Archive for Yosl Mlotek

“Di farfirte” Performed by Leo Summergrad

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2019 by yiddishsong

Di farfirte / The Woman Who was Led Astray
Words and (music?) by Morris Rosenfeld
Sung and recorded by Leo Summergrad

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

This poem appears in the first volume of Morris Rosenfeld’s  (1862 – 1923)  poetry. Leo Summergrad learned it from his mother and I have only found one reference to the song: a query in Chana and Yosl Mlotek’s Forverts column “Leyner dermonen zikh lider”. But the two compilers had never heard of the song.

photo (1)Leo Summergrad’s mother, Minnie, and father, Abram Summergrad, on the right side. His in-laws Moishe and Esther Korduner are on the left.

Rosenfeld’s original poem is composed of three 14-line stanzas and we have printed it this way, though in Summerfeld’s handwritten transcription, which we attached, he has divided it into the more common 4 line stanzas. We are also attaching the printed version from Volume I of Rosenfeld’s collected works.

Though we are not sure who composed the music, we do know that Rosenfeld composed melodies to his poetry and sang them at readings.

Thanks to Leo Summergrad for contributing this recording.

1
Gedenkstu vi du host mir libe geshvorn,
gegrint hot der eplboym tsvishn di korn.
Der foygl hot ruik geblikt fun di tsvaygn
un ales arum iz gelegn in shvaygn.
O, ver hot es damolst gevust dayn kavone.
Geshtumt hobn himl un erd un levone.
Ven du host geshvorn far mir mit a fayer,
az eybik farblaybstu mayn eyntsik getrayer.
Du hot mikh farkisheft, du host mikh batrunken.
Ikh bin vi batoybt in dayn orems gezunken.
O, dan iz dayn umreyner vuntsh dir gelungen.
Du host in mayn heyliktum frekh ayngedrungen.
Mayn ere geroybt un mayn lebn tserisn.
Mikh biter baleydikt un endlikh farshmisn.

Do you remember, you swore your love for me.
The apple tree was greening among the rye.
The bird calmly watched us from the branches
and everything around us lay in silence.
O, who could then have known your intention.
Silent were heaven and earth and the moon,
when you swore to me with a fire,
that eternally you would remain my one true one.
You cast a spell on me; you intoxicated me.
I was as if deaf when i lay in your arms.
O, then you succeeded with your filthy desire;
into my sacred shrine you insolently penetrated.
You robbed me of my honor and tore my life apart.
Insulted me bitterly and finally whipped me.

2
Bin orm un elnt vos darfstu zikh shtern?
Fleg ikh bay dir shtendik zikh betn mit trern.
Un du bist dokh raykh un gebildet un eydl.
Gey zukh dir a shenere, raykhere meydl.
O, zol mir der fayer fun elnt farbrenen,
fleg ikh tsu dir zogn du darfst mikh nit kenen.
Farges on mayn sheynkeyt, ikh darf nit keyn gvires.
O loz mikh in armut, ikh zukh keyn ashires.
Gedenkstu di nakht ven mir zaynen gegangen
der mond iz vi zilber in himl gehangen.
Fun goldene shtern bakranst undzer svive
vos hobn geshmeykhlt vi kinder nayive.
Gedenkstu yene nakht? O, du darfst ir gedenken.
Ikh shenk es dir, Got zol in himl dir shenken.

I am poor and alone, why bother yourself.
I had always with tears pleaded with you.
Yet you are wealthy, educated and gentle.
Go find yourself a prettier, richer girl.
O, let the fire of loneliness burn me up,
I used to say to you, you should not know me.
Forget about my beauty; I need no valor.
Leave me poor, I do not search for riches.
Do you remember the night when we walked;
the moon was like silver hanging in the sky.
Golden stars crowned our surroundings
and smiled like naive children.
Do you remember that night? O, you should remember it.
I give it to you as a gift; God should give you it as a gift in heaven.

3
Ikh hob zikh bay dir mit rakhmones gebetn.
O, rays mikh nit oys vest mikh shpeter tsetretn.
O, loz mikh! ikh vel mir tsvishn di mashinen
an erlekhn man, a gelibtn gefinen.
A shapmeydl bin ikh, vos hob ikh tsu klaybn.
Bin orem geborn, vel orem farblaybn.
Dokh, du host mit zise un kuntsike verter
geshvorn az du nor muzst zayn mayn basherter.
Tsu sheyn bin ikh, hostu gezogt, tsu farvyanen
far mir iz a beseres lebn faranen.
Gedenkstu di nakht tsi iz lang shoyn fargangen
der vint hot koym vos geshoklt di zangen.
Arum di natur hot gekukt un geshvign
o, ver hot gerekhnt du zolst mikh batribn.

With compassion I pleaded with you.
O, don’t tear me out; stomp on me later.
O, leave me, so that among the machines
I will find an honest man, a lover.
I’m a shopgirl, what is my choice –
I am poor and will remain poor.
Still, with sweet and artful words
you swore that you must be my destined one.
Too beautiful am I, you said, to every wilt.
For me there is a better life awaiting.
Do you remember the night or is it far in the past?
The wind barely moved the stalks.
The nature around watched and was silent.
O who would have thought you would sadden me so.

4
Atsind zogstu vilstu mikh mer nit bagegenen
ikh hob derkegn, ikh kum zikh gezegenen.
Ikh veys az du gist zikh an anderer iber.
Nu, vintsh ikh dir, mazel-tov, mazl mayn liber.
Du bist keyn bal-khayim, dayn shem iz genezn
Di shuld zi iz mayne, yo, mayne gevezn.
Ikh hob nit gegloybt az du vest mikh baroybn
Ikh hob nit gevust nokh dem umglik fun gloybn.
Ikh hob nokh di mentshn genoy nit bagrifn.
Ikh hob nit gevust az di tsung iz geshifn.
Neyn, du bist nit shuldik; Ikh kum dir fartsayen
Ikh vil dikh farlozn, ikh vil dikh bafrayen.
Vi kum ikh, an oysvorf, in elnt geshlosn
farlangen mayn maysters a zun far a khosn?

Now you say you no longer want to see me.
I, to the contrary, come to bid farewell.
I know that you now love another:
so I wish you good luck and good fortune my love.
You are a living creature, your name will recover.
Guilty am I, yes I was the guilty one.
I did not believe that you would rob me.
I did not know of the tragedy in believing.
I did not know that the tongue is sharpened.
No, you are not guilty; I come to ask your pardon.
I want to leave you; I want to liberate you.
How could I, an outcast, trapped in loneliness,
ask my boss’s son to be my groom?
farfirts1farfirts2farfirts3

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“Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner” Performed by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2018 by yiddishsong

Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner / I am a Small Gypsy (Rom) Lad
Pre-war version from Chernovitz, Romania.
Sung by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman [BSG]
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman at the Sholem Aleichem Cultural Center, Bronx 1980s.

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The more popular song version of this poem by Itzik Manger (1901 – 1969) was composed by Hertz Rubin (1911 – 1958) and has been recorded by at least thirteen artists. According to Chana and Yosl Mlotek in Songs of Generations, the singer Masha Benya received that version from Manger’s widow Genia Manger after the second world war in NY.

MangerItzik Manger in his Chernovitz days, 1920s

But this earlier version has a different melody, and slightly different words without the “Ekh du fidele du mayn” refrain. BSG learned this song in Chernovitz, which was Romania between the world wars and is now in the Ukraine.

Manger’s lyrics carry a number of commonly-held negative stereotypes about Romany (Gypsy) culture. However, considering the time in which he was writing, through first-person narration, Manger creates a sympathetic window into the challenges faced by Roma including poverty, oppression, and a sense of otherness as a minority community. The ever-wandering Manger, no doubt, felt like a kindred spirit.

In the Ruth Rubin Legacy: Archive of Yiddish Folksongs at YIVO, Sore Kessler sings this Chernovitz version and explains she learned it from the Yiddish poet M. M. Shaffir in Montreal. Shaffir was also from the Bukovina region (not Bessarabia as Kessler says in her spoken introduction), and a friend of BSG. Some of Kessler’s text differs and she sings a verse that BSG does not:

Shtendik zaynen mir af vegn,
mir af vegn.
Say bay nakht,
un say in regn.

Always are we travelling,
travelling [on the roads.]
Both at night
and in the rain.

Accordionist Mishka Zignaoff (who was a Yiddish-speaking Russian Rom musician based in New York) recorded the melody as Galitzianer khosid (Galician Hasid) in a medley with the famous Reb Dovidl’s nign.

I am posting this song to mark Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman’s 5th yortsayt (1920 – 2013) which falls on the second candle of khanike.

BeyleItzikTapes2Beyle and Itzik Gottesman looking over Yiddish field recordings, 1970s.

TRANSLITERATION

BSG Spoken: [Itzik Manger] iz geveyn maner a landsman, un hot geredt Yidish vi ekh. Vel ikh zingen in durem-yidish azoy vi er hot geredt. “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” un di lider vus ikh zing zenen a bisele, tsi mul, andersh vi ir zingt zey, val ikh ken zey nokh fun der heym.

1) Ikh bin a tsigaynerl a kleyner, gur a kleyner
ober vi ir zeyt a sheyner.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Ikh veys nisht vi ikh bin geboyrn, bin geboyrn.
Di mame hot mikh in steppe farloyrn
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

2) Dem tatn hot men oyfgehongen, oyfgehongen
Vayl er iz ganvenen gegangen
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Burves, hingerik un freylekh, ober freylekh
Fil ikh zikh vi a ben-meylekh.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

3) In mayn lidl kent ir hern, kent ir hern
Mayn tatns zifts, mayn mames trern.
Tra-La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

S’kost in gantsn nor a drayer, nor eyn drayer.
S’iz mayn veytik gurnisht tayer.
Trala-la-la-la-la-la-la

Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

TRANSLATION

BSG Spoken: “[Itzik Manger] was from the same city as me and spoke Yiddish as I do. So I will sing in the southern Yiddish that he spoke.  “Ikh bin a tsiganerl a kleyner” and the other songs that I will sing are a little different than the way you sing them because I learned them form home.”

I’m a small Gypsy lad, a very small Gypsy lad,
But as you see good-looking.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la-la

I don’t know where I was born, was born.
My mother lost me somewhere in the Steppes.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

They hanged my father, hanged my father
Because he went thieving.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Barefoot, hungry and merry, always merry.
I feel like a prince.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

Refrain: Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

In my song you can hear, can hear
My father’s sigh, my mother’s tears.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la

It will only cost you three kopecks.
My suffering doesn’t cost much at all.
Tra-la-la-la-la-la-la
tsigaynerl 1

tsigaynerl 2

tsigaynerl3

“Leyg ikh mir in bet arayn” Performed by Janie Respitz

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2017 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

There has been much written about the once popular Yiddish song לייג איך מיר אין בעט אַרײַן (Leyg ikh mir in bet arayn / I Lay Me Down in My Bed) and its transformations, but I cannot find one LP/CD recording of the “original” Yiddish song and so I’m glad to have Montreal Yiddish singer Janie Respitz’s version (video recorded in October of 2017).

The Yiddish text, transliteration, translation and music to this song appears in Chana and Joseph Mlotek’s collection Pearls of Yiddish Song (see below) and there it is identified as a poem by Joseph Rolnick / Rolnik (1879 – 1955) and music written by the Yiddish poet Bertha Kling (1886 – 1979).

A translation of Rolnik’s autobiography זכרונות (Zikhrones / Memories) from Yiddish by Gerald Marcus is available in English entitled With Rake in Hand: Memoirs of a Yiddish Poet, 2016. There he writes that that this poem, adapted from a folksong, became very popular after Kling composed music for it; but he was ashamed of how the poem, which he considered unimportant, had become a hit. He walked out of a room if they greeted his entrance by singing it.

About the transformations of this Yiddish song… The Hebrew-language website Zemereshet  זמרשת presents a popular Hebrew version הרכבת (Harekevet / The Train), as well as the children’s song בין הרים ובין סלעים  (Beyn horim uveyn slaim / Between Mountains and Rocks). Historian David Assaf’s blog עונג שבת Oyneg Shabes presents additional versions and a more detailed history of the story of the song (in Hebrew). 

The Rolnik poem has inspired two new musical compositions. The first is by the Pulitzer prize and Grammy winning modernist minimalist composer David Lang (“Bang on a Can”) entitled I Lie.

The second has been composed by UK-based Yiddish singer Polina Shepherd, and is here sung by Yana Ovrutskay:

Shepherd currently performs this song with the group “Sklamberg and the Shepherds” (also featuring Lorin Sklamberg of The Klezmatics and clarinetist Merlin Shepherd). Both Shepherd’s and Lang’s compositions  include the fourth verse of the original poem which is included in the Mlotek booklet but not sung in the folklorized versions.

From Chana and Joseph Mlotek’s Pearls of Yiddish Song:

Rolnick1Rolnick2

 

“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

“Brider, Zog” by Sholem Berenshteyn

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 6, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

Brider, zog (Brother, Say) is by the 19th century Yiddish poet Sholem Berenshteyn. No one seems to be sure of his life dates (and not even his first name – some say Shmuel) but he lived in Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, and died before 1880. In 1869 he published his collection Magazin fun yidishe lider far dem yidishn folk in Zhitomir, which was reprinted several times.

The best source for his biography is Zalmen Reisin‘s Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, volume 1. Reisin considers him one of the first Yiddish folkpoets and even the poet Mikhl Gordon („Maskhe‟, „Di bord‟) considered him a better poet than himself. As Reisin points out, his work sometimes touches upon typical maskilic themes (anti-Hasidic, Russian patriotism) but he mostly stays clear of them, and his most popular poems became songs with traditional themes such as Brider zog and Sholem-Aleykhem which the Bessarabian folksinger Arkady Gendler sings on his recording, released in 2001, Mayn shtetele Soroke, produced by Jeanette Lewicki.

The most extensive discusssion of the song Brider, zog is in Joseph and Chana Mlotek‘s book Perl fun der yidisher poezye which was recently translated into English by Barnett Zumoff as Pearls of Yiddish Poetry, Ktav Publishing. The song was originally titled Zmires has 15 verses; what was sung were the first four verses.

I have attached the Yiddish words and music in the version found in Z. Kisselhof‘s Lider zamlung far der yidisher shul un familye, St. Petersburg 1911 which is very close to the version sung here.

The unidentified singer is clearly more of a „pro‟ than we are used to hearing in the songs posted on this blog. But listening to her interpretation of khasidic song does raise interesting questions about the “art song” interpretation of khasidic style. The late, great Masha Benya, among others, comes to mind in this regard. This singer turns a song, which melodically could be quite boring, into an interesting performance.

I know this song from my mother, Beyle Schaechter Gottesman, who learned it from her mother, Lifshe Schaecther Widman, and the words as they are sung here are almost exactly the same (we sing „Ver vet lakhn, un khoyzek makhn…‟).

Thanks again to Lorin Sklamberg, sound archivist at YIVO, who allowed us to post another song from the YIVO Stonehill collection.

A folkslid…khsidish.
A folksong, khasidic.

Brider zog, vi heyst der tog,
ven mir ale zenen freylekh?
Der yidele, der kleyner, der kusherer, der sheyner
Iz dokh dan a meylekh.

Tell me brother what is the day called
when we are all joyous?
The Jew, the little one, the kosher one, the beautiful,
Then feels himself like a king.

Shabes aleyn, kimt tsu geyn,
Freyt aykh kinder ale!
Oy tantst kinder, yederere bazinder,
Lekoved der heyliker kale.

The Sabbath itself arrives,
Be happy all you children!
O, dance children, each on his own,
in honor of the holy bride.

Dos iz klor, vi a hor
az shabes is di kale.
Der khusndl der sheyner, iz nit keyner.
Nor mir yidelekh ale.

This is obvious as a hair,
that Sabbath is the bride.
The beautiful groom is no one else
but all of us Jews.

Un ver es lakht, un khoyzek makht.
Fun der kale-khusn.
Der vet take esn a make
fun der side-levyusn.

And he who laughs, and mocks
the groom and bride.
He will indeed eat nothing
at the Leviathan-feast.

o, brider zog….

“Ikh vel nit ganvenen” Performed by Sterna Gorodetskaya

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Dmitri ‘Zisl’ Slepovitch

I recorded Ikh vel nit ganvenen (I Will Not Steal) in Mogilev, Belarus, from Sterna Gorodetskaya, born in 1946 into the only Jewish family that got reunited after the war in the village of Komintern, a Mogilev suburb. 

Photograph of Sterna Gorodetskaya by Dmitri Slepovitch

Sterna is also the aunt of Yuri Gorodetsky, a noticeable young opera singer who was for while involved performing Yiddish songs and cantorial pieces in Minsk, taking part in Jewish cultural revivalist movement there.

It was amazing to hear this song from a person of Sterna’s generation. She sang the song to me in memory of her mother, and that was the first time she performed it since she was a child.

To realize why it is so unique in that context, it is important to mention that unlike Moldova or Ukraine where the Jewish tradition was preserved to a considerable extent throughout the Soviet times, Belarus saw a much more powerful wave of assimilation, including the loss of the Yiddish language, in the post-war time. Most of the songs sung to us in the course of our fieldwork had been hidden in people’s memory for decades.

The song per se adds to a number of other “thief’s songs.” Chaim Kotylanski included two similar songs in his book, “Folks-Gezangen as Interpreted by Chaim Kotylanski,” Los Angeles, 1944. The lyrics of one, Nisht ganvenen nor nemen, resemble Sterna Gorodetskaya’s version in the chorus (compare: “Kholile nisht ganvenen, nor nemen, nor nemen”), though it employs a dance-like or march-like melody set in a major key. The other song, Kh’vel shoyn mer nisht ganvenen, is closer melodically to Sterna’s, as both are set in the natural minor.  In “Pearls of Yiddish Song” published by Chana and Yosl Mlotek there is yet another variant of ‘Kh’vel shoyn mer nit ganvenen.

My trip to Mogilev in January 2008 was the first one to follow the untimely death of Nina Stepanskaya (1954—2007), my professor and colleague with whom I collaborated over a decade on the Litvak music culture research in Belarus. Like Sterna Gorodetskaya who sang this song in memory of her mother, I would like this posting to be a tribute to and a small sign of appreciation of Nina’s invaluable input into Jewish music studies.

Ikh vel gegayen in krom keyfn irisn
Un az ikh hob dikh lib, iz ver darf dos visn?
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I will go to the store to buy some candies,
And whilst I love you, who should know about that?
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ikh vel gegayen in mark keyfn bar(u)n,
Un az ikh hob dikh lib, iz vemen darf dos arn?
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I will go to the market to buy some pears,
And while I love you, whom should it bother?
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ikh af a shif un du af a lodke,
Un ikh mit a tsveytn un du in chakhotke.
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

I’m on a ship and you’re on a boat,
I’m with a buddy and you have consumption.
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

Ganvenen, ganvenen, zol dos nit zayn iker,
Un nemen a bisele mashke un take nit zayn shiker.
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, ikh vel aleyn nemen,
Oy ikh val nit ganvenen, nemen aleyn.

Stealing oh stealing should not be the principle,
As it should be to have brandy and not to get drunk.
I will not steal, I will only take.
Oh I will not steal, I’ll only take.

“Tunkl brent a fayer” Performed by Jacob Gorelik

Posted in Main Collection with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by yiddishsong

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

For more on Jacob (Yankev) Gorelik see the previous post on “A baysphil.” He sang Tunkl brent a fayer (“A Fire Burns Dimly”) in his apartment in the “Chelsea hayzer” (Penn south), on 7th avenue and 25th street in Manhattan, circa 1985.  This song about an “agune,” a women who was abandoned by their husband, is part of a genre of agune-songs in Yiddish. Chaim Grade’s Yiddish novel The Agunah (translated in English with that title) depicts the complexity of dealing with the agune, and the rabbinic disagreements over when to declare the woman free to remarry.

I believe one hears the influence of the great singer Sidor Belarsky in Gorelik’s singing, even when he sings his mother’s songs from his hometown. I have included the spoken introduction below because it was typical of how Gorelik would frame a song he was about to perform for a larger audience. It’s interesting how he implies that by attending the Yiddish theater, the immigrant was thereby just a short hop from meeting new women and abandoning the wife in the old country.

The scanned music and words are from the songbook Songs of Generations compiled by Chana and Yosl Mlotek. Gorelik had, apparently, sent Tunkl brent a fayer to the Mloteks  who ran a column “Readers remember” in the Yiddish Forward newspaper. Chana Mlotek continued to write the column  after Yosl Mlotek’s death in 2000.

A song of an “agune,” an abandoned woman, that I heard from my mother, may she rest in peace.

There was a time, the emigration, the great emigration at the beginning of the 20th century and earlier, and many wandered out to America. Towns were emptied out. Many women remained with children. They didn’t hear anything from their husbands. Some were faithful and sent over their most recent earnings to their wives; shared it with their wives and children.

Others forgot. In the “Golden Land” they forgot about their old home. They wanted a little joy and happiness and started to go to the theater; met other women and forgot that they had “an old home,” a wife and child. And such women were called “agune” – “she was connected” as long as the husband did not free her. And songs were composed on this on the spot.

I had heard such a song among the folk, and another one I heard from my mother, may she rest in peace. She had a golden voice when she sang. In general my mother sang minor-keyed (sad) songs.