Page 169 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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ROSKIES / IDEOLOG IES OF T H E Y IDD ISH FOLKSONG
161
found a new and lucrative home in the fledgling Yiddish
theater.
Given these irreconcilable positions,
shund
could enjoy no sup­
port from among the American Yiddish intelligentsia, for
among other things, the official ideologues were extremely pu­
ritanical about sex. Sex was a diversion from the class struggle
and from the rebuilding of Zion. This is where the ideology
of
folkstimlekhkeyt
came in. To render kosher that which other­
wise would have been treyf, one looked for its “folkish” traits.
Jewish nationalists broadly redefined as
folkstimlekh
everything
from a
badkhn
s doggerel to a pseudo-hasidic niggun. For uto­
pian socialists, it was every slice of “real” immigrant life, no
matter how hackneyed or sentimental, so long as it dumped
on capitalist America. The folklore movement on the right and
on the left tried above all to lay exclusive claim to the loyalty
of its “folk.”
Shund,
of course, resisted any attempt at ideological pigeon­
holing.
Shund,
by definition, combined nostalgia for the shtetl
with pragmatic acceptance of America; songs about shabes, kugl
and Palestine with Catskill and California honeymoons. In
shund,
there was something for everyone.
After 1918, however, the battle lines hardened, and no more
would the intellectuals’ noblesse oblige extend to Yiddish Tin
Pan Alley. Shmulevitsh might still be kosher, because he was
passe, but the moment Second Avenue entered into its period
of greatest creative energy, it posed a real threat to competing
claims for cultural hegemony.
ENTER AARON LEBEDEV
Into this battleground for the hearts and minds of the Jewish
immigrant masses burst Aaron Lebedev.35 Fresh from his com-
35. The biographical sketch o f Aaron Lebedev is from Zilbertsvayg’s
Leksikon
2 (Warsaw, 1934): 1133-35 and the dust jacket o f
Aaron Lebedeff Sings, Rumania
and other Yiddish Theatre Favorites
written by B.H. Stambler, Collectors Guild
R62-1499 (1962). Lebedev’s original recordings, and those o f Shmulevitsh, are
housed and catalogued in the Max and Frieda Weinstein Sound Archives at
the YIVO Institute, New York.
In a project that complements my own, Gila Flam has analyzed the “philosophy
o f schmaltz” based on the repertoire o f Lebedev’s contemporary and chief rival,
Herman Yablokoff. Paper read at the 23rd Annual Conference o f the AJS
in Boston, Dec. 15, 1991.