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DER YIDDISH-VINKL January 16, 2004

Heymishe Tekhter,” a poem by Avrom Reisen, is part of a vast work contained in a definitive anthology of Jewish-American writers in the years 1870-2000. In two volumes of some 700 pages each, Professor Emanuel Goldsmith of Queens College has carried through a historic achievement. Equally impressive is the translation of this work into English by Barnett Zumoff and collaborators mentioned in a previous column.

One of Zumoff’s favorites is

Heymishe Tekhter

Ikh gey in di royshike gasn,

Shoyn zeks iz der zeyger far nakht

In reyen in lange zikh tsien

Di yidishe tekhter farshmakht.

O yidishe tekhter fun sheper!

In blik ayers ze ikh geheym

Dem kheyn fun dem yidishn shtetl

Dem glants fun der vayt vayter heym.

Ir geyt iber shteynerne gasn

Di erd un der himl farshtelt

Dukh duftn nokh ayere kleyder

Di duftn fun shtetlshn feld.

Un kuk ikh aykh on ale tifer,

Derze ikh nokh merer un nokh;

Di kroynen fun toyznter yorn,

Zey glantsn aroys fun dem yokh.

Vayl ale zayt ir dokh bnoys-malkes—

Der yikhes rut shtil aykh in blik.

Vi zayt ir farshklaft itst gevorn?

Ver brengt aykh tsum kenig tsurik?

Daughters of Our Own

Translated by Barnett Zumoff

I walk the narrow noisy streets

The time is 6 o’clock at night

And rows of careworn Jewish girls

Pass by now, fading like the light

O Jewish girls, you sweatshop girls,

Your faces still show secretly

The charm of former Jewish towns

A glow that ev’ryone can see.

You walk along the stony streets—

The sky is bleakly overcast.

But still your clothes aromas breathe

Of village days from time long past.

And if I deeply look at you,

I see much more, oh so much more

The crowns of bygone centuries

Still shine beneath the yokes you bore.

For all of you descend from queens

Your faces show your pedigree,

How have you been enslaved like this

And who will help to make you free?

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