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Community Blog Introduction to Sholem Velt der Gantser

By Cantor Lynn Torgove
sound cloud screen shot

Sholem Velt der Gantser: A Song of Peace 

You have given the week the sweat of your toil.
But now, Man, you are a prince.
Come, beloved, and greet your Princess, your Sabbath rest.
Greetings to the whole world, in a spirit of fellowship.
Let our voices blend together in a heartfelt Shabbat song.
Quiet evening has descended, peaceful now is the hour.
Let us go, my beloved, to meet the bride and let us welcome the presence of Shabbat. (Translated from Yiddish)

In this time of such dire circumstances and difficulties, I have found that music that I once knew and loved has taken on new meaning and significance. “Sholem Velt der Gantser” is one such song.

Written at the beginning of the 20th century in New York City by two brothers, Israel and Ben Goichberg (also known as Ben Yomen), Sholem velt der gantser began its century long journey. Israel wrote the poem in his native Yiddish and Ben composed the music. The brothers emigrated from Uman, Ukraine, the town where Reb Nachman of Breslov had lived his last days, and they found employment working as educators in the Yiddish secular schools and summer camps of New York.

Memorable Jewish tunes and lyrics like Sholem velt der gantser are often re-interpreted, re-arranged, and performed by various artists, in the true folk tradition. These songs are handed down over the decades and often become known as ‘traditional’ melodies, even when they were composed by well-known composers and poets. In that tradition, Sholem velt der gantser was adopted by the international klezmer duo of Jeff Warschauer and Deb Strauss, who arranged it for voice, guitar, and violin. Cantor Becky Khitrik and Hebrew College Resident Choir Kol Arev Music Director, Amy Lieberman, further transformed the song into a choral piece with klezmer instrumental accompaniment. Kol Arev sings this song to welcome the Sabbath bride at the beginning of Kabbalat Shabbat.

The song begins with the words Sholem velt der gantser—Peace or Greetings to the whole world. The ‘whole world’ has taken on a new urgency, a new imperative and new sense of our universal connectedness as we realize what has always been true: We are all family, greeting each other with the words of Peace in a fellowship. We pass that message to you in this heartfelt Shabbes lid, Sabbath Song.

Cantor Lynn Torgove is Head of Vocal Arts for the Hebrew College cantorial program.

Read a reflection on the song by Rabbi Nehemia Polen, Hebrew College Professor of Jewish Thought.

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