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DER YIDDISH-VINKL August 27, 2004

His patients know him as Dr. Barnett Zumoff, head of the department of endocrinology and metabolism at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. Members of The Forward Association and the Arbeter Ring know him as a macher — an important person — in these and other institutions and movements in American Jewish life. Readers of this column should by now be acquainted with his translation of Yiddish poetry — a field in which he has distinguished himself by his masterpieces throughout decades. Indeed, we venture to suggest that he may be the most prolific translator of Yiddish poetry in the country.

Because of this achievement, readers have informally wondered out loud just which of Zumoff’s multitudinous translations is his own favorite, so we put the question to him. His answer is akin to what would be that of a father when asked which of his children he loved most: He picked three.

Because of space limitations, we cannot print all three simultaneously. We are starting with one now and will follow up with the other two in future issues.

Undzer Lid, fun Avrom Reisen

Un ale di, vos tsien mit

In ale lender undzer lid

In tener freylekhe tsi bange

In shures kurtse un lange

In nayer oder alter forem

Fun zun, fun regn, tsi fun shturem,

Tsi fun yontef, tsi fun vokh

Fun gringn lebn tsi fun yokh

Tsi nay — fun shtot, fun ayzn shtol

Tsi alt — fun shtetl, barg un tol

Tsi fun a kale sheyn un eydl,

Tsi fun an orem, shtiler meydl

Tsi fun a krig, tsi fun fargebn,

Fun alte, tsi fun nayem lebn —

Keyn untershid

Abi es zing, abi es klingt

In yedn land a yidish lid

Our Song, by Avrom Reisen

To all of those who take along

To every land our lovely song

In tones of joy or tones of sorrow

Both short and long, today, tomorrow

In new or ancient rhythmic form

Of sun or rain or winter storm

Of humdrum days or holidays

Of life’s green things or evil ways

Of new — the city’s iron rails

Or old — the village hills and dales.

Of lovely brides, with braids or curls

Or poor and quiet little girls

Of battle or forgiving ways

Of ancient or of modern days

No matter!

As long as songs ring out aloud

To make the Jews feel tall and proud

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