[Mendele] Mendele Vol. 19.017

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Mon Dec 28 09:00:28 EST 2009

Mendele: Yiddish literature and language

Contents of Vol. 19.017
December 25, 2009

1) "Elisha ben Abuyah" (Ben Birnbaum)
2) folktale identified (Lyubov Dukker)
3) "Slutsk" (Nadia Rotschild)
4) Discrepancies Between Russian and Yiddish Versions of Isaac Babel's 
(Norman Buder)
5) "Yidish tango" (Jane Enkin)
6) dreydl rules (Tom Putnam)
7) Slutsk, Yehupets, shvartser (Paul (Hershl) Glasser)

Date:  December 11, 2009
Subject: "Elisha ben Abuyah"

I wonder if any list member can point me to a translation--or even a 
partial translation--into English of Jacob Gordin's 1906 play "Elisha ben 
Abuyah." I would also be interested in knowing of any scholarly or 
critical effort, in English, to consider the play and its reception by the 
theater-going Yiddish public and the literary critics of the day.

With thanks.

Ben Birnbaum

Date: December 11, 2009
Subject: folktale identified

This folktale [Mendele Vol. 19.016] sounds to me very much like the plot 
of an animated movie based on the work of the genius of Yiddish children's 
literature Ovsey (Shike, Ovsei, Yehoshua) Driz (1908-1971). The movie is 
called "Klubok" (a ball of yarn). Maybe you can trace its folktale roots 
from there.


Best wishes for Happy Hanukah,

Lyubov Dukker

Date: December 11, 2009
Subject: "Slutsk"

an entfer tsu Avraham Yehoshua Kahana

dos lid vos ir zukht heyst take "Slutsk" un iz geshribn gevorn durkh A. 

Ikh dermon zikh itster in mayn shtetele dem kleynem
Vu ikh hob di shayn tsu ersht derzen
Vu ikh bin geboyrn dortn, vu ikh bin dertsoygn
Vu ikh fleg als kind in kheyder geyn.

Slutsk, oy Slutsk mayn shtetele, vi ikh benk nokh dir !
Tif in hartsn, heym du mayn, ligstu do bay mir
A vigl oyf a shtrikele, a tsebrokhn betele
Un dokh tayer bistu mir, Slutsk, oy Slutsk mayn shtetele.

Fraytik nakht; di mame flegt di likht zikh bentshn
Der tate in beys-hamedresh flegt zikh geyn
Un fun shul oyf shabes flegt er brengen fremde mentshn
Zmires zingen flegt men zeyer sheyn.

zayt gezunt, un hot a freylekhn khanuke!

Nadia Rotschild

Date: December 24, 2009
Subject: Discrepancies Between Russian and Yiddish Versions of Isaac 
Story "Gedali"

I hope Mendele readers can clear up two puzzles about Gitl Mayzil's 
Yiddish translation of a story by Isaac Babel."Vayter," October 2009, 
Number 34, page 4, publishes a Yiddish translation of Isaac Babel's story 
"Gedali" ("Gedalye" in Yiddish.)  "Vayter" cites as its source "Di 
geshikhte fun mayn toybnshlak un andere dertseylungen," translated into 
Yiddish by Gitl Mayzil
and published in Vilna by B. Kletzkin Publishing House in 1921.
(http://yiddish.forward.com/node/2484.  The "Vayter" text seems to have at 
least one line drop and several typos, the most noteworthy of which is 
that a word that should be "shisn" appears twice as "visn."  But these 
errors are not relevant to my query.)

Here are the two puzzles:

(1) Although Babel wrote the story in Zhitomir in June 1920, the story was 
apparently first published in a periodical in 1924 and in the book "Red 
Cavalry" in 1926.  (So it is claimed in "The Complete Works of Isaac 
Babel" translated by Peter Constantine, edited by Nathalie Babel, W. W. 
Norton & Company, 2002.)  Thus the first puzzle is how Gitl Mayzil was 
able to obtain a Russian text in 1921 on which to base her Yiddish 

(2) The second puzzle concerns discrepancies between the Russian version 
in "Red Cavalry" and Gitl Mayzil's Yiddish translation.  The most 
interesting discrepancy is that the Russian text of "Gedali" in "Red 
Cavalry" and the English translation by Peter Constantine contain several 
negative references to "the Pole" and "Poles" as engaging in acts of 
murder against Jews.  By contrast, Gitl Mayzil's translation never 
mentions "Poles" but in the very same passages refers instead to 
"pogromshtshikes," pogrom perpetrators.

At least two explanations seem possible: (a) Gitl Mayzil had access to a
earlier Russian version in which Babel had indeed used words translatable 
as "pogromshtshikes."
(b) Because Gitl Mayzil's translation was published in Poland, she could 
not use the words "Pole" or "Poles" for fear of offending the government 
and therefore took the liberty of using "pogromshtshikes."  Does anyone 
know which explanation
is correct?

The other discrepancy is that the first paragraph in Gitl Mayzil's 
translation ends with two exclamatory phrases that are absent from the 
1926 Russian version and from Peter Constantine's English translation:
"O, tliyendike gemores fun mayn kindhayt!  O, gedikhter umet fun 
Again two explanations seem possible: (a) Gitl Mayzil translated phrases 
that were in an early Russian version but were omitted in the 1924 and 
1926 publications.
(b) Gitl Mayzil introduced phrases into the story without any 
justification in Babel's original.
Does anyone know which explanation is correct?

One might add a historical question: Who did perpetrate the pogroms in 
Zhitomir between 1917-1920?

Norman Buder

Date: December 24, 2009
Subject: "Yidish tango"

Dear Mendel-folk

I'd like an English translation of the song "Yidish Tango."  The verse 
that really puzzles me is this one:

Shpil zhe mir a tango oys fun sholem,
Zol dos zayn a sholem, nit keyn kholem
Az Hitler mit zayn raykh
Zol di kapore vern glaykh,
Dos vet zayn a tentsele far aykh!

It would be great to hear about the history of the song as well.


Jane Enkin

Date: December 11, 2009
Subject: dreydl rules

Having missed the fun of playing dreydl as a child (and much else, believe 
me!),I have a question about the rules, prompted by a reading of the story 
"Benny's Luck" by Sholom Aleichem. In that story we are told that Shin 
means shoot again. (Not that Benny ever needed to shoot again: his dreydl 
always landed on the Gimel.) Another set of rules provided by our JCC has 
Shin signifying "share," meaning that everyone puts into the pot. I 
imagine that like checkers, in which some games demand a jump if it is 
possible, whereas others are more friendly and don't require the jump, 
dreydl allows a similar variation. But is there a right rule?

Tom Putnam

Date: December 11, 2009
Subject: Slutsk, Yehupets, shvartser

Re: Mendele Vol. 19.016

1) The song sought by Avraham Yehoshua Kahana is called "Slutsk (mayn 
ele)" which I know from the repertoire of Aaron Lebedeff.

3) I think that the exotic etymologies for "Yehupets" are unlikely. Just 
as Sholem-Aleykhem nicknamed the town of Boyerke outside of Kiev 
"Boyberik" after a different town in Galicia, he appears to have take 
"Yehupets" for Kiev from a small town in the Kiev area. Why do I think 
this? Because Mordkhe Schaechter once reported that he had met an 
immigrant from the former Soviet Union on the New York subway who said 
that he was from "Yupets." Schaechter thought he was joking but the man 
said he wasn't. And since then I have found in an atlas of Ukraine a town 
Yahubets about 10 km west of Uman. While I can't prove that this was the 
source for "Yehupets," it's certainly possible.

I should add that I am working on a gazetteer of Yiddish place names of 
Central and Eastern Europe. The list of names for present-day Poland over 
800 of them is already up on the YIVO website (yivo.org under "Online 
publication"). I hope to post Ukraine in the next month or two - this new 
list will include over 1000 names.

9) "Shvartser" in Yiddish is to the best of my knowledge an euphemism, not 
a slur. "Neger" is probably a recent borrowing from German.

Paul (Hershl)Glasser

End of Mendele Vol. 19.017

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