Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Kosher Meat -- Not for Vegetarians!

This week, Moyshe Vaynshelboym from Berdichev talks about all the stages involved in the process of making kosher chicken, from slaughtering to plucking to cooking. Vaynshelboym remembers a kosher butcher (shoykhet) being active in his town in the 1930s, and he recalls how his mother would salt a slaughtered chicken at home.

Vaynshelboym emphasizes the fact that the chickens were plucked without the assistance of hot water. Scalding a chicken is an oft-used method of facilitating plucking, as it loosens the feather follicles; it is, however, not allowed when making kosher chicken. Salting, additionally, is a process particular to kosher chickens, as it ensures that all of the blood is properly drained.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Oh My Beloved Bessarabia!

The Latest Photos and Songs from AHEYM’s Current Expedition

This week’s post comes to you from Chisinau, Moldova where the AHEYM team has just passed through on their latest (and still ongoing!) expedition throughout the cities and shtetlekh of Podolia, Bukovina and Bessarabia.  Led by Professor Dov-Ber Kerler and Dr. Moisei Lemster, this current trip has included both return visits to some of our most informative interviewees and sessions with new Yiddish-speaking friends in numerous Eastern European towns.

As the video from this trip has not even been downloaded off the camera, our regular video clips are not yet available. In the meantime, however, we are pleased to share with you some of our latest photos and a special audio excerpt.

Photo Credit: Sebastian Schulman and Anya Quilitzsch

In this audio clip, we hear Zelda Davidovna Roif (b. 1930) sharing the opening lines of Oy mayn libe basarabye (Oh, My Beloved Bessarabia).  The words, a folklorized version of a poem by Moyshe Pintshevski, are sung to the tune of a doina, a Moldovan and Jewish musical form often associated with the region’s shepherds.

The words, transcribed as she sings them in a Bessarabian dialect, are as follows:

S’iz geveyn a mul a postekhl
Nokh a kind fin tsvishn kinder
Fleyg er ba zayn totn posn
Shufn, lemlekh, tsig in rinder
Fleyg er ba zayn totn posn
Shufn, lemlekh, tsig in rinder

Vi of a mul ‘ot er fargesn
Dus tirl tsi farmakhn
Zenen ole zayne sheyfelekh oyf der velt tselofn...

O mayn libe basarabye
Lond fin freyd
In lond fin trouer!

There once was a young shepherd
Just a child among children
He used to shepherd his father’s
Sheep, lambs, goats and oxen
He used to shepherd his father’s
Sheep, lambs, goats and oxen

One time he forgot
to close the gate
and all his sheep ran out into the world...
Oh my beloved Bessarabia!
Land of joy
And land of sorrow!

As Zelda explains earlier in the interview, for her, the young shepherd and his scattered sheep represent the relationship between G-d and the Jewish People, especially during the Great Patriotic War.

On YouTube, one can find a complete, yet very different variant of the same song featuring the ground-breaking klezmer band Brave Old World (including IU’s Spring 2011 Paul Artist-in-Residence Michael Alpert and Bloomington native Alan Bern) and renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman:  

The AHEYM blog returns next week with our usual video postings from past expeditions.

-- Sebastian Schulman

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Homentashn on Shvues

"Homentashn on Shvues?!" you might ask. But the triangular pastry is usually eaten on Purim! Indeed, Purim is the time to indulge in prune- or poppyseed-filled treats, but on Shvues, Donia Pressler's family in Tulchyn (Ukraine) would make a filling of dairy rice pudding for their homentashn:

The holiday of Shvues (Shavuoth, Shavuot, Shvies), the Festival of Weeks, is coming up next week. The day commemorates G-d giving the Torah to the Jewish people on Mt. Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt. Because the holiday lacks any distinguishing commandments (like the eating of matse on Passover or the building of a suke on Sukes, for instance), it was often one of the first to be forgotten by acculturating and assimilating Jews. In the Former Soviet Union, those Jews who do remember observing the festival usually recall eating dairy foods on that day, a well-known custom among Ashkenazi, Syrian, Iraqi, and other Jews. And that's how it came to pass that Donia's family ate homentashn on Shvues -- they were special, dairy, rice pudding-filled homentashn.

--Asya Vaisman

*Note: There will be no post next Wednesday in honor of the holiday. We'll see you the following week!