Saturday, January 19, 2008

Yiddish. Mein Shtetele Belz

There is a very good recording of the Yiddish song "Beltz, Mayn Shtetele" (My Little Town Belz) on YouTube. This is a moving evocation of a happy childhood spent in a Shtetl.

It can be found at

Although this song pertains to Belz, the Moldavian town in Bessarabia now called Beltsi it is still very nice.

Alexander Olshanetsky (1892 – 1946) was born in either Belz or Odessa. He had a traditional Jewish and a modern Western oriented Gymnasium education. As a boy, he sang in synagogue choirs and began violin studies at the age of six—learning several other instruments as well. In 1911, at the age of 19, he left home against his parents’ wishes to join the Odessa Opera and Orchestra. He was drafted into the czarist army with the outbreak of World War I. While in the Russian army as a regimental bandmaster, he traveled to Kharbin, Manchuria, in northeast China, where he encountered a Yiddish theater group and started writing Yiddish songs. He came to American in 1922. He expressed his longing for his old hometown Belz, the Moldavian town in Bessarabia now called Beltsi, 60 km north of the Rumanian city of Yaas (now called Iasi) by writing the Yiddish theater song Mayn shtetele belz. He was one of the most prominent composers and conductors associated with the American Yiddish Theater.

Tell me old man; tell me quickly because I want to know everything now! How does the little house look, which used to sparkle with lights? Does the little tree grow which I planted long ago? Belz, my little town! The little house where I spent my childhood! The poor little room where I used to laugh with other children! Every Shabbos I would run to the riverbank to play with other children under a little green tree.

Belz, my little town! My little town where I had so many beautiful dreams! In that poor little house where I laughed with all the children. Every Sabbath I'd run to read by the river. Belz, where I had so many beautiful dreams.'

`To read by the river' must be the tributary of the Dnestr-river, who rises in Carpathians and flows 1400 km later into the Black Sea.

1 comment:

Hirshel Tzig said...

The song speaks of another Belz, Beltz in Bessarabia, not Belz in Galicia.