Vayl ikh bin a yidale

The singer, Yaakov Rotenberg, claimed that this song describes the events of the beginning of World War II, when the Germans bombed the roads on the way to Warsaw from the air, killing innocent people on the highways.  However, the song could just as easily have been from an earlier period, and received new meaning in the ghetto.

The refrain is an ironic commentary on the question 'Why do you sing?'  The answer is 'Because I am a Jew'.  The theme is developed by the contrast between verse and chorus, each verse reflecting on the innocent refrain, which in turn becomes less innocent and more ironic as the song progress.

The melody is a 'catchy' one in a minor key, probably of Yiddish theatrical origin.  The first verse describes war breaking out and causing all sorts of speculation on the part of the Jews.  The second verse stresses the results of the war for the Jews and refers to their common heritage as a source of comfort.  Every Jew must mourn the khurbn (the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem).  But this is not the end of the destruction, as more and more victims continue to fall.  The verse provides the example of a young girl struck down in the street by flying shrapnel.  And yet, although all this happening, 'because I’m a Jew I sing a song'.  There are no more words to describe catastrophe, no more words to cry out, but the singing goes on. The third verse concludes with the moral: shrapnel and bombs can hit and kill anyone, rich or poor, fat or thin.

Vayl ikh bin a yidale
Vayl ikh bin a yidele
Zing ikh mir dos lidele
Vayl ikh bin a yid
Zing ikh mir dos lid.
Verse 1:
Milkhume ‘t ungefangen
Nisht gehat ka’ shtik  kolatsye
Yidelekh hobn ungehoybn
Mit a shpekulatsye .
S’iz bald gevorn a mangl
In zilber, drobne gelt,
Gevalt yidn mir hobn milkhome
Oyf der gantser velt.
Refrain: Vayl ikh bin a yidale
Verse 2:
Nishtu a mentsh oyf der velt
Vus vaynt nisht oyf dem khurbn,
Mayn shvester’s a forydine
Iz oykh gefaln a korbn,
Ikh zey dos bild bay mayne oygn:
Der himl veyet royt’
Sha a shrapnel iz gefloygn
Trakh dos meydl toyt.
Refrain: Vayl ikh bin a yidale
Verse 3:
Ayner falt fin biksn shos,
Der tsvayter fin shrapneln
Yetst zeyen di mentshn
Vi es vert fin a gvir a tel.
Es geyt a yid a fabricant,
Mit a grobn boyekh,
Trakh! A bombe iz gefaln
Oys fabricant bloyz royekh
Refrain: Vayl ikh bin

Because I’m a Jew
Because I’m a Jew
I sing this song
Because I’m a Jew
I sing a song.
Verse 1:
The war broke out and
No one had anything for dinner
Folks began
Wheeling and dealing.
Soon there were shortages
Of silver money, small change
Oy people, there’s war
Throughout the world
Refrain: Because I’m a Jew
Verse 2:
There isn’t a person in this world
Who isn’t weeping at this catastrophe
A girlfriend of my sister
Also fell victim to it
I see the image before my eyes
The sky flashes red
Bang! A piece of shrapnel comes flying
And wham! The girl is dead.
Refrain: Because I’m a Jew
Verse 3:
One person falls from a rifle shot
Another from shrapnel!
Now everyone can see
How a rich man is brought to ruin.
A Jewish factory owner is walking along
With his ample paunch
Pow! A bomb falls
No more industrialist, just smoke
Refrain: Because I’m a Jew