Traditional Jewish Music

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Oyfn Pripetshik

This well-known Yiddish lullaby, by Mark Warshawsky (1848-1907) describes a rabbi teaching a group of kindergarten-aged boys the Yiddish alphabet. It is symbolic of the Jewish tradition of studying Torah, the Five Books of Moses, as well as the passing down of heritage from one generation to another.

Oyfn pripetshik brent a fayeri, Un in shtub iz heys;
Un der rebbe lernt kleyne kinderlech dem alefbeyz;
Un der rebbe lernt kleyne kinderlech dem alef-beyz.
Zet zhe, kinderlech, gedenkt zhe tayere, vos ir lernt do;
Zogt zhe noch a mol un take noch a mol: Komets alef o.
Oh, the fire burns in the fire place, and the room has heat.
And the rabbi teaches all the little ones all their ABCs;
And the rabbi teaches all the little ones, all their ABCs.
See now, little ones, listen children, don't forget it, please.
Say it once for me and say it once again, All your ABCs.

Ani Ma'amin

This Hebrew song, written in the twelfth century, is by Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides, who was a great religious philosopher. His Talmudic Psalm Number Twelve from The Articles of Faith entitled "Ani Ma'amin" (I Believe) was later sung by many Jews during the Holocaust, even as they entered the gas chambers. Maimonides' descendants clung to his words for hope for the future and for humankind.

Ani Ma'amin
Be'emunah Sh'lema
Be'viyat Hamashiach.
V'af al pi, she'yitma-me-ah,
Yim Kol ze Ani Ma'amin.
I believe, with a complete belief,
in the coming of the Messiah.
And even though he may tarry,
I will await him, each and every day.


The Hatikvah, Israel's "National Anthem," written by Naftalie Embar, is sung at Jewish ceremonial gatherings and Passover.

Kol Od Va'levav penimah,
Nefesh Y'hudi, Homiyah.
Ol' fatesh Mizrah Kadima,
Eyin L'ziyon Tzofiyah.

Od Lo Avdah Tikvateynu.
Hatikvah Sh'not Alpayim.
Liyot Am Hofshi Be'Artzeynu-
Eretz Tzion Y'rushalayim.

As long as in our hearts
there is the soul of a Jewish heartbeat,
And toward the East
our eyes keep looking to Zion.

Our hope is not lost-
the hope of two thousand years-
to be a free nation in our land-
the land of Israel and Jerusalem.

Kol Nidre

Composed during the Spanish Inquisition, this piece, now sung on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, is about being released from last year's vows to God. During the Spanish Inquisition, many Jews, under oppression for their beliefs, pretended not to be Jewish in order to stay alive. Similarly, during the Holocaust, many Jewish people concealed their Jewish identities by obtaining false documents and passports in order to survive.

Shalom Alechem

This Hebrew song about the Sabbath describes two angels that supposedly come home from the synagogue on Friday night in honor of the Sabbath meal. The song states, "Come in peace, bless me in peace, and go out in peace."

Shalom Alechem Ma'lachai Ha'm'lachim,
Ma'lachai El'yon.
Mi Melech Ma'lachai Ham'lachim.
Ha Kadosh Baruch Hu.
Bo'achem B'shalom, Ma'lachai Ha'shalom
Ma'lachai El'yon.
Mi Melech Ma'lachai Ham'lachim
Ha Kadosh Baruch Hu.

Unter Dem Kind's Vigele

Some of the oldest Yiddish folk songs are lullabies.

Unter dem kind's gigele
Shteyt a klor-vays tsigele.
Rozhinkes mit mandlen.
Rozhinkes mit mandlen is zeyer zis.
Mayn kind vet zayn gezunt un frish.

Gezunt iz di beste schoyre,
Mayn kind vet lernen Toyre.
Toyre vet er lernen.
S'forim vet er shraybn.
A guter un a frumer
Vet er im yirtseshem blaybn.

Rozhinkes mit Mandlen (Raisins and Almonds)

Abraham Goldfaden wrote this favorite as part of his operetta Shulamisin 1880. A mother sings her son a lullaby about his future.

In dem Beys-Hamikdesh, in a vinkl kheyder,
Zitst di almone, Bas-Tsiyon aleyn.
Ir ben yochidl Yidelen vigt zi keseyder.
Un zingt im tsum shlofn a lidele sheyn:


Unter Yideles vigele
Shteyt a klor-vise tsigele,
Dos vet sayn dayn baruf
Rozhinkes mit mandlen
Shlof zhe, Yidele, shlof.


A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.

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