Our Mamas and Papas

June and I were down in Florida recently celebrating our grandson Jordan’s graduation from Miami Law School. I was choked up the entire weekend because it was a special day of celebration. It was also Mother’s Day and I get very emotional not only thinking of my mother but the beauty and uniqueness that all Jewish Mothers bring to their children’s lives.

A Jewish mother is like a security blanket to her child! She lives, breathes, cries, laughs and sacrifices for her children! She would take a bullet for her child and would give away her last dollar to her child! Her child’s happiness is her happiness! Her child’s success is her success! Her child’s troubles become her troubles! There is not a selfish bone in her body when it comes to her children. I remember my mother,  Ida Zimelman, constantly cleaning after my brothers and always feeding us and taking care of us.  

I think many of you know the song “Mein Yiddishe Mamme”…it says it all!

Sophie Tucker and Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt are just 2 of the very well-known singers who brought this song to the top. Not to mention yours truly…yes…I sang this song all over the world to audiences of all ages. By the way, in the late 40’s and 50’s, this song was being sold on street corners of the Lower East side in NYC and became the biggest best-seller of any Jewish song sold.

Let me share with you some of the original words.

Lyrics by Jack Yellen, Music by Jack Yellen & Lew Pollack.

Yiddish version:

A yiddishe mamma, Nisht du kein besser in der velt.
A yiddishe Mamma Oy vey vi bitter ven zie felt,
Vi shayn un lichtig iz in Hoiz Ven di mama’s du,
Vi troyrig finster vert,in Hoiz Ven Gott nemt ir oyf Oylam haba.
In vasser un fayer, Vollt zee geloffn far ir kind,
Nisht halt’n ir tayer. Dos iz geviss der greste Zind.
Oy vi gliklach un raych Iz der Mensch vus hot,
A za shayne matune geschenkt fun Gott,
A za altichke Yiddishe Mamma, oy Mamme mein

English version:

My Yiddishe Mama, I need her more than ever now.
My Yiddishe Mama, I’d love to kiss that wrinkled brow.
I long to hold her hands once more as in days gone by
And ask her to forgive me, for things I did that made her cry.
How few were her pleasures, she never cared for fashion’s styles
Her jewels and treasures, she found them in her baby’s smiles
Oh, I know that I owe what I am today To that dear little lady so old and gray
To that wonderful Yiddishe Mama, Mama of mine.

Father’s Day is also coming on June 17th and I was looking for songs written about Jewish fathers.

I found “Oh! My Pa Pa” recorded by Eddie Fisher and I had written/composed a song called “PAPA” right after my father passed away in 1980. It was a reflection of my memories and love for my father.

Jewish Fathers are very special and unique as well! All they want for their children is for them to have a better life than they had! They are determined to give their children a good education and make sure that they find professions to earn a living. A Jewish father kvels from his kids. His daughters are “Daddy’s Little Girls” and his sons are his “Boys”. My father, Cantor Samuel Zimelman, was one of those Jewish fathers. He wanted me to get the best Jewish Education so he sent me to Williamsburg, Brooklyn at the age of 7, where he felt I could learn at one of the best Yeshivot at that time. He also insisted that I sing in a Choir and study music so he contacted the best Jewish Choral Directors who were willing to teach me and my father was thrilled. My mother cried bitter tears when I left for Brooklyn at such a young age but my father told her that my older brother, Sidney, would take care of me and I would be just fine.  Next time you hear me sing my song “PAPA”, or you listen to it on my CD, …Listen carefully to the words and you will hear the whole story

Some years later when I was 18, I took a part time weekend position as Cantor in Westbury, while I was attending the Jewish Theological Seminary, and I remember meeting Lee and Jack Schwartz, who were June’s mother and father. After June and I married, they were like my second parents. I was so fortunate to have their love and warmth and am so fortunate to have June as the mother of our sons, Craig and Eric.

Let us all remember the FIFTH COMMANDMENT which we just read on Shavuot. KABED ET AVICHA V’ET IMECHA (Honor your Father & your Mother).

Happy Belated Mother’s Day and Happy Father’s Day to all of our Mamas and Papas!

With much love.  

See you in Shul.

Cantorially always,
Cantor Sol Zim