The Arty Semite

Yiddish Song of the Week: 'Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?'

By Ezra Glinter

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Over at the Yiddish Song of the Week blog, Forverts managing editor Itzik Gottesman introduces the children’s folksong “Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder” with a look back at the 1980’s Yiddish cultural scene in the Bronx:

I recorded “Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?” (“What Did You Learn My Child in Cheder?”) at a zingeray/song gathering in the Bronx in 1983, at the home of Merke (Mary) and Tuvia Levine, on Gun Hill Road. I cannot recall the singer‘s full name — Harris was his last name…

Harris, Merke and Tevye Levine were part of the linke (leftist) Yiddish cultural scene that did not usually mix with Arbeter-Ring members or Zionists. Our “scene‟ from the Sholem-Aleichem Folk Institute played down politics and emphasized the cultural aspects, so we mingled fine. By the late 1970s, the Yiddish world was so depleted that the walls between left, center and right were falling down on behalf of Yiddish culture, so the Levines became prominent members of the Sholem-Aleichem Folkshul on Bainbridge Avenue. Thirty years earlier they were active in their own linke shuln, but by the 1970s, those folkshuln no longer existed. Our zingerays included them more and more. That older generation of linke Yiddishists is gone; Itche Goldberg, who died recently at 102, was perhaps the last of them, and I cannot think of anyone who is alive anymore to even ask about the singer‘s — Mr. Harris‘s — first name.

Listen to “Vos hostu gelernt mayn kind in kheyder?” here.


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