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Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive

Edited by Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin

Award Winner

Yiddish Studies, Jewish Studies, Music, Folklore

Published: August 2007
ISBN: 9780814332580
Pages: 312 Size: 10.5x11
Illustrations: 1 black and white images

This is a wonderful addition to the growing body of authentic European Yiddish song that has been preserved and made available to the modern reader.

— Shofar

Among researchers and collectors of Yiddish folksongs, Ruth Rubin was unmatched in both her expertise and enthusiasm. Over the course of her career, Rubin collected some 2,000 songs from generations of people who had grown up in a flourishing Yiddish-speaking environment, an environment which was mostly ruined by Nazi annihilation and Stalinist repression. This collection is based on a manuscript that Rubin was unable to publish before her death, with additional annotation and commentary provided throughout by noted music scholars Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin.

The songs in this collection were gathered in oral interviews with Yiddish-speaking men and women who came to North America from Eastern Europe throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Rubin presents her commentary on these treasured songs, along with the sheet music for all of the songs. An audio CD is also packaged with this collection.

Unlike earlier anthologies, this collection comes directly from oral tradition and has not been subject to adaptation, standardization, or harmonization. The text of the songs is given in standard Yiddish, unless the singer is singing in a different dialect. Variants of songs in this collection are indicated and linked with folksong collections included in the bibliography section. Although this anthology contains some very rare songs, it is aimed at a popular audience of singers, scholars, folklorists, students, and those interested in the rich but ravaged repertoire of one of Europe’s most long-running and colorful folksong cultures. Published in cooperation with the YIVO foundation.

Chana Mlotek is the music archivist for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and is a leading scholar of Yiddish song. She has written numerous articles on the topic and, together with her late husband Yosl, compiled three major anthologies of Yiddish songs. Chana and Yosl also wrote a research column on Yiddish song in the Yiddish-language newspaper Forverts.

Mark Slobin is professor of music at Wesleyan University and a scholar of Jewish and Central European music. He is the author of Tenement Songs: Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants and Exploring the Klezmer World.

This is a wonderful addition to the growing body of authentic European Yiddish song that has been preserved and made available to the modern reader. It steers clear of the popular Yiddish songs from Second Avenue that dominate most other anthologies and carefully done; the paper is of high wuality. Very valuable are the bibliography and Rubin's succinct history of the Yiddish language and its song."

– Shofar

There are many collections of Yiddish folk songs published in English but this one is unique. Few if any have the purity of the music and of the texts and none the beauty and purity of Ruth Rubin's performance. I fell in love with it when I first heard it and remain so to this day."

– Abraham Brumberg, producer/performer the musical compilations, "Of Lovers, Dreamers and Thieves: Yiddish Folk Songs from Eastern Europe" and "The Many Faces of Yiddish Poetry"

The layout of the book indicates that it can serve as a musician's performing edition. The pages open nicely, with the music and text printed in clear, large type for easy reading. Also included are excellent essays in the introduction, a bibliography, a list of publications of Ruth Rubin, and an index of first lines of the songs. Highly recommended for all."

– Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

Ruth Rubin's love of the Yiddish song was equaled only by her passion for ferreting out every last snippet of melody and text, no matter how obscure the source. What she left behind is a treasure trove of folklore: songs identified and collected simply because they needed to be found and preserved. Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive is an important and well-edited book. While the introductory material is valuable, the song collection itself is invaluable."

– Theodore Bikel, renowned actor, writer, and Jewish folksinger

A monumental work! Every aspect of Jewish life as expressed in song; a meticulously and lovingly assembled collection of rare treasures that remind us who we are and where we come from."

– Hankus Netsky, instructor at New England Conservatory and founder and director of the Klezmer Conservatory Band

  • 2008 Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies - Result: Honorable Mention
  • 2008 Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies - Result: Honorable Mention