Oyfn Pripetshik – Yiddish Song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican
Age: 71
Occupation: Teacher
Residence: Mexico
Date of Performance/Collection: 71
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English, Yiddish

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:

Kometsalef: 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,

Kometsalef: 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.