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[Page 484]

Writers and Poets

 

Dr. Shlomo Mandelkern[1]

Translated and edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD. and Hanina Epstein

©

Shlomo Mandelkern was born at daybreak on the second day of Passover 5606 (1846), in the small town of Mlynov close to the district town of Dubno (“The Greater Dubno,” Volhynia). His father R. Simha Dov, tried to make him a Torah scholar (talmid chacham) and hired the top-notch teachers in the town for him. And indeed, already by the age of six years old, the small Shlomo was already an expert in the Five Books of Moses and by the age of ten already knew many pages of Gemara by heart and was a student of Rabbi Pinchas, Av Beit Din (“chief justice”) in Targowica [Trovits][2] which was also in the district of Dubno.

 

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Dr. Shlomo Mandelkern, of blessed memory

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When he reached 16 years old, in 1862, he lost his father. He then went to study Torah in Dubno. There he learned Torah from the lips of the Gaon R. Tzvi Rapaport HaCohen, the author of “Ezrat Cohanim” and “Tosefet Ha-Ezrah” on the Sifra. From the lips of his brother-in-law R. Rabbi Yitzchak Eliyahu Landa, the author of interpretations of the Mekhilta, to the Tana Devei Eliyahu, to the Hebrew Bible, and to the established liturgy, who was at the end of his days Maggid Mesharim in Vilna. Subsequently, the young Mandelkern expanded his study of Talmud and its commentaries with another sharp teacher, Rabbi Yehoshua Cahana. But he was not satisfied exclusively with Talmud: he also studied Zohar,[3] Tanya[4] and other books of Kabbalah. And earlier he made a pilgrimage to the “Rebbe,” Rabbi Menachem Mendel from Kotzk[5] Polonia [Kock, Poland] and he studied Kabbalah and Hasidism especially with R. David [Morgenstern], the son of the Rebbe.

When he returned to Dubno, which was full of sages and Hebrew writers, he abandoned Talmud and began a diligent study of Hebrew grammar, Hebrew Bible, literature of the Middle Ages and the new literature.

As a young man of about 18, in 1864, his relatives married him to a woman as required in Ethics of the Fathers.[6] The young woman was homely and very religious. After a year, they had a son. But his heart longed for Torah – and he fled from his religious wife and infant son to the rabbinical seminary in Zhytomyr. But he didn't retain his position – certainly because of his “easy”[7] personality. He, therefore, transferred to the rabbinical seminary in Vilna and here he started a new period in his life.

About the year 5628 (1868), Mandelkern completed his rabbinical studies and received certification, which enabled him to be a Crown rabbi.[8] He returned to Dubno and divorced his wife from whom he had grown more distant the more he studied, while she remained a plain observant Jewish woman: Subsequently, he also forgot about his first born son, “a simple and crude young man, who didn't read nor study, and his father neither worried about him nor bothered to grace him with his presence.”[9]

In Dubno, the enlightened members (maskilim) of the city wanted to appoint him as Crown rabbi. But he still desired Torah study. He traveled to Petersburg, entered the university in the Department of Eastern Languages, became friendly with Prof Chwolson[10] and finished his studies as a candidate (equivalent to our[11] humanities degree). His dissertation was on interpretation of the Hebrew Bible according to the translation of the seventy (=Septuagint[12]), the Arabic Peshitta of Rav Saadia Gaon, along with a paleographic investigation of the places that diverged from the Hebrew Bible, for which he earned a gold medal from the faculty.

His writings:

First his writing in Hebrew in chronical order:

Teshu'at Melekh Rav, Ode to Czar Alexander II, on the day God saved the Tzar righteous Alexander II from the hands of violent men [assassination attempt], the second day of the new month of Iyyar (5666) (assassination attempt by [Dmitry] Karakozov on April 4, 1866) Vilna 5666.

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“Bat Sheva or Craziness of David,” a love poem in six parts and 120 stanzas (Vilna 5626 [1865-1866]; Second edition, Leipzig, 5656 [1895-1896].

Witty Sayings, Ḥiẓẓim Shenunim; 75 original translated epigrams and at their end “Rose of the North,” two romances translated from Russian, Vilna 5626 [1865-1866].

Ezra ha-Sofer,” a story set in the days of Achashverosh King of Persia by Ludwig Philippson, translated [from the German] by Shlomo Mandelkern, Vilna 5626 [1865-1866]; Second Edition, Leipzig, 5661.

A poem “Greeting for Montefiore,” Petersburg 5632 [1872-73] (one large page). “Song of Greeting to [Sir Moses] Montefiore,” Petersburg 5632 (One large page).

Dibre Yeme Russiya,”[13] [a history of Russia] 3 Vols. From the beginning of the Russian people until the rule of Alexander II. (Warsaw, 5635) [1874-1875].

Shirei Sefat Ever. [Poems in Hebrew], 3 vols., Vol. 1, Leipzig 5642 [1881-1882]; Vol. 2, ibid., 5649 [1888-1889]; and Volume 3, ibid. 5661 [1900-1901].

Shirei Yeshurun, translation of Hebrew Melodies of [Lord] Byron. Published the English source and the Hebrew translation side by side, Leipzig, 5650 [1889-1890]; Second edition, also there, 5661 [1890-1891].

Heikhal ha-Kodesh [Holy Temple] , Hebrew and Aramaic Concordance, Leipzig 5656 [1865-1866]; (preceded by the notebook, which showed the failings of the earlier concordances, in combination with the official authorization of the new concordance by 15 sages of Israel and of the nations, ibid. (5644) [1883-1884]); Second edition, corrected and improved, Schocken Publishing, 5696 [1935-1936].

Tavnit Heikhal, abridged edition of the concordance, Leipzig, 5656 [1865-1866].

Mapot Shel Russiya [Maps of Russia], Mandelkern prepared for a book, “Studies in the Land of Russia” of Kalman Shulman. His many Hebrew writers were found in every Hebrew daily, weekly newspaper, monthly Hebrew [journal] and Hebrew annual.

In Ashkenazi-Jewish, I know[14] only of Mandelkern's story “Resurrection of the Dead” (techiyat hametim), Vilna, 5620 [1859-1860].

He also translated a great deal to Russian and German:

To Russian, he translated “Yeven Mezulah] [The Abyss of Despair [Psalm 69:3]” of Rabbi Nathan Neta Hanover[15] (second edition, Leipzig, 1883) and Lessing's Fables, in which the pages have the source German and Russian translation opposite each other (Leipzig 1885).

To German, he published the translation of [Mapu's] Ahavat Zion under the title Tamar in 1885, as an original story and only hinted at the original author (see above, page 287[16]).

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He compiled a Russian language grammar in two volumes (ibid., 1884) and published “Bat Kol meRussiya” [A divine echo from Russia) in 1888 and a Russian-German dictionary for this volume “Bat Kol” in 1895. He also translated to German, the famous Russian stories called “The Blind Musician” and “Day of Atonement” from the important Russian storyteller Vladmir Korolenko,[17] and he published many articles in German with all the scientific questions and literature.

It is self-evident, that there is not sufficient space to speak of his essays and translations in Russian and German. Nor about his Hebrew essays, which are worth discussing in detail. To a greater or lesser degree, it is worthwhile to analyze “Bat Sheva” or “Shirei Sefat Ever” and the epigrams of his, which are found in Ḥiẓẓim Shenunim, and in all three volumes of “Shirei Sefat Ever,” and Dibrye Yemei Russia and his “Holy Temple” [Concordance].

He died in 1902.

(According to “History of New Hebrew Literature,” by Dr. Yosef Klausner[18])

 


Translator's and editor's footnotes:

  1. Solomon Mandelkern was born in Mlynov in 1846 and died in Vienna in 1902. A poem of his with additional notes appears on p. 146 of this volume. Return
  2. Also known as Torhovytsia today and Trovits in Yiddish. Return
  3. Foundational work of Kabbalah, Jewish mystical literature. Return
  4. A foundational book for Hasidism written in 1797 by Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, founder of Chabad Hasidism. Return
  5. Also known as the Kotzker Rebbe (1787-1859), Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgensztern  attracted young, brilliant aspiring youth. Return
  6. Referring to the Pirkei Avot 5:21 which specifies the appropriate ages for marriage at the age of 18. Return
  7. It is not clear what an “easy” personality implies here but may be related to his recurring changes of heart. Return
  8. The Crown Rabbi was a position in the Russian Empire given to a member of a Jewish community appointed to act as an intermediary between his community and the Imperial government, to perform certain civil duties such as registering births, marriages, and divorces Because the main job qualification was fluency in Russian, Crown rabbis were typically considered agents of the state by members of their own communities, rather than true rabbis, and they often had no education in or knowledge of Jewish law. Return
  9. The source of the quote is not known. Return
  10. Daniel Abramovich Chwolson (or Khvolson) (1819–1911) was a Russian Jewish orientalist. Return
  11. The narrator is Yosef Klausner who was a professor at Hebrew University. Return
  12. The Septuagint is the earliest Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and is the oldest complete translation made by the Jews. It is called the translation of seventy because tradition suggested seventy scholars were involved in the translation. Return
  13. Written for the Society for the Promotion of Culture Among Russian Jews; for which he was honored by the Tzar. Return
  14. The “I” refers to the original author, Yosef Klausner. Return
  15. Not much is certain about the birthplace and early background of R. Nathan ben Moses Hannover. His life in Volynia came to an end with the Chmielnicki massacres in 1648–49 recorded in the work that Mandelkern translated. Return
  16. This reference belongs to the original essay which was part of a larger work and does not reference a page in this volume. Return
  17. Korolenko (1853-1921), born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine then part of the Russian Empire. He was a human rights activist, a journalist, and a storyteller calling for social justice in the Russian empire. The Blind Musician (1886) was his masterpiece novel and made him an internationally renown writer. Return
  18. Yosef Klausner (1874-1958) a Jewish historian and professor of Hebrew Literature. Born near Vilna. He went to Palestine in 1919 and taught at Hebrew University 1925–1950. Return


Yitzhak Lamdan[1]

Translated and edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD. and Hanina Epstein

©

Yitzhak Lamdan [was born in Mlynov,] November 7, 1899 (5th day of Kislev, 5660) – [and died in] Tel Aviv, November 16, 1954 (20th Heshvan 5715). He received his Hebrew and general education, and during the years of the First World War, he and his brother were separated from the family and they were wandering all over Ukraine and Russia. He was there through the period of upheaval and afterward during the bloody riots [or pogroms][2] which killed his brother (the dedication to his brother in the preface to “Masada”: “[This shall be] a memorial candle to the soul of my brother, upright and kind-hearted, who fell on the soil of Ukraine during the slaughter in Israel, and shall be a marker for his grave, the location of which I do not know”). After the Russian Revolution, he volunteered for the Red Army and afterwards fled during the mayhem and riots and by an unconventional route reached the Land [of Israel] in 1920. During his first years in the Land, he worked paving roads and in agriculture in Samaria[3] in the lower Galilee, in the Jezreel Valley and Judah (finally in Ben Shemen) and also in the Cultural Department of the Histadrut.[4] From the second half of the 1920s, [he was engaged in] literary efforts.

He began his writing in children's newspapers (“The Flowers” and “The Jordan”) and afterwards he began publishing his poems in HaShiloah[5] (5678) [1917-1918]. In the Land [of Israel], he began taking his first steps in “Echoes” (Hedim)[6] under the supervision of A. [Asher] Barash and Yaakov Rabinovitch and this was the publisher he was most attached to and regarded as a model, even if in other [later] circumstances, [it would be ] his [monthly] Gilyonot.[7] The editors of “Echoes” also published his first literary work, the poem “Masada” (5687) [1926–1927]. There have been many editions until our present day), in which he expressed the faint whisper of his generation whose world was devoured by the threat of the riots [or pogroms] on his way to Masada, and the path “from which he could not turn away,” while maintaining the continuity of the chain [i.e., the continuity of the tradition].

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Brenner[8] described here [in Masada poem by Lamdan as a “wallower”:] (“you monk of Masada, who have strengthened with your sorrow and contempt – for your hatred was love, and your anger – comfort”) was among the most influential of his well-known and lesser known influences, and thus he was regarded with the small number whose creativity was in poetry and prose with the closest affinity to life and challenges of the generation.

After this followed collections of poetry: “The Threefold Harness,” (Berelin-Tel-Aviv, 5690 [1929–1930], “Mispar HaYamim” [“Number of Days”] (5700 [1939–1940], “Be-Ma'aleh Akrabbim” [“On Scorpions' Pass”] (5705) [1945]; He also brought out an episode in the show “Akiba” called Mahnaiim 5704 [1943–1944]. [He was involved for] many years of activity in the Writer's Association and their different institutions (Gnazim and others).

In 5694 (1933-1934) he started the publishing house Gilyonot, his own publishing house, which he stamped with his personal style, and which ended only with his death. (The last publication was published posthumously and dedicated to his memory. It was designated volume 31. (Heshvan-Kislev 5715).

 

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Yitzhak Lamdan, of blessed memory

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He did much here [in Gilyonot] as a publicist (in major articles and minor responses) in which he assumed a maximalist line with a tie to the Labor Zionism of Eretz Yisrael. He also encouraged creative forces of up and coming (including here the first steps in literature – S. Yizhar[9]). In Gilyonot, he also dedicated a lot of attention to the creation of Hebrew creativity outside of the Land [of Israel] (Poland, the United States, and dedicated to them special editions). In addition, he got involved in the domain of anthologies, publishing and translation. He published the anthology “Hebrew Stories” (a collection of stories from our new literature from its inception until our day, or: Smolenskin until Bialik (5707) [1946–1947] and he translated: “Two stories” of G. D'Annunzio.[10] (5787). Two stories of Jack London “Between Islands” ( 5687) [1926-1927], “In the Forests of the North,” (1928), “Reubeni Prince of the Jews,” of Max Brod (5689) [1929], “The Army Behind the Iron Thorns (Siberian Diary) by Edwin Erich Dwinger (5690) [1929-30], “Nine in Trimidor,” by L. Aldenov, (5691) [1930-31], “We ascend the Himalayas,” by Parnak (5692) [1931-32], “Freya of the Seven Islands,” by Conrad (about 5692) [1931-32], “Letter from Uriah,” by A. Cohen[11] (5695) [1934-35], “Bibi” by Michaelis (about 1944), he translated, collected and edited a collection of stories and legends: “We Will Tell and We Will listen” (5704) (1943–1944), “Treasure of the Zodiac” (5716) [1955-56], “Palace of Ramses” (5716), “King of Avion” (5716), “The Trustee,” (5716), “The Wise Judge” (5716), “Moses the Judge,” (5716) and more. He was among the editors of the Writer's Association literary collection: “Sedarim,” (from the generation of poets) (5712) [1951–52], “Writers Words,” (with A. Barash, (5704) [1943-44], and weekly “Dorot,” (1949. A number of Gilyanot also were published). Also he edited “A Book of Responses,” to World War II (5709) (1948–49]. In addition, he participated in newspapers and periodicals, before “Gilyanot” and less frequently during its appearance. A large collection of his letters from the period of “Echoes,” was published in a collection “Archives (Gnizim Alef)”.

(From “Lexicon of Hebrew Literature” by Getzel Kressel)[12]

 


Translator's and editor's footnotes:

  1. Yitzhak Lamdan became famous for the Hebrew poem, “Masada,” which he published in 1927 after he made aliyah. Yitzhak was born in Mlynov, son of Yehuda-Leib Lamdan and Liba Lamdan. His father Yehuda-Leib is mentioned throughout this volume as a beloved and well-respected member of the town. See Yehuda-Leib's artful resolution to the “event in the shtetl,” p. 193. Photos of Yitzhak's father, his brother Moshe, whose death is discussed below, and his sister Rivkah-Devorah (who married Motel Litvak), appear on page 454. Another sister, Malcah married Shmuel Mandelkern, a contributor to this volume, and their photos appear on p. 482. Yitzhak was one of the youthful collaborators with Shmuel Mandelkern on the early failed attempt to send Yaakov Yosi to the Land of Israel, pp. 208-218. See also the interesting essay on Yitzhak's visit back to Mlynov in 1932, by Moshe Tamari, “In the Presence of Yitzhak Lamdan in Mlynov,” pp. 32-37. Yitzhak's own poem in this volume “Internal Turmoil,” p. 83, which imagines a difficult conversation between Yitzhak and his father in which he cannot bring himself to reveal how difficult life is in Palestine. Return
  2. The period is referring to the chaos and civil wars that followed the Russian Revolution which included pogroms. Return
  3. A biblical name for the central region of the ancient Land of Israel. Return
  4. The first unified organization of workers or Zionist trade union founded in 1920 in Haifa. The Cultural Department provided a number of services for members including films, publications, courses in Hebrew, geography, Bible, dancing and the arts. Return
  5. Ha-Shiloah, published between 1896 and 1926, was the leading Hebrew-language literary journal at the beginning of the 20th century. Return
  6. A literary journal published in the Palestine between 1922–1930 in the form of small booklets. Return
  7. Gilyonot was an independent literary monthly founded and edited by Yitzhak Lamdan, from 1934 to 1954. Return
  8. Yosef Haim Brenner (1881-1921) was a Russian-born Hebrew language writer and one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew literature. He is one of the poets that Lamdan figuratively encounters and questions in his poem, Masada. Brenner had a gloomy outlook which Lamdan questions. But Brenner has no answer. See discussion by Leon Yudkin, Isaac Lamdan, pp. 65-66 and translation 225. Return
  9. Pen name for Yizhar Smilansky, known by his pen name S. Yizhar, Return
  10. Uncertain if refers to Gabriel D'Annunzio, a prolific Italian writer who also became an ultranationalist. Return
  11. Other sources list this work by Emil Bernhard. Return
  12. Kressel (1911–1986) was a bibliographer and Hebrew writer from Galicia who settled in Palestine in 1930. His most important work “Lexicon of Hebrew Literature in Recent Times” was published 1965–1967. Return


Aleph Katz

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.

©

Aleph Katz (Mlynov 1898-United States 1969) learned in cheder, after which he finished Russian elementary school in Mlynov. At the end of 1913, together with his mother and a part of his family, he came to America.[1] His father and older sister had already been in the United States since 1906.[2] In New York, Aleph Katz started to write Hebrew poems. He was a founder and secretary of the Hebrew Youth Club “Bnei Am Chai.” He worked in shops, stores, laundries, and offices.

[Page 490]

In the evenings he studied in night schools, then in City College. He published poems and wrote a column for the English language college journal Owl. One of his poems was included in the college anthology Poets of the Future (Editor: Henry T. Schnittkind, Boston, 1824-1922).

Aleph Katz made his Yiddish debut with a poem in Der groyser kundes, New York, 28 December 1917. Since then, he has published his poetry in New York in In Zich, Oyfkum, Fraye arbiter-shtime, Di vokh, Zangen, Dos yudishe folk, Tsukunft, Idisher kemfer, Di feder, and Getseltn. In Philadelphia he published in Idishe velt.

 

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Aleph Katz z”l

 

[Page 491]

In Chicago: in Idisher kuryer. In children's publications in New York: Kinder-zhurnal, Kinderland, Kinder-velt, Kinder-tsaytung. In Warsaw: Kinder-fraynd. In Buenos Aires: Argentiner beymelekh. In Chile: Zid-Amerike. Also Havaner lebn; meksikaner shrift; der shpigl. Also in Buenos Aires: Di prese un idishe tsaytung. In Montreal: keneder odler. In Toronto: Idisher zshurnal. And others.

His publications in books: A mayse fun yam un andere lider [Story of the Sea and other poems], Zangen, NY 1925, 59 pp.; Akertsayt [Plowing season], Biderman, NY 1929, 80 pp.; Dos telerl fun himl, poeme, mit ilustratsyes fun Yosl Kotler [Plate from heaven, poem, with illustrations by Yosl Kotler], Matones, NY, 30 pp.; Fun alef biz tof, a poem about the alphabet, illustrated by Yoysef Shor, Alef, NY, 32 pp.; Amol iz geven a mayse [There once was a story], poems, sold principally by Matones, NY, 96 pp.; Gut morgn [Good morning], Alef, first published in Tsukunft, NY, March 1946. Later it was presented in DP camps in Germany and by various troupes in other countries. It was published in book-form as Gut morgn Alef, Purim shpil un Yosele, tsvey shpiln un a mayse [Two plays and a story], NY, 1950, 64 pp. It was praised by the Yiddish critics.

The small Yiddish letters are living creatures for Aleph Katz: Alef, beys, giml, lamed and vov, nun and samekh are the heroes and play parts in this drama.. . . The tragic drama of the Yiddish letters became a symbol of the tragedy of the Jewish people, the people of writing, the people of the letter.—Shmuel Niger

On his sixtieth birthday, his Kholem aleykhem [Dream about you], play and poems, was published by Medinas Yiddish, NY, 1958, 160 pp. On the same occasion, many articles about the poet came out in the Yiddish press for a special celebration in his honor in New York.

Aleph Katz lived in New York, where he was editor of the Jewish division of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency since 1925. He composed the news and edited the JTA syndicated column, “Literary news.” He worked with the linguistic journal Yidishe shprakh and he helped prepare the Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language, NY. Music was composed for several of his poems and plays. The songs were sung at concerts by Yiddish choirs and societies in New York and other cities.

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His poems appeared in: Joseph Leftwich's anthology of Yiddish poetry in English, The Golden Peacock, London, 1939; Y. Kisin's anthology Lider fun der milkhome [Poems from the war], NY, 1943; Hemshekh-antologye fun M. Shtarkman [Continued anthology by M. Shtarkman], NY, 1945; the Russian anthology of Yiddish poetry by L. Feinberg, Yevreiskaya poezye [Jewish poetry], NY, 1947; Antologye lider fun gezang un pyane [Anthology of songs for singing and piano] by Heynekh Kohn, NY, 1947; M. Basin's Antologye fun yidisher poezye oyf amerikaner motivn [Anthology of Yiddish poetry on American themes] (Mimeographed), distributed by the Congress for Yiddish Culture, NY, 1955; and Shimshon Meltser's Hebrew anthology of Yiddish poems Al naharot [By the rivers], Jerusalem, 1956. His poems were also included in readers for Yiddish schools. His book Gut morgn, Alef! Received the Abel Shaban prize from the Congress for Yiddish Culture in 1955.

Reading Katz one has the impression that the poet stands at the head of a group of “Broder singers”[3] who travel with him . . . to entertain the Jewish audience and console its sadness with song and story. . . Aleph Katz belongs in the category of pure creators. The language of the famous playwright is always at hand for depicting lyrical moments with his poetic lines and his poetic words. – Dr. Sh, Bikl

His “extravaganza” Reb Alter Fish appeared In Almanakh Yiddish published by the Congress for Yiddish Culture, NY, 1961, pp. 267-275.

(From Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literature [Leksikon of new Yiddish literature], vol. 4.)

 


Translator's and editor's footnotes:

  1. Originally born Moshe Katz in 1898 in Mlynov, “Aleph” as he came to be known as a Yiddish poet, came to the US in 1913 with his mother and two of his siblings. His mother was known as “Henya Ahrelas,” the daughter of Aaron [Hirsch], and one of several Hirsch siblings to come to America. For a time, Aleph worked at Standard Laundry the business of the Hirsch family. A photo of Aleph's mother, Henia Ahrelas, appears on p. 500 of this volume.--HS Return
  2. Aleph's father was Chaim Yeruchem Katz born in Chelm. Accompanied by his eldest daughter, Shifre (later Sophie Cohen, he arrived in 1907 in New York as “Jerichem Girsch,” using the surname of his wife.--HS Return
  3. Famed brothers from Brod who were essentially troubadors. “Broder singers” became a generic term for secular entertainers popular until the 1930s.--HBF Return

 

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