Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

My Yiddishe Momme

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | May 09, 2010 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Jossele Rosenblatt, Mother's Day, My Yiddishe Momme

The greatest song about Jewish mothers is "My Yiddishe Momme" (pronounced "mom' meh). Many famous singers have performed it, and today's the perfect day to hear it again.

I was born on Mother's Day. My mother passed in 1988, when I was 25. I loved her dearly, more than words could say. We always called her "Mother."

At the same time, she could be, how shall I say, a difficult person? She did not stand injustice -- or dissent -- quietly. Though she did not finish the eighth grade, she was extremely incisive, which made some people uncomfortable at times, including me.

But she was my mother and she loved me ferociously. No mother tiger felt love more fiercely.

No better tribute could I give her, and all mothers, than the song "My Yiddishe Momme," of which the best version was and always will be the 1929 Yiddish version sung by the incomparable Yossele Rosenblatt, one of the best Jewish cantors of all time. Toscanini and Caruso fell at his feet and admired him unreservedly.

Video and lyrics after the jump

Though it has been many, many years, long ago and far away, I still love her with all my heart. I spent a lovely afternoon sobbing my heart out with an entire box of tissues while I wrote this post.

As someone who grew up very, very religious, I heard lots of this kind of music growing up, and it never fails to bring back good memories. People don't sing like this anymore in popular music. Styles have changed. Others have sung it more smoothly and with better phrasing. But just as I loved my mother, including both the rough and the smooth, Yossele Rosenblatt with his old-fashioned styling is an arrow straight to my heart.

Here's Yossele Rosenblatt with the 1929 Yiddish version of "My Yiddishe Momme."

Lyrics with translation:

Ich vill bay aych a kashe freygen,
I want to ask you a heartfelt question

Zugt mir ver es ken,
Answer me if you know

Mit vifl tayere farmaygns,
What is the most precious gift with which

Bensht Gott allamen?
God has blessed all of us?

Men kriegt dus nisht far kayne gelt,
You cannot buy it with money

Dus krigt men nur im zist,
You can only get it for free

Und doch, az men farleert dus,
And when you lose it

Vie fiel treren men fargist!
How many tears you shed.

A tzvaite gibt men keinem nit,
Another one you never get

Es helft nisht kain gevain,
Nothing can change this

Und der vus hot verloren,
And only whoever has lost it

Der vays shoyn vus ich mayn.
Understands what I mean

A yiddishe momme,
A Jewish mother

Nisht du kein besser in der velt.
There is nothing better in the world

A yiddishe momme
A Jewish mother

Oy vey tzis bisser ven zie fehlt,
Oh how bitter when she is absent

Vie shayn und lichtig tzis in hois,
how beautiful and light it is in the house

Ven die mama's du,
when the mother is there

Vie traurig finster tzvert,
how truly dark it is

Ven Gott nehmt ihr oyf Oylam habo.
When God takes her to Heaven

In vasser und fayer,
Into water and fire

Vollt sie geloffn fahr ihr kind,
She would have leapt for her children

Nisht halt'n ihr tayer.
Not loving her dearly

Dos iz geviss der greste Zind.
This is the greatest sin

Oy vie gliklich und raych
Oh how happy and rich

Is der Mensch vus hut,
has the person who

Az a tayere matune geschenkt fun Gott,
has this greatest gift given by God

Wie an altechke Yiddishe Momme,
just an old Jewish momme

oy momme mein.
oh my momme


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Gina9223 | May 9, 2010 4:35 PM

I miss my mom too. I lost her at 19, only months after her and my dad had an acrimonious divorce...
its a long brutal story... and in the end, I was alone. Today is one of those days where I wish she was only a phone call away...

I'm sorry to hear that, Gina. That's too young, too young. Ah well, we live and remember happy memories, and that's a comfort. I make it a point to remember only the happy memories.

Hi Jillian,

First, Happy Birthday! Even if it's not today, it was or will be soon.

My birthday was a week ago Saturday. I lost my mother in 1987 when I was 29. The thing is, I have the same birthday as my mother. When she was alive, this was a neat, special thing we shared. She called me the best birthday present she ever had. But it never occurred to us what that would mean when she was gone.

So, six months after she died, I turned 30 on her birthday. I was 30 and had no mother. That birthday really sucked. Over the years, I've adjusted to having a solo birthday. But Mother's Day is a different story. I pretty much ignore it, even though there are other people in my life who are entitled to my good wishes on this day. I just can't go there.

I was aware of My Yiddishe Momme, having had one, but I never knew the translation. Wow. Talking about apropos. So thank you for sharing that tribute to your mother. It was perfect.

Thank you, Rory, for sharing your story. It touched my heart.

I appreciate that, Jillian. BTW, I forgot to comment on how much you look like your mother. I think that's awesome.

Thank-you for sharing this. It was beautiful.

Much appreciated, Andrew. Despite our differences, we all have human hearts, and mothers.

the_czarina the_czarina | May 10, 2010 2:06 AM

My Mom and I did not get along; much of the time we hated each other. But I had cared for her in her final years regardless of my feelings, and when she died in 1996, it was bittersweet but I felt no guilt.

It will be Father's Day; celebrating my mentor, rescuer, best friend, and teacher of a love of science and reason; that the tissue box will come out. I am lucky to still have him, but he is seriously ailing.

This song reminds me of him, believe it or not.
My mother had little interest in the songs of her heritage, but my father, who lost his own mother when he was twelve, found it touching and would play it for me.

I'm glad to hear of your great relationship with your father, Czarina. My dad also loved the song. I sent the song to my son via email. I'm sure he will roll his eyes and whisper "oh brudder." :)

Jillian, thanks for this. In spite of my last name, I'm actually Jewish and my mom always played this song (but sung by Connie Francis) to remember her mother.

A beautiful tribute. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Beautiful.

And if it helps, you've totally become my Jewish mother even though we're around the same age. *grins*