Growing up in a family environment in which Yiddish was yet another vernacular spoken language along with English, I was exposed from a very early age to Yiddish songs and even nursery rhymes, which were generally sung to and by my younger siblings and me. Indeed, some of my earliest memories include dancing and singing along to records of Klezmer music that played on our record player. The songs amplified on that old and overworked record player included Yiddish language singers that were especially popular (and several of whom are still musically active today) in the early-to-mid-1980s – musicians and vocalists such as Henry Sapoznik of the then Klezmer ensemble, “Kapelye”; Chava Alberstein; Dudu Fisher; Mike Burstyn; Hankus Netsky of the Klezmer Conservatory Band; the late Barry Sisters; and the recently deceased, Theodore Bikel (1924-2015).
It has been some time since I have heard those songs played with any regularity – and certainly not on a record player or tape recorder, for that matter – in our age of CDs, YouTube, and the like. However, in recently surfing the selections of Klezmer music available today on YouTube, I am reminded of specific songs that were once so familiar to me – and likely very familiar to many of my readers, as well: (and here, I am using the most commonly used orthography for these songs) “Rumania, Rumania,” “Mayn Shtetele Belz” (“My Small Town of Belz”), “Der Rebbe Elimelech” (“The Rabbi Elimelech”), “Papir iz Dokh Vays” (“Paper is Still White”), “Oyfn Veg Shteyt a Boym” (“On the Road Stands a Tree”), “Tumbalalaika” (“Play Balalaika”) and a host of others that are simply too many to include here. If you were to ask me which of these numerous songs I considered my favorite, I would be hard-pressed to answer you. It really depended on the given day and my particular mood at the time. And all these years later, I still feel exactly the same way.
12/18/2016 06:28:55 am
Thank you very much Rivka for these interesting explanations and for the beautiful songs. Ikh vintsh ir a freylekhn khanike.
12/18/2016 11:57:39 am
Steven A. Ludsin
12/18/2016 11:55:01 am
Very touching and well written! You are very talented and dedicated.
12/18/2016 11:59:52 am
12/18/2016 01:35:48 pm
Thank you Rivka and first let me wish you a healthy and happy Chanukah.
12/18/2016 01:39:06 pm
12/18/2016 06:41:11 pm
Your work is so beautiful and full of both brilliance and Yiddishkeit.
12/18/2016 06:53:05 pm
12/18/2016 06:42:29 pm
We will celebrate Chanukah with (non-potato) vegetable latkes, the inner flame of the Maccabees and the Barry sisters ;)
12/18/2016 07:01:01 pm
12/19/2016 07:59:25 am
Thank you for your newsletter. Such a rich culture and heritage. I have some truly outstanding original Yiddish recordings from Poland during the late 1930s. Great artists and rich heritage which the Nazis tried to destroy. I've used some of the songs in some of my Holocaust documentaries, which include: "Memory of the Shoah," "Ghetto," "Holocaust through Nazi Eyes," and others.
12/19/2016 08:08:28 am
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Dovid. You're correct about these older Yiddish recordings. They are still so full of spirit and exude the culture, heritage, and history of Ashkenazi Jewry.
Al in Montreal
12/20/2016 08:14:50 am
I remember these songs from my youth when attended Yiddish classes given by the Workmen's Circle. Thank you for bringing back these memories of my childhood. Regarding the song Mein Shtetale Belz, a recently recorded version of this song can be found on the following site:
12/20/2016 01:45:42 pm
Hello, Al in Montreal,
12/20/2016 12:34:36 pm
Great article! I self taught myself piano playing Yiddish songs for my European-born grandmother when I was 10 years old. When my reputation spread, then as a teenager, I organized a group which performed at the local neighborhood nursing home for the annual Hanukkah party.
12/20/2016 01:40:01 pm
12/20/2016 12:43:57 pm
Thank you very much, Rivka.
12/20/2016 01:32:02 pm
(Please note that Irene Rogers wrote me outside of "Forays into Yiddish," and some of my remarks here refer to a photo that she sent me, but which I was unable to post here, due to technical reasons.
10/2/2022 02:58:16 pm
Hi, I have a humble request. I was born in Moldova previous known as Besarabia when under Romania. My dear late Mother used to sing me an Yiddish song when I was a little boy. I am know unsuccessfully trying to find this song and hope you may be able to help me, please. I remember only a couple of lines in Yiddish from this song which are,"Geegangen is a engele in feld tsvishn vanges und dort ot eir a feygele a feygele gefangen. Gefangen oib dih feygele ich will deh nisht uplosin, ich maich for dir a shtaigele from bloomin and from rozen. Tra-la-la. Tra-la-la-la-la-la. Tra-la-la-la-la.-la." I hape you will be able to find this song and email the words back to me. Thank you very much in advance. Sincerely,
10/2/2022 03:52:44 pm
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