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

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