sewing] machine and sang.

Gottesman: Did she sing other songs?

Taub: Do you know how old these memories are?…For your sake I am digging them out and remembering them. But I can’t remember them.

bashafn1bashafn2bashafn3

bashafn4

bashafn5

bashafn6

bashafn7

As published in Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin (Wayne State University Press, 2007):

rubin-musicrubin-music-2

As published in Yidisher folklor, ed. Y. L. Cahan (YIVO, Vilna, 1938):

199a199b

yivo1yivo2

other-music

 

 

A Yiddish Khad-gadyo Performed by Pam Singer

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2015 by yiddishsong

A Yiddish Khad-gadyo
Performance by Pam Singer, England
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

During a break in the KlezNorth Festival in England, March 2014, I recorded on video a Yiddish version of Khad Gadyo from Pam Singer. As she says in the video, she learned the song in I. L. Peretz Shul in Winnipeg in the early 1960s. She remembers half the song (see the end of this posting for all lyrics).

As we had presented in a previous Yiddish Song of the Week post, here is a video of “Uncle Sidney” singing part of the same song:

In the comments to that previous post, Nadia Dehan from Paris pointed us to a printed version of the song with all the words in the Lider bukh: gezamlter repertoir fun Frayhayṭ Gezangs Fareyn (Chicago, Ill. 1923). Please note that all the Yiddish words that originate from Hebrew/Aramaic have been “Yiddishized” in this collection.

From the website of Zemereshet, זמרשת we learn that the song’s title is “Khad gadyo” and was written by a fascinating figure named Yitskhok Pirozshnikov, the man who first popularized the concertina. Zemereshet provides all the Yiddish verses, but only a recording of the first verse in a Hebrew translation.

Zemereshet also believes the song first appeared in the Haggadah –
הגדה של פסח מיט זשארגאנישער איבערזעצונג…און אויך א פסחדיקע לידעלע חד־גדיא מיט נאטן published by Pirozshnikov in Vilna in 1901.

The composer of the song, Yitskhok Pirozshnikov, was an extraordinary man. Born in 1859 on an island in the Dneiper river, Khortits, he became a kapelmeister in the Russian military in Vilna, and at the same time choir conductor of the Jewish Teacher’s Institute. He developed a new, easier way to play the concertina, allowing the instrument to be accessible to far more people. As a result all the Russian Pedagogical and Teacher Institutes in the region began to teach concertina. He was the first person ever to tour as a concertina virtuoso including Europe, America, Israel. He then left music for a while to set up a printing press in Vilna, and among his publications was the first collection of Yiddish proverbs in book form.

PR PicYitskhok Pirozshnikov

In 1909 he came to the U.S. and became active in the Jewish music world again. He edited the music section of the Yiddish Forverts newspaper. He was the first conductor and choir leader of a Workmen’s Circle chorus in NY and then in Paterson, NJ. He composed at least 50 Yiddish songs for Jewish school children. No collection of his Yiddish songs appeared in book form. He died in NY in 1933. On the website Museum of Family History, in the section “Lives of the Yiddish Theater”, one can read more biographical information.

Below are the lyrics to Singer’s partial version, followed by the complete version by Pirozshnikov (since we do not have the original Pirozshnikov Haggadah, we have not changed the words as they appear on the Zemereshet website).

Pam Singer’s version of Khad-gadyo:

A mayse mit a tsigele,
hert oys ovois-uvonim
Der foter hot batsolt far ir
tsvey gildn mezumonim.

Di umshildike tsigele
zi shpringt arum in hoyz.
Plutsem kumt a beyze kats,
un khapt un frest es oyf.

Di tsigele, di tsigele, hert oys ovis-uvonim.
Der foter hot batsolt far it tsvey gildn
mezumonim.
Khad-gad-yo, khad-gad-yo.

Der hunt hot faynt gehat di kats
dos treft zikh al-pi-rov.
Er klert nit lang un khapt ir on
un makht fun ir a sof.

Der hunt iz dokh dem shtekn vert,
er iz dokh beyz un shlekht.
Der shtekn git im klep vi bob
un meynt er iz gerekht.

Di tsigele, di tsigele, hert oys ovois-uvonim
Der foter hot batsolt far ir
tsvey gildn mezumonim.
Khad-gad-yo, khad-gad-yo.

Translation:

A tale with a little kid (young goat)
listen up fathers and sons.
The father paid for it
two gulden cash.

The innocent kid,
she jumps around the house.
Suddenly a mean cat comes
and catches it and eats it up.

The kid, the kid, listen up fathers and sons.
The father paid for it two guilden cash.
Khad-gad yo, khad gad yo.

The dog hated the cat,
as happens most of the time,
He doesn’t think long and catches it
and puts an end to her.

The dog deserves the rod,
since he is so mean and bad.
The stick strikes him as beans,
and thinks that he is in the right.

The kid, the kid, listen up fathers and sons.
The father paid for it two guilden cash.
Khad-gad yo, khad gad yo.

singer1singer2singer3

Yitskhok Pirozshnikov’s Khad-gadyo (from the Zemereshet website):

A peysekhdike lidele
vil ikh zingen mit a nign:
A muser far di eltere
un far kinder a fargenign.

A mayse with a tsigele
hert oys ovus-uvonim,
der foter hot batsolt far ir
tsvey gildn mezumonim.

Di umshuldike tsigele,
zi shpringt arayn in hoyf.
Plutsling kumt a beyze kats
un khapt un frest ir of.

Refrain:

Di tsigele, di tsigele
hert oys ovos-uvonim,
der foter hot batsolt far ir
tsvey gildn mezumonim.

Der hunt hot faynt di kats
dos treft zikh al-pi-rov
Er klert nit lang un khapt ir on
un makht fun ir a sof.

Der hunt iz dokh dem shtekn vert:
er iz dokh beyz un shlekht;
Der shtekn git im klep, vi bob,
un meynt, az er iz gerekht.

Refrain: Di tsigele, di tsigele….

Di fayer hot di gantse zakh
arayngebrakht in tsorn;
Der shtekn falt im tsu arayn
un iz farbrent gevorn.

Dos vaser libt dem fayer nit
zey zenen nit keyn por.
Er fleytst dem fayer arum un arum
un lesht im oys biz gor.

Refrain: Di tsigele, di tsigele

Der oks farshteyt keyn khokhmes nit;
zayn kop iz nor in mogn.
Er kumt tsum vaser un trinkt es oys.
ver hot im vos tsu zogn?

Der shoykhet git mitn khalef a fir –
funem oks iz nisht gevorn.
Der shoykhet meynt, az yedes oks
iz nor farn khalef geborn.

Der shoykhet hot bakumen zayn loyn,
un gor nit oyf katoves.
Er hot mit zayn lebn batsolt zayn shuld
aleyn dem malekh-hamoves.

Nor got, der har, hot shoyn bashtimt,
di umrekht tsu fardarbn.
Un der vos brengt durkhoys dem toyt
zol aleyn glaykh shtarbn.

Refrain: Di tsigele, di tsigele…

Translation:

A Passover song
I want to sing with a melody:
A lesson for the elders
and for the children – a pleasure.

Khad-gadyo! Khad-gadyo!

A tale about a kid
listen fathers and sons,
the father had paid for her
two guilden in cash.

The innocent kid
jumps into the yard.
Suddenly comes an evil cat
and catches it and eats it up.

REFRAIN

The kid, the kid
listen fathers and sons,
the father had paid for it
two guildens cash.

The dog hates the cat,
as happens most of the time.
He doesn’t think long and catches it
and puts an end to her.

The dog deserves the stick;
he is so mean and bad;
The beatings are as many as beans
and he believes, that he is in the right.

Refrain: A kid, a kid…

Fire was so disturbed by the whole thing
he became furious.
He got a hold of the stick
and burnt it.

Water does not love fire;
they are not a pair.
He floods the fire all around,
and puts it out completely.

Refrain: A kid, a kid

The ox does not joke around;
his head is in his gut.
He comes to the water and drinks it up.
Who is going to tell him otherwise?

The slaughterer give a slice with his blade
and the ox is no more.
The slaughterer thinks that every ox
was given life just for his blade.

REFRAIN..a kid, a kid

The slaughterer got his reward
and we are not kidding.
With his life he paid his debt
to the angel of death.

But God, the master, had determined
this injustice to corrupt.
And he who only brings death
met his own death.

REFRAIN: A kid, a kid

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“Kegn gold fun zun” Performed by Chaim Berman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2014 by yiddishsong

Kegn gold fun zun (Toward the Golden Sunrise)
Performance by Chaim Berman
Recording by Rabbi Victor Reinstein
Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The words and music for the Soviet-Yiddish song Kegn gold fun zun have been published in Ruth Rubin’s Treasury of Jewish Folksong and Chana and Joseph Mlotek’s Songs of Generations (see below). The words were also included in Sam Liptzin’s collection Zingen mir (1974). Apparently it was a well-known song in the 1930s- 1960s; however, the only recording of the song that we are aware of is on Ruth Rubin’s 1940s 78 rpm recording Ruth Rubin: Jewish and Palestinian Folksongs and among the field recordings in Ruth Rubin’s collection (tape 81) found in YIVO and other archives.

Kegn78-1The composer is unknown, but the text was written by the Soviet Yiddish poet Shloyme Lopatin (Lopate). According to Chaim Beider’s Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband, (pp.194 – 195) Shloyme Lopatin was born in Belinkove, Ukraine in 1907. He settled in a Jewish colony in the Kherson area for several years and became a colonist. In 1929 he came to Odessa to further his studies. He published his first songs in 1928 in the Kharkov Yiddish journal Prolit, and among these first published writings was the poem Ikh, der yidisher muzhik (I, the Jewish Russian Peasant). Beider writes that this poem “immediately became so popular that people began to sing it as if it were a folksong, and it was then included as such in anthologies”. Lopatin died fighting on the Russian front in 1941.

This week’s recording of folksinger Chaim Berman (d. 1973) was made by Rabbi Victor Reinstein in the 1970s. Berman’s words vary from the printed texts in the second verse, where he repeats the first two lines from the first verse.

Kegn gold fun zun

“Zhumen binen” Performed by Chaim Berman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

To help us enjoy a sweet new year, we have a Soviet-Yiddish song about Jewish beekeepers with the wonderful refrain “Makhn honik iz gevorn a yidishe parnose” – “Making honey, has become a way for Jews to make a living”.

beekeepJewish beekeeper at Kibbutz Yad-Mordechai

This song comes from a field recording of the folksinger, Chaim Berman, done by Rabbi Victor Reinstein in the early 1970s. Zhumen binen (Bees are Buzzing) is found in Sam Liptzin’s collection Zingen Mir/ People’s Sing for Peace (1974 edition, page 49 – thanks to singer and collector Leo Summergrad for that information).

We have also added a link to the song performed by Marina Gordon that we found on the Florida Atlantic University Judaica Sound Archives site. There it is called “Honigmakher.” This recording is from the cassette re-release of her Soviet recordings on the Musique Internationale label in Chicago, run by Barry Serota.

From this recording we see that the words are by the author Emmanuel Kazakevitch (1913 – 1962), known for his connection to Birobidzhan. The music was composed by the prolific Soviet Yiddish composer Leyb (Lev) Yampolsky. The song was written for Kazakevich’s play Milkh un honik (1938) and performed by Birobidzhan Goset in 1940. See the book In Search of Milk and Honey by Ber Kotlerman. It is quite possible that the song became known in the US through this Gordon recording, originally a 78 RPM. In the on-line Robert and Molly Freedman Jewish Sound Archive the question is asked whether the song appears in a film on Birobidzhan. This could also explain how it became known in the US.

FotoMarinaGordonMarina Gordon, one of the great post-war Soviet Yiddish singers was born in Minsk in 1917 and died in Brooklyn last December 2013. She was one of the first to sing Yiddish in public performances in the USSR after the Second World War. See Joel Rubin and Rita Otten’s CD on the Wergo label, Shalom Comrade and Gennady Estraikh’s work Yiddish in the Cold War for more information on this period. On Marina Gordon – see Rita Otten’s article – “Ich möchte stolz sein auf die Kunst meines Volkes”: Die jüdische Sängerin Marina Gordon. Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 2006/04 (July/August). Mainz: Schott: 62-64.

Zhumen Binen 
Words by Emmanuel Kazakevitch
Music: Lev Yampolsky

Zhumen binen, binen zhumen.
Es klingt fun vaytn a garmonik.
Un arum iz vald un blumen,
un di luft iz zis vi honik.

Buzzing bees, Bees are buzzing,
You can hear an accordion afar.
And around are woods and flowers.
And the earth is sweet as honey.

Refrain:
Oy, sara rakhves, keyn eyn-hore,
S’iz di erd mit zaft fargosn
Makhn honik iz gevorn
Shoyn a yidishe parnose.

O what riches, no evil eye.
The earth is soaked with juice.
Making honey has become
A Jewish livelihood.

Shteyen Binshtoki in reyen.
S’iz di nakht azoy levonik.
Zoln zikh di kinder freyen
mit dem lindn zisn honik.

Beehives stand in rows.
The night is all moonlit.
Let the children enjoy themselves
with the gentle sweet honey.

Refrain

Esn gezunt dem honik zisn,
tsvishn felder, velder bloye
vet gedikhter honik flisn,
est gezunt un hot hanoe.

Eat in good health the sweet honey,
among the fields, the blue woods.
Let the thick honey flow,
Eat up and enjoy!

Refrain

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“A lid vegn Bentsi der geshtokhener” Performed by Leyke Post

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2014 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Thanks to Henry Carrey for this fascinating recording of his mother Leah Post Carrey (1908 – 2005), a well known Yiddish singer and actress, singing a 15 verse murder/underworld ballad from Zhitomir entitled “A lid vegn Bentsi der geshtokhener” (“A Song about Bentsi who was Stabbed”). Frahdl learned this song right after the actual event and Leah says in her Yiddish comments after the song that her mother attended the trial and saw the bloody knife.

What follows is 1) information on the singer Leah Carrey, followed by 2) notes on Leah’s mother Frahdl, from whom Leah learned this song, and finally 3) a few comments on the song itself.

1) Obituary sent by Henry Carrey:

Leah Carrey (Leyke Post), 97, Yiddish Radio Star

Leah Carrey, singer, actress and star of Yiddish radio in Boston passed away last week in New York. Known to her fans by her maiden name of Leyke Post, Leah was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine into a family that loved to entertain. She and her mother Frahdl joined her father Shloyme in the West End of Boston when she was 5 years old.

Her stage debut was as a boy singing “Heyse Bapkelekh” in a touring Goldfaden operetta starring Michal Michalesko. On that occasion, she suffered her first and only bout of stage fright. She performed in shows at the Grand Old Opera House on Dover Street, at the Shawmut Theater and the Franklin Park Theater, working with some of the greatest stars of the Yiddish stage. Later, she toured all over New England and in the Catskills, performing Yiddish folk, art and theater songs.
Leyke Post

Photograph of Leah Post Carrey courtesy of Henry Carrey

She sang on Boston radio for over 25 years on stations WCOP, the Mutual and Yankee networks. She was a regular on “The Kibitzer” with Ben Gailing and “Der Freylekher Kaptsn“. She also concertized for many Jewish organizations – most frequently at the Workmen’s Circle camp in Framingham and Center.

In 1933, she married Al Carrey and had two sons: David, who eventually worked in the New York Yiddish theater and Henry. She joined her son in New York in 1978 singing on WEVD, at Circle Lodge and off-Broadway in “The Roumanian Wedding”. After her son David’s untimely death, she was cheered up by the chance to play Grandma in Woody Allen’s film “Radio Days”. In the early ‘90’s, she impressed her audiences at “Klezkamp”.

She is survived by her son Henry of Manhattan and her sister Rose Andelman of Nyack, New York .

2) About his grandmother, Frahdl Post, aka Fannie Post, Henry Carrey writes:

My bobie was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine in 1881 and died at the Workmen’s Circle Home for the Aged in the Bronx, New York in 1976. She grew up in a lower-middle class home, one of four sisters and two brothers. Her father Dovid-Hersh Herman had a shop where grain was sold. His wife, Rivke Kolofsky worked in the shop.

As young girl, she always liked to sing and dance (her father was said to be a part-time lay khazn [cantor] with a pleasant voice.) She and her brother, Pinye, teamed up to sing and dance at local simkhes (family celebrations). As she was never taught to read and write, she used to learn everything by heart. She once said that she learned her vast repertoire of many-versed songs by going to a store with friends every day, where newly written songs would be purchased and then shared by the girls (at least one of whom had to be able to read music). She also used stand in the street outside the local jail and learn revolutionary songs from the prisoners who could be heard through the windows. Although she remembered attending revolutionary meetings in the woods, she was not an activist. She also took part in occasional amateur theatricals near her home.

One day she went to a fortune-teller, who told her that her future husband was waiting at home for her. When she got home, she saw my grandfather Shloyme, who had been boarding with her aunt. Even though she was supposed to be the prettiest of the girls, she was relatively late in getting married for a girl at that time. In 1907, they married and within a year, her husband Shloyme was off to America to seek his fortune. He may not have known that his wife was pregnant when he left. I don’t know if he left for any other reasons, but I do know that there were pogroms in Zhitomir in 1905 and 1907.

In April 1913, (from Halifax) they left for Boston, where my grandfather had settled. Frahdl had two more children Rose and Hymie. My grandfather worked as a welder and a blacksmith and eventually owned two small apartment building where he was the landlord and super. At one point, they left their Jewish neighborhood of the West End of Boston to move to Arlington so that my grandfather could open a tire store with a friend for Model T’s.

Being one of four Jewish families in Arlington, my mother and siblings were influenced by the gentile kids around them. My aunt and uncle once brought a “Chanukah Bush” home and put up stockings on the mantel. My grandmother threw the tree out and filled the stockings with coal and onions from “Sente Closet“. My mother, who even at a young age, was a singer, had been secretly singing with the Methodist choir. One day, the minister came to the door to ask my grandmother’s permission to allow my mother to sing on Christmas Eve. That was the last straw for my grandmother and they moved back to the West End.

I was always amazed that my grandmother managed to bring up three children in Boston without ever learning to read or write. She could recognize numbers and sign her name, but never went to night school as her sisters had done. She always regretted that.

My grandmother always sang around the house both the old Yiddish and Ukrainian folksongs she had learned in Zhitomir and the new Yiddish theater songs she heard from other people or later on the radio and on recordings.

She never stopped singing and dancing even in the old age home. I remember even in the 1960’s she would delight people with her Yinglish version of “How much is that doggy in the window?” or her renditions of “Enjoy Yourself (It’s later than you think)” in Yiddish and English and “Der Galitzianer Cabalyerl“ in Yiddish.

3) Comments on song “Bentsi der geshtokhener” by Itzik Gottesman:

This song is among the more brutal and bloodier Yiddish ballads even when compared to the songs in Shmuel Lehman’s classic collection, “Ganovim lider” (“Thieves’ Songs”), published in Warsaw in 1928.

Interesting how even in such a prime example of the Jewish underworld, elements of the traditional Jewish world work themselves into the story – his pal Dovid Perltsvayg and his old father say Kaddish (the memorial prayer); Bentsi wants to say vide, his final confession.

Elements of traditional Yiddish ballads also are to found, such as verses that begin with “Azoy….” – “Azoy vi di muter hot dos derhet” for example is usually part of the widespread “12 a zeyger ballad” (see the recording by Lifshe Schaechter-Widman on the cassette “Az di furst avek”).

I will not comment on the grammatical and lexical issues, which are many, and can be addressed by the listeners of the Yiddish Song of the Week blog. Please point out any mistakes, of course, or disagreements with my translation.

A naye lid hob ikh aroysgegebn,
vos ikh aleyn vel aykh zingen.
Di lid iz fun Bentsi dem(!) geshtokhener;
Di gantse velt tut mit im klingen.

A new song did I produce
that I will sing for you myself.
This song about Bentsi the stabbed one,
The whole world is talking about him.

A shayke gite-briderlekh zenen zikh in zhitomir geven,
un zey hobn zikh shtendik farhaltn gut,
un far aza mints narishkeyt,
geyt men a gutn-bruder fargisn blut.

A gang of “buddies” (slang for thugs) were in Zhitomir
and they always got along fine.
And for some trifle coins,
they spilled the blood of their buddy.

Azoy vi Bentsi iz nor aheymgekumen,
hot er nit gevust vos mit im ken zayn.
Er hot zikh nor avekgeleygt shlofn –
azoy hot men im gegibn dem meser in der zayt arayn.

As soon as Bentsi came home,
he didn‘t know what would happen to him.
He lay down to sleep
and they stabbed him with the knife in his side.

Azoy vi Bentsi hot nor dem meser derfilt,
hot er zikh oyfgekhapt mit a groys geshrey.
Er hot ongehoybn shrayen “Brengt mir a dokter.
Oy, zol men mir mayn blut faromeven”.

As soon as Bentsi felt the knife,
he woke up with a great yell.
He began to scream “bring me a doctor
Let them wipe up my blood.”


Keyn sakh arbet hobn zey bay im nisht gehat,
vayl zey zene geven in firn.
Zayne koyles zenen gegangen bizn zibetn himl,
zey hobn im nisht gevolt tsuhern.

They didn’t have much work to do
because there were four.
His screams reached the seventh heaven,
but they ignored him.

Dem ershtn meser hot im zayn guter-brider arayngerikt,
un er hot im bay im oysgedreyt.
“Ikh zog dir a blat loshn, Bentsi, ikh hob dir shoyn gefetst.
Itst veln mir shoyn beyde zayn tsesheydt.”

The first knife was plunged into him by his buddy,
and he turned it around in him.
I will tell you in underworld lingo – I knocked you off,
Now we will go our separate ways.

File mentshn hobn in Bentsis toyt a negeye gehat.
Zey hobn bay im dos lebn genumen.
Mir zeen dokh aroys, s’iz shoyn a farfalene zakh,
un me tor nit fregn far vos s’iz him gekumen.

Many people had a part(?) in Bentsyes death.
They took away his life.
We therefore see, that it’s all over,
but no one can ask why he deserved it.

Azoy vi er hot im dem meser arayngerikt,
zayne tsores hot Bentsi nit gekent farnemen.
“Ikh zog dir Bentsi, ikh shnayd fun dir shtiker fleysh,
Mir veln zikh bodn in dayn blut vi vayt mir veln kenen.”

As soon as he stabbed him with the knife,
Bentsi could not stand his pains.
“I tell you Bentsi, I am cutting pieces of flesh from you.
We will bathe in your blood, as much as we can.‟

“Hert nor oys mayne gute-briderlekh,
Ot hert vos ikh vel aykh zogn.
Oy, shikt mir rufn mayn tayere mame,
oy, lomir khotshk (b)vide zogn.”

Listen my good buddies,
listen to what I will tell you.
O, send for my dear mother,
O, let me say my final confession of sins.

Azoy vi di muter hot dos nor derhert,
iz zi arayngefaln mit a groys geveyn.
“Oy, nite veyn mayn tayere mame,
Got veyst tsi du vest mir morgn zen.”

As soon as his mother heard this,
she ran in with a great moan.
“Don‘t you cry my dear mother,
God only knows if you’ll see me tomorrow‟.

Nokh zayn shtekh hot er nokh zibn teg gelebt;
zayne tsores hot er nit gekent aribertrogn.
Far zayn toyt hot er a gutn-brider Dovid Perltsvayg ongezogt,
Az kadish zol er nokh im zogn.

After the stabbing he lived another seven days.
His pains he could not endure.
Before he died, he told his buddy Dovid Perltsvayg,
he should say Kaddish for him.

Dovid hot bay him der hant genumen,
er zol zikh zayn krivde onnemen.
“Ikh zog dir Bentsi, vi vayt ikh vel kenen,
vet ikh zen far dir dayn blut opnemen.”

Dovid took him by the hand,
and asked to take up his cause.
“I tell you Bentsi, that as much as I am able
I will avenge your blood.‟

Oy, ver s’iz nit bay dem nisoyen nisht geven,
oy, darf men veynen un klogn.
Aza ayzernem Bentsi leygt men in dr’erd arayn.
un der alter foter darf kadish zogn.

Whoever was at this temptation (?),
should weep and mourn.
Such an iron-man like Bentsi is put in the ground
and his old father must say Kaddish.

Dem ershtn gitn-brider hot men bald gekhapt,
un me hot im in mokem arestirt;
keyn vapros bay him gornit opgenumen,
me hot im bald in kitsh aropgefirt.

The first buddy was caught soon after
and they arrested him in the neighborhood (?)
The didn‘t take any questions from him,
and they put him straight away in the “can” (jail)

Di iberike dray hot men ongehoybn sliedeven,
un me hot bald gevust vu zey zaynen.
Tsum Barditshever brik iz men bay nakht geforn,
un fun di dlizones hot men zey aropgenumen.

About the other three they started to ask questions
and they soon found out where they were.
To the Berdichever bridge they went at night
And from the carriages they took them off.

At conclusion of song, this is spoken by the singer: “My mother remembers how dangerous it was when they led the murderer in chains and how one of them yelled to Dovid Perltsvayg – ‘unless I don’t come back if I do come back we will get back at you’. My mother told me that she remembered how the knife was laying on the table with blood. Bentsi, as I understood it, was a handsome youth, and girls worked for him. The girls were crazy for him. The other three, it seems, were jealous of him. I know, that’s what my mother told me.

Bentsi1
Bentsi2
Bentsi3
Bentsi4

“Oy, kh‘bin gegangen eyns‟ Performed by Mordkhe Schaechter

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2013 by yiddishsong

In connection with my uncle Mordkhe Schaechter‘s (MS, 1927 – 2007) yortsayt a couple of weeks ago, I am featuring a short children‘s song, “Oy, kh‘bin gegangen eyns‟ (“Oy, I Went One”) that he sang for the collector Leybl Kahn in 1954. (see the earlier post of another song performed by him).

mordkhe schaechter

Mordkhe Schaechter at Yiddish Vokh, Circle Lodge, NY 1985.
Photo by Itzik Gottesman

A longer version of this cumulative song involving animals “Tsimba-rimba‟ was recorded on the CD Di grine katshke (Living Traditions 1801) in 1997 produced by Living Traditions. Lorin Sklamberg is the lead singer and according to the notes, he learned this song from “Inna Slavskaya, a Soviet immigrant singer now living in Berlin, Germany. Inna learned the song from her mother‟.

Unfortunately, MS only sings three verses because, as he says later in the recording for Kahn, he only wanted to make sure he got the melodies down before he forgot them, and wasn‘t concerned with the words.

It is possible that in a 1953-54 issue of Der seminarist, a journal of the Yidisher lerer-seminar in NYC, he printed all the words. I hope to find the issue and if the words are found, we will add them to the blog.

Click here to play Oy ikh bin gegangen eyns

Mordkhe Schaechter – spoken –

S’iz a kinderlidl vos ikh hob fartseykhnt fin a froy fin zlotshev, mizrekh-galitsye.

It’s a children’s song that I recorded from a woman from Zlotshev, Eastern Galicia (Today, in Ukraine – Zolochiv).

Oy, ikh bin gegangen ayns, far vuz zhe nisht keyn tsvay?
ikh hob gezeyn a hin. Vi azoy zhe makht di hin?
dun de de dundun makht di hin.

Oy, I went one, so why not two?
I saw a chicken. What sound does a chicken make?
Dundedundun makes the chicken.

Oy ikh bin gegangen tsvay, far vuz zhe nisht keyn dray?
Ikh hob gezeyn a hun, vi azoy zhe makht der hun?
kikariki makht der hun.
dun de de dundun makhe di hin.

Oy, I went two; so why not three?
I saw a rooster; What sound does a rooster make?
Kikariki makes the rooster.
Dundedundn makes the chicken.

Oy, ikh bin gegangen dray, far vuz zhe nisht kayn tsvay? [fir?]
ikh hob gezen a ganz, vi azoy zhe makht di ganz?
SPOKEN un azoy vayter, un azoy vayter.

Oy, I went three, so what not two?
I saw a goose. What sound does the goose make?
SPOKEN etc. etc.

“Lid fun der frantzeyzisher revolutsye” Performed by Nitsa Rantz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This song by Nitsa Rantz was recorded at the same concert as Rantz’s song Mayn shifl that we had earlier posted in in our blog, at the club Tonic on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 2009. Rantz is accompanied by Jeff Warschauer on guitar.

Nitsa Rantz in Paris, Late 1940s

In their column “Lider demonen zikh lider” [Readers remember songs] in the Yiddish Forward newspaper, Feb. 7th 1992, page 15. Chana and Joseph Mlotek printed the words of Nitsa Rantz’s version of this song.

The columnists note that Rantz called the song “Viglid fun der frantzeyzisher revolutsye” [Lullaby of the French Revolution], and that they had found a printed version in a Workmen’s Circle songbook, 1934.

A version was sung during the Holocaust in the Vilna ghetto and was printed in Shmerke Katcherginski’s collection “Lider fun getos un lagern”, 1948. The singer Rokhl Relis called it “Dos lid fun umbakantn partisan”. Instead of the guillotine, the father is killed in a gas chamber.

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman sings a similar version to Rantz’s, and there is enough difference in the text to make it worthwhile to post it on the Yiddish Song of the blog at some point. A beautiful version is found in the Stonehill collection at YIVO, sung by an as yet unidentified man, (Reel 9).

Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn.
Shtil es flit shoyn di levone-shayn.
Fun der vaytns finklen shtern,
Kuk nisht kind af mayne trern.
Shlof shoyn kind mayns vider ruik ayn.

Sleep my child once more quietly.
Quietly the moonlight flies .
From the distance stars are twinkling.
Child do not look at my tears.
Sleep my child once more quietly.

Es vet der tate mer nisht kumen.
Im hot men fun undz genumen.
Iber di gasn im geshlept,
af dem eshafod gekept.
Blaybn mir dokh eynzam kind aleyn.

Your father will no longer come.
They took him away from us.
They dragged him through the streets,
on the guillotine they cut his head.
So we remain lonely, my child.

Reder geyen in fabrikn,
menstshn geyen underdrikn.
Dort ahin iz er gegangen,
vu es raysn zikh di klangen.
Vu di shteyner zenen royt baflekt.

Wheels turn in the factory,
the people go oppressed.
There is where he went,
where the noises wildly sound,
where the stones are stained red.

Unter der fon hoykh gehoybn,
hot er mit a tifn gloybn,
az er muz bafrayen shklafen,
firn zey tsu a naym hafn,
Tsu a groyser, sheyner, nayer velt.

Under the flag raised high,
with a firm belief
that he must free the slaves,
take them to a new harbor,
to a great, beautiful new world.