Schaechter-Gottesman, Bella

views updated


SCHAECHTER-GOTTESMAN, BELLA (1920– ), artist, Yiddish poet, and songwriter. Schaechter-Gottesman was born Beyle Schaechter in Vienna, the daughter of Lifshe Gottesman, and Benjamin Schaechter. The family moved to Cernauti, Romania (Czernowitz, now part of the Ukraine), when Beyle was 18 months old. She attended school where instruction was in Romanian, also learning French and Latin, spoke Yiddish at home, and German or Ukrainian around town. Home was full of music, as her mother knew a large folk song repertoire and had a wonderful voice. Years later, Lifshe Schaechter-Widman recorded songs in the United States and wrote a memoir, Durkhgelebt a Velt: Zikhroynes (1973).

In 1938, Beyle's two years of study at the Vienna art school was cut short when Hitler invaded Austria. Using her Romanian passport, she returned to her family in Cernauti, only to spend the war years in her hometown under dire circumstances. In February 1941, she married Jonas Gottesman, a physician, with whom she ultimately had three children. They wound up in the Cernauti ghetto with the other Jews, but her husband arranged authorization for them to remain in the area, and thus they survived the war. After the war, Beyle and her family settled briefly in Vienna before coming to New York City in 1951.

Schaechter-Gottesman started her theatrical and literary career with works for children, writing musical plays and puppet shows for the Scholem Aleichem Yiddish School in New York. She edited a children's magazine, Kinder Zhurnal, from 1972 to 1982, and founded and edited the magazine by children, Enge Benge. Her first book of poetry was Mir Forn in 1963, followed by Stezhkes Tsvishn Moyern: Lider ("Footpaths Amidst Stonewalls: Poems," 1972) and Sharey Lider ("Sunrise Poetry," 1980). Another book of poetry, Lider (1995), was published in both English and Yiddish. Perpl Shlengt zikh der veg: Lider ("Winding Purple Road," 2002) also featured her drawings.

Her outpouring of musical song started to see publication in the 1990s, with Zumerteg: Tsvantsik Zinglider ("Summer Days: Twenty Songs," 1990) and Fli mayn flishlang! Kinderlider mit Musik ("Fly My Kite!" 1999); recordings of her songs also appeared: Zumerteg New Yiddish Songs (1991) and Af di Gasn Fun Shtot ("On the Streets of the City," 2003). Her bilingual children's book Mume blume di Makhsheyfe ("Aunt Bluma, the Witch," 2000) has been translated into numerous languages. She performed Yiddish folk songs on Bay Mayn Mames Shtible ("At My Mother's House," 2004). Schaechter-Gottesman was awarded the People's Hall of Fame Award from the Museum of the City of New York (1998) and the Osher Tshushinsky Award from the Congress for Jewish Culture (1994).

With the rekindled interest in Yiddish culture and klezmer music during the 1970s and 1980s, Schaechter-Gottesman participated in popular cultural festivals and workshops such as the Yiddish Folk Arts Workshop ("Klezkamp"), Buffalo on the Roof, Klezkanada, Ashkenaz Festival, and Weimar Klezmerwochen, spreading the knowledge of her music.

[Judith S. Pinnolis (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Schaechter-Gottesman, Bella

Updated About content Print Article