Skip To Content

DER YIDDISH-VINKL August 29, 2003

A half-century ago, the name Ruth Rubin was almost synonymous with Jewish folk songs. A singer, recording artist, scholar of Jewish lore, writer and translator, she edited a charming collection titled “Jewish Folk Songs (In Yiddish and English).”

In the foreword of Rubin’s book, Moses Asch wrote: “Today [Rubin] ranks as one of the outstanding people in the field of social musical anthropology. Her recordings of the European Jewish village songs as expressions of the immigrant generation are considered one of the important documents in ethnic musical archives.”

The following is one of the songs from Rubin’s book.

Bin Ikh Mir a Shnayderl

Bin ikh mir a shnayderl

Leb ikh mir tog oys, tog ayn

Lustig un freylekh un fayn

— Zog mir shnayder libinker un guter

Git ir di nodl genug oyf broyt mit puter?

— Ikh makh a vokh tsvey gildn mit a drayer,

Ikh es nor broyt, vayl puter iz tsu tayer.

Bin ikh mir a blekherl

Leb ikh mir tog oys, tog ayn

Lustig un freylekh un fayn

— Zog mir blekher, vi groys iz bay dir di noyt?

Hostu bulkes. Hostu nit kayn broyt?

— Ikh zits un klap bay yenem fremde dekher

Bay mir in shtub rint fun ale lekher.

Bin ikh mir a shusterl

Leb ikh tog oys tog ayn

Lustig und freylekh un fayn

— Zog mir, shuster, hostu vos tsu kayen?

Felt ir oyset, krigstu vu tsu layen?

— Keyner layt nisht, keyner git kayn orves,

Ikh bin a shuster, gey ikh take borves.

Bin ikh mir a kremerl

Leb ikh mir tog oys, tog ayn

Lustig and freylekh un fayn.

— Zog mir kremer. Tsu hostu mit vos tsu handlen?

Hostu in kreml; rozhinkes mit mandlen?

— Ikh hob in kreml far tsvey groshn skhoyre

Ikh shlep dem dalis, un ikh bentsh dem boyre.

I Am a Little Tailor

I am a little tailor,

I stitch and sew the livelong day

I’m as happy and as jolly as can be.

— Tell me little tailor, busy little tailor,

How can you sing gaily and merrily?

Does your little needle, your flashing little needle,

Earn enough to feed your family?

— I work all day, go wearily to bed,

All that we can eat is a dry crust of bread.

I am a little tinsmith,

I fix old roofs the livelong day

I’m as jolly and as happy as can be.

— Tell me, little tinsmith, nimble; little tinsmith

What makes you sing so gaily and merrily?

Does your labor give a fairly decent living?

Does your work give you security?

— I toil all day, fixing houses everywhere

Money’s very scarce. My own shack leaks and is so bare.

I am a little cobbler,

I hammer and peg the livelong day

I am jolly and as happy as can be.

— Tell me, little cobbler, eager little cobbler,

What makes you sing so gaily and merrily?

Does your little hammer, your awl and little hammer

Shield you from the curse of poverty?

— My credit’s poor, I have no funds for spending

I cobble other people’s shoes, my own could stand some mending.

I am a little merchant,

I trade my wares the livelong day

I am as jolly and as happy as can be

— Tell me little merchant, pious little merchant,

Have you many things in your little shop?

Do you have some almonds? Do you sell sweet raisins?

Are your shelves filled to the very top?

— My shelves are almost empty, may the good Lord help us. Let us pray

Everybody’s poor in town, we only live from day to day.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.