In Love and In Struggle: The Musical Legacy of the Jewish Labor Bund

Album cover: wonderful duotone and oddly modern type after the old style

In Love and In Struggle:
The Musical Legacy of the Jewish Labor Bund

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, YIVO CD 002, 1999
15 West 16th St.
New York, NY 10011

This is such an extraordinary album. Massive and wonderful columns of human voice, some of my favorite soloists--including the incomparable Adrienne Cooper, and a dazzling selection of Yiddish labor songs. For an organization to inspire this much power and music, it had to matter, and indeed, the Jewish Labor Bund represented the best of Jewish socialist aspirations in Russia. Never mind that some of those aspirations have come to seem naive or unfulfillable today--perhaps the real point is that we, ourselves, lost sight of the dream and need a new Jewish Labor Bund to revisit questions of socialism and Jewish tradition and the struggle for justice. If so, this album will rekindle and reinspire.

But this is not the place to discuss Bund politics. This is the place to glory in wonderful music. From the opening "Hof un Gleyb" (Hope and Faith), the album swoops and inspires. Then there are moments such as the quiet "Vilna," the song invested with an emotional meaning that it lacks when sung as a golden moldy bit of nostalgia. Here, instead, Cooper's narrative, describing the founding of the Bund in Vilna, turns the song into an expression of faith, a song about the Jerusalem of Lithuania, soon to become known as the locus of the Jewish worker's struggle to transform themselves, their community, and the world. Cooper's solos here are so solid, so full of the future, that instead of looking back at was, we are looking forward, with the eyes of the bundists, to the world that was, they believed, to come. And the chorus, that mass of perfect human voices? It provides the emotional ocean in which the solos swim--literally, in a sense, as Dan Rous sings "In Zaltsikn Yam" (In the salty sea), expressing that vision:

"In the salty sea of human tears, / There is a terrible abyss ... The worker will free and heal the world / When the bottom of the abyss is reached. / Long live the Jewish Labor Bund / In Russia and Lithuania and Poland!

The Bund came to America, and was a vital part of socialism here. As Irena Klepfisz notes in her introduction to the CD:

"Their biographics inevitably leave me breathless. Bundists led packed lives and had a passion for founding social institutions. Repeatedly they are described as ibergegebene ("committed" is a pale translation)...

Yet, this album is more than nostalgia. Well, parts of this album are more than nostalgia. As I listen to the chorus sing, "Hey Hey Daloy Politsey!" (Hey, Hey, down with the police), I am twice nostalgic--once for the years when this song was new, and when improvising new lyrics was a part of every demonstration, and the wish that we had known of this song back in the Sixties, or Seventies and Eighties and Nineties, as we continue to demonstrate, and continue to fight for social justice.

And, what I meant to say before that last paragraph interrupted, was that the album is also more than politics. Or, perhaps, a reminder that politics and the rest of our lives are inseparably intertwined. As I listen to "Mayn Rueplats" (My resting place), Morris Rosenfeld's paen to sweatshop workers, it has a context, lending poignancy to the choral rendition that was absent, say, on that second Klezmorim album (as sung by Miriam Dvorin) when klezmer was newly and perhaps-to-be-revived, and a way of connecting to a part of Jewish, and Jewish-American heritage that had gotten lost for a while, for some of us. Differently, yet similarly, the pairing of "Dos lid funem trayengl-fayer" (The ballad of the Triangle Fire) with an English rendition of "Bread and Roses" (albeit with occasional Yiddish) drives home the celebration of workers achievements in this country, in Yiddish and English. (In another sense, I cannot help but thinking of "Oliver" when the "Yungt-himen" (Youth anthem) child soloist and chorus sings. But this is a personal defect, I am sure.)

This is an album that can be listened to with immense pleasure simply for the music. It is simply delicious. And, it is also a bit of commemoration for one hundred years of Bund activism. It is, after all, the 100-Year Anniversary of the founding of the Bund that provided the occasion for the concert that inspired this album. And, if today, the Bund is less visible, we have unions, co-ops, and a new generation of organizations such as Jews for Economic and Racial Justice (JFERJ) to carry on the struggle. For those of us who are activists, today, this album is an inspiration and a moment away from political struggle to enjoy. For those of us who have held back and remained uninvolved, this album is inspiration and proof that it matters, that our participation in the struggle for a better world, for tikkun olam, either religiously, or as secular activists (or both!), matters and has an impact. For those who fear that lack of Yiddish will prevent full enjoyment of this album, be assured that the narratives are in English, and the liner notes containing excellently done English, Yiddish, and transliteration. All in all, even if only judged by it's Musical Legacy, the Jewish Labor Bund has passed on a tradition of power and wonder, and Mlotek and the two choruses involved with this CD have done justice to that legacy. Enjoy. And organize.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 7/18/99

Personnel this recording:
Zalmen Mlotek: musical director, conductor, pianist
Adrienne Cooper, Dan Rous: guest solosits

The New Yiddish Chorus
Sopranos: Lesli Cutler, Helene Gasner, Miriam Goldberg, Sara Ruderman, Nancy Samotin, Toni Scofield, Robin Sneider, Gail Watson
Altos: Bonnie Dietrich, Cheryl Gross, Gladys Gruenwald, Sonja Kalmering, Lisa Kirsch, Susan Romalis, Debra Rothman, Abby Simon
Tenors:: David (Dudle) Bernstein, Abe Gershowitz, Bill Gross, Nachum Lerner, Stuart Malkin, Jonathan Rose
Basses: Abba Borowich, Richard Frieden, Bill Leavitt, Dan Rous, Gideon Vaisman

Workmen's Circle Chorus
Sopranos: Lee Berlinger, Shoshana Freed, Doris Goren, Miriam Goldberg, Minna Gottlieb, Helen Hildebrand, Rama Rodvien, Felicia Rosner, Naomi Sunshine
Altos: Nan Bases, Marianna Brodey, Sharon Elghanayan, Gert Gershowitz, Goldie Gold, Rose Greenspan, Florence Hecht, Eve Jochnowitz, Marion Jacobson, Allison Kleiner, Jean Schonfeld, Sheila Spalter, Roslyn Stone, Irina Turnansky
Tenors:: Abe Gershowitz, Sidney Krum, Daniel Plotkin, Yankl Salant, Frank Schonfeld
Basses: Harvey Bien, Bob Harris, Neil Jaffe, Steve Julien, Stuart Malkin, Henry Mullish, Paul Olson, Jack Wolkenfeld

Children's Chorus

Avram Mlotek, Elisah, Mlotek, Daneel-Leyvi Schaechter,Arun Viswanath, Meena-Lifshe Viswanath, Judith Waletzky, Leah Whiteman, Shifra Whiteman


hof un gleyb


Hof un Gleyb--Hope and faith (words: IL Peretz; music: Eliyahu Hirshin) 1:46



Maylid--Song of May (words: M. Sorerives; music: Meyer Posner) 2:34



Barikadn--Barricades (words: Shmerke Kaczerginski) 2:34

yidn shmidn


Yidn Shmidn (words: Moishe Broderson; music: David Beigelman) 2:21

eyderikh beyg zikh shlofn


Eyder ikh leyg zikh shlofn / In kamf / Vakht Oyf! --No sooner do I lie down to sleep / In struggle / Awake! (folksong / words: David Edelshtat / words: David Edelshtat) 4:54

mayn tsavoe


Mayn Tsavoe--My testament (words: David Edelshtat) 3:49



Vilne (words: A. L. Wolfson; music: Alexander Olshanetsky) 5:39=

In Zaltsikn Yam


In Zaltsikn Yam--In the Salty Sea (words: S. Ansky) 3:55

Hulyet, Hulyet, Beyze Vintn!


Hulyet, Hulyet, Beyze Vintn!--Rampage, Rampage Raging Winds (words: Abraham Reisen; music: Mikhl Gelbart) 2:40



Arbeter-Froyen--Working women (words: David Edelshtat) 2:39

In ale gasn


In Ale Gasn / Hey, hey, daloy politsey!--In every street / Hey, hey, down with the police (folksongs) 2:31=

Mayn rueplats


Mayn rueplats--My resting place (words+music: Morris Rosenfeld; arr: Mark Zuckerman) 4:27

Shnel loyfn di reder


Shnel loyfn di reder--The wheels turn fast (words: David Edelshtat; music: Lazar Weiner) 1:10



Ballad of the Triangle Fire / Dos lid funem trayengl-fayer--Song of the Triangle Fire / Bread and Roses (Ruth Rubin / words: Anshel Schorr; music: Joseph Rumshinsky / words: James Oppenheim; music: Caroline Kohlsaat) 7:07

Di Tsukunft


Di Tsukunft--The future (words: Morris Winchevsky) 2:17



Yugnt-Himen--Youth anthem (words: Shmerke Kaczerginski; music: Basye Rubin) 2:44



Di Shvue (words: S. Ansky) 2:27

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