Vu Nemt Men Parnose?

How Can I Make a Living?
װוּ נעמט מען פּרנסה?

Words and music by David Meyerowitz (1867-1943), published in 1934. In her book about the Lodz Ghetto, Gila Flam cites a song “It’s Shackles and Chains” with the opening melody of this song. A parody by Ruvn Lipshitz about the DP camp appears in his book Lebedik amkho (Bergen Belsen, 1946). The song was revived in the musical The Golden Land by Joanne Borts.

Illustration of musical notes from the books


People, give me some advice,
And rescue me quickly!
I’ll thank you for it,
I can’t help myself.
The times are bitter, very bad;
Life’s not going well.
It’s only just, no more than right,
That you should be helpful.

How can I make a living?
How can I make a living?
It’s hard to seek and find.
No one gives me a job.
How can I make a living?

Not just I almost everyone now
Asks the same question:
How can I make a living?
I know the N.R.A.*
Tells me: Hope and wait.
Here I’m starving to death,
My belly is getting thin.
They say the depression
Will repay us with interest.
But I can’t eat the blue bird,
And the landlord still demands rent.

* National Recovery Association

Mentshn, git an eytse mir,
Un ratevet oyf gikh!
Danken vel ikh aykh dafir,
lkh ken nit helfn zikh.
Di tsayt iz biter, zeyer shlekht,
Dos lebn geyt nit ayn,
S’iz yoysherdik, nit mer vi rekht,
Ir zolt bahilfik zayn.

Vu nemt men parnose?
Vu nemt men parnose?
S’iz shver tsu zukhn un gefinen,
Keyner git nit tsu fardinen.
Vu nemt men parnose?

Nit nor ikh, kemat vi ale
Fregn yetst di zelbe shayle:
Vu, vu nemt men, oy,
Vu nemt men parnose?
lkh veys as di “en-ar-ey” *
Zogt mir: hof un vart,
Do hungert mikh az ikh dergey,
Der mogn vert fardart.
Men zogt az der “depreshon”
Vet batsoln mit protsent.
Nor dem bloyen foygl ken ikh nit esn,
Un der landlord mont nokh rent.

* National Recovery Association

מענטשן, גיט אַן עצה מיר,
און ראַטעװעט אױף גיך!
דאַנקען װעל איך אײַך דאַפֿיר,
איך קען ניט העלפֿן זיך.
די צײַט איז ביטער, זײער שלעכט,
דאָס לעבן גײט ניט אײַן,
ס׳איז יושרדיק, ניט מער װי רעכט,
איר זאָלט באַהילפֿיק זײַן.

װוּ נעמט מען פּרנסה?
װוּ נעמט מען פּרנסה?
ס׳איז שװער צו זוכן און געפֿינען,
קײנער גיט ניט צו פֿאַרדינען,
װוּ נעמט מען פּרנסה?
ניט נאָר איך, כּמעט װי אַלע
פֿרעגן יעצט די זעלבע שאלה:
װוּ, װוּ נעמט מען, אױ,
װוּ נעמט מען פּרנסה?

איך װײס אַז די „ען־אַר־אײ“
זאָגט מיר: האָף און װאַרט,
דאָ הונגערט מיך אַז איך דערגײ,
דער מאָגן װערט פֿאַרדאַרט.
מען זאָגט אַז דער דעפּרעשאָן
װעט באַצאָלן מיט פּראָצענט.
נאָר דעם בלױען פֿױגל קען איך ניט עסן,
און דער לענדלאָרד מאָנט נאָך רענט.

Song Title: Vu Nemt Men Parnose?

Composer: David Meyerowitz
Composer’s Yiddish Name: דוד מײעראָװיץ
Lyricist: David Meyerowitz
Lyricist’s Yiddish Name: דוד מײעראָװיץ
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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