Archive for Yankele

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

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“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: