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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Yankele- A Lullaby for Yom HaShoah

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Dear Friends,

This post on Yom HaShoah is inspired by Yiddish lullabies, so please do listen to the music while you read. We write what we know and so on this Yom HaShoah, I write about my father. As you will see, his story is just one of millions of others. May we remember the victims and may we also remember the survivors, who are disappearing from this world.

Leann


שלאָף זשע מיר שוין‏ יאַנקעלע מייַן שיינער


When I hear Yiddish, I hear my father’s voice, so far away now.


די אייגעלעך‏ די שוואַרצינקע מאַך צו‏


When I hear Yiddish music, I can picture my father before the war, when he was a child.


אַ ייִנגעלע‏ וואָס האָט שוין אַלע ציינדלעך‏


I can imagine his mother singing him this lullaby.


מוז נאָך די מאַמע זינגען אייַ־ליו־ליו?‏

I am named for my grandmother, Leah,

who was buried in a mass grave outside of her town.

אַ ייִנגעלע‏ וואָס האָט שוין אַלע ציינדלעך‏



I am named for my Aunt Chana who was also shot and buried in a mass grave.

און וועט מיט מזל באַלד אין חדר גיין‏



My uncles and my father survived in the forest and were taken in by a Russian partisan group.


און לערנען וועט ער חומש און גמרא‏

זאָל וויינען ווען די מאַמע וויגט אים אייַן?


I remember just one story that my father told us; that he and his friends would visit farms in the middle of the night.


אַ ייִנגעלע‏ וואָס לערנען וועט גמרא‏


They would make a small cut in a cow and suck out some blood to provide them with vitamins.


אָט שטייט דער טאַטע‏ קוועלט און הערט זיך צו‏



My father and uncle survived in the cold of the forests. He was sixteen years old when his life was turned upside down.


לאָזט גאַנצע נעכט דער מאַמען נישט צורו?‏


My father and his brother were saved by a righteous gentile and by a Russian partisan leader.



אַ ייִנגעלע וואָס וואַקסט אַ תּלמיד־חכם‏



As it is said in says in Yad VaShem,


אַ ייִנגעלע וואָס וואַקסט אַ תּלמיד־חכם‏


One who saves a life helps to create a new universe.


און אַ געניטער סוחר אויך צוגלייַך



I know this to be true when I sit with my siblings, my cousins, my children and grandchildren.



אַ ייִנגעלע‏ אַ קלוגער חתן־בחור



Our existence proves that Hitler failed.


זאָל ליגן אַזוי נאַס ווי אין אַ טייַך?


My father's name was Saul Gershkowitz. B'tzalel ben Yeshia Baruch.



נו,‏ שלאָף זשע מיר מייַן קלוגער חתן־בחור


He lived two lives; one before the war and another life gifted to him after the war.

דערווייַל ליגסטו אין וויגעלע בייַ מיר‏


My precious father; I am your voice here.


ס׳וועט קאָסטן נאָך פֿיל מי און מאַמעס טרערן



Each victim had a story and each survivor had a story.

It is our inheritance.


ביזוואַנען ס׳וועט אַ מענטש אַרויס פֿון דיר‏



This is one small story of millions of stories.

Millions of universes never created.


Do not forget them.


______



The lullaby, Yankele was written by Mordechai Gebirtig, a great poet and also a victim of the Nazis. His biography can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Gebirtig . You will see the translation of the lyrics below.





YANKELE (Taken from Hebrewsongs.com)


Go to sleep already, My beautiful Yankele, Close your little dark eyes A little boy who already has all his teeth Still needs his mother to sing him a lullaby?! A little boy who already has all his teeth And with luck, he'll go to Cheder soon, He will learn Torah, and Talmud, Should cry when his mother rocks him to sleep?! A little who will learn Talmud, (How delighted your father is when he listens to you!) A little boy who is growing up to be a scholar Doesn't let his mother rest at night?! A little boy, who is growing up to be a scholar And a capable businessman as well, A little boy, such a clever young groom, Should like as wet as in a river?! So go to sleep, my clever young groom, Meanwhile, you are in your cot and still with me. It will cost your mother much hard work and many tears Till you become a man.


Words translated by Reene Zufi of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.




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