YITSKHOK REYNGOLD (ISAAC REINGOLD) (1873-October 21, 1903)
He was a folk poet and the author of theatrical couplets, born (with the surname Tumim) in Oder, near Loytsk (Lutsk), Volhynia. He descended from a religious family. In 1890 or 1891 he moved with his parents to the United States. He worked in the sweatshops of Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, and New York. Over the last ten years of his life, he suffered from tuberculosis. He was one of the pioneer poets in Yiddish in America. He debuted in print in 1891 with a poem in Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor) in New York. His poetry was mainly social, but with distinctive features. Both his poems and his theatrical couplets—often with accompanying melodies from English-language folksongs—were among the most popular of the era, especially in Jewish poor and working-class circles. He possessed a fine voice and would sing his own poems/songs at gatherings and in concert halls. His songs were published in: Lieder-magazin (Song magazine), Di idishe bihne (The Yiddish stage), and Teglikher idisher kuryer (Daily Jewish courier). They were later reprinted in: Der shoyfer (The shofar) in Warsaw in 1905; A bletl grins, a literarishe zamlung fir shvues (A sheet of greens, a literary collection for Shavuot) in Warsaw in 1907, fifth issue of Yontef bleter (Holiday sheets); and Lidskis familyen-kalendar (Lidski’s family calendar) in Warsaw in 1909 and 1911; among others. His work also appeared in: Morris Basin, 500 yor yidishe poezye (500 years of Yiddish poetry), vol. 2 (New York, 1922); Nakhmen Mayzil, Amerike in yidishn vort (America in the Yiddish word) (New York, 1955); and Perl fun yidisher poezye (Pearls of Yiddish poetry) (New York, 1974), pp. 518-21. The Chicago publisher Yankev Lidski printed some of his songs (at one cent each) and had a great sale: “Der idisher kugel” (The Jewish pudding), “Ikh vel shoyn mehr keyn liebe shpielen” (I’ll have no more love to play with), “Ikh mit mayner sheyner mishpokhe” (Me and my beautiful family), “Di boyeri” (The Boyers), “Got zeht alles tsu un shvaygt” (God witnesses everything and remains silent), “Du, du mayn lieber yekel” (You, you my beloved little twit), “Dos vigele” (The cradle), “Ven di muzik shpielt” (When the music is playing), “Di troyerige hoktsayt” (The sad wedding), “Di faytal veding liebe” (The fatal wedding love), “Mayn perl iz a kale moyd” (My pearl is marriageable girl), “Moyshe livay kahn” (Moses Levy Kahn), “Di saidvoks fon nyu-york” (The sidewalks of New York), “Efter di boll” (After the ball), “Tsvey gute brider” (Two good brothers), “Di blum vos hot mikh amol farlozt” (The flower that once left me), “Ferlangt a meydl” (Wanted: a gal), “Ven der tants geyt on” (When the dance matters), “Nit alles iz gold vos shaynt” (Not everything that shines is gold), “Shikago illinoys” (Chicago, Illinois), “Lemel” (Lamb), “Deyzi bell” (Daisy Bell), and “Mayn foterland” (My fatherland)—almost all of them with melodies drawn from popular English-language tunes. Very well known were Reyngold’s songs: “Di mashindlakh” (The little machines), “Di tsubrokhene shif” (The broken ship), and “Dire-gelt” (Rent). The same publisher brought out his booklets of songs: Der velt zinger, prekhtige folks-lieder (The world singer, superb folksongs) (1894), 40 pp.; A bintel blumen, folks-gedikhte (A bouquet of flowers, folks poems) (1895), 32 pp.; Di sṭrune, oyserṿehlte theater und folks lieder mit baḳante englishe melodyen (The string, extraordinary theater and folk songs with well-known English melodies) (1896), 11 pp.; Di nayeste reyngolds theater und folks lieder, gezungen mit englishe melodyen (The newest of Reyngold’s theater and folk songs, sung with English melodies) (1896), 44 pp.; Der fonograf, komishe kupleten und theater lieder (The phonograph, comical couplet theater songs) (1896?), 16 pp. Fifty years after his death, his Geklibene lider (Selected songs) was published (Chicago: L. M. Shteyn, 1950), 125 pp. He also wrote an opera entitled Al nahares bovl (By the rivers of Babylon), which was staged in Chicago. Nokhum-Borekh Minkov, who made a lengthy study of Reyngold, writes: “In Reyngold’s workers’ songs, there are few motifs of awakening or appeal…. His social songs were for the most part permeated with humility, melancholy, and tears…. The most profound influence on him was exercised by Jewish folksongs and Jewish folksingers, and he was still different from the most social poets of that era…. Over the years, his social poetry was formed in a thoroughly distinctive way. They were equally realistic, unholy, social poems and, at the same time, in the garb of a folksong in the tradition of Elyokem Tsunzer and Avrom Goldfaden…. His sentimental songs were truly sentimental ballads…. With great naturalness, authenticity, and reserve, they are the best examples of this genre through our own day.” He died in Chicago.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (July 17, 1953); Nokhum-Borekh Minkov, Pyonern fun der yidisher poezye in amerike, dos sotsyale lid (Pioneers of Yiddish poetry in America, the social poem), vol. 1 (New York, 1956), pp. 223-77.