Mayn yidishe maydele (My Jewish Girl), with lyrics by Anshel Schorr, was the signature song in Secunda’s 1927 musical production (billed then as a “grand [groyse] Yiddish operetta”], Zayn yidishe meydl (His Jewish Girl). Composed to a book by Isidor Lash, it was first produced in New York at Schorr’s Liberty Theater in Brooklyn.
If the play purports to address Jewish-Christian intermarriage, it does so only superficially in the context of a grandiose offering of popular entertainment that included “something for everyone”—everyone, that is, who patronized Second Avenue in the 1920s and 1930s. Apart from emotional volleys of parental opposition to a mixed match, and a daughter’s sympathy-evoking willingness to sacrifice her own happiness “on the altar of kibbud av (honoring one’s father),” there were Jewish and general popular songs, quasi-Hassidic tunes, dances, typical Broadway set numbers, brushes with superstition in the form of demonic possession, parties, synagogue and other Judaic ritual scenes (including a bit of cantorial display), comic routines and hilarious stage “shtik” (guaranteed with Menashe Skulnik in the cast), jazz, and perceived Russian music and song associated with “Old Russia,” which always resonated well with those audiences as a bit of welcome exotica. “Zayn yidishe meydl,” commented one reviewer of a revival—but without disapproval—“is really just one song and dance after another.” As usual, the musical parameter came out on top. “Clear out the libretto,” continued that critic, “and there remain the tuneful numbers of Sholom Secunda.”
The story takes place somewhere in the Russian Empire prior to the First World War. Grisha, a non-Jewish Russian army officer whose father is a general, and Aniuta, the only daughter of a well-to-do Jew, are in love and intent on marriage. But Aniuta cannot bring herself to defy her father, and just as she is about to sign the t’naim (betrothal contract) together with an elderly Jew her father has selected for her, Grisha comes on the scene with startling news. He has just learned that he is, in fact, a Jew, since his mother—whom apparently he never has known—is Jewish. Known as Khayke the meshu’gener (the crazy one), she is said to have gone mad when Grisha’s father abandoned her, took the children with him, and had them converted to Christianity. Not only do Grisha and Aniuta wed in a proper Jewish ceremony, but the entire family emigrates to Palestine.
The lyrics of Mayn yidishe maydele render it suitable for more than one spot, and it is likely that it was intended for the scene in which Aniuta and the elderly Jew are about to become engaged. We know from press accounts that Grisha repeated it following the wedding. And Der Tog, one of the major Yiddish daily newspapers, reported that the ovation from the women in the audience required a reprise after his first rendition.
Mayn yidishe meydle is one of sixteen musical numbers in the original version of the show. The remains of the performance materials also contain the song Sing, Sing, Sing, by Louis Prima, and Irving Berlin’s Puttin’ on the Ritz. For one revival, in 1937, a review referred to it as a “new musical by William Siegel and Secunda,” which suggests that Siegel might have made revisions to Lash’s original book. In 1949 Secunda revised the song for its publication.
By: Neil W. Levin
Lyrics by Anshel Schorr
I have seen many women;
among every people they are different.
But none is as beautiful
as a Jewish woman.
A Jewish girl immediately enchants you
with her glance.
And if you just take a peek at her,
you feel that “Jewish feeling” inside of you.
My Jewish girl, she is so pretty.
My Jewish girl, she has a certain Jewish charm.
Her golden hair, her teeth like pearls—
only a Jewish girl could be so beautiful.
A million dollars won’t help you find among other peoples
a girl with that Jewish charm.
Lyrics by Anshel Schorr
froyen fil hob ikh gezen.
bay yedn folk zaynen zey farshidn.
nor keyne iz nit azoy sheyn
vi di froy bay di yidn.
a yidish meydl, mit ir blik,
farkisheft bald in gantsn dikh.
un gibstu nor af ir a kuk,
filstu a yidishn tam in zikh.
mayn yidishe meydle, zi iz azoy sheyn.
mayn yidishe meydle, mit ir yidishn kheyn.
fun gold ire herlekh, di tseyner vi perelekh
nor a yidishe meydl ken zayn azoy sheyn.
ir vet far milyonen, bay andere natsyonen,
nisht gefinen a meydl, mit a yidishn kheyn.
Composer: Sholom Secunda
Genre: Yiddish Theater
Elli Jaffe, Conductor;
Simon Spiro, Tenor;
Vienna Chamber Orchestra
Date Recorded: 10/01/2001
Venue: Baumgartner Casino (A), Vienna, Austria
Engineer: Hughes, Campbell
Assistant Engineer: Hamza, Andreas
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul
Publisher: Music Sales Corp.
Arranger/Orchestrator: Patrick Russ
Yiddish Translations/Transliterations: Eliyahu Mishulovin & Adam J. Levitin
Arrangement © Milken Family Foundation