Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Yaacov Shapiro: Yankele

A Yiddish lullaby, Yankele, sung by Yaacov Shapiro and written by Mordechai Gebirtig [1877-1942]. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe writes of Mordechai Gebirtig, born Markus Bertig:
In Kraków, Gebirtig frequently performed his songs, typically with audience participation. In 1936, a group of friends and admirers published a second collection of them with sheet music, entitled Mayne lider (My Songs). One thousand copies of this collection were printed and distributed, an impressive number for a book of contemporary Yiddish poetry. In 1938—probably influenced by increasing antisemitism and pogroms in Poland—Gebirtig wrote his song “S’brent” (It is burning [listen to a recording]). Initially, the song did not draw much attention, but during the Holocaust it became popular among young people and in Jewish resistance movements. It was erroneously assumed to have been written during the Holocaust.
Until 1940, Gebirtig lived in Kraków with his wife and family and continued to write songs that reflected the dark mood of the time, although his songs still contained a note of hope for a better future. In October 1940, his family was expelled, with other Jews, to a village on the outskirts of the city, where Gebirtig, whose health was deteriorating, continued to write. One of the songs he wrote then was called “A tog fun nekome” (A Day for Revenge), a song of solace and encouragement about the future downfall of the persecutors. In April 1942, the Gebirtig family was transported to the ghetto, where Mordkhe still continued to write. On 4 June 1942, while being marched to the Kraków train station on the way to the Bełżec death camp, Gebirtig was murdered by random Nazi fire.
You can read more about Gebirtig here.

by Mordechai Gebirtig

Shlof zhe mir shoyn yankele mayn sheyner,
Di eygelach di shvartzinke mach tsu.
A yingele vos hot shoyn ale tseyndelekh,
Muz nokh di mame zingen: ay lyu lyu

A yingele vos hot shoyn ale tseyndelekh
Un vet mit mazel bald in cheyder geyn
Un lernen vet er, Chumesh un gemore,
Zol veynen ven di mame vigt im ayn?

A yingele vos lernen vet gemore
Ot shteyt der tate, kvelt un hert zikh tsu,
A yingele vos vakst a talmid-chochem,
Lozt gantse nacht der mamen nit tsuru?

A yingele vos vakst a talmid-chochem
Un a geniter soycher oych tsuglaych
A yingele a kluger khosn bokher
Zo lign azoy nas, vi in a taych?

Nu shlof-zhe mir, mayn kluger khosn bokher -
Dervayl ligstu in vigele bay mir,
S'vet kostn fil mi unen mame's trern,
Bizvanen s'vet a mentsh aroys fun dir!


Sleep, sleep, Yankele, my handsome son.
Close your little black eyes.
My little one, now that you have all your teeth -
must you make your mother sing you to sleep?

The little boy who has all his teeth
and who, God permitting, will soon go to kheyder
And learn Torah and Talmud -
must he cry when his mama rocks him to sleep?

The little boy who will learn Talmud -
and how glad and proud in his heart
your father is that you'll be learning Talmud -
must he make his mother stay awake all night?

Sleep then, my little one, my clever one
who will be a bridegroom yet.
Sleep while you are still in your cradle by my side.
It will cost your mother many tears to make a man of you.

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