The Blog : The Music : The History : The Glossary : The Recipes

The Witches Blog

Jewish Geography
By Elizabeth Schwartz

Posted April 18, 2011 at 04:27 PM EST

Ready to Launch
by Sue Zizza -director

Posted March 30, 2011 at 11:12 PM EST

The Art of Lublin
by Ilene Winn-Lederer

Posted February 22, 2011 at 04:31 PM EST

Welcome to Lublin
by Elizabeth Schwartz

Posted November 21, 2010 at 04:17 PM EST





Samples of Yale Strom's the music from The Witches of Lublin, introduced with narration by Miriam Margolyes:

Shtayngart's Skotshne: This (Polish hopping dance) was heard often at most Jewish and even non-Jewish weddings and balls.

Lustig Zayn (Yiddish for 'To Be Merry'): One of the most popular Yiddish folk songs in nineteenth century Poland.

To purchase all of the music featured in The Witches of Lublin click here for the Collectors Edition CD set, which includes both the audio play and The Devil's Brides music CD.


Scene by scene, here is the music you hear in The Witches of Lublin:

The Lubatow Marketplace: "Dobrushin's Sher":  This melody, as well as the song we hear at the end of the scene, "Shtayngart's Skotshne", comes from the Soviet Jewish ethnomusicologist Moshe Beregovski. He learned it from Jewish informants he met during his ethnomusicological research treks in the Ukraine in 1932-1937. He published these tunes, along with many other klezmer and Yiddish songs, in a  collection called Yidishe Instrumentale Folks-Muzik in Kiev in 1937. Both melodies can be found in Strom's The Absolutely Complete Klezmer Songbook (Transcontinental Music).

Shabes dinner at the Rabbi's:  When our scene opens, the men at the table are singing a "Nigun" composed by Yale Strom and simply called "The Lubliner Nign". 
At the end of the scene, the characters sing "Simkhes HaNefesh" – “The Soul's Joy.” Also composed by Yale Strom, the song's title came from an actual book of the same title.  This book was the first Yiddish songbook, compiled by Rabbi ElKhanan Kirchen in 1707 in Dresden.  These songs are called "Tish Nigunim" - Table songs.

The Graf's Party:
 When the scene opens, the women are playing "Dobrushin's Sher".  They then segue into "Lustig Zayn" (aka "May Ofis", "Reb Dovidl", etc.).  The character of Sofia sings traditional lyrics

Throughout the play:
Rivke's “Mystic Melody” was composed by Yale Strom.  The words come from Psalm 121, a Hebrew prayer that is murmured before sleep:

Behold, the keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps
O Eternal One, I have hoped for thy salvation


        FOR COMPLETE RECORDINGS OF EACH OF THESE TUNES, PLUS MORE MUSIC INSPIRED BY OUR SHOW, order your own copy of The Witches of Lublin: The Collectors Edition !






The Witches of Lublin: Historical Background

Why 1797?
From co-Author Yale Stom:

Our choice of the date of 1797 was not an accident; it was right after Poland ceased to exist as a independent country and was partitioned by Austria, Russia and Prussia. Under the Poles, the Jews had quite a bit of autonomy and lived relatively well under The Council of Four Lands (Va'ad Arba' Aratzot) in Lublin.  It was the central body of Jewish authority in Poland from 1580 to 1764.

So while there was anti-Semitism during these years, it got much, much worse under the authority of the Czars and Russia and stayed terrible through WW I for the Jews.



Historical Background

Here are some of the real-life sources that served as the writers' springboard for creating our fictional story:


Women Klezmers:

"Despite the weight of Jewish custom against women playing music in public, daughters and wives played with their fathers and husbands and women performed on their own. Some of the more notable women were Khave Meyer from Dresden (1740-1742), Mariana Meyer from Dresden (performed with her father, 1739), Mariana from Halberstadt (1741), and Sofia from Halberstadt (1741)."

-- I Lifschitz, "Yidishe Favayler oyf di Leiptsiger Yaridim",
in Arkhiv far der Geshikhte fun Yidishn Teater un Drama, ed. by
Dr. Jacob Shatsky (Vilna - New York, 1930), Vol. I, pp. 450-53. QUOTED IN :
Yale Strom, The Book of Klezmer: The History, the Music, The Folklore from the 14th Century to the 21st.
(And, yes, we named the character of Sofia after the real female klezmer Sofia from Haberstadt.)

"Jewish instrumental music flourished during the Italian Renaissance, with even women participating: playing lute or clavichord, they taught the synagogue hymns to their sisters".

(page 9, The Book of Klezmer)

"As the popularity of dance halls [Tanzhauser] grew, the rabbis were forced to relax their ineffective prohibitions agsint women singing in public, playing instrumental music, and dancing with men."

[c. 1390] (The Book of Klezmer, pp 15-16).

"Some sources mention that even Jewish women sometimes formed their own bands and would travel to weddings to 'present their artistic abilities and contribute to the festivities."

(The Book of Klezmer, p 17) (Albert von Wolf,
Mitteilungen zur Judische Volkskunde, Leipzig, 1908-09).
Vol. 27, pp 90-91

"In Prague in 1678 we find one of the first written sources to use the world klezmer to describe instruments - in this instance those the Jewish musicians held as they paraded through the ghetto in honor of the coronation of the Emperor Leopold I of Austria (1658-1705).  These klezmer included violins, clavicembalo, positiv, trumpets, French horns and kettledrums; the women played cymbals."

(Sendry, op.cit., p. 350.  The cymbals (tatsn in Yiddish) were very important in a kapelye. 
Since they were loud they could be heard over the din of the crowd and the other musicians. 
Along with the drums, they set the rhythm and tempo of the procession.
A Yiddish saying, gayn mit di tatsn (go like the cymbals), affirms this. (p. 41, The Book of Klezmer)


Klezmers' persecution by Polish gentry:

"When my grandfather was a young man just after he got married, one Saturday night two elegantly dressed Polish noblemen came up to him and asked if he and his kapelye (Yid., ensemble) would play at their ball that very evening... Half the night had gone by while the kapelye played whent he two noblemen who brought them there said, 'We have been very pleased with your playing. What should we pay you with, gold or with chicken feces?' 'With gold', my grandfather said without any doubt in his voice. Suddenly, there was a strong assault upon them, it was dark and before they realized it they found themselves in a swamp in a forest. The violins were hanging in the trees while the violin cases were filled with chicken feces. It was very difficult for them to get the violins out of the trees. Then they barely dragged themselves home in their muddy condition."

-- "Tshizhevor Klezmorim" in Shteiger Lebn, in Sefer yizkor le-hantsahat kedoshei kelilat Czortkow, ed. Sh. Kanc.
[Tel Aviv: Former Residents of Tshizhevo in Israel and the USA, 1961), p. 585



Historical Consultant:

Co-Author and music director, Yale Strom, was also the shows historical and cultural consultant. He came by his knowledge in some pretty exciting ways. Here's the story:

In 1981, Yale Strom was so inspired by a live klezmer concert that he canceled plans for law school and bought a one-way ticket to the Eastern Bloc.  Most of the contemporary "klezmer revivalists" were finding repertoire from old 78 recordings and sheet music, but Strom realized that there were remnant communities that must remember klezmer that had not reached our shores.  He was right.  For 12 months, Strom traveled throughout the Eastern Bloc, making extraordinary discoveries of long-lost music and having more than one scrape with the local authorities (but a night in jail here and there was worth it!).  The photographs Strom published from this trip were the first photographs of these Jewish communities since Roman Vishniac's work.  The field recordings, photographs, friendships and memories with which Strom returned formed the base of his repertoire for his own klezmer ensemble, Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi.  Since then, Strom has returned to Central and Eastern Europe over 80 times, conducting ethnographic research among the Jewish and Rom populations and earning him the designation of the world's leading artist-ethnographer of klezmer music and culture. 









The Glossary

Words and Terms you will hear in the show:

All words are Yiddish, unless otherwise specified

Az a leybt shlof, loz im shlofn:  When a lion is sleeping, let him sleep

Barukh Hashem: Thank God

Bobe: Grandmother

Bozhe moi! (Polish): My God!

Eyshes Chayil:  Literally “a woman of valor,” it is also the words of the Biblical lines recited by a husband to his wife every Sabbath evening.

Feygele: Little bird.

Got hot lib dem oremen un helft dem nogid: God loves the poor and helps the rich.

Halevai, k’neina horeh:  "God grant. there be no evil eye". Or "I wish that there will be no evil eye."

Gottenyu!: For God's sake!

Graf (Polish): Count

Groshn (Polish): Pennies

Kharoyses: A paste made of sweet wine, apples, walnuts and spices, used in the Passover seder to represent the mortar (the matse represented the bricks) - the Jews were enslaved by Pharoah to build the pyramids (similarly, Charoset).

Khas v’khileelo!: Perish the thought!

Klezmer: (Plural is either klezmorim or klezmers): The folk music of the Ashkenazic Jews of Central and Eastern Europe (for a full explanation of the music, its history and proponents, see Yale Strom's "The Book of Klezmer" (a cappella books -Now available in paperback and ebooks)

Lamed Vovnik: One of the righteous thirty-six who roam the earth.

Lublin:  A town in Poland

Matse: Unleavened bread (similarly, matzoh)

Naz Drowie (Polish): To your health

Neshome: soul

Nign (plural: Nigunim): A wordless melody; in the Khasidic tradition, singing nigunim would elevate the group to a state of religious ecstasy

Peysekh: Jewish holiday of Passover (similarly, Peysakh)

Pogrom: A raid/assault, generally sponsored by the local authorities to terrorize the Jews (sometimes just destroying property, other times raping, murdering and pillaging)

Reb: Mister

Rebbe: The leader of a Khasidic sect

Rebetsin: The rabbi's wife

Seder: ceremonial Passover meal, in which the assembled not only eat but first recount
the story of Passover

Shabes: Sabbath

Shul Kloper (The morning before our charcacters go to the Jewish market, we hear the Jewish Quarter being awakened by the shul kloper; his cry in Yiddish is Tsayt tsu davenen! meaning, time to pray): The town's Jewish crier, he would make sure the Jews of the community were alerted when it was time to pray (three times a day).

Talmud:  The central text of  Judaism. It contains rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history. The Talmud is comprised of  two components: the Mishna (c. 200 CE), the first written compendium of Judaism's Oral Law; and the Gemara (c.500 CE).

Talmud Khokhem:  A great scholar of Talmud

Tante: Aunt

Tate: Daddy

Toyre: Yiddish pronunciation of Torah, the Jewish bible.

Tsimbl:  A hammered dulcimer, also called cimbalom.

Zisele: (Rivke’s pet name for Sofia) Little sweetheart




The Recipes

Passover Recipes from The Witches of Lublin team to you.


Caramel Matse Crunch Recipe
Submitted by: Joanne Borts - Sorele

My Trademark, Most Requested, Absolutely Magnificent Caramel Matse Crunch

Reprinted with permission from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman. © 2009 Whitecap Books, Ltd.

An outstanding, unique, and easy confection. If you make only one thing at Passover, make this.

4-6 unsalted matses
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large (or two smaller) cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment — on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking.
Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzohs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces.
In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2 to 4 minutes). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzoh, covering completely.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°. Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325°, and replace the pan).
Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzoh. While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set.
This makes a good gift.
You can also use coarsely chopped white chocolate (or a combination of white and dark), and chopped or slivered toasted almonds (sprinkled on top as the chocolate sets). You can also omit the chocolate for a caramel-alone buttercrunch.



Matse Pie aka Mina del Carne
Submitted by Yelena Shmulenson - Leah

Ok, here's the recipe! It's a mix of 2 recipes - this is taken from and also from The Jewish Book of Food by Claudia Roden.  The original recipe calls for cinnamon and allspice, but I didn't like them in meat so where the recipe says cinnamon I put cumin seeds and mustard seeds. It was a little more work than I anticipated (isn't every recipe?!) but we really enjoyed it. 


6 matse

4 tablespoons oil

1 onion, chopped  

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef ( or lamb)

1/3 cup chopped dill

salt & pepper

optional other favorite seasonings ie

cumin, if desired to taste

allspice, if desired to taste

mace, if desired to taste

1 cup mashed potatoes ( home-made or instant prepared)

4 beaten eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Sprinkle the matse with water, put them one on top of the other and wrap with a damp towel. (THIS IS THE HARDEST PART OF THE RECIPE BECAUSE THE MATSeS BREAK ;) YOU CAN USE CHICKEN STOCK INSTEAD OF WATER BUT I DIDN'T NEED ANY EXTRA SALT)

2. Heat oil in a large skillet. OPTIONAL: ADD MUSTARD AND CUMIN SEEDS. WAIT TILL THEY POP, THEN - add an onion and saute.  Add the meat, dill, salt & pepper (and optional spices as desired) and cook for approximately 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Mix mashed potatoes with eggs and salt. Add approximately 1/3 of the mixture to the meat. (USED 1/3 CUP OF COOKED RICE SINCE I DIDN'T SEE THE MASHED POTATOES PART UNTIL I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF MAKING THE RECIPE)

4. In a 9-inch square oven proof dish arrange alternating layers of meat and matse, finishing with a matse. (9 BY 13 PAN WORKED FINE. WHO HAS SQUARE DISHES?)

5. Spread the remaining potato mixture on the matse and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour.



Romanian Almond Macaroons
Submitted by: Elizabeth Schwartz - Co-author & Musician

(From A Wandering Feast: A Journey through the Jewish Culture of Eastern Europe by Yale Strom & Elizabeth Schwartz, Jossey-Bass)
(Makes 2 and ½ dozen)

2 cups blanched almonds

30 whole blanched almonds for garnish

1 cup sugar

3 large egg whites, unbeaten

1/2 tsp. Almond extract

Dash of salt

1. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind the two cups of almonds with the sugar until the nuts are finely chopped but not pulverized. Put the ground nuts in a bowl.

2. Stir in the egg whites, almond extract and salt.

3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

4. Roll a teaspoon of dough between your palms to make a ball. Place on the cookie sheet and compress it slightly. Insert half a blanched almond into the top. Repeat with the rest of the dough, leaving four inches between each cookie.

5. Bake on the middle oven rack for 18-20 minutes, or until the cookies spread and brown a little. Remove them from the oven, cool on sheet and separate with a spatula, taking care not to break them.


Peysekh Banana Brei
Submitted by: Elizabeth Schwartz - Co-author & Musician

3 sheets matse, crumbled and soaked in water

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 banana, finely chopped

Cooking spray

Butter (optional)

Drain matse and squeeze out any water; add to eggs. Add all other ingredients.

Fry 3 mounds at a time – should yield approximately 11-12.


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The Witches of Lublin was originally commissioned by the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music, through a generous donation from Arthur and Marilyn Feinberg, and premiered in a live performance version at the 2007 Michigan Festival of Sacred Music.

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