This article originally appeared in the Yiddish Forverts.
Aaron Bendich, a young reader of the Yiddish Forverts, spends a lot of time hanging out with his 103-year-old grandfather Max. Max Bendich, a child of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and a WWII-veteran, remembers a plethora of rare Yiddish songs, including novelty songs that were popular on the Lower East Side more than 80 years ago. [Full disclosure: Alan Bendich, father of Aaron and son to Max, is the Forward Association’s VP of Finance and Operations].
Aaron came to me with an inquiry about an odd song that his grandfather had recently sung about young college students swallowing live goldfish. A little research found that swallowing live goldfish was apparently the “Tide Pod Challenge” of the 1930s but I have been unable to track down any solid leads as to how it got immortalized in a Yiddish song.
If you know anything about this odd tune, shoot me an email at Kutzik@forward.com
Here is my first crack at a translation:
People have gone nuts; they’re still singing about fish
Well I’m good and crazy; so I only sing about a hot knish
A potato knish with a plate of sour cream
And I’m licking my fingers like a little kitten
Woe to me; may a boil grow on Hitler!
All the college boys are swallowing fish whole
For me, I’d rather have a hot knish.
Jordan Kutzik is the deputy editor of the Yiddish Forward. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WATCH: Have You Ever Heard This Yiddish Song About Swallowing Goldfish?