"Mein Shtetle Belz" [My Little Town of Bălţi]

This song expresses the longing for Jewish life in Bălţi, Bessarabia. The words were written by the actor Jacob Jacobs (1892-1972), and the melody composed by Alexander Olshanetsky (1892-1946), who wrote scores for plays and operettas in the vibrant Yiddish theater world on New York's Second Avenue. The song was written in 1932 for the play Ghetto Song (Yiddish) as a tribute to the famous singer Isa Kremer, born in Bălţi, who was probably the first to perform it. The song became famous in New York, and in 1935 appeared in a Polish score in Poland.

Belz, mayn shtetele Belz,
Mayn heymele, vu ich hob
Mayne kindershe yorn farbracht…
Mayn heymele vu ich hob
Die Sheine Chalomes a sach.

Belz, my littel town of Belz
My home, where my childhood days passed
Belz, my home town of Belz

In a small and simple room
Where I would sit and laugh with all the children.

I would run with my prayer book every Shabbat
To the banks of the river,
And sit under the green tree.

Belz, my littel town of Belz
Belz, my home town of Belz
My home, where I dreamed so many
Beautiful dreams.

Jacob Jacobs

Isa Kremer was born in Bălţi in 1887 to Yaakov Kremer and Anna née Rozenbluth. Her father was a wealthy trader, and the family lived very comfortably. Kremer moved to Odessa and from there to Italy, to learn singing from Prof. Ronzi in Milan. She appeared for a short time in Italian operas, and then returned to Odessa. Kremer appeared in operas across Russia as the star of the Imperial Opera of Petrograd, and was the first to bring Yiddish songs to Russian concert halls.  She was involved in Jewish cultural life in Odessa together with her husband, the publicist Yisrael Heifetz, and Bialik persuaded her to sing Jewish folk songs. Following the Russian revolution Kremer fled to Poland, traveled around Europe, and in 1922 arrived in the US, where she stayed for 16 years. She performed worldwide, singing in many languages. Isa Kremer passed away in Argentina in 1956.