Categorized | Bloom_Dan, International

Yiddish version of ‘O Canada’ set for debut

By Dan Bloom

Dan Bloom

CHIAYI CITY, Taiwan — Think about it. The Canadian national anthem “O Canada” has been sung in a variety of non-English iterations, from French to Spanish. One source in Canada cites a total of 17 translations of the anthem, but with one exception: Yiddish. But all that is set to change this year in the run-up to Canada Day on July 1, when two groups of Canadian Yiddishists debut their versions of the song.

One performance will be a solo by Canadian singer and actress Deb Filler, while a second song will be performed by a group choir of Canadian singers to be assembled at a university in Montreal, under the guidance of Hildy Abelson and Charles Pachter.

So how did this novel idea come about and why was “O Canada” never sung in Yiddish before now? To make a long story short, it all just happened by serendipity and chance.

When a New York Times reporter based in Canada asked this blogger overseas if I knew of any non-English versions of the Canadian anthem, I jokingly told him I could sing it for him in Yiddish the next time I’m in Toronto.

He asked me if I was serious, and I had to confess I was just joking. But then the idea hit me: why hasn’t someone done a Yiddish version of “O Canada” yet?

So armed with a few email addresses of people in Canada, I started asking around if anyone knew of any Yiddish versions of the the national anthem, and I was directed by severall of my correspondents to use Google to find groups that might know more about this. Margaret Atwood suggested I contact the UJA office in Toronto and a few other places. Then I asked asked Canadian TV journalist Steve Paikin and he directed me to his producer Wodek Szemberg , and Wodek told me I should contact Deb Filler.

I did. I contacted Deb Filler by email and she said she would love to participate in such an endeavor. Working with a Yiddish-speaking friend, she worked up a translation and started preparing for her solo performance of the song, which I said I would put on my YouTube channel. Then, again completely by chance, Hildy Abelson in Canada, working in tandem with poet and artist Charles Pachter, said she would do her own translation and contact a university choir to sing the song on video.

So with Canada Day just a couple of months away, here is a working translation by a dedicated Canadian Yiddishist of the Yiddish version of “O Canada.” Enjoy!

O ​K​ane​da
Undzer heym un eygn land
Mir libn dikh mit vunder un farshtand
Mit hertser fule zeyen mir
A land groys mit frayhayt
Fun noent, vayt

O Kaneda
Mir shteyen bay dayn zayt
Got shtitz dos land, prekhtik mit frayhayt

O Kaneda, mir shteyen bay dayn zayt
O Kaneda, mir shteyen bay dayn zayt

Bloom is a freelance writer based in Chiayi City, Taiwan.  He may be contacted via [email protected]

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