Friday, December 6, 2013

Vos Vet Blaybn - Reflections on Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

(This is a guest post by Asya Fruman, in honor of the memory of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, z"l. Asya is a young translator from Kharkov, Ukraine. She's been studying Yiddish, and immersing herself in yiddishkayt, since she fell in love with klezmer music in 2009.)


Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman.

Of course I had heard of her before and knew some of her songs, but only this year did I really start to listen to Beyle’s songs, not just hern but aynhern zikh. My past several months have been infused with her music, her poetry, her voice.

There’s a thing about old songs — especially folk ones — sung by elderly people. I usually come across it in field recordings. It’s something very subtle and, I think, irreproducible. They sing out every single word with — how should we call it — reverence, feeling of value? As if they were weaving tapestry, knowing how important every thread is.

This has nothing to do with pomposity. No, it’s rather deep awareness; not a single sound is optional. It’s kavone, yes, but a very gentle kind of kavone.

Here it is, I’ve found the word: they sing with care.

And there is something else: the performer might have a beautiful voice or no voice at all, but in any case the manner of performance is not so vocal as it is narrative. By that, I don’t mean that they talk instead of singing, not at all; again, I am speaking of awareness. Their singing is always storytelling, even if it’s a nign (song without words.)

All of the above absolutely applies to Beyle.

I love her intonation: calm and reserved, full of dignity. Lyrical without being sentimental. 
Hers is not a stage voice — and yet she is a great singer.

In mid-November, having failed to make out a few words in a song from the Bay mayn mames shtibele CD, I sent an email to Itzik Gottesman to ask for help — but also to tell how Beyle’s songs resound in me, how charmed and moved I am by her poetry, music and manner of singing.

He answered the very next day, explaining the words I didn’t understand, and told me that he had read the letter to Beyle and that she thanked me.

It was a miracle.

Internetized as I am, I still feel amazed about the fact that one can send a letter to a great person on the other side of the  Earth, and the addressee will receive it instantly, and read it, and answer.

And what is even more miraculous is the connection between countries and generations, the honor and joy to share this language, this culture, to sing Beyle’s songs — because I sing them almost every day, when doing the dishes, when walking up the stairs, they are a part of me now. 

The opportunity to thank the author.
We’ve had a similar happy opportunity when Arkady Gendler came to our  Kharkov Klezmer Teg festival in the beginning of November, and we talked in Yiddish and sang together. Priceless moments of connection, a goldene keyt.


I watched Beyle’s funeral online and sang with everybody, so in a way I was present at the ceremony.
It was so much unlike the funerals I had attended here in Kharkov: oppressing, gloomy rituals that had nothing to do with the person gone. They left an aftertaste of senselessness.

Beyle’s memorial was full of her, as if it were not a funeral but her own concert. It was all about continuity and life: life going on with Beyle, not without her. And the ceremony didn’t leave an awkward feeling, only warmth and gratitude. I’ve realized how vital yidishkayt has become for me, how I want to live within it and transmit it.

What kind of person one must be to make even one’s own funeral inspiring!..
To leave behind oneself not a gap but a garden and a wish to be a gardener.

This is what remains. "Iz dir nit genug?” 


  1. What a lovely tribute

  2. Thank you, Jordan.


  3. Bezrodnyi kosmopolitDecember 22, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    Beautiful tribute - not many words but all of them straight from your heart...
    PS I share your internet amazement. Without it I wouldn't be able neither to read your words nor to listen to Beyle's songs.