Because they were never meant for mass consumption, only a small number of each book has ever been printed primarily for those Jews who came from the places memorialized. A complete collection is housed at Hebrew University in Jerusalem; the second largest collection is at YIVO. The majority were written in Yiddish and Hebrew, but a few books were written in the national languages (Hungarian, Polish, Romanian) of the countries covered. Many of the Yizker Bikher have some English sections (usually introductions and summaries).
What makes these books in essence, compilations of oral histories unique is that they not only describe in detail the occupation and eventual destruction of each Jewish community, but how complex, interesting, and diverse Yiddish culture was. The author of each article grew up in the city or town that the Yizker Bikh memorializes. For klezmer enthusiasts and researchers, these first-person accounts (some told to the author by family and relatives) provide among the most accurate details available on the attitude of others toward the klezmorim, their daily lives, and their professions in the shtetlekh of Central and Eastern Europe. Entries deal with awkward situations (klezmorim being beaten up by their gentile employers), celebrations (the completion of a new Torah transcription; May Day), events (a wedding of two orphans in a cemetery during a typhus epidemic), and harsh realities of poverty and war. There are even references to certain kinds of dances (kutner, larsey) for which I was not able to find any definitions, and types of instruments (double-neck ten-string guitar, bass bandura, long-tube trumpet) that the klezmorim played that were not typical of kapelyes of the time.
The following is an annotated bibliography of all entries I found in the YIVO Yizker Bikher that mentioned klezmer. Most entries have been distilled down to a few sentences of description, because many display strong similarities for example, a number of them describe a wedding from betrothal to sheve brukhes. The entries that are presented here in full are distinct and remarkable for their detail.
All the translations reflect the idiomatic expressions used by the authors. For example, when an author referred to klezmers rather than klezmorim, I retained his or her terminology. Similarly, I translated muzikant as musician and orkestra as orchestra but left kapelye as kapelye. Sometimes I used the exact words (indicated by quotation marks) used by the author because they were so unusual and rich in their content. Each location is spelled as it was spelled in the indigenous language of the region (this is how the books are catalogued at YIVO). In the body of the article I use the Yiddish spelling of the town and names of all Jews and non-Jews mentioned. All non-English words are italicized and can be found in the glossary.
The bibliographic form follows the one compiled by Zachary M. Baker, used today for reference at YIVO. The names of the countries to which the towns belonged between the end of World War I and the eve of World War II are indicated in parentheses. An asterisk after the English title means the translated title was already given by the editors; otherwise the titles were translated by Baker. The Yizker Bikher are listed here in alphabetical order and under their official place-names. The Polish towns are listed as they were in 1938, and other localities as of 1913. The author's name of each article is spelled according to the YIVO system. The following abbreviations are used: (B) Belorussian, (L) Lithuanian, (P) Polish, (R) Romanian, and (U) Ukrainian.
BARANOW (P). Sefer Yizkor Baranow (A Memorial to the Jewish community of Baranow*). Ed.: N. Blumenthal. Jerusalem, Yad Vashem, 1964. (Hebrew, Yiddish, English) "Shtetl Types" by Hirsh Fenster, pp. 155-56. (Yiddish)
The klezmorim performed at a wedding on Simkhes Torah while Rabbi Yosefus joyfully danced for them.
BARANOWICZE (P). Baranovitz; Sefer Zikaron (Baronovitz Memorial Book). Tel Aviv, Assoc. of Former Residents of Baranovitz in Israel, 1953. (Hebrew, Yiddish)
"The Klezmer Family Solomovitch," p. 447 (Photo caption: Mikhl the Klezmer and his students) (Yiddish)
Mikhl the klezmer performed for the Russian aristocracy and members of the Czar's court in 1914. The family kapelye included his daughter and some nonrelatives.
BEDZIN (P). Pinkas Bendin (Pinkas Bendin; A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Bendin*). Ed.: A. Sh. Stein. Tel Aviv, Assoc. of Former Residents of Bedzin in Israel, 1959. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "The 'Singing' City" by Der Shwartser (from the Zaglembye Newsaper, 1937) pp. 149-150. (Yiddish)
Klezmorim were prevalent and successful and played for both the Jews and Christians in town. Some Christians saw how the Jewish beggars were quite successful at their endeavors and decided to pretend to be disabled and beg for alms. The Jewish beggars were not happy with this situation and organized, stating that no one would be allowed to mock and imitate them for money.
BIALA PODLASKA (P). Sefer Biala Podlaska (The Book of Biala Podlaska). Ed.: M. J. Feigenbaum. Tel Aviv, Kupat Gmilut Hesed of the Community of Biala Podlaska, 1961. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Moshe Bass," p. 381. (Yiddish)
Decrepit old Moshe Bass played so tunelessly, his fellow klezmorim paid him not to play. But Moshe was determined and played without pay. Despite his physical weakness and blindness, he led afternoon Sabbath services with a strong, shrill voice.
BIALYSTOK (P). Bialystok; Bilder Album ) Bialystok Photo Album *). Ed.: D. Sohn. New York, Bialystoker Album Committee, 1951. p. 132 (photo caption: A Family Kapelye) (Yiddish)
Lipa Perlstein's family kapelye from Washlikowa and his seven musical grandchildren (six girls and one boy) in 1930. One girl, Chana Godeloff, was currently a musician in Israel. They are shown playing violin, guitar, balalaika, and mandolin.
BILGORAJ (P). Bilgoraj Yizkor-Bukh (Bilgoray Memorial Book). By Moshe Teitlboym. Jerusalem, 1955. (Yiddish) "Jewish Holidays," p. 42.
The night after Yom Kiper, gentile conscriptors interrupted a celebration with the Rebe. They took young Jewish boys to be registered. Ironically, the boys had to also pay a ruble for the privilege of being conscripted into the Czar's army.
BILGORAJ (ibid.) "Handworkers," p. 58. (Yiddish)
The klezmorim in town all descended from the Gimpel family and played at every celebration. Rising anti-Semitism among the Poles led to their replacement by the local gentile fireman's brigade band.
BILGORAJ (ibid.) "Interesting Types in Bilgoraj," p. 74.
The leader of the kapelye was the only one to take the train to a wedding. He traveled half the night while his kapelye played at the wedding. On the way home, his fellow klezmorim found him at the train station, worn out from his travels.
BOLECHOW (P). Sefer Ha-zikaron Le-kodeshei (Memorial Book of the Martyrs of Bolechow). Ed.: Y. Eshel. Assoc. of Former Residents of Bolechow in Israel, 1957. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "The Wedding by the Russian Rabbi," by Dvora Aykhler-Adler, pp. 267-68. (Yiddish)
The klezmorim played all week long for the wedding festivities of Rabbi Shlomo Perlov's daughter. The wedding was a lavish and important event in the shtetl.
BORSZCZOW (P). Sefer Boroszczow (The Book of Borstchoff*). Ed.: N. Blumenthal. Tel Aviv, Assoc. of Former Residents of Borszczow in Israel, 1960. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "The Kowalkes," pp. 154-56. (Yiddish)
The Kowalkes were a wealthy and distinguished old family. They were generous patrons of Yiddish theatre and the synagogue. When one of them got married, it was a lavish celebration, no matter the time of year. They always hired klezmorim from another town.
BRICHEVO (R). Pinkas Brichevo (Memorial Book of Brichevo). Ed.: K. A. Bertini. Tel Aviv, Former Residents of Brichevo (Bessarabia) in Israel, 1970. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "An Orchestra in Town," by Moshe Mester, p. 285. (Yiddish)
Dudel Koyfman (first violin) built a successful kapelye with Shlomo and Fayvel Gelman.
The members were: Koyfman, Shlomo Gelman (second violin), Morits Shekhter and Nionya Zisman (also violins), Moyshe Vaynshtayn (flute), and Fayvel Gelman and Sonya Levinthal (guitars, mandolin, and sometimes violin). The kapelye disbanded when Koyfman immigrated to America.
BURSZTYN (P). Sefer Bursztyn (Book of Bursztyn). Ed.: S. Kanc. Jerusalem, The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Disapora, 1960. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Rohatyner Klezmorim," p. 269 (photo and caption). (Yiddish)
The Rohatyner klezmorim were: Moyshele Faust, his sons Duvid, Itsik-Hirsh, Mordkhay-Shmuel, and Yankl, and others. For two generations they led brides and grooms to the khupe. The sons died by the hands of Hitler's murderers.
BYCHAWA (P). Bychawa; Sefer Zikaron (Bychawa; A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Bychawa Lubelska*). Ed.: J. Adini. Bychawa Organization in Israel, 1968. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "A Wedding in our Town Bychawa," by Aryeh (Leybele) Fik, pp. 256-57. (Hebrew)
Yerakhmiel Klezmer 's famous kapelye from Lublin played at the wedding of two prominent rabbis' children.
CHELM (P). Sefer Ha-zikaron Le-kehilat Chelm; Shana Le-hurbana (Yizkor Book in Memory of Chelem*). Ed.: Sh. Kanc. Tel Aviv, Chelm Society in Israel and the U.S., 1980/81. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Once There was a Wedding in Chelm," by Moshe Lerer, pp. 317-18.
In Chelm, wedding preparations began with the signing of the engagement contract and ended after the celebration of the sheve brukhes.
CHELM (ibid). (photo and caption) p. 111 (Yiddish)
The photo is of the kapelye from the "Lines-Hatsedek" organization.
CHMIELNIK (P). Pinkas Chmielnik (Memorial book of Chmielnik). Tel Aviv, Former Residents of Chmielnik in Israel, 1960. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "The Ruined Wedding on the Account of an Agreement between the Rabbi and Klezmorim," by Moshe Lyver Mints, pp. 212-16. (Yiddish) (picture of klezmorim, quot;Yidl with his Fiddle," p. 214)
One day Rabbi Abraham Yitzkhok Silman, the rabbi of Chmielnik, asked Yosef-Leyb Marshalik, the leader the town's klezmer band, to his home. Rabbi Silman asked Yosef-Leyb to promise that he, his children, and his grandchildren would never play at a wedding where boys and girls danced together. "I promise you this," said Yosef-Leyb.
Almost all the klezmorim belonged to one large family. Yosef-Leyb played the bass and his son Sane played the violin. His daughter Chane's children also played in the kapelye.
There was Notl, the oldest, on violin, Abraham on clarinet, and Yisroel on drum. Chane's husband, Velvel, also was a klezmer and played the trumpet, violin, and clarinet, sometimes with Yosef-Leyb. The youngest son, Elye, was too young to play in the band. Eventually he studied at the conservatory in Vienna and became a well-known cellist, giving concerts in Kielc, Lodz, and Kraków. He died young in Kielc. His only son survived the Holocaust and lived in America.
In 1895 there was a big wedding in town between Hirshl Wheelwright's son Yankl Rimazh and Yakhe Libe, Elye Penzel's daughter. The wedding took place in Yisroel Stolar's carpentry workshop. After the ceremony and customary Jewish dances, Shmuel Stelmakher, the groom's younger brother (a playboy of sorts), went up to Yosef-Leyb and asked him if he would perform more popular dances like the kutner and larsey, in which eight couples dance together. The first dance was the kutner dance, which cost Shmuel one ruble. The ruble was put into the tin can, which was tied to the belt of the youngest klezmer, the drummer. The tin can was locked and the key was left at Yosef-Leyb's home. After the wedding all the klezmorim went to his home where the can was opened, the money counted, and each klezmer received his proper share.
The music began and so did the dancing. Eventually Sane, who played first violin, went to the front of the crowded room to see what one of the young boys wanted who was shouting at him. Apparently the klezmorim had begun to play the second section of the kutner dance before all the couples had completed their steps. When Sane got closer to the young man, he saw the boys dancing with the girls and quickly yelled something to Yosef-Leyb in klezmer slang. Suddenly the music stopped. It was explained to Shmuel that a promise had been made to the rabbi that mixed dancing would not take place at any wedding the Marshalik klezmorim played at. Shmuel insisted that he continue to play since he paid a ruble for the two dances. Yosef-Leyb refused, and at that very minute a fight broke out. Sane's violin was broken, along with the Yosef-Leyb's bass. While people were shouting, screaming, and running about, Yisroel the drummer quickly ran out with the tin can to save what little they had earned.
The next day Libe Elke Penzel, quite depressed, went to Yosef-Leyb's home to apologize and pay him the rest of his fee. He did not want to take it, but she insisted, knowing that several instruments had to be repaired. And this was how the playboys of Chmielnik got back at the klezmorim for making the agreement with the rabbi.
CHMIELNIK (ibid.) "The Rich Man's Extravagant Wedding," by Leybl Fyemrikowski, p. 308. (Yiddish)
Tuvyeh Marshalik, the batkhn, entertained at a lavish wedding. They prepared the food six months before the wedding. There was so much food that a special train wagon brought the pepper for the fish, while ten cars were filled with salt just to kosher the meat. On the wedding day the family, neighbors, batkhonim, shamasim, and klezmorim arrived, all with a limitless hunger.
CHMIELNIK (ibid.) "A Wedding In Town," by Khane Fuks, pp. 309-12. (photo caption: A wedding with the Midlazh family, p. 312) (Yiddish)
A typical Jewish wedding in Chmielnik usually involved most of the Jews in town.
CHORZELE:(P) Sefer Zikaron Le-kehilat Chorzel (Memorial Book of the Community of Chorzel). Ed.: L. Losh. Tel Aviv, Association of Former Residents of Chorzele in Israel, 1967. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Yosef Tik Performs in the Theatre," by Menakhem Lanienter, pp. 201-02. (Yiddish)
A poor shopkeeper and violinist leaped at the chance to play the lead in a local play. Unfortunately his wife interrupted the performance for fear that he was losing money at the shop.
CZESTOCHOWA (P). Tchenstokhover Yidn (The Jews of Czestochowa). Ed.: R. Mahler. New York, United Czestochower Relief Committee and Ladies Auxiliary, 1947. (Yiddish) "A Courtyard off of Warsaw Street," by Y. Elkhanon Ply-Fileek, pp. 817-20.
The apartment house at Warshavskaya Street 5 was full of life and the noise from the Jewish residents, including several family kapelyes.
CZYZEWO (P). Sefer Zikaron Czyzewo (Memorial Book of Tshijewo*). Ed.: Sh. Kanc. Tel Aviv, Former Residents of Tshizhevo in Israel and the USA, 1961. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "A Wedding in Town," pp. 497-99. (Yiddish)
In Czyzewo there was no wedding without Yudl the Batkhn. After the wedding ceremony, the festivities took place in either a Christian teahouse or in one of two Jewish-owned homes. At the wedding, Yudl and the kapelye received a percentage of the droshe geshank according to the bride's parents' income and were still paid per dance by the women as well.
CZYZEWO (ibid.) "The Order of the Wedding Ceremony," by the groom, pp. 499-502.
A typical wedding in Czyzewo included throwing rotten food (or in the winter, snowballs) at the groom to signify that this should be the most painful time of his life.
CZYZEWO (ibid.) "Czyzewor Klezmorim," by Avraham Yosef Ritholz, pp. 579-80.
Avraham Yosef Ritholz had a large family. All of them comprised his klezmer orchestra and several other orchestras after he passed away. Before and after World War I, they experienced a lot of anti-Semitism when they played for gentiles. Eventually some family members immigrated to America.
DABROWICA (P). Sefer Dombrovitsa (Book of Dambrowica). Ed.: L. Losh. Tel Aviv, Association of Former Residents of Dabrowica in Israel, 1964. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "The Next to Last Count," by Yitskhok Feyglshtayn, pp. 177-80 (Yiddish)
In Dabrowica, many Jews worked for the estate owned by Count Pliaster. They cleared his forests and built his new homes. All of the contractors were Jews. When he married, he hired the local klezmorim to play at his wedding. When Count Pliaster died, most of the town's Jews went to his funeral.
DEBICA (P). Sefer Dembits (Book of Debica). Ed.: D. Leibl. Tel Aviv, Association of Former Residents of Debica, 1960. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Letsim," by Naftali Shnayer, pp. 53-4. (Yiddish)
In Dembica there were two Yehuda Leybs. One was Yehuda Leyb Dayn and the other was Yehuda Leyb Balbirer. People in town often got them mixed up. Balbirer was a businessman, while Dayn was an old-time doctor whose office was in the barbershop. He also was a klezmer. When he was not working he sat around with his fellow letsim friends and joked with the patrons.
DOBROMIL (P). Sefer Zikaron Le-zekher Dobromil (Memorial Book of Dobromil*). Ed.: M. Gelbart. Tel Aviv, The Dobromiler Society in New York and the Dobromiler Organization in Israel, 1964. (Hebrew, English, Yiddish) "Dobromiler Views and Ways of Life," by Sol Miller, pp. 70-74. (Yiddish)
In Dobromil there were four languages spoken: Yiddish, Polish, German, and Ruthenian. Though the Jews learned all four languages in the folks-shule, Yiddish was the language they spoke in the home and on the street. During weddings in Dobromil, the muzikers Yidl on violin and Leyb on bass performed.
DOBROMIL (ibid.) "Klezmer," by Z. Shtayn, pp. 223-24. (Yiddish)
Yidl Glozberg was the leader of the kapelye. Besides playing at Jewish and Christian weddings, he also gave the Christians music lessons. When Yidl wanted to get married, his prospective father-in-law at first did not agree to Yidl marrying his daughter because he did not want a klezmer yung for his daughter. Eventually Yidl prevailed and performed the bazingen for his own bride.
DOBRZYN (P). Yizker Bletlekh (Our Village*) by Shmuel Russak, Tel Aviv, 1972. (Yiddish, English) "The Old Klezmer," p. 47. (Yiddish)
Alter Nussbaum was the klezmer at hundreds of Jewish weddings. When he was eighty it became too difficult to hold the violin. This caused Alter to be depressed. Sometimes one heard him playing by himself the sad melody Kol Nidre.
DOKSZYCE (P) Sefer Yizkor Dokszyce-Parafianow (Dokszyc-Parifianow Book*). Ed.: Shtokfish. Tel Aviv, Assoc. of Former Residents of Dokszyce-Parifianow in Israel, 1970. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Weddings," by Kalman Shults, pp. 41-43 (Yiddish)
Two weeks before the wedding, the groom, who came from Dalhinov, said there was a problem with the dowry. He had not received the exact amount of the dowry that had been agreed upon. Quickly the shatkhn worked out the problem. On the day of the wedding, the whole town, including the poor, participated. Nachum the Whistler led his kapelye on the violin while the batkhn and lets sang songs and rhyming poems.
DROHICZYN POLESKI (P) Drohiczyn; Finf Hundert Yo Yidish Lebn (Memorial Book Drohichyn*) Ed.: D. B. Warshawsky. Chicago, Book Committee Drohichyn, 1958. (Yiddish) (photo caption) "Nisn Saratchikis' Wedding in 1917," p. 31 (Yiddish)
The khupe was carried from Khaykl Milner's house to the synagogue courtyard with the klezmorim accompanying the wedding party.
DUBNO (P) Dubno; Sefer Zikaron (Dubno; A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Dubno, Wolyn*). By A. Boxer (Ben-Arjeh). Ed.: S. Eisenberg. Haifa, 1962. (Yiddish) "Jewish Weddings and Klezmorim," by Moshe Katchke, pp. 665-71. (Yiddish)
The klezmer kapelye in Dubno played at the weddings of Jews, peasants, and Polish princes. Some of the Dubno klezmorim were: Rueven Tzimering, Reb Eli Klezmer (Eli Struner), and Reb Mendel Klezmer (Mendel Katshke).
Rueven Tzimering was a clarinetist and composer. He was so good at writing music that he helped the khazn in the big synagogue. He read from the Toyre of the small synagogues. Reb Eli Klezmer played second violin and was the gebe in the Shoemakers' Synagogue. Reb Mendel Klezmer played the cornet. He was a fine musician who also wrote music. He was a sergeant in Nikolai's army and played in the military orchestra in Lutsk. During his four years of service he remained religious despite being in the military.
In the 1890s the kapelye numbered ten men (including a first violin) and a batkhn. They played not only in Dubno but also in the surrounding towns. About a month before a wedding, the representatives from the kapelye would visit the bride's father to make an agreement about their services and what they would be paid. Their salary was anywhere from ten to fifteen rubles. For this they had to do the following: Play at the bazetsn for the bride, lead her to the khupe in the synagogue, then lead the wedding party with freylekhs through only the streets where Jews lived. They were not permitted to go down the wide streets like Alexandrovka or Panienska, where the neighborhood was mixed. Anything that was part of the wedding ceremony was covered by the fees the klezmorim had earlier decided upon. But all of the dances during the party were paid for separately.
Up until World War I, the following dances were popular in Dubno: The quadrille, which was for four couples and cost four kopeks. The dance lasted about fifteen minutes and the tempo was slow. The sherele, which was danced by manycouples cost ten kopeks per couple. It started slowly and ended up in a strong gallop. The freylekhs was usually danced with one couple at a time, a man with his wife or two from the same sex. Sometimes four lined up, one across from the other. When the music began, one person would dance specific steps and figures opposite the other. Their hands were held down by their sides and they moved from side to side, back and forth. The dance lasted until one fell from fatigue. Then the other partner would grab hold of his tired partner's hands and they would begin to dance together with each other's hand on each of their shoulders, to the freylekh. Then the klezmorim would pick up the tempo while the in-laws all began to clap with great appreciation and ardor. Then the women would wave their handkerchiefs in the air, urging on each partner to surpass the other. Such a freylekh cost twenty kopeks. The kozak (kozatchka) cost the same amount. This dance was played for the in-laws and adolescents. The young danced waltzes, such as the Boston waltz, krakowiaks, a lizginka, and the tsherkishn dance, where the dancer held a knife in his hand. This dance received a big noisy applause. The majority of the dances took place before the khupe ceremony.
At about eleven p.m., the tables were set with various dishes, including sweets like honey cakes, fruit layer cakes, and sweet rolls. The main courses were gefilte fish, roast meat, gildene yoyikh, with baked mandlen-broyt and a compote. During the whole meal the klezmorim kept playing. Then they would play for the newlyweds a special dobranotsh. Before the melody began, the batkhn yelled: "This is for the distinguished couple, in-laws, etc." The klezmorim received a special fee for this tune. After the meal the batkhn began conducting the droshe-geshank. Afterward, the tables were pushed aside and the klezmorim played some more freylekhs or a polka. Then one of the khasidim would do the mitsve tants with the bride. Finally dawn was appearing and the klezmorim led the in-laws to their homes with music.
The police under the Czar and then later under the Poles were not ordered to watch such wedding ceremonies, but sometimes they came anyway, to see how everyone danced. Sometimes the police were invited in and offered a drink of whiskey. The vlaste came in and thanked the wedding couple for their hospitality. This always pleased the in-laws.
If the klezmorim were invited to play for a wealthy man or for the intelligentsia, then they polished their instruments and came in their very finest clothes. No one in the kapelye would miss such a rich wedding. If for some reason a klezmer could not be there, then they took a musician from their Czech neighbors. When the klezmorim played a wedding for a butcher, it was like being at a king's wedding. The butchers were generous and paid higher wages to the klezmorim. Plus there were a lot of extra dances. The butchers loved to dance a freylekhs. Their favorite freylekh was the tzirele. In this dance they would stomp with their boots and sing with the klezmorim. "Tzirele Mirele, take this sack, I will throw you a parsnip "
From such butcher weddings the klezmorim made from fifty to sixty rubles outside of their guaranteed wages. When paid this amount, the klezmorim brought a box with a lock on it. They put the money into the box and gave it to a cashier. Then once a month they would divide it up in unequal parts. The better player usually was given a quarter of the proceeds and sometimes even half. Mendel Klezmer used to receive half the total amount while the bassist did not get more than a quarter and sometimes less. The cashier was usually ignorant but honest. After the money was divvied out to the last penny, the klezmorim bought a little whiskey and then brought home the rest, their brukhe. This brukhe was used to pay the businesses and stores where the klezmer had bought things on credit. It also paid the teacher and the landlord's rent.
The klezmorim also performed for the landowners and peasants in the surrounding area. Usually for a peasant wedding the klezmorim were paid twenty to thirty rubles. The gentile groom with his attendants came into town having already decided on the fee and picked up the klezmorim in a wagon and took them to the village. The klezmorim were skilled in the customs of the gentiles' weddings and played to their tastes. At the gentile wedding, whenever a distinguished guest stepped inside the groom's home, the kapelye played a march. Sometimes the guest interrupted the klezmorim and gave them a present. Often the gentile weddings ended with some kind of scandal or fight. When this happened, the klezmorim grabbed their instruments, jumped through the windows, and ran home.
When a circus came to town, the Dubno klezmorim played for them. Although the klezmorim were religious men, they still knew how to play for every situation. Unfortunately the livelihood of the klezmorim was economically very difficult. None of them left any inheritance for their children and their sons did not follow in their fathers' footsteps. The last Dubno klezmorim were all murdered by Hitler.
DUBOSSARY (R) Dubosary; Sefer Zikaron (Dubossary Memorial Book). Ed.: Y. Rubin. Tel Aviv, Association of Former Residents of Dubossary in America, Argentina and Israel, 1965. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Reb Itsik Shargorodski the Dubossary Klezmer," by Harry Shir, pp. 228-31. (Yiddish) (photo caption: Reb Itsik Shargorodski and his family. The young boy on the right is Hirshl (Harry Shir) photographed in 1897)
Itzik Shargorodski was a gifted composer. Some of his melodies were published by the musicologist Moshe Bik, who came from the same the same town. Hearing that klezmers in America played for the Yiddish theatre as well as for weddings, he left without his family but returned when his wife became ill with consumption. Back in Dubossary he became the leader again of the Dubossary kapelye.
DUSETOS (L). Ayera Hayita B-Lite Dusiat Bi-re'I Ha-Zikhronot (There Was a Shtetl in Lithuania; Reflected in Reminiscences). Ed.: Sara Weiss-Slep. Tel Aviv, the Society of Former Residents of Dusiat, 1989. (Hebrew) "A Wedding in the Town," by Rivke B., p. 92.
Weddings were always celebrated on erev Shabes in town. The kapelye consisted of a violin, flute, accordion, and drum.
DUSETOS (ibid.) "A Wedding in Town," By Henia B. p. 93.
The procession to the khupe was led by the klezmer violinist, then followed by everybody else holding lit candles. Behind the procession of people came the trumpet and drums.
FRAMPOL (P). Sefer Frampol (Frampol Book*). Ed.: D. Shtokfish. Tel Aviv, (Book Committee), 1966. (Yiddish) "A Wedding in Town," pp. 160-65.
In Frampol there were klezmorim, but the batkhn was from Bilgoraj. Once the famous batkhn Shmuel Tsholnt was brought from Lublin, when the bride, an orphan, married an American. Weddings lasted all night until the last dance, the gute-nakht, dance was played.
FRAMPOL (ibid.) "Reb Leybish the Frampoler Composer," by Moyshe Likht Feld, pp. 233-39. (Yiddish)
Leybish was a shokhet, mohel, and composer of khasidishe nigunim. Sometimes a klezmer violinist accompanied him while he sang and other times he accompanied himself on the violin. Once the Trisker Rebe, Rabbi Moyshele Twerski, invited Leybish to lead the prayers during the Days of Awe in Trisk, but the Frampol Jewish community was upset. So instead Leybish wrote three marches for the Trisker Rebe that were sung in the Trisker synagogue.
GABIN (P). Gombin; Dos Lebn un Umkum fun a Yidish Shtetl in Poyln (The Life and Destruction of a Jewish Town in Poland*). Eds.: Jack Zicklin et al. New York, Gombin Society in America, 1969. (Yiddish, English) "Klezmorim," by Yakov Rotbard, pp. 38-39. (Yiddish)
In Gombin, down one narrow street there were two stores. One was a grain store, the other a food store that was owned by Leybele-Khanon Klezmer. One always heard music at this corner. Sometimes it was wind instruments, other times a violin and a bass. Leybele-Khanon and his kapelye played many weddings.
GARGZDAI (L). Sefer Gorzd (Lita); Ayara Be-hayeha U-be-hilayona (Gordz Book; A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Gordz*). Ed.: Yitzhak Alperovitz. Tel Aviv, The Gordz Society, 1980. (Hebrew, English, Yiddish) "Celebrations," by Arye Frank, pp. 126-7. (Hebrew)
Every seven years, after the completion of reading the Talmud, there was a great celebration fit for a king. The klezmorim played while the Jews ate cooked goose, fish, herring, khales, cakes, and fruit. Stories were told about Rabbi Shabatay and everyone had a good time. No one ever forgot this siem [Yid.: conclusion] celebration.
GLINOJECK (P). Mayn Shtetele Glinovyetsk; Un di Vayterdike Vandlungen Plock-Wierzbnik, Zikhroynes (My Town Glinojeck ,) by Shlomo Motskowits. Paris, 1976. (Yiddish) pp. 188-192.
The author remembers his aunt's joyous wedding. Only ten years after that, he was in the Starkhowitser concentration camp, remembering his aunt Dvore's beautiful rendition of "Eli, Eli Lamo Azvasoni" ("Oh, God, why have you forsaken me?")
GONIADZ (P). Sefer Yizkor Goniadz (Our Hometown Goniadz*). Ed.: D. Shtokfish. Tel Aviv, Association of Gniewashow in Israel and the Diaspora, 1971. (Hebrew, English, Yiddish) "A Wedding in Town," by Avraham Yap, pp. 501-02. (Yiddish)
Weddings were usually announced in the synagogue with music from the klezmorim. Since the town had no kapelye, one was brought from Trestyna. The wealthier weddings brought klezmorim from Stchutchin. The weddings were held in the market square. There the batkhn sang zogekhts and muser songs for the bride.
GROJEC (P). Megilat Gritse (Megilat Gritze*). Ed.: I. B. Alterman. Tel Aviv, Gritzer Association in Israel, 1955. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "The Gritzer Mama," by Avraham Fridman, pp. 175-77. (Yiddish)
In the town, Feygele Drayer the Rebetsin was called the "Gritzer Mama" because she took care of the sick, poor, and other sufferers. During World War I, a typhus epidemic hit the town. Feygele believed the only way to get rid of the plague was to have two orphans be married by their respective parents'gravesites. Yitskhok the Klezmer and his kapelye entertained in the cemetery.
GURA HUMORA (R). Ayara Bi-darom Bukovina; Koroteha Shel-kehila Yehudit (Gura Humora: Eine Kleinstadt in der Suuml;d-Bokovina; Die Geschichte einer Juuml;dischen Gemeinde) (A Small Town in South Bukowina; The History of its Community). Eds.: Shraga Yeshurun, Zvi Wagner, Shlomo Apter. Tel Aviv, 1992. (Hebrew) "Music," by Shlomo Viniger, pp. 130-31.
The Buicas were a gypsy family that played at all the Jewish and non-Jewish celebrations, in the restaurants, and at the funerals in town. The band was in existence to World War I.
HIRLAU (R). Der Khoyv Fun Zikorn; Mayn Moldevish Shtetl Harlau) The Duty of Memory; My Moldavian Town Harlau) by Khayim Zaydman. Jerusalem, Yidishe Kultur-Gezelshaft, 1982. (Yiddish) "Purim," by Khayim Zaydman, pp. 240-243.
On Purim before lunch it felt like any other day. In synagogue we said kryovets [Heb.: acronym for the voice of joy and salvation in the tents of the righteous] and the megile was read once more. In the street, all the Jewish shops were open and the artisans worked in the morning. They only began to celebrate the holiday in the afternoon.
There were many young boys and girls going around with covered saucers. The shalakhmones was being moved in both directions. One received from the households not only baked goods but also a coin with the shalakhmones. We also gave, but not a lot. We sent shalakhmones to the two rabbis, the old shokhtim, and to our good friends.
After lunch, one began to see disguises. Children wore disguises, but not in the evening, only at dusk. The older children wore some garment on the left side; then they would go around to the back door and go into the anteroom: "Mama, do you know who I am?" Then the mother began to laugh. "No, my child, who are you?" "I am Moyshele." "Oi, a blessing on your little head; I did not recognize you." The child was very happy, while the mother beamed with proud enjoyment and gave the child and the neighbor something.
We did the afternoon prayers early so we could go to the feast before sunset, while it was still Purim. The fathers wore their shtraymls and Sabbath kapotes, while the mothers and their children were dressed in their best clothes and sat at the festive table. The dishes still leave me with a taste today. Such an atmosphere it was. The koyletch tasted like the Garden of Eden. Then there was the fish of the day, and the gildene yoyikh ; everything was special for Purim. The mother made a sweet dish called palave. Just as one would never have a seder without a parsnip tsimmes, one never had a Purim meal without palave. In the palave there were small raisins mixed in with a grain. We called it "kish-mish." There was also some rice and other things. The festive meal was cozy. And though it had started early, it ended late.
After the festive meal came all of the other Purim events, the klezmers and presentations to watch. There were no Jewish klezmers in our town. Our population was too small to have a permanent klezmer kapelye. You always had some entertainers at a wedding, but they were Jewish klezmers from the neighboring towns. For example, they came from Botosani, who brought with them a batkhn as well, a necessary requisite at a Jewish wedding. So what would we do without klezmers for Purim? One wanted at least a little music.
In our town, there were three gypsy families living in three different houses. In one of the houses lived some musicians who played the violin and other instruments. The Romanian gypsies had a tradition of being musicians. They say that the great composer and pianist Franz Lizst from the previous century would occasionally visit the Romanian national poet Alexander Vassily in Moldova. Alexander had with him a gypsy kapleye that included the famous Barbu Lautaru Brosh. They played for the guests at the table during the meal. Liszt enjoyed Barbu's playing. Barbu played so magically, even though he could not read music. Then Liszt played his composition, the Second Hungarian Rhapsody. At the end of the piece everyone applauded Liszt. Then Barbu asked him if he would repeat the rhapsody. Barbu then played the entire piece from memory. Liszt was thoroughly pleased with his performance.
I do not know if our gypsies were the direct successors of Barbu, but they could play just as well. Every Purim they used to go around from afternoon into the evening with their violins throughout the whole town, playing Jewish and non-Jewish melodies at the Jewish homes. In return they received a few groshen and a treat. Along with the gypsies, the Purimshpilers came around and sang the well-known "Haman Wanted to Hang All the Jews." They received some hamantashn, other cookies, and some money.
There were also men and women who went around collecting tsdoke for the various charities while the beggars also went around from house to house. Then the young girls and boys, wearing different masks and original costumes, walked about the town visiting each others' homes. The weather was sometimes beautiful and sometimes not so beautiful, with rain and mud. Sometimes Spring made a mistake and came early and it was nice to go out in the street and walk about under the full moon. In the late evening, couples, young men, and klezmers went around in the calm, homey atmosphere. In the homes people ate cookies, drank wine, sang "Shoshanes-Yaakov," [Heb.: The Rose of Jacob] and joked with the Purimshpilers. More or less this was Purim in Hirlau from the beginning of the century through the 1920s.
HORODENKA (P). Sefer Horodenka (The Book of Horodenka). Ed.: Sh. Meltzer. Tel Aviv, Former Residents of Horodenka and Vicinity in Israel and the USA, 1963. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Jewish Weddings," by Sholom Kirshner, p. 105. (Yiddish)
The Shabes before the wedding was the oyfruf, when the groom was called to the Toyre for mafter. If the groom was weak in Hebrew, then mafter was a hardship rather than an honor. The town's kapelye was led by Kalman Rozenkranzt and his son Hirsch-Kopl.
HOSZCZA (P). Sefer Hoshtch; Yizker-Bukh (The Book of Hosht in Memoriam*). Ed.: R. Fink. New York and Tel Aviv, Society of Hosht, 1957. (Yiddish) "Klezmer, Gramophone and Movie Theatre," by Efrayim Yaron, pp. 176-79
In Hoshch its eccentric klezmorim played for Jews but mostly for the gentiles.
HRUBIESZOW (P). Pinkas Hrubieszow (Memorial Book of Hrubieshov*). Ed.: B. Kaplinsky. Tel Aviv, Hrubieshov Associations in Israel and the USA, 1962. (Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Polish) "The Dance Plague," pp. 333-34. (Yiddish)
During the years 1918-20, dancing was a popular activity. The k hasidim in town tried to prevent this, but many Jewish organizations held dances as successful fundraisers.
IWIE (P). Sefer Zikaron Le-kehilat Iwie (Ivie; In Memory of the Jewish Community*). Ed.: M. Kaganovich. Tel Aviv, Association of Former Residents of Ivie in Israel and "United Ivier Relief" in America, 1968. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "A Wedding in Iwie," by Osne Brand (Katshker) p. 378. (Yiddish)
In a poem, a wedding is described. The wedding took place on Friday before Shabes. On Saturday night after Shabes the dancing began and lasted all night. Today one does not see such a wedding.
IWIENIEC (P). Sefer Iwieniec, Kamien Ve-ha seviva; Sefer Zikaron (The Memorial Book of Iwieniec, Kamien and the Surrounding Region). Tel Aviv, Iwieniec Societies in Israel and the Diaspora, 1973. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "A Wedding in a Poorhouse," pp. 132-35. (Yiddish)
In the Iweiniecer poorhouse lived two families. One was Guta, who was blind in one eye, with her daughter Yente, the meshugena. In another room lived a mute woman with her son Yenkl, who was a cripple. When Yenkl's mother died, the town decided that he should marry Yente. The town provided everything for the wedding including the klezmer music.
IWIENEIC (ibid.) "A Wedding in Iwieneic," by Yitskhok Kuznits, p. 179-81.
The author described his sister's wedding with all the preparation and celebration in 1923.
JAROSLAW (P). Sefer Jaroslaw (Jaroslaw Book*). Ed.: Yitzhak Alperwitz. Tel Aviv, Jaroslaw Society, 1978. (Hebrew, English, Yiddish) "The Musical and Entertainment Life," by Arne Zilberman, p. 265. (Hebrew)
The musical and entertainment life in Jaroslaw was connected with the Gayger family. There was no event in the theatre or movie house that David Geiger's kapelye did not have an active role in. They also ran a dance and music school.
JAWOROW (P). Matsevet Zikaron Le-kehilat Jaworow Ve-ha-seviva (Monument to the Community of Jaworow and the Surrounding Region). Ed.: Michael Bar-Lev. Haifa, Jaworow Society in Israel and the United States, 1979. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Weddings in the Town," by B. Maur, pp. 176-77. (Hebrew)
In Jaworow there was a wedding where Mordkhay Marshalik, Melekh Klezmer, and Meyer the Khazn all participated. After the wedding feast, the bride sat with her new husband at the table only for the men. At the table the sheve brukhes were recited, and then if the groom was a yeshive student, he gave a speech.
KALARASH (R). Sefer Kalarash; Le-hantsahat Zikhram Shel Yehudei Ha-ayara She-nehreva Bi-yemei Ha-shoa (The Book of Kalarash: In Memory of the Town's Jews, Which was Destroyed in the Holocaust). Eds.: N. Tamir et al. Tel Aviv, 1966. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "Reb Yoel Melamed the Klezmer," by A. Kharuvi, p. 305. (Hebrew)
Reb Yoel's daughter Khayke was engaged to Itzik Klezmer. When the wedding day came, the wedding celebration was held in the horse stables after the floors were cleaned and the walls were covered with white sheets. Itzik played some memorable doynes at his own wedding.
KALISZ (P). Sefer Kalish (The Kalish Book*). Tel Aviv, The Israel-American Book Committee, 1964. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "At A Jewish Wedding," by Yakov Meshulam, pp. 483-484. (Yiddish)
At a wedding held in Kalisz the author sat near the groom, because the nearer you sat, the larger the portion of food you received. On the table were twelve cans all for putting in money meant for the groom. Money was also given to receive the first pieces of khale and fish, for Eli Batkhn to continue playing, and for all the other workers at the wedding.
KALUSZ (P). Hayeha Ve-hurbana Shel Ha-kehile (Kalusz: The Life and Destruction of the Community). Eds.: Shabatai Ynger, Moshe Ettinger. Tel Aviv, Kalusz Society, 1980. (Hebrew, Yiddish, English) "The Klezmer in the Night," (poem), p. 459. (Yiddish)
Mutsika the poor klezmer played the song "Shir-Hamalos" with great passion as he walked the streets from night to morning.
KALUSZ (ibid.) "Life in Kalusz An Oral History," p. 572 (English)
In Kalusz, May Day and Polish Constitution Day (May 3rd) were celebrated by a brass band dressed in ornate black uniforms and hats of the miners. However, all weddings were celebrated with music from Itzikl Gutenplan's kapelye.
KALUSZYN (P). Sefer Kaluszyn; Geheylikht der Khorev Gevorener Kehile (Memorial Book of Kaluszyn). Eds.: A Shamri, and Sh. Soroka. Tel Aviv, Former Residents of Kaluszyn in Israel, 1961. (Yiddish) "Moshe-Ruvn the Klezmer," pp. 249-52.
The kapelye in town was led by Moshe-Ruvn Ayzenshtayn, who played trumpet and violin. If there was a second wedding in town at the same time, the inferior kapelye was hired. If both kapelyes were occupied, then Asher-Motl, the violinist, was hired. After Poland defeated the Bolsheviks, three Jews in the town were accused of collaboration and sentenced to death. Moshe-Ruvn and his brothers were hired to play Chopin's Death March after they were executed. Later, Moshe-Ruvn and his brothers were killed by the Nazis.
KALUSZYN (ibid.) "Kaluszyner Klezmorim," by Shmul Ayzershtayn, pp. 253-254. (Yiddish)
The Ayzenshtayn family was the town's kapelye. The first leader of the kapelye was the virtuoso violinist Asher, who was succeeded by violinist, composer, and conductor Moshe-Ruvn. In 1916, when Kaluszyn was occupied by Kaiser Wilhelm's army, the Jews and Germans lived together fairly well. The Germans invited the Kaluszyner kapelye to play for the soldiers, who were gloomy and needed music to cheer them up. Once it was ten p.m. and everyone had to be inside their locked homes. The whole kapelye stood on a veranda while Asher, who was the soloist, stood on a veranda across from them and played with great heart and affection Wieniaski's "Legend," accompanied by his kapelye. The German soldiers with rapt attention stood below and listened to Asher's violin. The entire event was mystical in the late night. Eventually the Kaluszyner kapelye went to Warsaw, where they continue to play even in the Warsaw ghetto. There they played with tears and sadness Gebirtig's "Our Town is Burning."
KALUSZYN (ibid.) "Rabbi Naftali's Big Wedding," by Shlomo Kuperhand, p. 286. (Yiddish)
Rabbi Naftali, a widower, needed some money from the Charity for Brides organization when he made his daughter's wedding. The groom arrived by train and was met by Jews on horseback dressed as Cossacks and Circassians. Then Moshele Aynbinder (the head of the Charity for Brides organization) sang a special song accompanied by the orchestra.
KAMIEN-KOSZYRSKI (P). Sefer Ha-zikaron Le-kehilat Kamien Koszrski Ve-ha-seviva (Kamin Koshirsky Book; In Memory of the Jewish Community*). Eds.: A. A. Stein et al. Tel Aviv, Former Residents, Kamin Korshirsky and Surroundoings in Israel, 1965. (Hebrew, Yiddish) "A Wedding in Town," by Mina Solovaytshik, pp. 523-24. (Yiddish)
A week before the wedding, the shames and his assistant Chane went from house to house and invited people to the wedding. Food and clothes were also prepared that week. The kapelye came from Ratne since Kamien did not have any klezmorim. The kapelye was led by Itzl Klezmer,who played violin and jazz clarinet.
KAMIEN-KOSZRSKI (ibid.) "The Town's New Toyre Scroll," by Yaakov (Ben Moshe) Plot. pp. 537-38. (Yiddish)
Milke never graduated from midwife's school but nearly all the women in the town went to her when they were in labor, even on Shabes. Since she did not have any of her own children, she decided to commission a new Toyre scroll to be donated to the Stepiner synagogue. The scribe was a Stepiner khasid. When the Toyre was completed, the whole town celebrated with Milke. After sundown, the community paraded through the streets with the Toyre under the khupe while the klezmorim played and everyone danced and sang.
KAZIMIERZ (P). Pinkas Kuzmir (Kazimierz -Memorial Book*). Ed.: D. Shtokfish. Tel Aviv, Former residents of Kazimierz in Israel and the Diaspora, 1970. (Hebrew, Yiddish) (A drawing of a klezmer playing the violin with the town behind him) by Kh. Goldberg.
KLECK (P). Pinkas Kleck (Pinkas Kleck; A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Klezk-Poland*). Ed.: E. S. Stein. Tel Aviv, Former Residents of Klezk in Israel, 1959. (Hebrew, Yiddish) (photo caption:) The Kapelye (1928), p. 59
Asher Waynger (bass), Efrayim Shpilberg (violin), Yosef-Leyb Waynger (violin from Russia), Yozyk Marshinkovsky (clarinet, Christian), and a Christian. (bagpipe)
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