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Oyfn Pripetchik

Oyfn Pripetchik

 Oyfn pripetchik brent a fayerl (On the hearth, a fire burns)

​These are the opening words of the well-known song Der Alef Beys (the alphabet) written by Mark Warshavsky. Warshavsky published the song in 1900 in an anthology entitled Judische Volkslieder (Yiddish Folksongs). Shalom Aleichem, in his the foreword to the anthology, named Warshavsky as one of the greatest creative talents in Yiddish culture and folklore.

 

The sheet music for the song was published later, but the melody was a common one that was disseminated orally.The copy presented here was prepared by Meir Noy, who wrote down the music for songs that achieved folksong status and pasted them into the original book.

 
The song has been translated into Hebrew several times and given different titles: 'Heder katan", "Heder katan tsar", and "Alef Bet". It became a symbol of Jewish life in the Eastern European diaspora. The song also embodies a longing for childhood and the values of a world that once was. The song describes the room in which the teacher teaches the children the letters of the Alef Bet so that they will be able to read the Torah in the holy tongue. In the 1940s, when the bitter fate of Eastern European Jewry became known, Oyfn Pripetchik became a memorial to those who perished.
 

 

During the Holocaust, different lyrics were written to the same melody. This song, from the Kaunas ghetto, describes the Jews leaving the ghetto to work and their attempts to survive by smuggling goods back into the ghetto. While the guards warm themselves at the fire by the gate, the Jews are merely trying to survive. The name of the song is Baym Geto Toyer and it, too, continues "brent a fayerl."

 

 

Song of the Day
Song of the Day
The songs presented here come from the National Library's extensive collection of songs, prayers and other musical works. The songs are preserved and made available via the website with the assistance of the Legacy Heritage Fund.