USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Jewish Songs’
Customs
Folk Dance
Musical

Up You Men

Official pep song of the Aleph Zadek Aleph (male Jewish teen youth group). Commonly started by president/board member/event leader drawing out the first word before everyone jumps in and forms a mosh pit.

Lyrics (More shouted than sung): Up you men and sing to AZA

Time will pass and we’ll be on our way

As the years go by there will be

Happiest of memories (Ra ra ra!)

Stand and then

We’ll sing this song again

All you loyal men

Sing the praises of our order

Sing up you men of AZA

(Once it reaches this part the song usually winds down with everyone matching a “heartbeat” rhythm pattern on their chest.)

 

The song is a shortcut for whatever peer leader is running a given meeting or event to bring up the energy in the group and get them to pay attention in one fell swoop. The lyrics themselves serve to hype up the group and its individual members in a way that’s somewhat jingoist. No official origin is known, but the full lyrics are included in the official AZA handbooks which speaks to its deep history and significance to the folk group. The organization’s origins (also detailed in the handbook) as a very pro-American group which contributed to the nation’s WWII war effort probably explains the jingoist vibe of the piece. Little details such as the second verse present in the handbook being absent in favor of the heartbeat rhythm (explained to me once with “Every Aleph’s heart beats the same way.”) as well as the mosh pit aspect (the handbook doesn’t comment on dances for the song) indicates that the song is still a living, breathing folk tradition that defies standardization and continues to evolve in use.

Childhood
Musical

Oyfn Pripetshik – Yiddish Song

Oyfn pripetchik brent a fayerl,

Un in shtub iz heys,

Un der rebe lernt kleyne kinderlekh,

Dem alef-beys.
Zet zhe kinderlekh, gedenkt zhe, tayere,

Vos ir lernt do;

Zogt zhe nokh a mol un take nokh a mol:

Komets-alef: o!

Lernt, kinder, mit groys kheyshek,

Azoy zog ikh aykh on;

Ver s’vet gikher fun aykh kenen ivre -

Der bakumt a fon.

Lernt, kinder, hot nit moyre,

Yeder onheyb iz shver;

Gliklekh der vos hot gelernt toyre,

Tsi darf der mentsh nokh mer?

Ir vet, kinder, elter vern,

Vet ir aleyn farshteyn,

Vifl in di oysyes lign trern,

Un vi fil geveyn.

Az ir vet, kinder, dem goles shlepn,

Oysgemutshet zayn,

Zolt ir fun di oysyes koyekh shepn,

Kukt in zey arayn!!!

 

English Translation:

On the stove, a fire burns,

And in the house it is warm.

And the rabbi is teaching little children,

The alphabet.

See, children, remember, dear ones,

What you learn here;

Repeat and repeat yet again,

Komets-alef: o!”

Learn, children, with great enthusiasm.

So I instruct you;

He among you who learns Hebrew pronunciation faster -

He will receive a flag.

Learn children, don’t be afraid,

Every beginning is hard;

Lucky is the one has learned Torah,

What more does a person need?

When you grow older, children,

You will understand by yourselves,

How many tears lie in these letters,

And how much lament.

When you, children, will bear the Exile,

And will be exhausted,

May you derive strength from these letters,

Look in at them!

The song Oyfn Pripetshik (translates to above the stove) is a traditional Yiddish/Jewish song that is usually taught by teachers to their juvenile students in their kindergarden class. The song is about a rabbi teaching the alef bet (the hebrew alphabet) to his young students. Because of its simplistic tune and lyrics, the song is often used to teach students Yiddish grammar and vocabulary. Interestingly, the song also contains a lyrical reference to the many struggles that Jews have struggled throughout history in the lyrics “When you grow older, children, You will understand by yourselves, How many tears lie in these letters, And how much lament”.

The informant, Reyna Babani, is a 71-year-old Mexican Jew who lives in Mexico City. Because she grew up in such a close knit community, Reyna considers herself an expert on Jewish culture. She was taught the song as a young girl in a Yiddish elementary school in Mexico City. She has a strong emotional connection to this song, as it was an easy way for her to connect with her immigrant grandparents. They did not speak much Spanish, and she was the only grandchild who spoke Yiddish, so they very much liked it when she sang to them in their native language.

This song is noteworthy because it seems to be an attempt by the elders of the Mexican-Jewish community to encourage children to embrace their Jewish identity. Even though this school was in Mexico, children were taught several Yiddish songs and were even instructed in how to speak the language itself. This goal to have children stay connected to their roots seems to have worked, as Reyna’s learning of the song left her feeling encouraged to spend more time with her grandparents.

 

Childhood
Holidays
Musical

Zog Nit Keynmol – Yiddish Song

Original Yiddishזאָג ניט קיין מאָל, אַז דו גייסט דעם לעצטן וועג,
כאָטש הימלען בלײַענע פֿאַרשטעלן בלויע טעג.
קומען וועט נאָך אונדזער אויסגעבענקטע שעה –
ס׳וועט אַ פּויק טאָן אונדזער טראָט: מיר זײַנען דאָ!פֿון גרינעם פּאַלמענלאַנד ביז ווײַסן לאַנד פֿון שניי,
מיר קומען אָן מיט אונדזער פּײַן, מיט אונדזער וויי,
און וווּ געפֿאַלן ס׳איז אַ שפּריץ פֿון אונדזער בלוט,
שפּראָצן וועט דאָרט אונדזער גבֿורה, אונדזער מוט!ס׳וועט די מאָרגנזון באַגילדן אונדז דעם הײַנט,
און דער נעכטן וועט פֿאַרשווינדן מיט דעם פֿײַנט,
נאָר אויב פֿאַרזאַמען וועט די זון אין דער קאַיאָר –
ווי אַ פּאַראָל זאָל גיין דאָס ליד פֿון דור צו דור.

דאָס ליד געשריבן איז מיט בלוט, און ניט מיט בלײַ,
ס׳איז ניט קיין לידל פֿון אַ פֿויגל אויף דער פֿרײַ,
דאָס האָט אַ פֿאָלק צווישן פֿאַלנדיקע ווענט
דאָס ליד געזונגען מיט נאַגאַנעס אין די הענט.

טאָ זאָג ניט קיין מאָל, אַז דו גייסט דעם לעצטן וועג,
כאָטש הימלען בלײַענע פֿאַרשטעלן בלויע טעג.
קומען וועט נאָך אונדזער אויסגעבענקטע שעה –
ס׳וועט אַ פּויק טאָן אונדזער טראָט: מיר זײַנען דאָ

Zog nit keyn mol, az du geyst dem letstn veg,
Himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg.
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sho,
S’vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do!

Fun grinem palmenland biz vaysn land fun shney,
Mir kumen on mit undzer payn, mit undzer vey,
Un vu gefaln s’iz a shprits fun undzer blut,
Shprotsn vet dort undzer gvure, undzer mut!

S’vet di morgnzun bagildn undz dem haynt,
Un der nekhtn vet farshvindn mit dem faynt,
Nor oyb farzamen vet di zun in der kayor –
Vi a parol zol geyn dos lid fun dor tsu dor.

Dos lid geshribn iz mit blut, un nit mit blay,
S’iz nit keyn lidl fun a faygl oyf der fray,
Dos hot a folk tsvishn falndike vent
Dos lid gezungen mit naganes in di hent.

To zog nit keyn mol, az du geyst dem letstn veg,
Himlen blayene farshteln bloye teg.
Kumen vet nokh undzer oysgebenkte sho –
S’vet a poyk ton undzer trot: mir zaynen do!

 

English Translation

Never say this is the final road for you,
Though leaden skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message: we are here!

From lands so green with palms to lands all white with snow.
We shall be coming with our anguish and our woe,
And where a spurt of our blood fell on the earth,
There our courage and our spirit have rebirth!

The early morning sun will brighten our day,
And yesterday with our foe will fade away,
But if the sun delays and in the east remains –
This song as motto generations must remain.

This song was written with our blood and not with lead,
It’s not a little tune that birds sing overhead,
This song a people sang amid collapsing walls,
With pistols in hand they heeded to the call.

Therefore never say the road now ends for you,
Though leaden skies may cover over days of blue.
As the hour that we longed for is so near,
Our step beats out the message: we are here!

Zog Nit Keynmol (translates to Never Say, also known as Hymn of the Partisans), is a traditional Yiddish/Jewish song that is considered to be one of the main anthems of the Jews that managed to survive the Holocaust. It was written during WWII by a Jewish prisoner of the Vilna Ghetto, after which it quickly became a symbol of resistance agaisnt the Nazi occupation. Sang to the tune of a traditional military march, the over time came to symbolize the memories of those lost during the war. It is often sung at annual Holocaust memorial ceremonies.

The informant, Reyna Babani, is a 71-year-old Mexican Jew who lives in Mexico City. Because she grew up in such a close-knit community, Reyna considers herself an expert on Jewish culture. She was taught the song as a young girl in a Yiddish elementary school in Mexico City. Beginning at the age of 13, all students were made to participate in a yearly Holocaust memorial ceremony. Because of this, at that age Reyna quickly became familiar with the song and the heartache that was associated it. Although the song was considered quite sad, she insists that it also had a hopeful tone, as the lyrics called for courage and strength during difficult times.

Songs like this are great indicators of what life was like for Jews after the war. Clearly, they were very distraught over what had occurred. But somehow, they managed to stay positive and move on through the inspiring songs sung by the youth. It appears that children like Reyna were instrumental in keeping Jewish communities alive and strong.

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