“Like many listeners, I’m sure, I would cry when I’d listen to Moshe Yess’s iconic ‘My Zaidy,’ ” says 8th Day composer Shmueli Marcus. This classic song, which paints a picture of the warmth of the old country and the pain of its loss, inspired Marcus’s own song “Babinyu,” which was released on the Brooklyn album in 2007. “To me, if there was a zeidy in the old country making us laugh and sing, then there definitely was a bubby who was busy creating the home environment where Zaidy’s story could unfold,” he says.
“My bubby, the late Mrs. Friedman a”h, lived on Montgomery Street in Crown Heights, and that’s where I discovered the warmth and all-encompassing power of belonging to the shtetl: There was the sound of a whistling kettle, the smell of fresh challah, the doorbell buzzing, and the secret table whispering of an upcoming engagement,” he says.
Yes, the shtetl had its hardships, its poverty and struggle, but Marcus definitely struck a chord with listeners when he played on the yearning for a close-knit community. He says that millions of Jews “can hear their shtetl calling,” as something inside longs for a forgotten world of warmth, a sense of utter belonging.
As the song relates so truthfully, “there ain’t no highway back to Krenitz.” The world of our zeidies and bubbies is irretrievably lost. But recently, Mica Soffer of Collive.com, proposed a music video about the “shtetl” of Crown Heights, and the quickened “Babinyu” remix — “My Shtetl Is Calling” —was created for the 2018 Stronger Closer album. (The video clip became a family affair, and includes guest shots of Bubby Friedman’s son Avraham Fried and grandson Benny Friedman.)
Shmueli says, “Mica Soffer and Danny Finkleman’s team get the credit for the film, but the bubbies who create this shtetl atmosphere get the real credit, and I want to thank them. What I’ve learned from my bubby is that providing fresh knaidlach is the easy part. The hard part is creating the warm home in which others can happily enjoy those knaidlach.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 750)