The Arty Semite

Singing for Your Bread and Butter

By Ezra Glinter

  • Print
  • Share Share

Over on the Yiddish Song of the Week blog, Forverts associate editor Itzik Gottesman discusses the ballad “Az es shtarbt nor up dus ershte vaybele” (“As Soon as the First Wife Dies”), as sung by Lifshe Schaechter Widman.

Formally, “Az es shtarbt nor up dus ershte vaybele” (“As Soon as the First Wife Dies”) could be considered a classic ballad. The first three verses set the stage for the dialogue between the children and their father. As a narrative though, the last verse, which is sung by the father, leaves no resolution to the hopeless situation at all.

The melody in ballads almost always stays the same for all the verses. However, in this song the melody changes for the dialogue verses, becoming more dramatic, as does Lifshe’s moving, mournful singing.

Ethnographically, the song depicts the poverty of the families at this time; even a piece of bread and butter was considered a delicacy. In her memoirs “Durkhgelebt a velt,” LSW writes of her own cruel stepfather who would not allow her to eat bread with butter. Her mother, Taube, turned the buttered side of the bread over when the stepfather entered so he would not see it.

Back in the blog’s very first post, Gottesman described Schaechter Widman’s life:

Lifshe Schaechter Widman was born in Zvinyetchke, Bukovina in 1893. The town is on the Dneister river. Across the river was Galicia. When she was born, Zvinyetchke was part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Today the town is in the Ukraine. By an early age she had established her reputation as singer and was often asked by the women, both younger, unmarried and older married women to sing for them. Most of the songs in her repertoire are from the first 14 years of her life. In 1907 she left on her own for America, lived in New York, and returned to Bukovina just in time for the First World War in 1914. She married Benyumin Schaechter in Vienna and settled in Chernovitz, the capital of Bukovina. She had two children Beyle (born in 1920 in Vienna ) and Mordkhe (born in 1927 in Chernovitz). Beyle became a Yiddish poet and songwriter and settled in the Bronx (Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman – my mother). Mordkhe Schaechter became a noted Yiddish linguist in NY. Lifshe survived the war in Chernovitz and arrived in the US in 1951. She died in 1973.

Read the whole post and listen to the song here.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish, Itzik Gottesman, Lifsche Schaechter Widman, Yiddish Song of the Week

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.