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The Yiddish Lullaby that Melted a Man’s Heart: A Mother’s Day Tribute

May 8, 2022 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

Two worlds collide early one morning on a tropical island.

When I was a young mom, my husband and I decided to go on vacation to the island of St. Maarten. With a newborn and active toddler, I wanted to have an extra pair of hands on the trip; but who?

And then it hit me. Mama! My grandmother who loved life and never lost her spirit was beyond excited to join us. Mama had gone through incredible pain and suffering. As a young mother, she was forced onto the cattle cars together with my Zayda and their children. In Bergen Belsen she never knew if the dawn of each terrifying new day would bring death to her and her loved ones.

Despite her tiny stature and the horrors she experienced, Mama had an indefatigable life-force that refused to be extinguished. Everyone affectionately called her “Mama.” She was the perfect person to be part of our vacation.

The first morning, my newborn woke as the sun began to rise.

Mama was thrilled to take a walk exploring the island with the baby’s carriage in hand. As she strolled, she would sing to our baby the Yiddish lullaby that her mother, and her mother before her, used to sing, “Shluffy, shluffy meidelah – sleep, sleep my girl (or boy), you will study Torah and grow great and righteous.”

Each morning Mama would return from her early walk with a smile on her face. “What a gorgeous world God created!”

One morning, Mama returned and her eyes were sparkling. “You’ll never believe what happened to me this morning!” she said.

I couldn’t imagine what could possibly have happened at 6 a.m. on a small quiet island with almost everyone still sleeping.

“I was walking with the stroller, singing to the baby. There was a tall guy ahead of me, he must’ve been 6 feet tall. He was jogging with a girl and suddenly he stops and looks at me.

“Excuse me, can I ask you something?”

“Sure, of course you can,” I said.

“Is that a Yiddish lullaby you are singing?”

“Yes, it is.”

“I can’t believe it! That’s the lullaby my bubby used to sing for me every night before I’d go to sleep. I haven’t heard these words for 20 years! I have a question for you… Do you think you could sing me my bubby’s lullaby?”

I haven’t heard these words for 20 years! I have a question for you… Do you think you could sing me my bubby’s lullaby?

The girl next to him got upset. “Are you completely nuts?” she said to him.

He looked at me and said in a low voice, “She never had a bubby. She can’t understand. But I am asking you. Can you sing my bubby’s lullaby for me?”

“Yes, on one condition,” Mama replied.

“What’s that?”

“Only if you call me Mama.”

The young man smiled. “Mama, would you please sing me my bubby’s lullaby?”

As Mama sang the young man’s eyes filled with tears.

“Thank you, Mama. Thank you for my bubby’s lullaby. I needed to hear that.”

There, on an island so far away, a young soul was joined once again with the soul of his bubby. He had never forgotten her voice, never lost her words. They remained embedded in his heart, tiny embers waiting to be stoked anew.

To all the mommies and bubbies in the world, may your voices always sing. May your children and your children’s children carry your words in their heart. May you ignite the fire in their souls with your love. And know that even if you do not see it now, the bond that you have with them is forever.


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