3: Music, lyrics, and recording of Ruth Rubin singing “Under Yankele’s Cradle," October 1978, Yiddish with translation.
The text is one of many variants for this lullaby ("Unter yankeles vigele"), one of the oldest in the Yiddish corpus. In it, a parent wishes for his child to learn and become a scholar of Torah. This excerpt of renowned folklorist Ruth Rubin performing the song is taken from a lecture she gave at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal. In her introduction, she claims that the song “shpiglt of…vi di hofenungen fun di muters un di foters iz geven, az dos yingele…zol dos zayn a talmed khokhem” (reflects… the hopes of the mothers and fathers, that their boy…should grow up to be a Torah scholar). After finishing her rendition of the song, Rubin paraphrases from a well-known Yiddish proverb that the lyrics quote, saying, “S'iz geven a tsayt ven toyre iz geven di beste skhoyre” (It was a time when Torah was considered the most precious merchandise).
Suggested activity: Play the recording of Ruth Rubin, who was instrumental in collecting immigrant Jews’ folksongs in the 20th century. Give the students some notion of what to listen for and what the contents of Rubin’s comments are. While playing the song, have the students following along with the provided music, lyrics, and translation. Ask: how does the content of the parent’s words “reflect” the values of shtetl Jews, and in what way are these values connected to Torah learning?
Sources: Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin, eds., Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007), 78.
Ruth Rubin, “Ruth Rubin Literary-Musical Evening Part 1,” lecture presented at the Jewish Public Library of Montreal, October 14, 1978. Digitized by the Yiddish Book Center as part of its Frances Brandt Online Yiddish Audio Library, accessed December 10, 2015, http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/audio/ruth-rubin-literary-musical-evening-part-1-october-14th-1978.