Published May 27, 2005, issue of May 27, 2005.
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On the occasion of his 85th birthday, Khayim Beyder was featured in the Forverts on the pages devoted to Pearls of Yiddish Poetry. He was no stranger to readers, as he wrote weekly about the classicists. He also conducted a program on the paper’s radio show, Forverts Hour. In 2000 the Yiddish Writers in Israel Union awarded him the prestigious David Hofshtein Prize.

What follows is from his book, “Khanukes-Habayis” (“House-warming Celebration”), published in Moscow in 1979. The transliteration is by Goldie Gold; the English version is by Gus Tyler.


In zal in shtumen iz nor vos

A toyte shtilkeyt ersht gehangen —

Un mitamol geton a gos

Hot zikh a velt mit vunder-klangen.

Nito keyn zal, nito keyn vent,

Farshvundn bald iz alts gevorn

Un unter tsoyberdike hent

A kishef-kholem vert geborn.

Ot roysht a yam, ot verter mild,

A duner knelt un shtarbt in vaytn;

Ot vert in dir dos blut farkilt —

Ot broyzt es oyf in flam farshaytn…

Un nit keyn strunes — konst dos kol

Fun eybikeyt atsind dershpirn

Nit gantsn lebn in batsol

Abi dem sholem nit farlirn.


Within the room there is no sound

A deadly silence does prevail

But then great tunes do sound around

Over every hill and dale

There is no room, there are no walls

All that was — it is no more

A voice refreshing, now it calls

A voice one never can ignore

An ocean roars, and then it’s calm

A thunder sounds, it’s far away

And now it’s calming like a psalm

And then erupts in wanton way

It’s not mere strumming strings you hear

The voice — it is eternity.

You pay for it each passing year

The dream with you will ever be.

* * *

On Bobes un Zeydes

Landslayt mayne, shoyn geblibn veyniklekh

Vildgroz hot mayn shtetele farhilt

On di bobes zaynen oysgevaksn eyniklekh

On di zeydes hot men khasines geshpilt.

Nit dos lid vegn dem klor-vaysn tsigele

Hot tsum shlof mayn zun, mayn bokher bagleyt

S’hobn yedn ovnt bay zayn vigele

Shvartse shparbers shedine zikh gedreyt

Vos zhe vilt ir fun dem dor atsindikn?

“Kinder,” zogt ir, “veysn nit fun fun vey!”

Nu, iz vos? Badarfn mir nit zindikn,

Vayl mir hobn shoyn gelitn oykh far zey

Opgevishte, oysgemekte shtetelekh

Troyerik geven iz zeyer sof…

Kinder mayne, tsarte tsvaygn, bletelekh

Zol der fridn hitn ayer shlof.

Without Grandpas and Grandmas

Of my countrymen, just few remain

My shtetl has been eaten up by grass

No grannies ’round old values to sustain

And grandpas also weren’t there, alas!

There were no songs about the pure white lamb

To soothe my darling son into his sleep

Each night into his little room did cram

The noisiest of birds to make him weep.

What can we from these children then expect?

Some say that children never know of pain

Enough if they their parents do respect

The older virtues now are on the wane.

The kind of life in little towns is gone

Tragic was the way that it did go

Oh, tender buds that unto us were born

We hope that peace you’ll someday come to know!

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