restricted access 17: From Jerusalem to Jerusalem

From: Theo

University of Wisconsin Press colophon
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

---g---___ --- - - - - ----___ -- ------- - - - - - - - - - - ,-HE ROLE OF TEVYE CAME NATURALLY TO ME for a number of / reasons. The musical tradition I inherited from my family was that of the shtetl and of the later emergence from it. These were the songs of the Pale of Settlement, of amclw, the simple working people, of things sacred and of things secular. The songs were the product of two cultural processes, one sin1ple and one con1plicated. The sin1ple one related to the cycle of days and months; of weekdays and of Sabbaths ; of the festivals; of births, betrothals, and marriage. Jewish life, more than any other, was regulated and dominated by the calendar. The complicated process had to do with the abandoning of the safe cocoon of carefully ordered lives by halachic (talmudic) precepts while retaining Jewish awareness and ethnic pride. Venturing beyond the t'chum, the borders of the Jewish enclave, was at first a bold step. Jews were warned by the elders and rabbis that looking beyond the shtetl and the shtibl ("little room," or house of study) meant endangerment, and touching what lay beyond meant contamination. Still, during the years of lzaskalalz (enlightenment), some Jews of Eastern Europe insisted on looking and touching, at first because of intellectual curiosity , and later because of political awareness, socialist leanings, and Zionist longings. These were what had moved my father as he sang for me his Jewish songs oflabor and of longing. 356 • THEO In the diaspora, the melodies were often borrowed from the musical modes surrounding the Jews. I learned a Yiddish song from my father, the Labor-Zionist, which I assumed to be a Jewish original. The words certainly were, but I soon found out that the melody was purloined from the Russian tune "Stenka Razin": Groyser Got mir zinxen lider I Unzer hilf bist11 aleyn I Ne111t trnnoyf di snopes, brider I Biz di z1111 vet unteYJ!.eyn (Great God we sing to you/Our help are you alone/Gather up the sheaves, my brothers/Till the setting sun 1s gone. The early settlers in Palestine brought with them precious little baggage. But they brought poems, songs, and niJ!.J!.unim-wordless melodies. The early music of the chalutzim (pioneers) leaned heavily on a Russian idiom. Even though the language of the songs was Hebrew, the tunes were nothing if not derivative. The same held true for the later wave of immigrants, notably from Poland, Germany, and Austria. But then the borrowed melodies began to intermingle with what was already there, including the lilting tones of the Arab shepherd 's flute from across the valley. Soon Israeli composers, even though they hailed from Eastern Europe, leaned heavily toward Middle Eastern modes. As must be evident even to the casual listener, today's song of Israel has its own texture and pattern. To be sure, there is from time to time a detectable whiff of antecedent melodies. But by and large there is a new body of music that draws its inspiration both from history and geography. Liturgy often furnishes the text. Even the most irreligious of Israelis-and there are more of them than of the other kind-are familiar with chapter and verse-not with prayer as prayer, but with prayer as poetry. Jews arrived in America from the 1870s on, some seeking to find a new style and a new life, others to continue the old life in a new land that promised freedom-if not from discrimination then, at least, from persecution. It also promised streets paved with gold. Alas, for most of the immigrants di xoldene medine, the golden land, did not live up to its promise of bounty, and many of the songs give evidence of the immigrants ' disappointment. Morris Rosenfeld sang of the father in the sweatshop who never got to see his little son because he was still sleeping when Papa had to leave for work, and had long been in bed when Papa came home. But even in bitterness there was humor. Di J!.rine kuzine, the greenhorn cousin, arrives in America, pretty and hopeful, with a laughing face and dancing feet. Not too much later she is seen, no longer pretty and vivacious but bone-weary. The question "How are you?" she answers only with a sigh. But her demeanor indicates that, for all she cares, Columbus's Promised Land could go to hell. From ,)e,ru_o;;ale:m. to ...Jerusalem · 357 Jewish song in America today-wherever it still exists-is...


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