Majufes: A Vestige of Jewish Traditional Song in Polish Popular Entertainments

by Bret Werb


“Mayufes” an article in Polin (v. 10) by Chone Shmeruk, tells the story of a musical phenomenon that is uniquely Polish-Jewish. Yet the Polin article lacks musical examples of any kind. In this article Mr. Werb attempts to supplement Shmeruk’s literary survey with examples of notated or recorded music, providing a history of the “Majufes” melody, originating in religious service (“Mah Yafit” melody), but transformed into a caricature of musical “Jewishness.” While originally used as a parody to entertain some of the less enlightened members of the Polish nobility, the “majufes” acquired an independent place in Jewish culture because of its presence in the repertoire of Jewish musicians, who used it to ridicule the rural, non-educated Jews for the sake of urban, sophisticated Jewish audiences. Cultural parallels to this practice include the “blackface” performances of African Americans. The majufes tradition is also present in Polish popular culture, taking such forms as “polka-szabasówka” in the repertoire of urban folk ensembles, wood sculptures of Jewish folk musicians sold in tourist stores and a fashion for providing new varieties of vodka with “Jewish” names, such as Cymes, Jankiel, or Rachela. [Maja Trochimczyk]


In his article, “Mayufes: A Window on Polish Jewish Relations,”[1] printed in the journal Polin, the late Professor Chone Shmeruk traced the history of majufes, a dance-song he claims as a sociological phenomenon unique to the Polish Jewish experience.[2] As that word “window” indicates, Shmeruk believed that a case study of majufes might illuminate broader issues of ethnic confluence and conflict at the Polish Jewish cultural borderlands. Drawing on an array of mostly literary sources, Shmeruk recounts the pedigree of majufes. It is a “table zemer“—that is, a song used by religious Jews to accompany a Sabbath meal. The medieval Hebrew text, created in 13th-century Provence, begins with the phrase “Mah yafit” (“mayufes,” in central Polish-Yiddish pronunciation), meaning “how beautiful,” and the poem itself concerns food and wine, and the commandment to sing and sound instruments to honor God’s beneficence.[3] Jews delighted in Mah Yafit’s celebratory verses, which fit so well Friday nights between the fish and the meat. But as Shmeruk points out, “it was not the original text that [would attract] the interest of the Polish public.” It was the tune, or perhaps the hasidic manner of intoning it, that by the early 19th century began to strike Poles as exotic, bizarre, quaint, even funny. With time, the modest majufes became fixed in most Polish minds—and, for that matter, many Jewish minds—as the arch-stereotype of Jewish music, the anthem of the Jew as an object of ridicule. Polish landowners, as part of an evening’s entertainment, would summon “their Jews” to the estate for a command performance of majufes. And the Jews, coerced and humiliated, complied, playing out for the Pany a travesty of devout song accompanied by dancing and extravagant hand gestures. This form of diversion proved so popular that it influenced the rise of a class of professional caricaturists of Jews who served up for the general public monologues and skits in thick mock jargon, always embellished with a song-and-dance descendant of majufes.[4]

Figure 1: Zofia Stryjeńska, Lithograph of “Żydowski.” Polish Dances, 1929.
Collection of Polish Music Center, USC.

At the heart of his essay, Shmeruk contrasts Polish conceptions of majufes with the Jewish understanding of the term. Citing literary, journalistic, and reference works in Polish, Yiddish, and Hebrew, the author concludes that “[Polish sources] do not reveal that mayufes represented a traumatic experience for Polish Jewry. As far as Jews were concerned, mayufes lost its original meaning as the name of a Sabbath song and was redefined in response to its Polish usage. Within the Jewish world, mayufes became a term for toadying or coerced conformity to the expectations of Polish gentry,”[5] and by the later 19th century the Yiddish language had even conjured up a term, majufesnik, for a Jew who flattered or abased himself before gentiles. (Klezmer historian Henry Sapoznik defines a majufesnik as “roughly equivalent to an Uncle Thomashevsky,”[6] and this parallel, between Polish Jewish and African American experiences, was also seized on by cultural historian Michael Steinlauf in an essay to be referred to further on.) Jewish identification of majufes with, on the one hand servility, and on the other ridicule, eventually caused the song to be expunged from the working repertoire of Sabbath hymns. In Ashkenazic communities worldwide, it is no longer heard in its original religious context.

Shmeruk’s literary explorations offer a wealth of interesting facts and bring to light an array of fascinating themes. But mostly the essay made me wonder: “What does majufes sound like?” Here, the author was only partly helpful. The compositions he mentions proved quite difficult to trace. There are no musical examples in his essay—in the English edition of his essay, I should say. And the literary sources cited offered only the barest descriptions of the music and the dance. And yet, in addition to the meaning Shmeruk so eloquently attributes to it, majufes is also a musical genre. As such it would fall into the category of stylized national dances, a time-honored zone of interface for European traditional, popular, and art musics.

And here, I will stray from the path laid out by Shmeruk in order to look at majufes as a musicological rather than a sociological phenomenon. The Jewish and parodic nature of majufes make it nearly unique among national dances. At least I believe so: there is little evidence of this sort of repertoire in the surviving record. Students of musicology might recall from their Renaissance survey courses the Juden Tantz (Jewish Dance) by 16th century Bavarian lutenist Hans Newsidler. Willi Apel, who edited the Anthology, claimed that the Juden Tantz “represents one of the earliest examples, if not the earliest, of satire in music.”[7] One might see why from the following excerpt:

Figure 2: Newsidler, Juden Tanz (excerpt). From Willi Apel, ed, Historical Anthology of Music, vol. 1 (1949).

I might mention that subsequent scholars, such as Walter Salmen, are less convinced than Apel of the parodic nature of the Juden Tantz. [8] Were Apel correct, however, we would clearly have a majufes precursor, musically unrelated of course, but belonging to the same “national dance” category and also the same subtypes “Jewish” and “caricature.”

I mention the Juden Tantz because I am attracted to the thesis that it may preserve in some form an otherwise lost Jewish music tradition. Paul Nettl makes this connection in his Story of Dance Music when, touching on the Juden Tantz, he cites complaints against Jewish musicians found in 17th-century police archives in Prague. Among the charges: “[they] keep neither time nor rhythm [and] introduce a number of false notes.”[9] To Nettl this means that the Jewish performers betrayed an aesthetic alien to mainstream European notions of proper ensemble playing, use of scales and modes, and (presumably also) functional harmony. Even conceding the element of burlesque—caricature, after all, must build on qualities that are already present—Newsidler’s dance, in Nettl’s estimation, communicates something valid about 16th-century central European Jewish secular instrumental music. At this point in time, unfortunately, it is too late to determine just what this Jewish component might have been. But a chance still exists, I feel, to build a case for majufes.

To return to Shmeruk. I remarked that he offered in his article very little musical evidence for majufes. He points to standard works by Idelsohn for examples of the prayer tune—which Idelsohn, by the way, believed had derived from a German folk melody.[10]

Figure 3: From Idelsohn (1932), vol. 7, p. 108.

Shmeruk also refers in passing to three instances where the name majufes was used in connection with musical settings. In the first reference, he quotes a majufes lyric from a popular play to suggest that Poles may have known “many Sabbath songs, not only Mah Yafit” as majufes.[11] Based on textual evidence, Shmeruk demonstrates that the example in question, from Warsaw playwright Feliks Szober’s 1878 farce Barnaba Fafuła i Józio Grojseszyk na wystawie paryzkiej (Barnaba Fafula and Józio Groyseszyk at the Paris Exhibition), was not founded on Mah Yafit but on a different Sabbath hymn (Yom zeh Mekhubad).

Shmeruk’s second music reference is to a ballet staged at the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw in 1921. Here, the context is sociological: Shmeruk wishes to illustrate how Jews grew increasingly intolerant of stereotyping by Poles, particularly after Poland emerged as an independent nation after World War I. Citing newspaper reports of the day, he recounts the story of a protest mounted by Jews during a performance of a popular ballet, Karczma (Tavern). This protest, resulting in the arrest of a number of raucous demonstrators, had been timed to disrupt a balletic scene entitled (perhaps with provocation aforethought) majufes. According to the account in the Yiddish paper Moment, it was this scene that “turned the performance into a disgusting caricature that should not be allowed in even the cheapest cabaret, let alone a national theatre.”[12] Shmeruk touches again on the element of cultural antagonism, noting the seemingly bewildered tone of the mainstream Polish Kurier Warszawski, which termed the incident a “scuffle”(while the Yiddish press called it a “scandal”), and whose correspondent wondered how Jews possibly could take offense at such an “innocent dance.” Shmeruk himself was “almost certain that the dance deliberately made fun of Jews in an offensive way to provide entertainment for the onlookers.”[13]

The third and last of Shmeruk’s musical references appears as an appendix to the essay, offered to illustrate his observation that Jews themselves would use majufes for what he calls “their own internal polemical purposes.” [14] It consists of a Yiddish Ma Jufes, circa 1900, subtitled in German “battle-cry of the assimilationists, dedicated with love to the famous Dr. Buhaj and all the majufes Jews of Lemberg.” This, as it turns out, is a quite acerbic broadside aimed at Jewish assimilationists by their rivals, the Zionists. Professor Shmeruk’s Polinarticle prints only the Yiddish text of this tract, together with an English translation. But an earlier Polish version of the essay does in fact offer some lines of music, designated: “alte traditionelle ‘Ma Jufes‘ Weise.”[15]

Figure 4: From Paluch, ed., 1992, 474.

So, what does majufes sound like? The music to this broadside is clearly related to the prayer tune printed by Idelsohn, which we discussed earlier. With its major tonality and absent the shorthand symbolism of the melodic augmented second, the Lemberg Ma Jufes might even strike contemporary listeners as not sounding particularly “Jewish.” And indeed, Idelsohn, we recall, believed that the Mah Yafit melody originated in Germany, in the 18th, perhaps the 17th century. In terms of performance practice, too, the Lemberg source, with its texture of solo voice alternating with choir, emulates—or parodies—the hasidic manner of hymn singing, in which first the Rebbe then his followers would chant each verse in turn.

Wondering about this “Germanic melody” which had come to typify Jewish music in Poland, I made an effort to track down the tunes to the other examples within the essay. Shmeruk had, I thought, provided leads that would be easy enough to follow, and tracing these might yield an unrecognized variant of the Sabbath hymn, as the Lemberg Ma Jufes seemed to be, or perhaps shed light on an aspect of period performance practice. Above all, I speculated that lurking in the literature of majufes might be, if not a lost tradition, then at least a neglected representation of Jewish “national” music, a Biedermeier Juden Tanz. Sad to say, this quest has not turned out as I’d wished. What I have to offer in the remainder of this report are provisional findings from the field for a work I would hope to continue.

For several seasons beginning in the mid-1870s, Barnaba Fafuła and Józio Grojseszyk, brainchildren of playwright Feliks Szober, were all the rage of Warsaw’s theater-going public. The fame of this pair outlived their creator to enter Polish folklore: Fafuła, the “provincial lad from the town of Woli Ogon;” and Grojseszyk, the “high-spirited [Jewish] hustler who knows all the ins and outs of Warsaw street life.” An account of their time and milieu is given in Michael Steinlauf’s essay “Mr. Geldhab and Sambo in Peyes: Images of the Jew on the Polish Stage, 1863-1905,” from which these character descriptions were taken.[16] The majufes in question occurs in Szober’s second Fafuła-Groyseszyk play, Fafuła and Groyseszyk at the Paris Exhibition, and was to be performed, according to the stage direction, by “a Jew in blackface.”[17] Shmeruk, as mentioned, had argued that a garbled Hebrew text, or any Hebrew words at all, would suffice for a majufes song, since Hebrew sounded like exotic gibberish to most Polish ears. Yet he allows that, for some reason, this particular example does not equal in aberrance his other illustrations from Polish literature, noting with it seems some perplexity that: 1) the Hebrew lyrics used in place of Mah Yafit are derived (as previously mentioned) from “another” Sabbath hymn, Yom zeh Mekhubad (The Day is Honored), and; 2) the Hebrew lyric contains “only minor textual distortions.” [18]

Shmeruk’s puzzlement may have diminished had he known Steinlauf’s findings that Jews made up a good proportion of the “urban mass audience” for garden theater, and that the theater orchestras “included numerous Jewish musicians, and were sometimes all Jewish.”[19] Also perhaps worth considering is the fact that Szober’s composer and music director was a Jew from Wrocław, Adolf Gustaw Sonnenfeld, known in his day as the “Polish Offenbach.” Among the busiest musicians to work for the Warsaw popular stage, Sonnenfeld (1837-1914) was a prominent violinist and conductor as well as composer of opera, operetta, and ballet. (During the course of a hectic career, Sonnenfeld also directed the Businessmen’s Amateur Orchestra of Łódź, the Orchestra of the Railway Workers of the Warsaw-Vienna Line, and published large quantities of salon music under a variety of pseudonyms.[20]) He is characterized in Witold Filler’s survey of Warsaw beer garden culture, Melpomena i piwo, as a prolific author of “ballets, vaudeville dances, polkas, quadrilles, mazurkas, and majufesy.”[21]

Szober’s plays remained public favorites for decades but are now little known, while Sonnenfeld’s popular compositions for the most part passed from fashion almost immediately. I would like to report that I have located the majufes from “Barnaba Fafuła” or any of Sonnenfeld’s so-called majufesy. Unfortunately, I cannot. Some of this music may have been published, and manuscript copies presumably survive somewhere. But Sonnenfeld’s entry in the Słownik muzyków polskich notes in ominous retrospect that many of his works could be found at the Warsaw Biblioteka Narodowa “until 1939.”[22] All that I have found so far by this productive composer are a pair of piano pieces, including a “Mazur” from the balletPan Twardowski (1860), long a repertory standard in Poland (one which calls for a “Jewish Orchestra” in the scenario, by the way).[23]

The ballet Karczma has a complicated history. Shmeruk, as noted above, had used newspaper accounts to recapitulate the Jewish protest staged during its performance in October, 1921. Neither of the Warsaw papers cited, Kurjer Warszawski and the Yiddish Moment, report the name of this ballet’s composer. However, Polish music references reveal that the work had premiered almost two years earlier, in December 1919, choreographed by Piotr Zajlich to music from a popular “folk-styled” ballet, Wesele w Ojcowie (The Wedding at Ojców).[24] This piece, though under a slightly different title (Wesele krakowskie w Ojcowie), dates back to 1823, a collaborative effort involving a virtual “Who’s Who” of early 19th century Polish music: Karol Kurpiński, Józef Damse, Józef Elsner and Jan Stefani. Moniuszko also worked up an arrangement, probably around mid-century.[25] The piano score I obtained of this charming work from the Jagiellonian University library includes several Krakowiaks, a couple Marches and Mazurs, a peasant-styled Obertas, yet no majufes.[26]Although an example of Jewish music could have been fitted to the wedding scenario, it seems unlikely that a majufes could have formed part of this original Wesele ballet. (Nor do I believe it to have been added by Moniuszko for his production.) To judge from Shmeruk’s sociological narrative, as well as that of Steinlauf, the first quarter of the 19th-century would seem too early a point in the unfolding Polish-Jewish narrative to witness the emergence of majufes from its feudal to its modern urban setting.[27] My guess is that this “majufes” scene had been created for Zajlich’s 20th-century production, revealingly retitled Karczma (for by then the Tavern had become the standard backdrop, in myth and cliche, for the meeting of Pole and Jew), and that the two years’ delay from debut to demonstration reflects yet another phase of this dynamic. The Teatr Wielki burned to the ground during the German occupation and little is said to remain of its prewar archives.[28] At any event, I could not locate music for Karczma, and the creator of its majufes scene remains unidentified. Left to speculate, I will suggest the possibility, affirmed by the Polish music lexicographer Leon T. Błaszczyk, that “specialty” music may have been contributed to the Wesele score by Zajlich’s conductor and music director, Zygmunt Singer (1876-1958), an adept composer descended from a family of Jewish musicians.[29] Singer may even have supplemented the score with music from Sonnenfeld’s Pan Twardowski ballet, which had been until recently in the Teatr Wielki repertoire.[30]

I should lastly make note of a majufes form that exists within the klezmer tradition. Henry Sapoznik, in the Compleat Klezmer, relates how old country klezmorim frequently performed at non-Jewish weddings and other social functions, remarking that these musicians “were many times ‘requested’ (i.e. demanded) to perform ‘typical’ Jewish music in order to poke fun at it.”[31] Among the frequently-requested numbers at these parties was a tune sometimes known as Reb dovidls nign (Reb David’s Melody) sometimes as Tants, tants, yidelakh(Dance, Dance, Jews), sometimes as Der rebbe hot geheysen lustig (or freylakh) zayn” (The Rabbi Bids Us Be Merry), sometimes as “majufes.” The tune was indeed widespread and remains well known to Jewish folk music devotees (Sapoznik calls it “the quintessential ‘Jewish melody’ before the advent of Hava Nagila[32]). As the name Reb dovidls nignsuggests, this piece may have begun as a quasi-devotional tune and later passed to the klezmer repertoire. Alternatively, the title Tants, tants, yidelakh (Dance, Dance, Jews!) evokes the odious “dance on command” legacy of majufes. At any rate, Idelsohn classified this piece among the hasidic songs, remarking on its popularity and “Tartar-Cossack character.”[33]It was incorporated by Goldfaden, the greatly influential “father of the Yiddish theater,” into an operetta, circa 1880,[34] and in 1912, as Ma Yufes, would be among the first pieces of what has come to be called “klezmer music” ever commercially recorded.[35]

Figure 5: Idelsohn, 1932, vol. 10, 41.

The melody to this majufes is nothing like that of the hymn tune given by Idelsohn or of the Lemberg broadside offered as an example by Shmeruk. It does “sound” Jewish, with its “minor” modality[36] and use of the trademark augmented second. And it is not inconceivable that the tune may have been adapted from a zemer. Any attractive melody was, and is, proper fodder for klezmorim, and several researchers have noted cases of prayer tunes turned to instrumental use.[37] The lyrics to Mah Yafit might, at least in theory, be sung to the melody of this majufes. But is there a link between the Polish Jewish majufes tradition and this klezmer melody, still familiar yet now almost never called by that name?

Not long ago I noted one such connection in a pamphlet printed in Kraków in 1914, Mobilizacya w Bronowicach (“The Mobilization at Bronowicach”). A send-up in the form of a play of various once-famous public figures, the pamphlet (whose author went by the name “Nygi,” or “lazybones”) includes a number of parody songs set to well known melodies, among them “Idzie Maciek przez wieś” [Maciek walks through the village], the Marseillaise, and (according to its performance directive) “majufes.”[38] Set as a sequence of couplets, the text to this song piles stereotyped Jewish attributes one upon the other; it is accompanied by a cartoon depicting a dozen “Dr. Landau’s:” Homburg-hatted, sword-waggling Jewish physician-profiteers (see Figure 5). The melody is a close variant of that klezmer standard, formerly commonly known as majufes.

Figure 6: “Nygi,” 1914. Mobilizacya w Bronowicach.

Finally I would like to touch briefly on my reason for returning to the theme of “the Jewish contribution to majufes.” Shmeruk made good his promise to cast light on Polish-Jewish relations through the “window” of majufes with an argument corroborated by literary citations from ancient times to almost the present day. These citations sometimes make hard reading, documenting as they do centuries of misunderstanding, indifference, and suffering. Reconsidering majufes, I chose not to revisit this aspect of Shmeruk’s argument. Rather, focusing on music and musicology allowed me to separate his from other, less laden, senses of the word. I think then, that we might speak of three types of majufes. The first, Shmeruk’s kind, is the symbol of a Polish Jewish vis-à-vis rooted in the old order and resonant still, as in the Polish catch phrase (current between the wars), “Żeby tobie żyd majufesśpiewał” [May the Jew sing majufes for you], spoken to deflate a self-important Pole.[39] Or, yet more tellingly, in the word’s intramural use among Jews, as when Łódź ghetto diarist Jakub Poznański condemns the “‘majufesowa‘ taktyka” [“majufes” tactics]—that is, appeasement policy—of ghetto Chairman Chaim Rumkowski.[40]

The second majufes type refers to the “national dance,” parodic or otherwise, which while remaining elusive may at least be associated with two distinct melodies—one still popular under a different name. As noted above, I believe that the musical examples cited by Shmeruk had been composed by Jews. I further suspect that, just as Poles laughed at a song-and-dance they took for “Jewish,” so too urban, assimilating Polish Jews, at least for a while, would have been honestly amused by routines mocking village hasidim, whose customs many thought embarrassing, if not barbaric.[41]

Lastly, there is a “generic” majufes, which over time came to connote, among Jews and others, any music of a “Jewish” or “pseudosemitic” character. At the turn of the 20th century the Polish Jewish critic Alfred Lor provided an instance of such usage, reviling a play ostensibly sympathetic to Jews (and written by a Jew) for its “profusion of tasteless couplets, Jewish can-cans, and other majufesy.”[42] The Polka Szabasówka (Sabbath Polka), popular before the war and recently in the repertoire of the Mazowsze State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble among others, as well as some of the soundtrack music to the 1980s film Austeria (composed, not incidently, by Leopold Kozłowski, “the last Klezmer”) might qualify as more contemporary manifestations of this sense of majufes.[43] Impressive examples (including Szabasówka) might be found on the album, Szmonces i Liryka, issued several years ago by the Warsaw nostalgia specialist Stasiek Wielanek.[44]

A visual counterpart to such majufesy might be sought in bygone and current Polish “Judaics”: the orthodox couple dancing a Żydowski in Zofja Stryjeńska’s colorful survey of Polish regional dances (see Figure 1);[45] the “Jewish Kapela” woodcarvings offered (just atop a folkloric devil doll) in a recent Poland by Mail catalogue; the label art on popular kosher vodka brands like Cymes, Cadyk, Badchan, Szames, Jankiel, Rachele, and Szabasówka.

My point, to conclude, is that while Shmeruk’s literary illustrations most certainly validate his thesis, the musical majufes, born of Polish Jewish collaboration and often the work of Jews, reflects if not a different situation entirely, then a different face of the same history. And that this history was perhaps more nuanced than we today often care to believe.

Figure 7.



[1]. Chone Shmeruk, “Mayufes: A Window on Polish-Jewish Relations.” Polin 10 (1997). The Polish spelling majufes is used throughout this essay except when citing the Polin article, where the word is rendered phonetically as mayufes, and within other citations where the term appears in various regional guises (e.g. majofes, majafis). [Back]

[2]. However, see Beregovski, in Slobin, ed., Old Jewish Folk Music (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982), 526, n. 19: “In his report of the An-Ski expedition of 1912, [Joel Engel] tells of how a non-Jew (a Russian or Moldavian) was at the head of a klezmer band in Ruzhina. This musician even composed his own pieces for the band. ‘He tried to get me to buy a sparkling majafis which he wrote himself,’ writes Engel.” [Back]

[3]. For a translation of the complete poem, see Macy Nulman, “Mah Yafit: The Intriguing Fate of the Sabbath Table Hymn,” Journal of Jewish Music and Liturgy 1, no. 1 (June 1976). [Back]

[4]. For a discussion of the “Zydek” character, see Michael C. Steinlauf, “Mr. Geldhab and Sambo in Peyes: Images of the Jew on the Polish Stage, 1863-1905.” Polin 4 (1989): 111 ff. [Back]

[5]. Shmeruk, 1997, 274. [Back]

[6]. Henry Sapoznik, The Compleat Klezmer (New York: Tara Publications, 1987), 7. This theme is more fully explored in Steinlauf, 1989. [Back]

[7]. Willi Apel, The Notation of Polyphonic Music (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953), 78. [Back]

[8]. Walter Salmen, Jüdischer Musikanter und Tänzer vom 13. bis 20. Jahrhundert (Innsbruck: Helbling, 1991),125-127. Salmen also notes two later (though not so egregious) Judentänzer in the German lute literature. [Back]

[9]. Paul Nettl, The Story of Dance Music (New York: Philosophical Library, 1947), 41-42. Nettl earlier published these findings in Alte jüdische Spielleute und Musiker (Prague: Flesch, 1923). [Back]

[10]. A. Z. Idelsohn, Hebraisch-Orientalischer Melodienschatz, vol. 7 (Leipzig: Hofmeister, 1932), pp. XLIII and 108; A. Z. Idelsohn, Jewish Music in Its Historical Development (New York: Schocken, 1929, reprinted in 1967), 385. Idelsohn’s source is a manuscript of Bavarian cantor Maier Kohn prepared between 1839-70. See also Nulman, 1976, 34, for variant melodies. [Back]

[11]. Shmeruk, 1997, 276. [Back]

[12]. Ibid., 280. [Back]

[13]. Ibid. [Back]

[14]. Ibid., 283, n. 31. [Back]

[15]. Chone Shmeruk, “majufes,” in Andrzej K. Paluch, ed., The Jews In Poland (Kraków: Jagiellonian University, 1992), 474. [Back]

[16]. Steinlauf, 1989, 118. [Back]

[17]. Shmeruk 1997, fn. 14. In Polish the stage directions read (in part) “Na małej scence Murzynka…” [the black woman on a small stage…]. Feliks Schober, Barnaba Fafuła i Jozo Grojseszyk na Wystawie Paryzkiej (Warsaw: Jozef Unger, 1880), 119. I am indebted to Mr. Henryk Rogacki of the Teatr Wielki Museum, Warsaw, for providing a photocopy of Schober’s hard-to-find play. [Back]

[18]. Ibid., 276. [Back]

[19]. Steinlauf, 1989, 118 and 115. [Back]

[20]. Leon Tadeusz Błaszczyk, “Sonnenfeld Adolf Gustaw” in Józef Chominski, ed., Słownik muzyków polskich , vol. 2 (Kraków: PWM, 1967), 195; “Sonnenfeld, Adolf Gustaw,” in Zbigniew Raszewski, ed., Słownik biograficzny teatru polskiego 1765-1965 (Warsaw: PWN, 1973-), 670. [Back]

[21]. Witold Filler, Melpomena i piwo [Melpomena and beer] (Warsaw: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1960), 148. Cited in Steinlauf 1989, 126, n. 70. [Back]

[22]. Błaszczyk, ibid. [Back]

[23]. Numerous compositions of Sonnenfeld published under the pseudonym G. A. Adolfson are listed in Franz Pazdirek, Universal-Handbuch der Musikliteratur alle Zeiter und Völker(Vienna, 1904-1910). [Back]

[24]. “Wesele w Ojcowie,” in Irena Turska, ed., Przewodnik baletowy (Kraków: PWM, 1973),343-344; “Zajlich Piotr Hipolit” in Raszewski, ed., 1973-, 826. [Back]

[25]. “Józef Damse”; “Józef Elsner”; “Karol Kurpiński”; “Jan Stefani”; “Józef Stefani;” entries in Chomiński, ed., 1962. [Back]

[26]. Karol Kurpiński, Józef Damse, [et al.], Wesele w Ojcowie [A Wedding in Ojców], piano arrangement by Romuald Zientarski (Warsaw: Bernstejn, 1856). [Back]

[27]. Cf. Chopin and “majufes” as reported in Frederick Niecks, Frederick Chopin as a Man and Musician (3rd ed. London, 1902). Online [Back]

[28]. Information from Dr. Barbara Milewski, personal communication. [Back]

[29]. Singer had converted to Catholicism as a condition to marriage. Leon Tadeusz Błaszczyk, personal communication with Alina Skibińska, 11 November 1998. I am grateful to Ms. Skibińska, of Warsaw, for passing along this and all sorts of other useful information. [Back]

[30]. Sonnenfeld’s ballet was replaced in the repertoire by Rózycki’s Pan Twardowski (1921), also staged by Zajlich. [Back]

[31]. Sapoznik, 1987, 7. [Back]

[32]. Ibid, 66. [Back]

[33]. Idelsohn, Hebraisch-Orientalischer Melodienschatz, vol. 10 (Leipzig: Hofmeister, 1932), XII and 41. [Back]

[34]. Eleanor Młotek, personal communication; Heskes, Music of Abraham Goldfaden (Tara Publications, 1990), 140. [Back]

[35]. Jeffrey Wollock, “European Recordings of Jewish Instrumental Folk Music, 1911-1914,” ARSC Journal 28, no. 1 (Spring, 1997): 42. The recording, by Belf’s Rumanian Orchestra, is reissued on Klezmer Pioneers (Cambridge: Rounder Records, Corp. CD 1089, 1993). [Back]

[36]. More precisely, the cantillation shtayger “Ahava Rabba.” Cf. Idelsohn 1932, vol. 10, 41. [Back]

[37]. Joel Rubin, personal communication, 9 October 1998. [Back]

[38]. “Nygi,” Mobilizacya w Bronowicach (Krakow: Wydawnictwo Biblioteki Narodowej, 1914), 72. Translation of the text reproduced in Figure 5: “It would have been an awful scandal / if the war was without a Landau. . . In the whole wide world around / Landaus are first to be found.” [Back]

[39]. Dr. Abraham Melezin, personal communication, 24 August 1998. [Back]

[40]. Jakub Poznański, Pamiętnik z Getta Łódzkiego [Memoirs from Łódź Ghetto] (Łódź: Wydawnictwo, 1960), 252 (21.X.1944).[Back]

[41]. Many Yiddish song standards are anti-hasidic in origin, and one component of the klezmer repertoire is the dance known as hosidl, which began as a send-up of the hasidic style (cf. Beregovski, 1982, 500, note 75 and 502, note 95; Sapoznik, 1987). [Back]

[42]. Cited in Steinlauf, 1989, 119. Witold Filler’s remark about Sonnenfeld, quoted above, may also reflect such usage. Cf. also endnote 2. [Back]

[43]. According to Joel Rubin (personal communication), Kozłowski claims not to know the majufes melody.[Back]

[44]. Stasiek Wielanek & Kapela Warszawska, Szmonces i Liryka (Warsaw: Elbo audio cassette 1308, n.d. [ca. 1991]); recently reissued on CD as Party na Nalewkach (2001; distributed by BMG). One of the recently-fashionable Polish “kosher” vodkas is also called “Szabasowka.” [Back]

[45]. Zofja Stryjeńska, Tańce Polskie (Kraków: Druk i Nakład Drukarni Narodowej w Krakowie, 1929). Collection of the Polish Music Center, USC. Stryjeńska’s series of dance lithographs included representation of Polish classes (peasants, nobility, Jews) and regions (Tatras, Mazowsze, Ukraine, Kujawy, etc.), in addition to the various dances, including the national “polonaise” danced by an 18th-century mature aristocratic couple, the regional “oberek” and “kujawiak” danced by younger peasants in folk costumes from the Mazowsze area, and the ethnic “kolomyjka” of Ukrainian peasants and the “żydowski” danced by an elderly Jewish couple. The “national” dances have frequently been reproduced in war-time postcards in England and the U.S., but the “Jewish” dance was only in the original set of lithographs. For more comments about the role of this image in the series and Stryjeńska’s portrayal of Polish costumes and dances in her series, see Maja Trochimczyk, Polish Dance in Southern California (Southern California Studies Center at USC, 2001). [Ed.] [Back]

Bret Werb has served as musicologist at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. since 1992. He has produced three CDs for the museum: Krakow Ghetto Notebook; Rise Up and Fight!: Songs of Jewish Partisans; Hidden History: Songs of the Kovno Ghetto, and is currently working on a website showcasing the museum’s music collection. A contributor to the recent edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, he has lectured widely on the topic of Holocaust related music and curated a 2002 exhibition “Music of the Holocaust” at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Werb earned his M.A. in ethnomusicology at UCLA with a thesis on the Yiddish stage composer Joseph Rumshinsky. He is currently a doctoral candidate at that institution. Bret Werb has been a member of Music of Remembrance’s Advisory Board since spring 2003. An article of his will appear in Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry , vol. 16, “Jewish Popular Culture and Its Afterlife” edited by Michael C. Steinlauf and Antony Polonsky (2003).