[Mendele] Mendele Vol. 20.017

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Mon Apr 11 10:26:22 EDT 2011

Mendele: Yiddish literature and language

Contents of Vol. 20.017
April 8, 2011

1) Jewish cabaret (Dina Levias)
2) mestn feld (Les Train)
3) mestn feld (Khayem Bochner)
4) mestn feld (Lyubov Dukker)
5) Hofshteyns "Friling" (Martin Horwitz)
6) Hofshteyns "Friling" (Akvile Grigoraviciute)
7) Hofshteyns "Friling" (Seth Wollitz)
8) "A katerinazh bin ikh" (Jane Peppler)

Date:   March 15
Subject:  Jewish cabaret

In answer to Jane Peppler and anyone else interested in Jewish cabaret in 
Poland between the wars, I suggest you contact Mike Aylward, to my mind 
the best authority and the compiler of the largest discography on Yiddish 
songs, theater, cabaret, etc.!


Dina Levias

Date: March 15
Subject: mestn feld

feld (field = graveyard) is a synonym for kvorim (graves).

Les Train

Date: March 15

Lena Watson writes:
I am somewhat stumped by the meaning of the expression "mestn feld."

Niborski's Yiddish-French dictionary has "feldmestn," defined as "rite 
superstitieux consistant  entourer une tombe juive d'un fil de coton, ce 
qui confrerait  celui-ci des vertus magiques"

Our (http://www.verterbukh.org/) draft translation:
"superstitious custom of surrounding a Jewish tomb with cotton 
thread,supposedly giving the thread magical powers "

How, if at all, is it different from "mestn kvorim"?

That's beyond me, I'm afraid. But note that "feld " can be used 
(euphemistically) for "cemetery," so it wouldn't be surprising if 
"feldmestn" and  "mestn kvorim" meant the same thing.

Khayem Bochner

Date:  March 15
Subject: mestn feld

I believe both are referring to one and the same superstition. I have 
heard it called Feldmestn. When somebody is sick, a relative can go to a 
grave of a tsadik to measure it with a thread and then this thread is put 
into candles for the synagogue.

Lyubov Dukker

Date: March 17
Subject: Hofshteyns "Friling"

I asked a native speaker acquaintance re: the lines in question and got 
the following answer:

s'darf zayn  "storks "


Martin Horwitz

Date: March 28
Subject: Hofshteyns "Friling"

May I point out that the actual lines read:

alts gringer varft der kop zikh inderheykh
in [not 'un'!..] shnur  farbrokhenem di busheles tsu tseyln . . .

So the translation of Mr Hartman  "It's ever-easier to throw one's head 
back/to count the storks in their broken strings (of flight)" is a decent 

Akvile Grigoraviciute

Date: April 10
Subject: Hofshteyns "Friling"

Dovid Hofshteyn's verse is singularly difficult because he uses mainly the 
German based origins of Yiddish in a tortured syntax.

My reading is:
even easier the head faces upward to count the storks, [flying in] a 
broken line.

Hofshteyn's verse is probably the tightest in all Yiddish poetry.

Seth Wolitz

Date: March 22
Subject: "A Katerinazh bin ikh"

Hello, friends,

A friend whose father was a Russian orchestra leader/arranger just dumped 
four boxes of his music on me and I am sorting through it. Here is a 
little booklet saying  "our folksinger Ben Yakkov in the great hit "A 
Katerinazh bin ikh."  Elsewhere in this little page it is spelled 
katerinarzh, and in the English transliteration it says, "Der 
It is actually a tango which starts "Ikh makh kuntsn in gas / dos lebn 
makht khoyzek, spas / ven mayne glider tut vey lakh ikh un zing un shray 
... "
The refrain begins  "A katirinazh bin ikh on broyt un borves on shikh, 
keynem art dos nit... "
(note yet another spelling of organ-grinder, that's about five)

I understand Olshanetsky wrote an opera called the organ-grinder. Is this 
song from that show? Anybody know anything about Ben Yaakov?

I note that in the Freedman catalog this first line is also titled Gasn 
Zinger or Der Komediantshik or Komediant - did Peysakh Burstein rewrite it 
to suit his own occupation?

Jane Peppler

End of Mendele Vol. 20.017

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