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WATCH: The Barry Sisters, America’s Most Famous Yiddish Singers, Perform Live

This article originally appeared in the Yiddish Forverts.

The Barry Sisters, Minnie “Merna” Bagelman (1923-1976) and Clara Bagelman (1920-2014), were the most popular Yiddish singers in American history. The sisters initially gained fame thanks to the popular radio show “Yiddish Melodies in Swing,” which began in 1937. The show bridged American and Yiddish culture by featuring Yiddish folksongs performed in a jazz style and popular American songs such as “Rain Drops Keep Failing on My Head” performed in Yiddish. The Barry Sisters also appeared numerous times on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Although best known today for their 11 albums of Yiddish music, the sisters were famous in their heyday for their elegant concerts, which featured elaborate orchestras. Here you can see a rare film taken from a concert in West Germany where they sang “Well, Tell Me When” from Alexander Olshanetsky’s operetta “What Girls Do.” The operetta debuted in 1935 and originally starred Molly Picon.

Listen for the unexpected musical interlude from a certain Broadway musical. Hint: It isn’t “Fiddler on the Roof.”

A message from Forverts editor Rukhl Schaechter

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you move on, I wanted to ask you to support the Forverts' 127-year legacy — and its bright future.

In the past, the goal of the Forverts was to Americanize its readers, to encourage them to learn English well and to acculturate to American society. Today, our goal is the reverse: to acquaint readers — especially those with Eastern European roots — with their Jewish cultural heritage, through the Yiddish language, literature, recipes and songs.

Our daily Yiddish content brings you new and creative ways to engage with this vibrant, living language, including Yiddish Wordle, Word of the Day videos, Yiddish cooking demos, new music, poetry and so much more.

—  Rukhl Schaechter, Yiddish Editor

Support the Yiddish Forverts with a generous gift to the Forverts today!

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