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DER YIDDISH-VINKL January 23, 2004

A regular feature of the Forverts is a column titled “Leyener Dermonen Zikh Lider” (“Readers Recall Songs”). In a recent issue, one reader, Masha Benye-Mets, submitted a song dealing with a subject rarely mentioned in Jewish literature: wife-beating.

Leyener dermonen

A gutnr ovnt, Brayne! A gutn ovnt, Brayne,

Di beste shkheyne mayne,

Dos harts vert in mir farbrent

Zint ikh hob dem merder derkent.

Petrishke hob ikh fargesn koyfn,

Fleysh hot mir mayn mamele gebrakht

Di yoykh vet mir oysloyfn —

Hot zhe mir a gutinke nakht.

Nekhtn hot er mikh geshlogn

Broyn un bloy hot er mikh gemakht,

S’iz afile a bizoyen oystsuzogn —

Hot zhe mir a gutinke nakht.

Kh’volt zikh mit im avade getn,

Dos kind volt ikh im ibergelozt,

Bin ikh ober shreklekh elnt

Khotsh gey un leyg zikh in gas.

As is typical in folk songs, the author is unknown. The transliteration from Yiddish is by Goldie Gold. The English version is by Gus Tyler.

A Reader Remembers

Good evening, Brayne! You are really blessed,

Of all my neighbors you’re the very best.

My heart burns as if on fire

To kill my husband is my desire.

Parsley I forgot to bring,

My mother brought some meat

It really was a miserable thing —

I’ll tell you more next time we meet.

Yesterday, my man beat me

His fists left me black and blue

I’m ashamed to say how he did treat me —

I shouldn’t now be telling you.

I’d really like to be divorced,

And leave him with our little child,

Alone, however, I am lost

Like some poor creature running wild.

Although folk songs about wife-beating are fairly rare in Yiddish, the lyric above is not the only one of the genre. Our Goldie Gold recalls a folk song entitled “Hot a Yid a Vaybele,” in which a husband beats his wife because she forgetfully burned the kugel, with these lines:

Vi es iz gekumen shabes tsum esn,

Hot zi dem kugel in oyvn fargesn

Hot er genumen a grobn shtekn

Un hot angehoybn dos vaybel tsu dekn.

When on the Sabbath it was time to eat

The kugel had been burned in oven’s heat

The husband rose in anger to his feet

And with a stick his helpless wife he beat.

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