Thursday, April 19, 2012

Who Knows One?, Take Two

Many of our readers have probably heard the traditional Passover song, "Ekhod Mi Yoydeyo" (Who Knows One?). In this clip, Semyon Krotsh (born 1922 in Stefanesti, Romania) performs a beautiful rendition of the song in his dialect of Loshn Koydesh.

You may notice that for some of the numbers, Semyon lists all of the units in the set the first time they are mentioned: for example, he names the patriarchs, the matriarchs, the books of the Torah, and the twelve tribes. In addition to his impressive memory, Semyon is a marvelous and charming performer -- watch his warm and dynamic facial expressions as he sings.

Krotsh was educated in a kheyder (traditional religious boys’ school), a Romanian Modern Hebrew Jewish school, and a yeshiva, where he studied Talmud and other traditional texts. Although Krotsh was an excellent student and remembers everything he once learned in yeshiva, he also studied to be a tailor in order to make a living. 

During the war years, he escaped to the Soviet Union and was evacuated from the town of Rîbnita (Moldova) to the Caucasus region of Russia, where he worked on a kolkhoz (collective farm). From there, he was evacuated further into Azerbaijan and then drafted into the Red Army from 1942 to 1947. After the war, in 1949, Krotsh went to Kolomyya at the suggestion of a friend from the army, since it was near Romania. However, by the time he got there, the border was closed, and so he stayed in the town. AHEYM interviewed him there in 2005.

You may remember Semyon from this post, in which he sings a drinking song. You may also recognize this tune of Ekhod Mi Yoydeyo from Naftule Shor's performance of it, posted last Peysekh with this analysis by Michael Alpert.

--Asya Vaisman & Sebastian Schulman

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Passover Games

Gut-moed! (Happy intermediate days of Passover!) This week was chol hamoed of Passover, the "profane" days of the festival, when some of the usual restrictions of holy days are relaxed but not entirely lifted. In Eastern Europe, children would often play games on the holiday, such as the one described by Duvid (David) Vider, interviewed in Kolomyya in 2003.

Because Jewish children in Eastern Europe could often not afford elaborate toys, they would invent games that required only everyday items as props, such as nuts (often walnuts). This game used eight nuts, equivalent to the eight days of Passover and of Sukkoth, the other occasion when the game was played. 

Duvid Vider was born in 1922 in Sighetu Marmatiei (in present-day Romania). He received a traditional religious education in a yeshiva in Iasi, Romania. 

For more of Duvid Vider, see Professor Dov-Ber Kerler's blog post in Yiddish about Vider's rendition of this Passover song.

--Asya Vaisman

Monday, April 2, 2012

Passover Fish

With Passover coming up this week, we have another clip from Sonia Litvak in Rivne, Ukraine (interviewed 2003), talking about how the holiday was celebrated in her home. Sonia recalls that fish was an important part of the Peysekh (Passover) meal. The father, as head of the household, was served the fish head, which was considered a delicacy in Eastern Europe. The rest of the family had to share the body and tail, with the tail being the least desirable part.

Because the family was unable to acquire enough matzah to last the entire holiday, they celebrated only the first three days, marking the first day with a traditional Passover Seder. Even though they observed a shortened holiday, those first three days were observed fully and strictly -- there was no bread or grains in the house, and Sonia's younger brother asked the fir kashes (the Four Questions) at the Seder.

--Asya Vaisman