Monday, May 17, 2010

אברהם משה ב"ר יצחק הכהן Schwartz, fifty years

Maurice Schwartz in "Shaul HaMelech" by Paul Heyse,circa 1925

I'm a lover of Yiddish. the Yiddish language that is. Not so much the Forverts version of Yiddish, and I don't really care for Yiddishe Lieder that sing the praises of Socialism and other such ills, but the rich Yiddish that was once spoken by many of our forefathers. Come to think of it my forefathers never spoke that Yiddish, save for maybe one who learned in Chassidishe Hungarian Yeshivos and was influenced by Chassidus despite his Oberlander parents. But my childhood - in Spinker Cheder was what started me with Yiddish and it's grown on me ever since, with a new appreciation over the last few years. An appreciation of those who speak it well, that is. As a matter of fact; until I was 14 or so I spoke very little English at all, neither at home nor in Yeshiva. You might say that I feel, like others do, that Yiddish is a major connection to our glorious past and to the people who lived at that time, and it helps us stay on track. It may not be all that's necessary but it sure helps. Not for nothing did the Yeshivishe velt come up with Yinglish, where as many Yiddish and Loshen Kodesh'dige words were put into the language. They saw that Yiddish may not work for all, but they sure would instill as much of it as possible in the generations to come! Somehow an old time Yiddish film was never on the verboten list like the secular ones of today. Before the age of YouTube I once saw "Tevye Der Milkhiger" from a video that was borrowed from the Brooklyn Public Library, as well as several other Yiddish films. What can I say? I'll be brutally honest with you guys: Somehow, when you watch it you convince yourself that nisht dos hut men gemeynt when they assered movies! The actors dress Jewish, they act Jewish, they even speak Jewish! What could possibly be wrong with watching this?! It's like watching one of the Groweis Israeli films, just with women as well.... And to top it all off there's a very important and positive message to the film, I think. The message that no matter how far you stray you can always come back home. That as long as you breath there's hope for a new beginning, no matter how much grief you've caused those that are close to you. I hope to do a review of "Tevye der Milkhiger" soon.

So some guy went and uploaded several Yiddish films to YouTube recently and Tevye was one of them. Boy, was I excited! (I cannot thank him enough) I wasted precious hours watching it again and again, as well as some of the other films uploaded there. I'm no film critic, but his performance is one-of-a-kind, mit alle pitchefkes. Rich, concise, and right on! The language, the idioms, the movements, it's all wonderful! The local non-Jewish populace is seen like they were seen by their Jewish brothers at the time... Most of the Jewish ceremonies are portrayed more or less correctly - albeit somewhat Ameratzish, but that may be deliberate, for all I know. Or maybe it was the fact that SCHWARTZ himself left his native Sudilkov at 12 years old and sailed to New York. We even have Schwartz serving as a walking, talking mussar sefer by him accepting his lot even when his daughter leaves the fold and his wife dies from sheer anguish. So after watching Schwartz in "Tevye," and then in "Uncle Moses" I did some searching about Maurice and found that his Yohrtzeit was that very day - Yud Gimmel Iyar, and 50 years to boot! At first I was gonna organize a minyan at his resting place, maybe get somebody to say kaddish for him, but that wasn't happening, so I tried to get a friend to come with me, but even he was too busy. So I doubt that he had any visitors, which is sad. Maybe I should've tried harder. But I will you ask this much: if you're ever at the MHC and get the urge to do a mitzvah there walk over to to his resting place and say a kapitel tehillim for Maurice. I'm sure that since he's ofen oylam ho'emes now he'll appreciate it very much.

Schwartz's kever in Mount Hebron Cemetery, Queens

Block: 67
Reference: 1
Section: A-D
Line: 13
Grave: 15
Date of Death: 5/10/1960


chabakuk elisha said...

Hirshel, I'm a little insulted you didnt ask me - but if you'll hop in your "mashin'ke" and collect me, I'll join ya for a trip tzum kever, as soon as eihr zent greit!

russian chusid said...

Rachmunes of a yidishe neshoma is a gite zach but remember that yidishisten made the biggest chorban in Yidishkeit, so there is no wonder why nobody comes to his tsion.

Shlomo said...

Interesting post for once.
Btw, you say you spoke Yiddish at home and yeshiva:Where did your parents know Yiddish from?
Your fathers father was an Oberlander and your father went to Telz (with Harry?)not a bastion of Yiddish

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

it was interesting, but you had to make a snide remark, right? FERD.

I would imagine that he learned alot from other Yidden in Chicago, especially from the Rabbonim Meisels in Chicago who he was very close to.

And Telshe - AFAIK - was definitely a bastion of Yiddish when my father, zg"z, was there. The Roshei Yeshivah in Cleveland were all European, and in Chicago they tried to sound like they were... so there was plenty of Yiddish

Shlomo said...

I"m sure the shiurim in Telz were in Yiddish but without a backround in Yiddish, you'd not expect someone to be fluent enough to speak with their kids.Unless, the kids who went to chayder spoke Yiddish and the parents answered in English.

milchiker said...

I watched this video like twenty years ago I cried then and I cry every time I watch it. It reflects so much the plight of us yidden. The Aibishter zol unz shoin vaizen zain Rachmonus.

I have to say the acting is phenomenol and the idioms is mamosh a mechaya

Moe said...

There's also a clip on YouTube of James Cagney in the 1932 movie Taxi. He has a Yiddish speaking role at the beginning of the movie. Cagney spoke fluent Yiddish, a language he picked up during his boyhood in New York City. His fluency in the language helped him start in vaudeville. He also spoke it in several other movies like the Fighting 69th.

Anonymous said...

I very much appreciated this post. You are one of the few here on the internet that has a visceral feeling for generations and places past, and how they can enrich our lives. As Schneur remarked elsewhere in these pages, many Jews who were frum nusach 1950,many originally from chassidim, sent their kids to litvish yeshivish only to see them devlop as litvish bochurim. The litvisher yeshivot are a hegemonic force that has no respect for the variety and thickness of European Orthodoxy. It happened with the Sefardim in Israel, until Shas began a change in consciousness. It happened in WH with the yekkes, and it happened with those who went to YU, RJJ and other schools as well. Yiddish in its variety of idiolects maintains some sense of pluralism. Yinglish is a flattening language designed to make everyone pretty much the same.

After a while that which cannot be fitted into this Americanized and rationalized Orthodoxy comes into question. Chassidim are spoken of in the third person as if they are a significant Other and so on. Much more to be said, vakm"l. e.j.

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

thank you, EJ, for your thoughts here and in a previous post last week

snagville said...

Anonymous from 2:54, what a horrible comment. It's all the yeshivos fault? Dude, let's call a spade the Chasidim have affected the others more than the other way around. If i was really cynical i would say today both worlds have the chasronos of both instead of learning the maalos of both. Just a slight example, the Chassidish midda of no yid could ever do wrong (read the tzetlach used to collect tzedakah) has seeped big time into the yeshiva world, witness the incredible anguish they had in Lakewood for Grossman etc.

Isaac Balbin said...

Hirshel, I have similar feelings. When I went to school I couldn't speak a word of English. The teachers castigated my mother and advised her that she had condemned me to a life of illiteracy. My mother cried and thought she had commited a mortal sin.

To this day I speak Yiddish instinctively to someone who I know can speak the language. It's almost as if something inside me cuts off all other languages that I could speak with such a person. I recall that I could speak in Ivrit or English to R' Gavriel hy'd but for some reason, in the middle of India we almost only spoke in Yiddish.

A most beautiful expression of this Tshuka, including a correct contextualisation from a frum perspective was penned by the Rav ztl in a letter to yiddishisten. He managed to capture the majesty in a halachic cum Brisk way and yet not alienate the yiddishisten thereby. It's short and if people want I'll scan and mount it.

I also love hearing the various accents and am over zealous when it comes to that. Woe to one of my kids if they get influenced by their school to the extent that they use the words chOlent or kugel; it's choolent and kigel. Disclaimer: I have to admit an aversion to strong Hungarian pronounciation 

Anonymous said...

"thank you, EJ, for your thoughts here and in a previous post last week"

Who taught this Lubavitcher to lek an apikores?

Anonymous said...

while ure in mthebron u will find another yiddish soul, lepke, of sing sing fame.
and a spot set aside for the yeshiva bucher[ta] barbara streisand

Anonymous said...

snagville...Moi "Dude". You are too kind, though I am far from clear what the word means or how you are using it. We all can't be the Great Lubowski or adopt California jargon. I do understand the words 'horrible comment'.

I wasn't talking about the cross pollination between chassidim and non-chassidim. Nor was I talking about a place like Lakewood which today, like the Williamsburg of old, contains a cross section of European Jewry. I did think I was saying something that people might find helpful and even plausible. Apparently not. If you have a better answer why chassidim appear strange in the eyes of the Modern Orthodox, and why chassidim are so easily demonized, I am sure you will share it. Meanwhile you might want to look at the recent post of Rabbi Maryles on chasidus and the 180+ comments to get some sense of the problem. ej

Anonymous said...

I always knew you frummaks were just another variety of godless cultural yiddishists.

curios said...

granted i only watched the 1st part (that you embedded) but it seems like a goyeshe love story and what exactly is it that makes this kosher that you say " when you watch it you convince yourself that nisht dos hut men gemeynt when they assered movies! "

i'd say aderabe punkt dus vos kricht arain vi di yetzer horo hut men gemaint

Anonymous said...

now i see why you switched to lubavitch
your craving to the yiddihsten has no place in any religious community the only person that had those books was RYYS of lubavitch
evrey other kehila still advocates the old saying that Kol Buahu Lo Yesuvin is r"t bichel

Anonymous said...

How do you know that RYYS glanced in this books? I think you should get to Montifure with a Minyan to mekabel Nezifa

russian chusid said...




Anonymous said...

Russian chosid
I have too many friends that are Lubavich today that became Lubavich and are not into taivios in no aspect, so please don't use such a wide brush, be a little more selective. Because you will have to run around for the next year or two to ask mechila from too many people.

Anonymous said...


I have too many friends that are Lubavich today that became Lubavich and are not into taivios in no aspect

please read English : SOME PEOPLE.

But they are the loud ones...

mendy said...


"That hearts"

Anonymous said...

Hirshel Yedidi
Erev Shavous is not a time that people like to hear Divrie Tochocho. Their is a new letter out now of the Rebbe, regarding the basics of a chasidisher Yungerman vs. a non chosid, part of the list is that he doesn"t watch Movies. Its a nice letter for itself , the point is that the Rebbe is saying that this is the Alef Bais from a chasidsher yid, not the Davenen Baivoida etc.. this is the basics. I really think that if you have a urge to discuss a film, you have to do the Chazal of Yilbash Shechorim.. and do as you please, but not Briesh Gali
Mussar from a Long Time admirer and aGut Yom Tov

Hirshel Tzig - הירשל ציג said...

anon 4:19

believe me, I thought it over several times before I posted it. I accept your תוכחה.

russian chusid said...

Sorry for not knowing how to spell, nowhere in chasidus it says that i have to know perfectly a goishe shprach:)

It is just surprising that a person from a chasidus which was always loichem against Hskolo, suddenly becomes warm to them.

Anonymous said...

the letter is printed in the erev shavous Aspeklarye of the Kfar Chabad , its a letter with a lot of contents to provoke pro and con sentiments for your readers.

Anonymous said...

Russian Chusid
"a chasidus which was always loichem against Hskolo"
but the founder of Chabad legitimized in Tanye some aspects, fighting Haskola is a side job for Chabad Rebiem to save Klal yisroel from bad influences. Their official position was to learn chassidus chabad for their chassidim

russian chusid said...


russian chusid said...


Again, read what i said. That's obviously, not the only or even the first thing Chabad did, but no self respected Lubavitcher will ever even talk about Idishisten- forget about watching the movie and talk well about it!!! BISHE v'cherpo!!!!

Anonymous said...

When I told my grandmother a"h that I watched Tevye der Milchiger, she spat on the floor and said, "feh, ehr is given a mechallel shabbos befarhesya."

Anonymous said...

"y grandmother a"h that I watched Tevye der Milchiger, she spat on the floor and said"
how come my grandmother didn"t know that such a person existed?

Anonymous said...


My grandmother was very edumacated, she got offered three full scholarships after she graduated high-school, due to her academic achievements. She gave it all up to marry a ben-torah.