© 2024 New England Public Media

FCC public inspection files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact hello@nepm.org or call 413-781-2801.
PBS, NPR and local perspective for western Mass.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bringing A Father Long Gone Back To Mind

Improbably, one of the triggers that brings my father to mind is herring. 

When my mother and I were away, his customary evening meal was a martini with stuffed olives and a jar of pickled herring accompanied by matzo or crackers.

He found this a perfectly balanced meal, pointing out that it provided protein (the herring), fruit (the olives), and a vegetable (the pimientos in the olives).

He was proud to note that if he ate the crackers straight out of the box and the herring straight out of the jar, he needed to wash only two things at the end of his repast: a glass and a fork.

I also think of him when I hear composer Irving Berlin’s “Russian Lullaby.”

Like my father, Berlin was brought to this country as a child by immigrant Jewish parents.

My father embraced his Jewish identity. His charm and his professional skill at bringing disparate people together came in large part from his status as an outsider. He understood what it meant to be on the edge of society — and helped people celebrate both commonality and difference.

Berlin seems to have been a little more cautious about his Jewishness.

After all, he did write “Easter Parade” and “White Christmas.”

Some scholars theorize that his title “Russian Lullaby” is actually code for “Jewish” or “Yiddish Lullaby.” In the song, a mother sings to her baby about the possibility of a better life in a far-off land.

At a party during my childhood, friends were trying to remember the lyrics. My father suddenly launched into the chorus. I don’t know that I'd ever heard him sing all by himself before.

Like his personality, his singing voice was sweet and true.

This year, I’m singing the song a lot in his memory. Sometimes I think I hear him singing along.

Rock-a-bye my baby. Somewhere there may be A land that’s free, for you and me, And a Russian lullaby.

Tinky Weisblat is a writer and singer who lives in Hawley, Massachusetts.

Tinky “Dakota” Weisblat is writer, a singer, and a historian, who lives in Hawley, Massachusetts.
Related Content