Jewish Music and Dance as recorded in Yizkor books

compiled by Helen Winkler

After the holocaust, former residents of Eastern European Jewish shtetls, and other Jewish communities in Europe, created Yizkor books. These memory books written in Hebrew and Yiddish served as a tribute to their destroyed homes. The books cover pre-holocaust history as well as events during and after the holocaust, and are often first hand accounts of life as it was. Recently, many of these books have been partially or totally translated into English and some have been put online. The Jewish Genealogy web site ( has an ongoing project of translating and making these books available via the internet. Included in this vast collection is much information about Jewish music and sometimes dance. Here are a few of the music/dance web sites I have found mostly within the Jewish Genealogy Web, but a few in other places. I've divided them into 3 sections:

For further information on my findings e-mail me.

If you wish to find a hard copy of the original books, the Jewish Genealogy web site has a searchable listing of which libraries have which books. There are also project coordinators for each book who can be reached via e-mail. Addresses are available on the individual web sites. I should add that this very worthwhile work is financed by donations and staffed by volunteers! In addition, bound copies of yizkor books can be purchased from The National Yiddish Book Center. Email Catherine Madsen. Scanned copies of Yizkor books can be found on the New York Public Library's web site.

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Assorted Musical Vignettes
Added January 2009:

Brzeziny Memorial Book (Poland) 51°48' / 19°45'
Translation of Bzhezhin yisker-bukh
Edited by: A. Alperin, N. Summer
Published in New York: Brzeziner Book Committee, 1961 (Y)
The Jews of My Generation by Jacob David Berg -Scroll down to read about the local klezmorim including Jankiel Kurdelas who's life was spared when he played his fiddle for his brutal Cossack would-be executioner.
See also this section which details the weddings at which this band played, (Near the bottom of the page).

The Jews of Czestochowa (Poland) 50°48' / 19°07'
Translation of "Tshenstokhover Yidn"
Edited by: R. Mahler
NY: United Czestochower Relief Committee and Ladies Auxiliary, 1947
Who and Where Biographies
Alkhana Chrabalowski (Our Family)
"Reuniting of the Family in America" briefly describes the continuation of Yiddish dance traditions in a family that has emigrated to the USA.

Yizkor Book of the Jewish Community in Dzialoszyce and Surroundings (Działoszyce, Poland) 50°22' / 20°21'
Translation of Sefer yizkor shel kehilat Dzialoszyce ve-ha-seviva
Published in Tel Aviv, Hamenora, 1973
From Działoszyce Folklore, by Dov Bejski
Translated by Rochel Semp
"The Jesters" describes the role and talents of badkhns in Dzialoszyce.

Gombin: The Life and Destruction of a Jewish Town in Poland (Gabin, Poland) 52°24' / 19°44'
Translation of Gombin: Dos Lebn un Umkum fun a Yiddish Shtetl in Poylin
The Editorial Board: Jack Zicklin et al
Published in New York, 1969
"Jewish Artisans in Gombin, Section 11. Musicians (Kleizmerim)" Read about the bohemian musicians of the shtetl of Gombin.

Book of Kielce. History of the Community of Kielce. From Its Founding Until Its Destruction (Poland) 50°50' / 20°40'
Translation of Sefer Kielce. Toldot Kehilat Kielce. Miyom Hivsuduh V'ad Churbanah
Edited by: Pinchas Cytron Published in Tel Aviv, 1957
Sections: R' Anszel Szpilman"—a virtuoso on the violin and Josef Rajzler (Josele Badchan), a genius at his profession, "that was a force! That was an artist! The actors of today don't even reach his ankles."

Yizkor Book of Lechowitz (Lyakhovichi, Belarus) 53°02' / 26°16'
Translation of Lachowicze: Sefer Zikaron
Edited by: Y. Rubin
Published in Tel Aviv, 1965
"A Walk through my Devastated Shtetl," pg. 307
by Avrom Lev
Scroll down to read about Reb Nishe der Klezmer the Lechovicher "Paganini."

Orheyev Alive and Destroyed (Orgeyev, Moldova) 47°22' / 28°51'
Translation of: Orhevev be-vinyana u-be-hurbara
Edited by Y. Spivak
Published in Tel Aviv, 1959
"Musicians and Cantors," by Moshe Bik
Read about noteworthy musicians from Orgeyev, including Melech (King) of all Musicians, who met his end when the jealous daughter of a wealthy landowner put poison in his cup and Petru the Gypsy musician who composed his own Jewish melodies.

Memorial book of Zagłębie (Poland)
Pinkas Zaglembie
Edited by: J. Rapaport, Zagłębie Society in Melbourne
Published in Tel Aviv, 1972
"The Jewish musician (memories)," by Ruwen Brajnin (United States)
This essay was written by writer, Ruwen Brajnin who visited Będzin and Sosnowiec in 1908 to research the lifestyle of the poor. It describes the extreme poverty of a musician and his family.

Added prior to December 2007

Dubossary Memorial Book (Moldova 47°07' / 29°10'),
Published in Tel-Aviv, Israel, 1965
Reb Isaac Shargaradsky
The Dubossar Klezmer—The section above about Yiddish theatre also looks interesting.
See also "Educational and Cultural Institutions" in the Our Community Dubossar
by D.L. Granovsky chapter which discusses Lyubiteles, the local klezmer band established in 1890, that employed both Jewish and non-Jewish musicians:

Oswiecim; Auschwitz memorial book (Poland, 50°02' / 19°14'),
Translation of Sefer Oshpitsin
Edited by: Ch. Wolnerman, A. Burstin, M.S. Geshuri.
Published in Jerusalem, Oshpitsin Society, 1977
The Hasidic Dance in Oswiecim—A very moving account of a group of young Hasids who attempted to die observing the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem, utilizing music and dance as a form of rebellion in Auschwitz.

Memorial book of Czortkow (Ukraine, 49°01' / 25°48'),
Translation from Sefer yizkor le-hantsahat kedoshei kehilat Czortkow; Editors: Dr. Yeshayahu Austri-Dunn, Published by the Former residents of Czortkow in Israel, (H,Y,E, 471 pages)
Chortkov a musical city—A detailed discussion of cantors, choirs, rabbis and musical life in Chortkov.

In memory of the Jewish community of Iwie (Ivye) (Belarus 53°56' / 25°46'),
A translation of: Sefer Zikaron le-kehilat Iwie; Edited by M. Kaganovich, Published in Tel Aviv, 1968. Section F: Leyzshinke the Tailor and His Gramophone (1910-1911) Read about the first gramophone in the shtetl of Iwie.

Memories of Keidan,,
by Dr. Chaim Yakov Epstein
The Talmud Society—A musical celebration that took place to mark the completion of the 7 year cycle of reading the Torah.

Book of Remembrance for the Communities of Shtutshin, Vasilishki, Ostrina, Novi Dvor, and Rozanka (Shchuchin, Lida District, Vilna and Grodno Gubernii, now Belarus)
Translation of Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Szczuczyn Wasiliszki Ostryna Nowy-Dwor Rozanka, Edited by: L. Losh, Published in Tel Aviv, 1966. Vasilishki portion of Shchuchin Yizkor Book: Musicians of Vasilishok, (4th sub-section from the bottom of the page) An account of the cobbler-klezmorim of Vasilishok.

A city and the dead; Zablotow alive and destroyed
Memorial Book of Zabolotov
(Zablotow, Ukraine),
Translation of entire Yizkor Book, pictures, and creation of an index of names and places: Ir u-metim; Zablotow ha-melea ve-ha-hareva (A city and the dead; Zablotow alive and destroyed)
Published in Tel-Aviv Israel, 1949
Scroll down to the section called Musicians for an account of R' Berele Shpilman's klezmer band.

The Scroll of Kurzeniac (Belarus) 54°33' / 26°57',
Translation of Megilat Kurenits: ayara be-hayeha u-ve-mota
Edited by: A. Meyerowitz, Former Residents of Kurzeniec in Israel and in the USA
Published in Tel Aviv, 1956
Matia, son of Pesach (Zavodnik)
By Maris Cohen, New Haven
Read about singer/songwriter Matia in the shtetl and later in America.

Lost Tunes
By Yehoshua Alperovich
Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan
Read about musical life in that shtetl. It even mentions someone called Bentze der Tantzer who taught the people in shtetl how to play music and how to dance

The Tys'mienica still flows (Borislav, Ukraine) 54°15' / 23°25'
Translation of A Tys'mienica Nadal Plynie
Written by Leopold Held (deceased) Published in privately printed in Poland, sometime after 1978
They Rose above their Circumstances
Scroll down to paragraph 12 to read about Bumek Strauss and the Sabbath Tango. Be sure to read the song lyrics at the end of the section.

Woronow, Voronova (Belarus)
Translation of the entire unpublished manuscript
Written by Moshe Berkowitz, beginning 1943
Translated from Yiddish by: Adah Fogel (1983)
Typed by : Alma Cahn
Edited by : Ellen Sadove Renck
Contributed by: Alan Berkowitz (grandson of author) - holder of the copyrights
Chapter I: The Jewish town of Woronowa
Chapter IV: Jewish types, their character traits, fanatic; customs and religious mysticism; religious and folk songs,
Scroll down this page to find the lyrics of some interesting folk songs.

Jewish Mlawa; its history, development, destruction (Poland),
Translation of: "Mlawa ha-yehudit; koroteha, hitpatKhuta, kilyona" - "Di yidishe Mlawe; geshikte, oyfshtand , unkum"
Written by: Dr. Ze'ev Jonis in 1949
Chapter 14: Modern Times—Scroll down to paragraph 6 to read about the musical activities of Hazamir
Chapter 12: A Train Passes Through Town
Scroll down to read about the 'Jewish Gypsy tribe' of Mlawa.

Mikulince Yizkor Book (Ukraine) 49 °24' / 25°36',
The kleizmerim (musicians) of Mikulince
By Yitzhak Schwartz

Navaredok Memorial Book, (Novogrudok, Belarus) 53°36' / 25°50',
Music in Novogrudok
by Menashe Rabina (Rabinovich)
(last section at bottom of page)

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Wedding Descriptions

The following web pages discuss weddings in shtetls and often give information about the kapelyes that played at these weddings. The customs surrounding weddings are also often described.

Added January 2009:

A Memorial to the Jewish Community of Będzin (Poland) 50°20' / 19°09'
Translation of Pinkes Bendin
Edited by: A. Sh. Stein, Association of Former Residents of Będzin in Israel
Published in Tel Aviv, 1959 (H, Y, 431 pages)
Two pictures by Mosze Apelbaum:

Bride Head covering, painting by Mosze Apelbaum   The Orchestra, painting by Mosze Apelbaum
Bride Head covering paintingThe Orchestra

Complete TOC of photographs and images at

Memorial book of the martyrs of Bolechow Bolekhov (Bolechów), Ukraine 49°04' / 23°52'
Translation of Sefer ha-zikaron le-kedoshei Bolechow
Edited by: Y. Eshel; Published by the Association of Former Residents of Bolechow in Israel, 1957
The Wedding of Rabbi Perlow's Daughter, by Dvora Ichel-Adler, Kvutzat Kiryat-Anavim
Describes a Chasidic wedding in the Rebbe's courtyard

Commemoration Book Chelm (Poland) 51°08' / 23°30'
Translation of Yisker-bukh Chelm
Edited by: M. Bakalczuk; Published in Johannesburg, 1954
A Jewish Wedding in Chelm in the Old Days, by Moshe Lerer
This philological work was originally published in the periodical publication, "Jewish Philology"—bi-monthly pages of linguistics, literary research and ethnography, under the editorship of Max Weinreich, Noakh Prilucki and Zalman Reizen. Volume 1, 1249, Publisher "Culture League," Warsaw. Gives many customs and details that are not mentioned elsewhere. Klezmer frequently referred to.
See also section on Hersh Diker who was a wedding entertainer in Chelm

Ann Helman describes wedding celebrations in this town including some mention of dance. You can read or listen to her description.

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)
Detailed translation by Yale Strom that outlines numerous dances and some detail as to how they were done, and much information about the klezmorim.

There Was a Shtetl in Lithuania Dusiat Reflected in Reminiscences (Lithuania) 55°45' / 25°51'

Translation of Ayara Hayeta B'Lita; Dusiat B'Rei Hazichronot
Compiled and edited by Sara Weiss-Slep; Published in Tel Aviv, 1989
A wedding in Ushpol (Uzpaliai) description includes a photo of a shtetl gathered for a wedding. Note to klezmorim—in this shtetl the muscians jumped and danced while playing instruments and escorting the bride and groom to the khupe.

The Book of Horodenka (Gorodenka, Ukraine) 48°40' / 25°30'
Translation of Sefer Horodenka
Edited by: Sh. Meltzer; Published in Tel Aviv, 1963
Horodenka in the Years 1890–1907
Shalom Kirshner
Q. Jewish Weddings describes weddings in the area and the role of the musicians, many of whom moved to the USA and continued to work in music.

The History of Judaism in Kalady
translated by Rainer Radok
Scroll down to read about Jewish weddings in Kalady Czechoslovakia

Alt-Kempen: eine Kulturskizze aus der Mitte des vorigen Jahrhunderts / Old Kempen: a Cultural Sketch from the Middle of the Previous Century
Kempen, Poland, situated on the SE corner of the province Posen, originally published in Jahrbuch fuer juedische Geschichte und Literatur for 1923, volume 25 page 81
Written by: Isidor Kasten, Translated by: Irene Newhouse.
Scroll down to read a very entertaining account of wedding celebrations in this region including some description of the music (Bellini's march of the Druids from "Norma" as the Chupah March, Polonaise, mazurkas during the party).

Korczyna Memorial Book (Poland) 49°43' / 21°49'
Translation of Korczyna; sefer zikaron
Published in New York, 1967
Marriages, Problems marrying children, Similar situations in the past
Though not specifically about music these chapters explain the difficulties and problems that families faced when trying to arrange marriages of their children. Social factors did affect the way weddings were celebrated.

The Community of Lenin; Memorial Book (Belarus) 52°20' / 27°29'
Translation of Kehilat Lenin; Sefer Zikaron
Edited by: M. Tamari; Published in Tel Aviv, 1957
Memories from my childhood
A Winter Eve Wedding with music provided by barber-musician Efraim. by Michael Rechavi

Translation of Lite. Edited by: Dr. Mendel Sudarsky et al. Published in New York, NY, 1951
Raguva 54°41' / 25°19'
by Enoch Stein [Henekh Shteyn]
Common People describes the wedding of Reynele, the only daughter of Leyzer-Yosa, the presser, which unfortunately ended with the groom disappearing with the ring a few weeks after the ceremony.

Memorial Book of the Community of Radomsk and Vicinity (Poland) 51°04' / 19°27'
Translation of Sefer Yizkor le-Kehilat Radomsk ve-ha-seviva
Edited by: L. Losh. Published in Tel Aviv, Former residents of Radomsk, 1967
A Wedding on the Cemetery By Zev Sabatowski is one of many yizkor book entries that describe weddings held in a cemetary to ward off an epidemic.

Rzeszow Community Memorial Book (Poland) 50°03' / 22°00'
Kehilat Raysha sefer zikaron
Edited by: M. Yari-Wold. Published in Tel Aviv, by Former residents of Rzeszow in Israel and the USA, 1967 (H,Y,E)
Read about weddings in Rzeszow where Fishbein's (a dance teacher) group played tunes of Polonaise, Quadrille, Waltz, and Polka, for the more modern crowd.

Yanow near Pinsk; Memorial Book (Belarus) 52°09' / 25°32'
Translation of Janow al yad Pinsk; sefer zikaron
Edited by: Dr. Mordechai Nadav. Published in Jerusalem, 1969
Customs in Yanov near Pinsk
By Menakhem Mednik
Matchmaking, Conditions and Weddings
A detailed discussion that includes dance and music information.

The Last of the Freibergs
Translation of "Sarid Sobibor"
By: Dov Freiberg. Privately published in Hebrew by the author in 1988 Turobin
Autumn 1941 - Spring 1942
Dov Freiberg
Scroll down to read about the wedding celebration of a well to do family in Turobin, near Lublin Poland.

Yad l'Yedinitz; memorial book for the Jewish community of Yedintzi, Bessarabia (Yedintsy, Moldova) 48°10' / 27°19'
Yad le-Yedinits; sefer zikaron le-yehudei Yedinits-Bessarabia
Edited by: Mordehkai Reicher and Yosel Magen-Shitz
Published by: Yedinitz Society in Tel Aviv, 1973
A Wedding in Shtetl by Golda Gutman-Krimmer
Read this very detailed account of a wedding in Yedinitz which includes information about the bulgarish.

Added prior to December 2007:

An excerpt from Kitaigorod: A Profile of a Jewish Shtetl in the Ukraine by Steven Lapidus © Steven Lapidus, 2000
A Wedding in the Shtetl,

Jewish Mlawa; its history, development, destruction (Poland),
Translation of: "Mlawa ha-yehudit; koroteha, hitpat Khuta, kilyona" - "Di yidishe Mlawe; geshikte, oyfshtand , unkum"
Written by: Dr. Ze'ev Jonis in 1949
Chapter 16: Mixed Streets
Read about Mendl Gurni and his kapelye who played at weddings in Mlawa.

Memorial book of the community of Bobruisk and its surroundings (Belarus) 53 °09' / 29°14',
Translation from: Bobruisk; sefer zikaron le-kehilat Bobruisk u-veneteha
Edited by: Y. Slutski, Former Residents of Bobruisk in Israel and the USA
Published in Tel-Aviv, 1967
Memories of Hlusk
by Yaakov Lipshitz (BYB pp. 764-767)
Scroll down to section II, paragraph 3, to read about Reb Yoshke's klezmer band and weddings in Hlusk.

Our hometown Goniondz (Poland) 53°23' / 22°45',
Translation of Sefer yizkor Goniadz
Edited by J. Ben-Meir (Treshansky)
Published in Tel-Aviv, 1960
Scroll down the page to the section entitled "A wedding in the shtetl" pp. 501-502

Memorial for Greater Mezirich: In Construction and Destruction (Ukraine) 50°39' / 26°52',
Editor and Designer: Israel Zinman
Privately printed in Haifa, Israel, 1999
Tradition in our area: Weddings in our areas
A detailed discussion from betrothal to khupe.

Chrzanow:: The Life and Destruction of a Jewish Shtetl,
English Translation Copyright (c) 1989 by Chrzanower Young Men's Association
Translation by Jonathan Boyarin
Copyeditor: Mary Smith
Editor: Solomon Gross
Scroll down to the section about "Reb Yisroel Leyzer Weintraub of blessed memory," a badkhn known far and wide for his skill.

A Hole in the Heart,
A Hometown Wedding
by Philip Greenblatt, 1940

"Sadgura" (also Sadagura or Sadgora, Ukraine) from Vol II of History of the Jews in the Bukowina
Translation of the chapter "Sadgura" from Volume II of Geschichte Der Juden in der Bukowina (Hugo Gold, editor),
Written by: Dr. Leo Bruckenthal
Published in Tel Aviv, 1962
Scroll down to paragraph 10 to read about the court of the Hasidic Rabbi of Sadagura and weddings held in the court. Further down is a discussion of the Zimbler (translates to cimbalom) family and their musical careers.

The story of two Jewish communities between Vilna and Minsk in Byelorussia during the Holocaust
Written in Hebrew and Yiddish
and Contributed by Organization of Dokshitz - Parafianow Veterans in Israel and the Diaspora
Editor: David Stockfish (1970)
Scroll down to Reincarnations of a Samovar (p.64) to read about a wedding with emphasis on the badkhn's role.

Sopotkin; in memory of the Jewish community (Belarus) 53°50' / 23°39',
Translation of Korot ayara ahat; megilat ha-sigsug ve-ha-hurban shel kehilat Sopotkin
Edited by Alexander Manor (Menschinsky)
Published in Tel Aviv, 1960
Click on Celebrations and Holidays to read the section called "Wedding Celebrations".

The Shtetl and I", by Dvora Rogovin Helberg,
Translation from Hebrew, by Zvi Rogovin. Second Volume: Vishnive After World War I: A Wedding in the Shtetl. This submission courtesy of Lori Cahan-Simon

Book of Remembrance for the Communities of Shtutshin, Vasilishki, Ostrina, Novi Dvor, and Rozanka (Shchuchin, Lida District, Vilna and Grodno Gubernii, now Belarus),
Translation of Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Szczuczyn Wasiliszki Ostryna Nowy-Dwor Rozanka, Edited by: L. Losh, Published in Tel Aviv, 1966. Vasilishki portion of Shchuchin Yizkor Book, A Wedding in the Shtetl (4th section from top).

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Sheet Music and Art
Added January 2009:

Zabludow Yizkor Book—In Memory of Their Deaths During World War II (Poland) 53°01' / 23°21'
Edited by: Shmuel Zesler et al. Published in Buenos Aires, 1961
View the original text of this book on the New York Public Library's Website
image 277 or pg. 273 Drawing of "A Wedding at the Synagogue" by A Gudelman
beginning with image 254 or pg. 250, musical notation and lyrics of songs by Josef Zabludovski

Added prior to December 2007:

image courtesy Jewishgen.orgDrohiczhn; 500 years of Jewish life (Belarus) 52°11' / 25°09',
Translation of Drohiczyn; finf hundert yor yidish lebn
Edited by: Dov Warshawsky, Book Committee Drohichyn
Published in Chicago, 1958
"Notes written by R. Moshe Kobriner to words of a song called Yah Ekhsof [I desire G-d] composed by the great Rebbe Aharon of Karlin. The words were written by R. Baruch, the Kobriner Rebbe, and edited by Moshe Nathanson. From the book, Horodetz ". The New York Public Library has two scanned images of the sheet music for the Drohichyn Yizkor book, including "Nigun from Der Shochet and one titled Ya Ekhsof from the ritual slaughterer.
Translation of the Yiddish text on above image, available from

Stanislawow (currently Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine), and
Yizkor Book: Arim ve-imahot be-yisrael; matsevet kodesh le-kehilot yisrael she-nehrevu bi-yedei aritsim u-tmeim be-milhemet ha-olam ha-aharona, vol. 5, Stanislawow (Towns and mother-cities in Israel: memorial of the Jewish communities which perished: vol. 5, Stanislawow), Ed: D. Sadan, M. Gelerter, Jerusalem, The Rav Kuk Institute, 1952 (Hebrew).
Nigun Melodies from Stanislawow

Horodetz: history of a town, 1142- 1942 (Belarus) 52°12' / 24°40',
Translation of Horodets; a geshikhte fun a shtetl, 1142- 1942
Edited by: A. Ben-Ezra, 1949
Published in New York, N.Y., U.S.A. 1949
"V'hi sheh-amda" (Song for the Passover Seder) Music for Karliner Pesach song.

Drohiczhn; 500 years of Jewish life (Belarus) 52°11' / 25°09',
Translation of Drohiczyn; finf hundert yor yidish lebn
Edited by: Dov Warshawsky, Book Committee Drohichyn
Published in Chicago, 1958
Click on the gif of the yizkor book for a closer view of the Song sheet for the Sabbath melody She-Hashalom Shelo [Peace that is His], sung by R. Binyamin Moshe the ritual slaughterer of the shtibel. This music is difficult to read.

Compiled by Helen Winkler

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