The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
(A Companion to MENDELE)

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Contents of Vol. 12.003 [Sequential No. 194]
Date: 31 January 2008

1) This issue of TMR (ed).
2)
Yossel Birstein Project
3) Goldfaden's Bar-Kokhba [Yiddish: Bar-Kokhbe]
4) "Dos milkhl" (in various versions) / Regina Prager
5) A Kind of Yiddish Rip Van Winkle
6) " by Gershon Levin
7) Hebrew translation of Levin chapter
8) Tel-Aviv University & Leivick House Conference: "The Ashkenazim" on 27-28/2/08
9) How to subscribe to Yidishe heftn

1)---------------------------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: ed.
Subject:
This issue of TMR

*** We are happy to announce an Australian website devoted to the virtually unknown pre-Israel period of the late Yiddish and Hebrew prose writer Yossel Birstein [Yiddish: Yosl Birshteyn]. See www.yosselbirstein.org. *** We continue our year-long celebration of the Goldfaden centenary by centering on the nationalist operetta Bar-Kochba.*** A general introduction to a curious chapter in Gershon Levin's "A Man from the Next World" [chapter 39 of In velt-krig ]. *** The original Yiddish text of the chapter (with notes identifying the persons mentioned). *** A Hebrew translation of the chapter. *** Announcement of a forthcoming University of Tel Aviv / Leivick House conference on "The Ashkenazim." *** How to subscribe to Yidishe heftn, whose covers we have displayed in several issues of the TMR.

2)----------------------------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: ed.
Subject: The Yossel Birstein Project

Andrew Firestone writes that the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash University, Melbourne has prepared a companion site to the much-admired Yisroel Shtern Project [www.yisroelshtern.org]. The new site, called the Yossel Birstein Project, [www.yosselbirstein.org] "tells the story of Yossel Birstein [Yosl Birshteyn] (1920-2006) in Australia before he became an Israeli novelist, short story writer, storyteller and public personality in Hebrew as well as in Yiddish. The verse of his Australian period has been neglected. All of it, together with selected translations into both English and Hebrew, has been gathered here for the first time. Translators in Australia, Israel, United States and United Kingdom have come together in this Project." A great deal of careful research has gone into creating this indispensable guide to Birstein's Australian period and its poetic harvest. Andrew Firestone merits a hearty yasher-koyekh ('Well-done!') for this contribution to modern Yiddish studies.

3)----------------------------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject: Goldfaden's Bar-Kokhba [Yiddish: Bar-Kokhbe]

The historical opera/operetta BAR KOKHBA, oder Di zun fun dem shtern ('The Son of the Star') [Words and music: Abraham Goldfaden; Arrangement: Henry Russotto]..."is based upon historical events in 132-135 C.E., during the revolt in Judea against the rule of the Roman Empire. It was hailed at the time in the Yiddish press as a great dramatic Jewish achievement. In February 1883, the government of tsarist Russia banned Yiddish theatre. Perhaps the popularity of a drama about Bar Kokhba's historic rebellion against the oppressive Romans was considered too politically dangerous by the Russian officials." (Irene Heskes, The Music of Abraham Goldfaden; Father of the Yiddish Theater, compiled and edited by Irene Heskes, Cederhurst, N.Y.: Tara Publications, 1990, [ISBN 093 3676220], p. vi-vii).


Cick on the picture to enlarge

4)-------------------------------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject
: "Dos milkhl" in various versions / Regina Prager

"The lyrics [of Bar-Kokhba] were brilliantly conceived as a didactic analogy, and it became a widely performed work. The song was sung in the opera/operetta by the heroine Dinah, whom Goldfaden presented as the epitome of virtuous and courageous Jewish womanhood. The melody of this arietta, with its extended interlude, replicates the turning of a mill wheel. As with other musical arrangements early in this century, a final section repeated the vocal line as an octave higher, well out of normal reach. This was to indicate the voice/violin 'duet' tag, a performance style of that time." (Heskes, p. 14).

Regina Prager was born in 1866 in Lemberg (Lvov), East Galicia, in a religious home. After her mother's accidental death in a fire, she was sent to live with relatives. Her beautiful voice was recognized and she eventually joined the chorus of the Lemberg Polish Theatre.  In 1890 she joined the Lemberg Yiddish Theatre and became their lead soprano in 1893.  In 1895 she came to America, and debuted as Dinah in Goldfadn's BAR KOKHBA at the Windsor Theatre. She became wildly popular, and performed through the 1929-30 season. She is considered to be one of the two great female voices of the Yiddish Theatre.

We continue to celebrate the Avrom Goldfadn [Abraham Goldfaden] Centenary and here again give the link to Louis Danto's recordings of Goldfaden songs from his album "Gems of the Jewish Operetta (Cadenza LRCD108). See Danto's Jewish Music Archives website. The one Goldfaden song from the opera Bar-Kochba (Yiddish Bar-Kokhbe), the seventh among the twenty in the album, is "Drey zikh milekhl" ('Little Mill, Turn'; English title: 'The Millstone'). Goldfaden wrote the music and the words to this song. The famous actress Regina Prager sang it as we see from a score cover below. Here are the lyrics, 1(in Yiddish); 2(Romanized); 3 (translated by Rabbi Irwin Witty from the booklet that accompanies Danto's CD). The lyrics below differ somewhat from those that Cantor Danto sings and he is here accompanied by an unidentified female singer. Irene Heskes gives an alternate translation of the song, and an additional verse not sung by Danto (The Music of Abraham Goldfaden, p. 15).

From the Judaica Sound Archive, we can also include here a 1917 version of "Dos milkhl"/"Dos milekhl" (entitled "Drey dikh milekhl", Jewish Sound Archives 503664-B) sung by Elizabeth Tuchman. We could find no additional Bar-Kokhba songs sung by Regina Prager, but, from the Judaica Sound Archive, give two other songs from Shulamis she sings in 1909: "Di shvue" (Jewish Sound Archives 504083-A) and "Fun di tsvaygn di fidelekh" (Jewish Sound Archives 504083-B)

Drey zikh milekhl

Vi lang di zang iz yinger,
Un der korn - moger, gringer,
Vi lang di zang iz yinger,
Kukt men zikh nit tsu.
In feld ken zi farblaybn,
Dos rod ken zi nit tseraybn.
In feld ken zi farblaybn,
Lozt men ir tsu ru.
Vert nor der korn diker,
Tut zikh der rod a ker,
Er vert tseribn af shtiker,
Men derkent im shoyn nit mer..

Drey zikh gut, drey zikh gut,

Redele, milekhl!

Tserayb gut dem korn   tseteyl!

Nishto shoyn keyn zangen
Tseribn der korn.
Di ershte geshtalt hot er shoyn
lang farlorn

Unter der rod iz tseribn gevorn,
Es iz shoyn gor vays
Un heyst mel.

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The Millstone
As long as the stalk is young,
And the corn is thinner, lighter,
As long as the stalk is young,
One pays no attention to it.
It remains in the field,
The millstone grinds it not.
It remains in the field,
Left undisturbed.
But once the corn thickens,
The millstone turns to it,
Grinds it into pieces,
It is recognizable no more...

Grind away, grind away well,
Grinding stone, millstone,
Grind well the corn, crush it.
No longer recognizable are the stalks,
The corn ground up.
Its initial form long lost,
Under the millstone ground up.
It has already turned white
It is called flour.

 

korn in Yiddish is of course not maize but rye.

Regina Prager

(Click on picture to enlarge)

5)----------------------------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: ed.
Subject: A Kind of Yiddish Rip Van Winkle

The motif of Time is central in literature, as in life, and can be found in numberless works. In many modern novels (e.g. Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury) the past dramatically influences the present. In English Renaissance writing Time devours life, which is tragically brief. In Joyce's Ulysses a rich universal drama of human experience is staged in a single day. In sharp contrast to novels of remembering the past, mulling over it, often agonizing over it, we have the radical instance of Beckett's Waiting for Godot [to be touched upon in the next issue of TMR], one of whose two main characters, Estragon, forgets everything except what is said then and there. He "lives" in a continuous state of forgetfulness, striving at every turn to pass the time. In science fiction (e.g. H.G. Wells' The Time Machine) the distant future is fantasized. Utopian novels criticize contemporary society or visualize an ideal one.

A Time-centered plot pattern of a hero who magically sleeps a great many years and awakes in a world he fails to recognize and which does not recognize him may be found in the folklore of many cultures. These stories have cropped up in different parts of the world throughout the ages. Stith-Thompson's 6-volume Motif-Index of Folk Literature assigns Washington Irving's famous "Rip Van Winkle" story (published 1819) the location "Motif D1960.1" (on page 349 of volume 2). A list of forerunners and correlates of this Irving tale would be long and would include 1)"Peter Klaus the Goatherd" by J.C.C. Nachtigal; 2)"Karl Katz" by the Brothers Grimm. 3) "The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus" and many more. Of special interest to the Jewish reader is the well known Mishnaic story (Babylonian Talmud. Tractate Ta'anit. Page 23) of Honi the Circle-Maker, who, after a sleep of seventy years, unrecognized and friendless, begged to die.

In 1917 a Jewish doctor in the Russian army stationed in the Romanian town of Bakau (also spelled Baicoi) was visited by a sick 90-year old man who resembled Max Nordau and was a veteran of the Haskala of the 1880s and 1890s, of the years in which Hayyim Zelig Slonimski and Nahum Sokoloff edited the earliest Hebrew journal in Poland Ha-Tsefira The nonagenarian visitor asked about these men as though they were still the leading Haskala figures they once were.  Dr. Levin (1867-1939), a Hebrew and Yiddish journalist and writer, frequent contributor to Haynt in Warsaw, a physician famous for his leadership in the field of public health (especially in the efforts to treat tuberculosis), cello player, close friend and biographer of Y.-L. Perets, cultural activist, Hebrew-language patriot, defender of Yiddish, anti-assimilationist and a great observer of  people was at first interested in his amnesiac visitor -- until he began to sense the smell of death carried by his forlorn physical and social situation but mainly communicated by his arrested relationship with Time. The old man, once an active participant in the great Hebraist revolution, knows nothing of the current cultural scene. Dr. Levin was visited by a corpse.

"A Jew from the Next World" is not, as are the Rip Van Winkle and Honi the Circle-Maker stories imagined creations. The old man has not experienced a magical sleep -- but he has slept and continues to do so. Just as Rip had skipped the American Revolution, so had the old Bacau maskil missed the Russian Revolution. Just as Honi had given up his life because he went unrecognized by his fellow men -- "O chevruta, o mituta" ('Either companionship or death'), the old man has been thoroughly abandoned by society. There is great pathos in his need for his visits to the cultured, literary physician Dr. Gershon Levin who not only prescribes an iodine rubdown but listens to him and anwers his questions about  his old companions Gabriel Yudl Likhtnfeld (Perets' father-in-law [died 1887] and the maskilic author of Ha-daat ve-ha-Khayim [2nd ed. 1885], Reuven Brodes. There is humor in the old maskil's gossipy recollections of the presumably apikorsish Brodes.

6)----------------------------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: ed.
Subject:
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__________________

Endnotes

-
Gabriel Judah Lichtenfield (1811-1887)
mathematician, Y.-L. Perets' father-in-law from first marriage


officer's servant

"
story of an orphan, an autobiography
Novel by Smolenskin, A Wanderer on the Path of Life (Ha-toe be-darkhe ha-khayim)


Velvl Zbarzher = Benjamin Wolf Ehrenkrantz (1826?- 1883)


Khayim-Zelig Slonimski (1810-1904), halachic authority

"

"No matter what happens to me"


Max Nordau, born Simon Maximillian Suedfeld (1849-1923), Zionist thinker, essayist
http://members.screenz.com/bennypostcards/nordau.jpg


Nahum Sokoloff (1860-1936), Hebrew writer and journalist, Zionist leader
http://members.screenz.com/bennypostcards/sokolov.jpg


Russian> military order/command


Perets Smolenskin (1840-1885), Hebrew novelist


Reuven Brodes = Asher Ben Yosef, author of HaDat ve-HaKhayim, Lemberg, 2 vols. 1885

"
composition by Zbarzher attacking anti-Semitism, published in Vienna by Smolenskin

 

7)-----------------------------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: Ben-Zion Ronen
Subject: Hebrew translation of Levin chapter

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8)-------------------------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Tel-Aviv University & Leivick House Conference: the Ashkenazim on 27-28/2/08

You are cordially invited to a conference on the Ashkenazim.

9)-----------------------------------
Date: 31 January 2008
From: ed.
Subject: How to subscribe to Yidishe heftn

To read more and subscribe, go to: www.bernardlazare.org.

 

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