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

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Contents of Vol. 12.008 [Sequential No. 199]
Date: 27 March 2008

1) This issue of TMR (ed).
2) mentsh revisited
3)
khurbn or khurbm?
4) TMR Issue No. 200: Invitation to Readers to Comment
5) Mendele Moykher-Sforim's Peyrek Shire [Perek Shira]
6) Moyshe Taykhman's adaptation of Noent fun vaytns
7) Solomon Marshak's Di post translated into Yiddish by Moyshe Taykhman
8) "Motele fun Varshever geto" lyrics
9) "Motele fun Varshever geto" audio
10) "Remember the Children" cd cover

1)-------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject:
This issue of TMR (ed).

This issue of TMR the 199th opens with an answer to a letter on a Yiddish linguistic matter that must have puzzled many readers.*** The editor is most grateful to those who take the trouble to voice their views on matters Yiddish and expressly invites a barrage of letters before the 13th of April, date of TMR's 200th issue and coincidentally 11th anniversary. *** An encounter with the emotive term mentsh in Ruth Wisse's Jews and Power (New York, 2007) sent me back to my reflections on that rich term a decade ago (see TMR 01.005 [13 May 1997]). Mentsh in the sense of 'genuinely human', 'person of character', 'true human being' is a veritable linchpin in Wisse's book, prominent at its beginning and end and sprinkled between these as well. *** The TMR does not sell books, but could not refuse the opportunity to promote an unjustly neglected work by Mendele Moykher-Sforim, the great writer by whose name we are known. *** This issue of TMR tries to give a sense of some features of Yiddish education in interwar Poland and highlights the role of one educator/editor/author in particular. "Noent fun vaytns" reflects the hunger for science and technology in the shtetlekh of Poland. The wonders of radio are introduced in a fictional framework that teaches use of such devices as the telegram. *** Solomon Marshak (1887-1964) was a popular Russian-Jewish writer, especially for children. Prominent Yiddish writers translated at least five of his works from Russian and Leah Goldberg was one of a number of fine translators who created a Hebrew Marshak. Moyshe Taykhman under the name M. Man translated Marshak's rhymed verse Di post (Warsaw: "Kinder-fraynd", 1935) five years after I. Gutyanski worked the same ground under the title "Brivntreger" (Kiev, 1930). "Di post" is about a letter that crosses continents and oceans until it reaches its final destination. Other Marshak items in Yiddish translation include: "Mayselekh un lider" (New York, 1930) translated by Yasha Zeldin (on Y.S., see Leksikon fun yidish shraybers, col. 266);" Mister Tvister" (Warsaw, 1936) translated by Kh. Zaytshik; "A sreyfe" (Moscow, 1928) translated by Rozenblum [sic]; "A mayse mit a ketsl" (Odessa, 1935) translated by Avrom Kahan. *** The final four parts of this issue of TMR suggest the unimaginable life of Jewish children in the khurbm as expressed in the life of the child Motele. We give Jacques Grober's version of the song "Motele fun varshever geto" and the lyrics in Yiddish and English translation.

2)---------------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject:
mentsh revisited

In the Prologue with which Ruth Wisse opens her Jews and Power (New York: Schocken, 2007), she writes: In Warsaw in the autumn of 1939, shortly after the Germans captured the city and before they had walled up the Jews in a ghetto, a couple of Nazi soldiers were seen harassing a Jewish child in the street. The child's mother ran out of the courtyard, picked up her bruised little boy, placed his cap back on his head, and said to him, "Come inside the courtyard and za a mentsh." The word mensch which in German means "man" or "human being" acquires in Yiddish the moral connotation of "what a human being ought to be." In her Polish-inflected Yiddish the mother was instructing her son to become a decent human being.

A few pages later, she continues: This book honors the memory of the Warsaw mother who wanted her son to become a mentsh, as well as the civilization that perpetuates her teaching.

I am in complete sympathy with all the higher registers of the multivalent term mentsh, but reading Wisse's anecdote as a straightforward account of a real incident, trying to understand what precisely happens in the described scene, I fail to see an ethical epiphany and what I do see recalls an older and more widespread meaning of mentsh than that said to be expressed in the mother's words to her son: "za a mentsh." [Again I refer readers to my comments in TMR 01.005.] The three English words "Be a man" at the top of the sheet music cover of the Yiddish music hall song "A mentsh zol men zayn" [see TMR 12.004], crude call to manliness or virility though it may be, is closer to what I see as the focus of the anecdote than the reading by Wisse (and others whom I will not add to this discussion).

The mother is protectively instructing her little boy to behave sensibly, maturely in a potentially volatile situation wherein two Nazi soldiers harass a young boy, perhaps teasing him and attempting to elicit behavior from him that could charge them for more cruel actions than knocking off his hat headcover of an observant child? or ridiculing his Germanlike Yiddish speech. The uniformed figures suggest authority and the traditional Jewish attitude is that one must placate, buy off and not rebel against authority. The mother may have quickly sensed that she is not witnessing familiar Polish anti-Semitism. Her injunction is not one to be moral these are hardly the circumstances for inculcating philosophic attitudes. The child is being warned that he must be careful of his behavior, must be a grownup. He is being commanded to part with his childhood.

3)---------------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject:
khurbn or khurbm?

Jack Berger has responded to TMR 12.007 with three assertions that need to be examined. He writes: "Re Holocaust nomenclature, are we not making a mountain out of a molehill? The so-called Yiddish (which should be spelled khurbn, not khurbm), is patently derived from its Hebrew antecedent, khurban. So what's the big deal?" 1. The naming of the greatest disaster in Jewish history is "a big deal". 2. There are a number of Yiddish words whose spelling in English is problematic and their spelling has become established even though they do not conform to the Standard Yiddish Romanization. Even the most careful Yiddish-study authors and bibliographers go along with such "common" spellings as Shalom Aleichem though they would prefer Sholem-Aleykhem (correct hyphenation, particularly, is absent). An excellent way to decide how to spell a Yiddish word in English to transcribe, not to transliterate it -- is to Google it. One has numerous "hits" for both khurbm and khurbn, with no few sophisticated authors (e.g. Jerome Rothenberg, Khurbn and Other Poems, New York: New Directions, 1989) using the latter. But the more "Yiddishly" literate I will not mention them by name opt for khurbm. They know (as pointed out on page 23 of Uriel Weinreich's classic College Yiddish) that "After [P] and [B], syllabic [N] is sounded as [M]." This can be corroborated by checking in Yitskhok Niborski's Verterbukh fun loshn-koydesh-shtameke verter in yidish (p. 91) and Uriel Vaynraykh's Modern english-yidish yidish-english verterbukh (p. 609). Those who write khurbn either do not know the correct form, are put off by the strange combination /bm/, or possibly are influenced by the final /n/ in the Hebrew source word khurBAN (Israeli pronunciation). 3. Khurbm is a Yiddish word, part of the Hebrew-Aramaic component of Yiddish. It is as Yiddish as Latin-origin component is English.

4)---------------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject:
Upcoming (13 April 2008) 200th Issue & 11th Anniversary of TMR

Messages to The Mendele Review on this double celebratory occasion will be much appreciated. They will as space permits (no more than 200 words, please) -- be shared with our readers unless marked Private. The editor retains the right to shorten, modify or reject messages.

5)--------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject:
Mendele Moykher-Sforim's Peyrek Shire

To mark the 90th anniversary of Shalom Yakov Abramovitsh's (Mendele Moykher- Sforim's) death on December 8, 1917, The Mendele Review is pleased to announce that Dr. Shalom Luria's Mendele Mokher Sfarim, Perek Shira (Jerusalem 2000) is offered to the public at a reduced price. Dr. Luria's book is a critical edition of Mendele Moykher-Sforim's Perek Shira, a rhymed translation into Yiddish of a series of poetic hymns in Hebrew found in the beginning of one of the most popular prayer books of the 19th century. Mendele's creative free translation into Yiddish testifies to his love of nature and of God's creatures who praise their creator, as well as to his knowledge of zoology. (See an earlier discussion of this work in TMR 05.002 [25 February 2001]). The book is available at the reduced price of 50 shekels (plus postage) in Israel and $20 (plus postage) for orders from abroad. It may be ordered from the Dov Sadan Institute at the Hebrew University at the following email address: hguys@vms.huji.ac.il.

 

6)----------------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Moyshe Taykhman's adaptation of Noent fun vaytns

 

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7)----------------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Solomon Marshak's Di post translated into Yiddish by Moyshe Taykhman

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8)-----------------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject: "Motele fun Varshever geto" lyrics

 

 

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The English translation below is No. 16 in http://www.scchoralsociety.org/holocausttrans.html. A romanized version of the Yiddish may be found at the same address.

 

Motele from the Warsaw Ghetto
Author: Reuven Lifshutz (1918-75)
Composer: Steimakh

In the narrow alleys of the ghetto,
Where the sun with effort sends a beam:
On his fragile body clothes with patches,
The tailors youngest son is to be seen.
Every morning looking like a shadow,
On his listless lips, the mark of want.
Through barbed wire steals from out the ghetto
To earn enough for breada job he hunts.

Motele, a decent fellow,
Motele, a skillful guy:
Motele, successful also,
Because our Motl, he excels in all he tries.

Jews rebel against the brutal tyrant,
Pools of blood in every ghetto street.
Motl helps in building the entrenchments,
His young face with hate and anger bleak.
In this fire two blue eyes are shining,
Thirst and hunger dry and crack his tongue,
Horror beats in his brave heart so daring,
For his people every bomb is flung.

Motele, a decent fellow...

Dzhike, Pave, Mile, Niske, Genshe
Streets where names are leaping all about,
The boom of cannon fire shatters Warsaw,
Cries for help are heard through helpless shout.
In the roar of falling bombs and cannons
Motls name is heard, it floats so free,
On barricades our hero fell among them,
His Bar-Mitzvah didnt live to see.

Motele, a decent fellow.
Motele, a skillful guy.
Motele, successful also
Because our Motl, he excelled in all he tried.

 

9)-----------------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject: "Motele fun Varshever geto" audio

Click on phonograph image to hear Jacques Grober sing "Motele fun Varshever geto."

10)---------------------------------------------------

Date: 27 March 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg

Subject: Remember the Children cd

 

(Click on picture to enlarge)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
End of The Mendele Review Issue 12.008
Editor, Leonard Prager
Editorial Associate, Robert Goldenberg

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