Jewish Children's Songs & Games

Ruth Rubin

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Jewish Children's Songs & Games Review

by William Ruhlmann

Ruth Rubin collects and sings a group of Yiddish folk songs originating in Eastern Europe on this album. The songs probably were sung a cappella in their original form, but Rubin is joined here by Pete Seeger, who is credited on banjo but also seems to be the guitarist on a handful of the tracks, and even provides occasional sound effects (notably on "Kestelech," in which he imitates a rooster, a hen, and even a wind), and whistling. The songs range from repetitive schoolyard-type chants to more elaborate pieces, and the subject matter, while often suitable for small children, also follows childhood to its conclusion. In the penultimate song, "Yomi, Yomi," a mother tries to guess what her little girl wants, citing a dress, a hat, a pair of shoes, and even earrings before finally getting the point that it's time to go to the matchmaker and seek a husband for her; the last song, "Tonts, Tonts," is set at a wedding. Rubin is a vibrant singer, and Seeger, if not perhaps providing traditional accompaniment, manages to repeat the melodies and maintain rhythm.