Yiddish Songs from Warsaw 1929-1934: the Itsik Zhelonek Collection

Songbook: Yiddish Songs from Warsaw Poland

In Warsaw, Poland, between the World Wars, in a little shop in the flea market across from a used hardware store, Itzik Zhelonek bought and sold books and records. He also printed tiny books of lyrics of the most loved Yiddish theater songs of that time and place. He wrote: "If you don't know the melodies, come to Itzik and he'll teach them to you." He called them the newest, best songs of the Yiddish theater. Beloved by cosmopolitan Yiddish-speaking Jews before the Holocaust, some are still familiar and beloved, but most were lost to us after the war, their droll, nostalgic, cosmopolitan spirit seemingly irrelevant to the post-Holocaust world. They were sometimes frothy and sometimes profound, sometimes satirical and sometimes nostalgic. They were droll, sly, sweet, and poignant, dealing with everything from "The Modern Woman" to emigration to the poverty of scholars and their families.

Jane Peppler found Zhelonek's booklets in the National Library of Israel and the Library of Agudas Chassidei Chabad in Brooklyn (some had uncut pages - they'd never been read even once). Struck by how many of the songs, the biggest hits of their day, were now completely unknown, snuffed out by the Holocaust along with the people who sang them and loved them, and she decided to hunt down the melodies (also for texts in the anonymous book 35 Newest Theater songs of 1929). The melodies trickled in one by one, from Russia, France, Israel, Boca Raton, Manhattan, Philadelphia, Cambridge, Amherst, Winnipeg... they were found in sheet music archives, old 78s, and in the memories of people who were there.

In the decades since World War II Yiddish has been associated with grim, sad songs. Perhaps enough time has passed now that we can enjoy Yiddish songs of the Jazz Age. In this 230-page book Peppler has set the newly found melodies with chords, transliterations, translations, commentary, and sources. It is available as a digital download, in a paperback edition, and in a musicians' edition with spiral binding.

Three years in the making, the book contains sheet music and lyrics to wonderful songs chosen by record-store owner Icik Zielonek (the Polish spelling of his name) to promote his record selling business. He called them at that time the newest, best songs of the Yiddish theater. Some are still familiar and beloved, but most were lost to us until now, their droll, nostalgic, cosmopolitan spirit seemingly irrelevant to the post-Holocaust world. Now revived! And price reduced.

Click for the Yiddish Songs from Warsaw table of contents

Click for a Sample song sheet from "Yiddish Songs from Warsaw"

Click to read my article about the Zhelonek project in Afn Shvel:
Nokhgeyendik dem shpur fun fargesener yidisher teater-muzik

Click to read Itzik Gottesman's review of the book in the Yiddish Forverts: Yiddish Theater Songs from Poland

The digital version of Yiddish Songs from Warsaw costs $7. I will email you the 230-page book as a pdf file within a day. You can punch holes in the copies you make and put them in a loose-leaf binder, or you can take the pdf file to a local copy shop on a thumb drive and they can make you a back-to-back copy.

Click here to purchase the download edition ($7).
(you can change your mind at any point in the process.)

Click here to purchase the paperback edition directly from Amazon:
Yiddish Songs from Warsaw.)
The Musicians' Edition is spiral bound so it will lie flat on a music stand or piano. This is the one I use.

Click here to purchase Yiddish Songs from Warsaw Musicians' Edition directly from Lulu.com for $25 plus shipping.
(you can change your mind at any point in the process.)
Order the spiral-bound version yourself directly from Lulu.com.

There are three companion cds:

Funny Yiddish Songs

Funny and sad Yiddish songs of the Jazz Age

Traditional and modern Yiddish songs of the prewar period

Songbook: Yiddish Songs from Warsaw Poland

In The Itsik Zhelonek Collection Working Files, at readers' request, I am making my source files for this book available. Facsimiles of the original Yiddish (images of the pages of the books, photos I took at the Chabad Library in Brooklyn) so you can check my work! 138 pages.
Digital download: $5

About me

Jane PepplerI am a Yiddish enthusiast living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and have been writing books and recording cds since the 1980s. In the last few years I have translated three novels by the once-famous Yiddish novelist Jacob Dineson as well as many articles and, of course, songs.

I perform with the world music ensemble Mappamundi at concerts, workshops, festivals, and weddings. We're always looking for new places to present this wonderful music. See Cabaret Warsaw for information on our Yiddish (and Polish-Jewish) theater music performances.

To bring things back from the brink of extinction is my vocation. I have two donkeys, a flock of chickens, two children, one grandson, and a grand-dog.

What else would you like to know? email me at jane@mappamundi.com Jane Peppler

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For more information contact Jane Peppler at jane@mappamundi.com 919-606-2122