Der Kremer

The Shopkeeper
דער קרעמער

Part of a 25-stanza poem by Abraham Liessin (1872-1938); music attributed to Pinchas Jassinowsky. The original poem was written in Minsk in 1896. Words and music were printed in 1951 by S. Bugatch and Sidor Belarsky. The song was a favorite number in the latter’s repertoire.

Illustration of musical notes from the books


A shopkeeper sits in a store
the hundredth shopkeeper on the street,
he sits, thinking about a customer.
Outside it is dark and wet.

Customers rarely make an appearance
he sits, shuddering from the cold,
yawning and dreaming dreams,
and contemplates the world.

Oh, if only I had the strength!
Our enemies would eat dirt
and I’d create a real government
and of our people at that!

A Jewish government, gentlemen,
can you fully fathom it?
That would mean a government of geniuses,
a government of governments, itself!

But suddenly, a customer appears,
around the size of a pea,
and asks for a penny’s worth of herring
and knocks him out of his daydream.

Seeing his tiny earnings from afar,
the hundreds of shopkeepers on the street,
devour him with their eyes,
with eyes full of envy and hate.


Zitst zikh a kremer in kreml,
Der hundertster kremer in gas,
Er zitst un er trakht fun a koyne,
In droysn iz fintster un nas.

Es vayzn zikh zeltn di koynim,
Er zitst un er shoydert far kelt,
Un genetst un kholemt khaloymes,
Un trakht zikh mekoyekh der velt.

O, volt ikh gehat nor dem koyekh!
Di erd voltn sonim gekayt,
Un take a melukhe geshafn,
Un take fun undzere layt!

A yidishe melukhe, raboysay,
Tsi kent ir dos gruntik farshteyn?
Dos heyst dokh a melukhe fun geoynim,
A melukhe fun mlokhim aleyn.

Nor plutzling bavayzt zikh a koyne,
Azoy vi an arbes di groys,
Un bet far a kopike hering
Un shlogt im fun dimyen aroys.

Derzeen dos fun vaytn dem pidyen
Di hunderter kremer fun gas,
Zey fresn im oyf mit di oygn,
Mit oygn fun kine un has.

זיצט זיך אַ קרעמער אין קרעמל
דער הונדערטסטער קרעמער אין גאַס,
ער זיצט און ער טראַכט פֿון אַ קונה,
אין דרױסן איז פֿינצטער און נאַס.

עס װײַזן זיך זעלטן די קונים,
ער זיצט און ער שױדערט פֿאַר קעלט,
און גענעצט און חלומט חלומות,
און טראַכט זיך מכּוח דער װעלט.

אָ, װאָלט איך געהאַט נאָר דעם כּוח!
די ערד װאָלטן שׂונאיס געקײַט,
און טאַקע אַ מלוכה געשאַפֿן,
און טאַקע פֿון אונדזערע לײַט!

אַ ייִדישע מלוכה, רבותי,
צי קענט איר דאָס גרונטיק פֿאַרשטײן?
דאָס הײסט דאָך אַ מלוכה פֿון גאונים,
אַ מלוכה פֿון מלכים אַלײן!

נאָר פּלוצלינג באַװײַזט זיך אַ קונה,
אַזױי װי אַן אַרבעס די גרױס,
און בעט פֿאַר אַ קאָפּיקע הערינג
און שלאָגט אים פֿון דמיון אַרױס.

דערזעען דאָס פֿון װײַטן דעם פּדיון
די הונדערטער קרעמער פֿון גאַס,
זײ פֿרעסן אים אױף מִיט די אױגן,
מיט אױגן פֿון קינאה און האַס.

Song Title: Der Kremer

Composer: Khazn Pinkhos Jassinovsky
Composer’s Yiddish Name: פּינחס יאַסינאָװסקי
Lyricist: Abraham Liessin
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: אַבֿרהם ליעסין
Time Period: Unspecified

This Song is Part of a Collection

Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song

The Songs of Generations: New Pearls of Yiddish Song anthology comprises songs that were either never printed before or appeared in rare and inaccessible publications — sometimes in different versions and without proper sources. Most of the songs in this book were submitted by readers of Chana and Yosl’s column “Perl fun der yidisher poezye” (Pearls of Yiddish Poetry) in the Yiddish newspaper Der Forverts (The Forward), initiated in October, 1970. Over 25 years, thousands of songs were collected in correspondence and on cassettes from readers throughout the world, and they represent a veritable national Yiddish song archive. Chana Mlotek, in her introduction, writes, “In the course of years the inquiries, contributions and enthusiasm of these readers have kept our own interest unflagging and have reinforced our dedication to this effort. And in recent years our participants have also been augmented by new readers from the former Soviet Russia, who receive our newspaper there or from newly-arrived immigrants in this country and Israel.”

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