I attended a lecture tonight by Ellen Cassedy - she talked about her book "We are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust" and mentioned the stereotypical personality of the Litvak, or Lithuanian Jew, here described in the YIVO encyclopedia:
Certain distinctive characteristics have historically been attributed to all Litvaks, who are commonly portrayed in Jewish folklore as cold, calculating, lacking in emotional depth, overly rational, skeptical, and prone to heretical thinking—all in contradistinction to their warmer, more emotive, naive, and pious Jewish coreligionists to the south.
It reminded me of a song we recorded on our cd Cabaret Warsaw. Nisim, nisim was written by the famous Yiddish kleynkunst director and lyricist Moshe Broderson (pictured, sketch by Arthur Szyk) with music by Dovid Beygelman. Here's our recording (which you can buy with or without the sheet music).
So two guys are talking in a tavern. The first is an old-fashioned pious chasid - he has lived through one of God's great miracles. Or so he believes. The second is a Litvak. After the jump, our music video showing what happens! (With English subtitles, from the very first Cabaret Warsaw dry run. Vocals: Jane Peppler; piano: Aviva Enoch)
The original recording was by vocalist Menashe Oppenheim and the piano arrangement was by the magnificent Harry Lubin. Oppenheim lampoons a Litvak accent, something I wasn't able to do.
The Lithuanian Jew, having listened to the Chasid's tale of God delivering him safe and dry after a fearsome storm, says: I, too, have lived through a miracle. I was traveling, and the Sabbath was coming on, oh no! (You're not supposed to travel on the Sabbath). So you know what I did? I just continued on my way. A miracle!
A little Hasid speaks up: I was once traveling on a river and tempest arose. Guess what happened, a miracle! I didn't think
about it long, I gestured this way with my hands: water here and water there, I was saved from danger and came out dry!
A Litvak speaks up: Once I had to travel and the Sabbath came upon me. guess what happened, a miracle! I did think about it
long, and I gestured this way with my hands: Sabbath here, Sabbath there... Guess what happened, nothing! I continued on my journey.