Candles of Song 1 of 2

May 23, 2012 by

Candles of Song: Yiddish Poems about Mothers Rajzel Zychlinksy

Yiddish poems about mothers, in memory of my mother, Miriam Pearlman Zucker, 1914-2012.

Photo of Rajzel Zychlinksy

Rajzel Zychlinksy (1910-2001) was born in Gombin, Poland in 1910. Her first book of poems, Lider (Poems), published in 1936, included a very laudatory foreword by the celebrated poet Itsik Manger. She and her husband, the psychiatrist and author, Dr. Isaac Kanter, left their home in Warsaw during the Second World War and took refuge in Russia where their son Marek was born.

In 1951, Zychlinksy emigrated to New York. She lived there until the last few years of her life, when she moved to Berkeley, California, to join her son. She published several volumes of poetry in Yiddish, among them, Tsu loytere bregn (To clear shores), 1948,  Shvaygndike tirn, (Silent doors), 1962), Di November-zun (The November sun), 1977 and Naye lider (New Poems), 1993. In 1975 she was awarded the prestigious Manger Prize for Yiddish Poetry. The Holocaust is a major theme in her work.

A fine selection of her poems has been published in English in the book God Hid His Face: Selected Poems of Rajzel Zychlinsky, translated by Barnett Zumoff, Aaron Kramer, and Zychlinsky’s son, Marek Kanter.

Here, Mame, by Rajzel Zychlinksy, read by Sheva Zucker:


You made fire.
Thin sticks of wood
You fanned into a sun.
You hear my hair rustling a thank-you.
But outside the wind is still wailing.
Take the wind, mother, into your apron,
And rock him to sleep.
The wind will trust you,
And like a little lamb,
Will close his eyes.
Tr. Sheva  Zucker


Du host fayer gemakht.
Host fun dare shtiklekh holts
Tseblozn a zun.
Du herst vi mayne hor shoybern a dank,
A dank.
Nor in droysn veynt nokh alts der vint.
Nem im, mame, in dayn shirts arayn,
Un vig im ayn.
Der vint, er vet dir gloybn,
Un vi a shepskl,
Tsumakhn di oygn.
Shvaygndike tirn, 1962

.דו האָסט פֿײַער געמאַכט
האָסט פֿון דאַרע שטיקלעך האָלץ
.צעבלאָזן אַ זון
,דו הערסט ווי מײַנע האָר שויבערן אַ דאַנק
.אַ דאַנק
.נאָר אין דרויסן וויינט נאָך אַלץ דער ווינט
,נעם אים, מאַמע, אין דײַן שירץ אַרײַן
.און וויג אים אײַן
,דער ווינט, ער וועט דיר גלויבן
,און ווי אַ שעפּסל
.צומאַכן די אויגן
שווײַגנדיקע טירן, 1962

Poems cross-posted with

Dr. Sheva Zucker is currently the Executive Director of the League for Yiddish and the editor of its magazine Afn Shvel. She has taught and lectured on Yiddish language, literature and culture on five continents.