Vol. 19, No. 21 Nov. 2 - Nov. 15,  2006



Honor a Bronx Treasure
The 92nd Street Y in Manhattan honored a Bronx — and Norwood — treasure last Thursday evening. As part of a series, “Music and Dance of Jewish Traditions,” Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman, a songwriter, singer and poet, was celebrated as the equivalent of a rock star in Yiddish culture.

It was a delightful evening. Well-known Yiddish singers from two younger generations sat around a dinner table on stage before a packed auditorium singing Schaechter-Gottesman’s beautiful songs while the English translations appeared on a screen above. After intermission, various singers and musicians interpreted her work in their own styles.

Schaechter-Gottesman, who was born in Austria in 1920 and moved to the Bronx in 1951, is not just special because of her incredible creativity, but also because of her sense of community. She still lives on Bainbridge Avenue. A half-dozen Yiddish-speaking families moved into the row of attractive brick homes leading up to Montefiore in the 1940s and ‘50s and formed a remarkable Yiddish cultural community. Working together they rejuvenated the Sholem Aleichem Folkshul, which still exists on the corner of Bainbridge and East 208th Street, sending their children to school there. Schaechter-Gottesman’s son, Itzik is a Yiddish scholar and editor at The Forward.

We’ve made this case before and we’ll make it again: Schaechter-Gottesman, who has now been honored in Manhattan and in Washington, D.C. where she received a National Heritage Fellowship last year, deserves to be honored right here in the Bronx.

I Every June, the Bronx Tourism Council adds new names of famous Bronxites to its “Walk of Fame” on the Grand Concourse. Many of them are actors, writers and athletes who once called the Bronx their home. The induction of Schaechter-Gottesman, still a proud Bronxite who even has written Bainbridge into her songs (affectionately calling it Bainbridgivke, like it was a neighborhood in her native Austria), should not have to wait any longer.

In June 2007, we hope to watch as the sign with her name on it is hoisted above the borough’s most famous boulevard next to the likes of E.L. Doctorow, Stanley Kubrick, Johnny Pacheco, Grand Master Flash, Hal Linden, Danny Aiello and Yomo Torro.

Here are a few excerpts from the translated lyrics of one of our favorite Schaechter-Gottesman songs entitled “New York, New York”:

From Brighton Beach to Baindbridgeivke
Upon your homey streets
There still can be heard
A tasty Yiddish word
Among the giant masses …

You might ask, what’s the use?
You’re crazy, I tell you, just crazy
Why torment yourself
Argue and shriek
And still strive toward your Yiddishist goals?

I know that life here isn’t easy
But as long as I still have
a tongue in my mouth
I’ll gather my strength
and I sing
My dear, sweet,
beautiful, pure…

Oh, New York, New York ..
You are truly one of a kind.

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