Di Eybike Mame (the eternal mother) - Women in Yiddish Theater and Popular Song 1905-1929

The eternal mother exemplified, indeed! Di Eybike Mame (the eternal mother)
Women in Yiddish Theater and Popular Song 1905-1929

WERGO LC 06356, 2003


The first Wergo releases compiled by Rita Ottens and Joel Rubin remain among my favorite klezmer anthologies. Most recently, they have applied their research and ears to an anthology of early women's recordings of Yiddish popular song and theatre. Although the sound quality is not much better than one might expect from recordings in the first third of the last century, it is illuminating to have such a wide range of recordings available for listening.

Some recordings, as of "Gevald, gevald Police" could be in any language - the melody owes much to the London music hall and nothing (so far as my ears catch) to Jewish tradition. Similarly, the "Aria" by Regina Prager sounds, operatic. This should come as no surprise - the explosion of Jews into all forms of music, and the desire to make all forms of music Yiddish were both part of the excitement and cultural ferment of the time. At the other extreme is the new setting for lighting the candles by Helene Gespass with which the CD opens, or the clear, lovely "A brivele der mamen" from the (previously unknown to me) Salcia Weinberg. Regina Zuckerberg's "Prayer before the wedding ceremony" is a delight. The Lady Cantor Madam Sophie Kurtzer delivers, as the booklet notes, in a style "very similar to that of the great cantors of the 'golden age'" (although Bertha Kalish's "Sabbath, Holiday, and the New Moon" manages to be operatically beautiful, while also feeling true to nusakh. Go figure.)

For better and for worse, the anthologizers have opted for breadth, driving home the tremendous cultural diversity of the time. Sometimes the songs and the singers are relatively undistinguished, but perhaps it is worth it to catch gems by Isa Kremer (here singing a song to a tune familiar to Klezmatics fans as "Simkhes-toyre", from Jews with Horns), Molly Picon, Lucy Levin (fans of Adrienne Cooper will recognize "Di Primadonna" also from Kapelye's "On the Air" album - a perfect tribute, given that the song was written for the play, "Radio Girl"), or the closing, totally overwrought cantorial strength title song sung by Lucy German. Then, there are the unexpected crossovers, such as Clara Gold's "All women can vote" a wonderful Yiddish song with patriotic American flourishes suitable for its content.

This is a delightful collection in keeping with the quality of the previous anthologies prepared by Ottens and Rubin. Even where some pieces seem present more for diversity than for intrinsic musical note, there is much here, and all is well-documented. There are additional notes available on the Rubin-Ottens website (see sidebar).

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 5/1/04


  1. Helene Gespass "Lekht bentshn" (Blessing the Candles), 1909 2:40
  2. Fräulein Rubinstein "Gevald, gevald Police" (Help, help, police), 1905 2:45
  3. Frau Pepi Littmann "Oylom habu" (The world to come), 1909 2:44
  4. Regina Prager "Aria", 1908 2:55
  5. Salcia Weinberg "A brivele der mamen" (A letter to mother), 1907 3:09
  6. Regina Zuckerberg "Gebet far der khupe" (Prayer before the wedding ceremony), 1916 3:40
  7. Mme. Zwiebel "Bas Yerusholayim" (The daughter of Jerusalem), 1916 2:55
  8. Jeanne Feinberg "Rozhinkes mit mandlen" (Raisins and almonds), 1916 3:42
  9. Anna Hoffman "A kind un a heym" (A homeless child), 1917 3:14
  10. Estella Schreiner "Dos fartribene taybele" (The Exiled Dove), 1920 2:56
  11. Clara Gold "Ale vayber megn shtimen" (All women can vote), 1921 2:52
  12. Fanny Schreiber "A bisl yoysher" (A bit of justice), 1923 3:08
  13. Bessie Weisman "Vu iz mayn Yukel?" (Where is my Yukel?), 1923 3:29
  14. Nellie Casman "A brivel tsu mayn man" (A letter to my husband), 1924 3:04
  15. Molly Picon "Tsipke", 1924 2:50
  16. Yetta Zwerling "Yankele karmantshik" (Yankele 'little pickpocket'), 1924 2:57
  17. Lady Cantor Madam Sophie Kurtzer "Adeser Khaznte, Kiddush", 1924 3:09
  18. Mme. Bertha Kalish "Shabes, yontef un roshkhoydesh" (Sabbath, holiday and the new moon), 1925 3:18
  19. Jennie Goldstein "Vu iz mayn kind?" (Where is my child?), 1927 3:28
  20. Isa Kremer "Dem rebns moyfsim" (The Rebbe's miracles), 1927 2:35
  21. Annie Lubin "Annie, ikh shtarb avek nukh dir" (Annie, I'm dying for you), 1927 3:27
  22. Lucy Levin "Di Primadonna", 1929 3:22
  23. Lucy German "Di eybike mame" (The eternal mother), 1928 3:26

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