Catégorie: Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman

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She was born in Vienna into an Eastern-European, Yiddish-speaking family; her family left for Czernowitz, Ukraine (then Romania) and settled there when Schaechter-Gottesman was a young child. She was brought up in a multi-lingual environment that included Yiddish, German, Romanian, and Ukrainian; she also studied French and Latin at school. They were a singing family and her mother, Lifshe Schaechter, was known for her wide folk repertoire. Schaechter-Gottesman was sent to Vienna for art lessons, but was forced to return to Czernowitz when the Germans invaded Austria in 1938. In 1941 she married a medical doctor, Jonas (Yoyne) Gottesman, and together they lived out the war in the Czernowitz ghetto, along with her mother and several other family members.

After the war, Schaechter-Gottesman lived several years in Vienna, where her husband had a chief position ("Chefarzt") in the DP camps in the area. Their daughter Taube was born there in 1950; the family moved to New York in 1951, where the Gottesmans had two other children, Hyam and Itzik. In New York the Gottesmans took part in an experimental Yiddish community in the Bronx, centered around Bainbridge Avenue. There a half-dozen Yiddish-speaking families bought adjacent houses and reinvigorated the existing Sholem Aleichem Yiddish School. Schaechter-Gottesman became an important member of this community, writing classroom materials, plays and songs for the school as well as editing a magazine for children ("Kinderzhurnal") and a magazine of children's writings ("Enge-benge").

Schaechter-Gottesman's first book of poetry, "Mir Forn" (We're Travelling) appeared in 1963. Her books, eight in total, have appeared regularly since then. They include poetry for adults, children's books and song books. She has recorded three CDs of her songs and one recording of folk songs. Her work does not revolve around a single theme but ranges widely from Eastern European subjects to contemporary New York, and from lighthearted children's fare to such sombre reflections as "Di Balade Funem Elftn September" (The Ballad of September 11th). Her best-known single work is "Harbstlid" (Autumn Song). Schaechter-Gottesman's songs have been performed by Theodore Bikel, Adrienne Cooper, Theresa Tova, Lucette van den Berg, Michael Alpert, Lorin Sklamberg, Sharon Jan Bernstein, Fabian Schnedler, Massel-Tov and others. A song written for her nephew, "Binyumele's Bar Mitsve", was adapted by Adrienne Cooper for her daughter as "Sorele's Bas Mitsve" and was recorded on the CD Mikveh.

Schaechter-Gottesman continues to serve as a resource for researchers of both Yiddish folk and art music. She has been recorded and interviewed numerous times and participated in such cultural events as KlezKamp, KlezKanada, Buffalo on the Roof, Ashkenaz, and Weimar KlezmerWochen. "

In 1998 Schaechter-Gottesman was inducted into the People's Hall of Fame at City Lore in New York; and in 2005 she received a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship, one of the highest cultural honors given by a United States government agency. She was the first Yiddish poet or musical figure to receive this honor.


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