Candles of Song: Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

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

Photo of Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman (1920 – ) was born in Vienna, her mother was a remarkable traditional folksinger and her father, a passionate Yiddishist. She and her family left to settle in Czernowitz, Ukraine (then Romania), when she was a young child. Thinking she wanted to be an artist, Schaechter-Gottesman went to Vienna to study art but was forced to return to Czernowitz when the Germans invaded Austria in 1938. In 1941 she married a medical doctor, Jonas (Yoyne) Gottesman, and together they lived out the war in the Czernowitz Ghetto along with her mother and several other family members. She, her husband and daughter settled in New York in 1951.

Schaechter-Gottesman’s first book of poetry, a children’s book, Mir Forn (We’re Travelling) appeared in 1963. Her books, nine in total, have appeared regularly since then. They include poetry for adults, children’s books and song books. Her most recent book is Der tsvit fun teg: Lider un tseykhenungen (The Blossom of Days: Poems and Drawings), 2007. She has recorded three CDs of her songs and one recording of folk songs. Beyle has played a central role in reviving and inspiring interest in Yiddish song and poetry among a new generation of artists, and her songs have been performed by many of the major names in Yiddish music. She is the only Yiddish poet ever to be awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the top honor for folk arts in the United States.

Here, S’letste Bletl, by Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, read by Sheva Zucker: