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Celebrating the digital launch of an iconic Yiddish song collection

The searchable database of 400 Yiddish songs is based on the songbooks compiled by the late husband-and-wife team, Yosl and Chana Mlotek.

Yiddish music fans are celebrating a long-awaited accomplishment: the launch of the website, The Yosl and Chana Mlotek Yiddish Song Collection at the Workers Circle, based on the widely popular out-of-print songbook series, Pearls of Yiddish Song. The site went live on March 20.

For those of us who still keep our dog-eared hard copies of those songbooks stashed away on our bookshelves, ready to be pulled down anytime we have like-minded company over, this is welcome news indeed. The new bi-lingual website provides a free, searchable database for Yiddish music and contains the lyrics, translations, sheet music, audio and video performances to over 400 Yiddish songs.

The site also includes content curated from YouTube, Spotify, and TikTok videos showcasing newer generations of artists around the globe performing songs that the Mloteks had collected.

The songbooks were authored by the renowned Yiddishist husband-and-wife team, Yosl and Chana Mlotek z”l. Yosl served many years as the education director of the Workers Circle and later, the managing editor of the Forverts newspaper. Chana was a respected musicologist of Yiddish song whose vast knowledge on the subject attracted queries from musicians and singers around the world and no doubt helped spur the klezmer revival.

For decades, the Mloteks co-authored the Forverts column, Perl fun der yidisher literatur (Pearls of Yiddish Literature) which included letters from readers asking for the lyrics of a Yiddish song they’d heard years back in Eastern Europe or in the Yiddish theater in New York City. Chana would provide the lyrics or if she didn’t know them, would research it and publish the results in a subsequent issue.

Just like in their songbooks, each song on the website is accompanied by its author and composer (unless the author is unknown, as is true in most folk songs) and fascinating historical context.

To access the link to The Yosl and Chana Mlotek Yiddish Song Collection at the Workers Circle, click here.


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