Friday, July 29, 2011

Vyo, vyo, ferdelekh! Giddy-up, my ponies!

In 2002, AHEYM interviewed Liudmila Shor, an amazing singer in Vinnitsa, Ukraine. Liudmila informally directs the Jewish Women's Choir in Vinnitsa, sharing with the group her rich repertoire of Yiddish songs. When singing solo, Liudmila exhibits a beautiful, authentic Yiddish singing style. 

The song in this clip, "Der Furman" -- "The Coachman", composed by Khazn (Cantor) Pinkhos Jassinovsky, is about a poor wagon driver who drinks away his horses and wagon in a tavern. The song has been recorded by well-known Yiddish singer Sidor Belarsky, among others; Yiddish folklorist Chana Mlotek has written about it in an article on two songs about coachmen in the Yiddish Forward (12/16/1988). Liudmila learned the song from her father.

The lyrics are very reminiscent of another Yiddish song, "Shprayz ikh mir", (lyrics by Sh. Kahn, music by Eliyahu Teitelbaum) about a man who goes to the fair to buy a horse but stops by a tavern on the way and drinks away all his money. The song has been recorded by numerous artists; perhaps the best-known version appears on the Klezmatics album "Possessed", performed by Lorin Sklamberg. Unlike "Shprayz ikh mir," which has a very upbeat tempo and cheerful melody, "Der Furman" is a much more melancholy song, as you can see in Liudmila's rendering.

Below you will find the lyrics of the song in Yiddish, transliterated in Liudmila's Southeastern dialect, and translated. Check out our Youtube channel aheymproject for more of Liudmila's songs, as well as clips from a private performance of her choir.

I ride out in my own buggy,
Four little horses bridled across.
Outside there's a blizzard, outside it is raining,
It's dark, you can't see the road.

Giddy-up, my little horses! Giddy-up, my eagles!
Lift your little heads up high!
Giddy-up, my little horses! Giddy-up, darlings!
Giddy-up! Kick up some dust already!

One says, "Hey, Mister, please go faster!"
“I have to get to the tsadik's house!”
The second one says, "Oy, Mister, slower!
My hemorrhoids!"

Giddy-up, little horses! Giddy-up, darlings!
Can't you hear what the folks are saying?
Giddy-up, little horses! Giddy-up, darlings!
Giddy-up! The tavern is not so far!

Arrived in the tavern on Friday night.
Had a glass, considered a second.
Drank away the horses, drank away the buggy.
All I had left was the whip.

Giddy-up, my little wife! Giddy-up, my dove!
There's not a penny for the Sabbath.
Don't worry, my little wife, don't worry, my dove!
Giddy-up! It's a good thing I still have the whip!
And it's good that I'm still here!
Fur ikh mir aroys mit mayn eygener bayd,
Fir ferdelekh geshpont in der breyt.
In drusn iz a vyuge, in drusn iz a reygn,
S’iz fintster, me zeyt nisht deym veyg.

Oy vyo vyo vyo ferdelekh, vyo vyo vyo udlerlekh,
Heybt zhe di kepelekh hoykh,
Vyo vyo vyo ferdelekh, vyo vyo vyo tayere,
Vyo! Geyn zol azh bold a roykh.

Oy eyner zugt, “A, reb yidl, fur gikher!”
Er darf zikh tsun a gitn yidn.
Der tsveyter zugt, “A, reb yidl, pameylekh!
“Oy, mayne meridn!”

Vyo vyo vyo ferdelekh, vyo vyo vyo tayere,
Ir hert nisht vus zugn di layt?
Vyo vyo vyo ferdelekh, vyo vyo vyo tayere,
Vyo! Di kreytshme iz shoyn nisht vayt.

Gekimen in der kreytshme, fraytik tse nakhts,
A koyse genemen, di tsveyte fartrakht,
Fartrinken di ferdelekh, fartrinken di bayd.
Geblibn bin ikh bay der baytsh.

Oy vyo vyo vyo vaybele, vyo vyo vyo taybele,
Af shobes kayn groshn nishtu.
Nisht gezorgt vaybele, nisht gezorgt taybele,
Vyo! Git vus di baytsh iz nokh du.
In git vus ikh bin nokh du.

פֿאָר איך מיר אַרױס מיט מײַן אײגענער בױד,
פֿיר פֿערדעלעך געשפּאַנט אין דער ברײט.
אין דרױסן איז אַ װיוגע, אין דרױסן איז אַ רעגן,
סאיז פֿינצטער, מע זעט נישט דעם װעג.

אױ װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ פֿערדעלעך, װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ אָדלערלעך,
הײבט זשע די קעפּעלעך הױך,
װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ פֿערדעלעך, װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ טײַערע,
װיאָ, גײן זאָל אַזש באַלד אַ רױך.

אױ אײנער זאָגט, אַ, רעב ייִדל, פֿאָר גיכער!
ער דאַרף זיך צום אַ גוטן ייִדן.
דער צװײטער זאָגט, אַ, רעב ייִדל, פּאַמעלעך!
אױ, מײַנע מערידן!

װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ פֿערדעלעך, װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ טײַערע,
איר הערט נישט װאָס זאָגן די לײַט?
װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ פֿערדעלעך, װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ טײַערע,
װיאָ! די קרעטשמע איז שױן נישט װײַט.

געקומען אין דער קרעטשמע, פֿרײַטיק צו נאַכץ,
אַ כּוסע גענומען, די צװײטע פֿאַרטראַכט,
פֿאַרטרונקען די פֿערדעלעך, פֿאַרטרונקען די בױד.
געבליבן בין איך בײַ דער בײַטש.

אױ װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ װײַבעלע, װיאָ װיאָ װיאָ טײַבעלע,
אױף שבת קײן גראָשן נישטאָ.
נישט געזאָרגט װײַבעלע, נישט געזאָרגט טײַבעלע,
װיאָ! גוט װאָס די בײַטש איז נאָך דאָ.
און גוט װאָס איך בין נאָך דאָ.

--Asya Vaisman

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Woman's Prayer

Occasionally, Avrom Gelman's mother was able to make challah on Shabes. He recalls that before she baked the challah, she would cut off a small piece and throw it in the oven. This tradition -- of separating a piece of dough from bread about to be baked -- is a Biblical commandment for Jewish women. In times of the Temple, the separated bread was consecrated for use by Kohanim (priests), but today it is just discarded or burned.

Taking challah was not the only commandment Avrom's mother kept. She would also light the Sabbath candles every Friday night and say prayers over them. Avrom remembers what his mother would pray for: she would speak to G-d in Yiddish, asking for livelihood and health for her family.

--Asya Vaisman

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Poverty in Kamenets-Podolsk

In 2003, AHEYM interviewed Avrom Gelman in Kamenets-Podolsk. When asked about how his family observed the Sabbath before the war, he recalled that Shabes was particularly special, because it was the only time the children got to eat meat. Sadly, abject poverty is a theme that runs through many AHEYM interviews, particularly when the interviewees retell their memories of the 1930s. Gelman's family was so poor, in fact, that his mother could not afford to provide both meat and challah for the family on Shabes. Instead, she baked malay, cornbread, for the meal. In the middle of the interview, you can hear Dov-Ber Kerler and Avrom discuss the various Yiddish words for "corn" -- one of Romanian origin, and the other, that Avrom uses, of Slavic origin.

Towards the end of the interview, Gelman mentions the various professions that Jews in his town practiced. He tells AHEYM that to be a craftsman alone was insufficient to make a living. To make enough money, one had to both practice one's trade and be able to sell the items one made.

--Asya Vaisman

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Secret Prayer Meetings in Teplik

Regular followers of the AHEYM blog will know that one of the ways in which many Jews of Ukrainian small towns express their Jewish identity is through food customs.  They often associate holidays with food and speak of sharp distinctions between Jewish and non-Jewish modes of eating.  Today's clip looks at a couple of the other ways that Jews expressed their identity in the 1930s—through prayer and pilgrimage to the graves of Hasidic rebbes.  

Many synagogues were closed during the anti-religious campaigns of the 1920s and 1930s, forcing those who continued to practice to do so outside of the official synagogue.  Judaism does not require a formal structure, such as a synagogue, for prayer; it only requires a prayer quorum, or minyan, for the recitation of certain prayers.  Thus, those who continued to practice could do so in private homes.  Believers established minyans that met clandestinely when there was no synagogue available.   Reports from local authorities indicate that they were aware of the presence of minyans, but for the most part chose not to act against them, so long as the members were predominantly elderly and were not attracting the youth away from Communism.   

In this clip, Maria Yakuta, who was born in Teplik in 1921, recalls how her father would go to a minyan to pray.  She also discusses how her father would make pilgrimages to the graves of Hasidic rebbes, particularly Nahman of Bratslav (also known as Nahman of Uman).  Largely neglected in the postwar period, the graves of Hasidic rebbes have once again become popular sites of pilgrimage both for Hasidic Jews from around the world and for the local Ukrainian population—Jewish and Christian—who sometimes ascribe supernatural properties to the graves.  

In the selected clip, the viewer also sees Dov-Ber's interest in the linguistic properties of the Yiddish language.  Dov-Ber asks Yakuta to repeat certain phrases in order to hear her dialect precisely, and he is very interested in the terminology she uses to describe the rebbe.  Whereas she describes him as a "pious Jew," Dov-Ber is curious to see whether the archaic term for a Hasidic rebbe, "a good Jew," still has any resonance.

--Jeffrey Veidlinger

Friday, July 1, 2011

Varenikes (Dumplings) and Jewish Life in Gaysin

While AHEYM was interviewing Mira Murovanaia from Gaysin, Ukraine, she was busy making varenikes -- dumplings. In the video clip, you can see her rolling out circles of dough, sprinkling the dough with sugar, adding a few sour cherries, and pinching the dumplings closed. Her daughter, meantime, is boiling some water on the stove to cook the dumplings.

While they cook, Mira and her daughter discuss Jewish life in Gaysin. Although Mira herself attended a Russian school, she recalls that there was a Jewish school in town before the war. There were also three synagogues, all of which were destroyed in World War II. Even after the war, however, Mira remembers there being a shoykhet -- ritual slaughterer in town.

--Asya Vaisman