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OBIT: Yiddish folklorist Ruth Rubin (1906-2000)

DREMLEN FEYGL (Drowsing Birds)

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Felipa 29 Dec 18 - 03:27 PM
Mark Cohen 19 Jun 00 - 06:38 PM
Rick Fielding 19 Jun 00 - 10:19 AM
GUEST,Allan S, 19 Jun 00 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,judy 19 Jun 00 - 09:31 AM
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Subject: RE: Yiddish songs folklorist Ruth Rubin - ARCHIVES
From: Felipa
Date: 29 Dec 18 - 03:27 PM

from a Jewish genealogy newsletter:
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research has launched a website which features 1,500 Yiddish lider (songs)of the late Ruth Rubin's recordings of both amateur and established singers performing Yiddish fold songs. The songs go back centuries and represent all facets of Jewish life in Europe, ranging from lullabies to love songs and cover religious and political topics. The recordings were made by Rubin between 1946 and the 1970's.To access the archive go to:

Original url:
To read more about Ruth Rubin see:

Original url:

An article about the exhibit appeared in the Wall Street Journal which is a subscription newspaper:

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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Subject: RE: Yiddish songs folklorist Ruth Rubin
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 06:38 PM

Another bright light extinguished. I grew up listening to those songs on record and the radio, never knowing how much I owed to this magnificent woman. And I just found out, from this obituary, that her family came from the same place my grandfather did, Bessarabia. Thanks to people like Ruth Rubin, this culture that almost died, didn't.


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Subject: RE: Yiddish songs folklorist Ruth Rubin
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 10:19 AM

As some of you know, I've been getting the complete "Rainbow Quest" series from the library over the last few months. Just saw the one with Ruth Rubin. It's disconcerting to see someone for the first time looking healthy and hale at about 45 and three days later read that she's passed on in her 90s. Good singer.


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Subject: RE: Yiddish songs folklorist Ruth Rubin
From: GUEST,Allan S,
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 10:05 AM

A great loss to the world of music, Somewhere I have an album of 78's that she put out and her books I learned Kagen Gold from sun, and Zhankaye from that Album. I still sing them every year as I turn over my veg. garden. So the songs she collected now go on for an other generation. Back in the late 40's a friend of mine said that her father had dated Ruth at one time. A small world.

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Subject: Yiddish songs folklorist Ruth Rubin
From: GUEST,judy
Date: 19 Jun 00 - 09:31 AM

From: Joanna Cazden
Sun 7:45 PM
Subject: Ruth Rubin, 93, Folklorist of Yiddish Songs By MARGALIT FOX
June 17, 2000

Ruth Rubin, 93, Folklorist of Yiddish Songs

Ruth Rubin, a scholar, collector and performer of Yiddish folk songs who lugged a tape recorder into hundreds of immigrants' living rooms in an effort to preserve a vanishing cultural tradition, died on Sunday in Mamaroneck, N.Y. She was 93. A resident of the Sarah R. Neumann Nursing Home, she formerly lived in Manhattan.

One of the first women to become a prominent folklorist, Mrs. Rubin was also among the first American scholars to document the culture of Eastern European Jews, anticipating by decades the Yiddish revival of the 1970's. Starting in the 1930's, she amassed a collection of about 2,000 songs --love ballads, lullabies, songs of the factories and streets -- still considered unparalleled in its scope.

"It is arguably the most important collection, because it's so early," said Steven Zeitlin, the director of City Lore, the New York Center for Urban Folk Culture. "Much of the material dies with the succession of generations.

She was collecting songs from the people that learned them in the old country."

Mrs. Rubin, whose books included "A Treasury of Jewish Folksong" (1950) and "Voices of a People: The Story of Yiddish Folksong" (1963), also performed the songs in concert and on records. Her studio recordings, first made for Folkways in the 1940's, are available through the Smithsonian Institution.

"Eastern European Yiddish folk song," Mrs. Rubin wrote in the preface to "Voices of a People," "reflects vividly the life of a community of many millions over a period of many generations. In the songs, we catch the manner of speech and phrase, the wit and humor, the dreams and aspirations, the nonsense, jollity, the pathos and struggle of an entire people."

Unlike klezmer music, which was performed primarily by men at public occasions, the songs Mrs. Rubin collected flourished in more intimate, domestic settings -- in the kitchen, over the cradle -- and were sung almost exclusively by women, a group largely ignored by the cultural chroniclers of her day. "While Irving Howe was writing 'World of Our Fathers,' she was, in a sense, at work on the world of our mothers," Mr. Zeitlin said.

Mrs. Rubin was born Rifke Rosenblatt in Montreal on Sept. 1, 1906, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Bessarabia. As a young woman she moved to New York, with its swirling ferment of Yiddish music, literature and theater, and in 1929 published a volume of her own poems in Yiddish. In 1932 she married Harry Rubin, who died in 1971; the couple's only child, Michael, died in 1959. Mrs. Rubin is survived by a sister, Esther Spivack Marks, of Toronto.

In the mid-1930's Mrs. Rubin began to concentrate seriously on folklore, going on to study with the eminent Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich and, during World War II, translating diaries smuggled out of ghettos and Nazi camps.

With the end of the war and the revelation of the extent of the Holocaust, and of its sweeping destruction of Yiddish culture, Mrs. Rubin became even more determined to preserve a piece of what remained by making field recordings.

Dragging her bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder from house to house in cities in Canada and the United States, she captured well-known songs like "Roizhinkes Mit Mandeln" ("Raisins and Almonds") and lesser-known material like "A Brivele der Maman" ("A Little Letter to Mama") and "Oy, di lumpn /zey zenen shpionen" ("Oh, the lumpen / they are spies").

In the last decades of the 20th century, Mrs. Rubin's work was a cornerstone of the Yiddish revival movement. With an older generation of Jewish singers dying off, young musicians who wanted to learn Yiddish folksongs turned to her books and records. Mrs. Rubin's field recordings are now housed in various collections, including the Archive of Folk Culture at the Library of Congress and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York.

Mrs. Rubin earned a Ph.D. in 1976 from Union Graduate School in Cleveland, writing her dissertation on the songs of Jewish women. She received an honorary doctorate from the New England Conservatory of Music and YIVO's Lifetime Achievement Award, among other honors.

Although she performed in prestigious concert halls like Town Hall and the Carnegie Recital Hall, Mrs. Rubin regarded these appearances not as recitals but as links in a chain of cultural transmission she hoped would stretch far into the future.

"She didn't try and put on any great airs," recalled the folk singer Pete Seeger, a longtime friend who occasionally performed with her. "She just sang a song very simply. She was mainly interested in seeing that the song got out so that other people would learn it and sing."

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