Ariel Edery
Olah since 2006

The Beat Goes On

70's Beat Goes On (Barry Steingard 1970)

My mother was blessed with a beautiful singing voice and a terrific ear for music. She and her sisters were, and still are, gifted with voices that would stir angels into harmonic bliss. As a kid, hearing them sing together was a treat and a delight.

My mother’s maternal family moved from Yedinitz, Romania (today in Moldova) to the US in the early 1900s. My grandmother’s brothers were part of an illustrious choir that traveled throughout their local area, accompanying chazanim during prayer services. They sang along with Moyshe Oysher (N.B. Young readers, please see this YouTube clip of his greatness). in Romania, and followed him to America.

My grandmother’s brothers were sent to the U.S. to work, and send enough money back for tickets on boats to the Goldene Medina. They were a family of 10 children, one of whom died of the Spanish Influenza. They were adamant about making this move a reality. After the impending doom of World War I, the constant pillaging of their town by local hooligans, and the rise of Communist thought and regime, they knew time was limited.

My mother always said that her grandparents’ ADHD probably saved their lives. They could not keep settled and were eager to send their sons on an adventure of opportunity. Life was not easy for any of the family members when they arrived. The older boys worked in sweatshops and sometimes got off for Shabbat to sing in choirs. The girls were in school until they too, spoke perfect English, and could join sewing sweatshops near their homes. They all strove for a better life, and overall they achieved it.

Throughout it all, singing made their lives more manageable, Old tunes from a faraway land would fill their homes at holiday meals, Shabbat dinners, and of course…the Passover seder. To be a fly on the wall of those seders was to be an illustrious guest to the most magnificent choral masterpieces imaginable. Tunes from the Old Country would fill the room. And, I really believe it was like a little slice of Heaven at that table.

My father tells the tale of going to one of the seder meals and hearing an incredible rendition of the seder. Every word was sung in harmony, It was like a concert. He was convinced that they must have all been Hasidic Jews hiding behind their modern garb. But, alas, they were typical Modern Jewish Americans.  All were making a living, supporting their families with various businesses. Of course, some were employed as Chazanim. Others just worked day jobs and sang at the synagogue or the Shabbat table on the weekends.

Uncle Harold (who married Freydele Oysher, Moyshe’s sister) was employed as a Bass Choral singer for the Metropolitan Opera. His wife, Freydele, was a Yiddish Theater stage actress at the Second Avenue theater, Their daughter, Marilyn Michaels, became a famous actress, comedienne, and impersonator. (NB. Marilyn Michaels’s impressions on this enclosed link).

My mother and her siblings were brought up with this musical infusion in their home and were blessed to embrace it. Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, they were inundated with terrific new sounds, bands from near and afar…and a musical ear that embraced these beats with grace and style.

My mother and her sisters were beautiful young women, whose fashion sense and style accompanied their mellifluous voices. They were forces to be reckoned with, and people were attracted to them like magnets. Their spoken voices had a timber that sounded like a movie star.

Cousin Marilyn would sometimes have my mother and her sisters accompany her to gigs in the Catskills. They would either sing backup, help with setup, or just be moral support. They got a small window into the “life of a star” from those days, Yes, it was glamorous, but my mother and her sisters decided to pursue other goals…education, work, family, and art.

Whenever my Mom and her sisters would get together and sing, it made everything so special. Time and space melted together. They were just a family sharing a gift that was timeless, and priceless. It did not need to be promoted, packaged, or sold…it just was the power to join a melody and imbibe it into the fabric of their souls. It was a gift that no matter what, would accompany them wherever they would go. No one could take away their modern American Jewish voices…not Romanian Cossacks, not Nazi Germany, and not American tyrant factory owners. They were a new generation of Jewish women, singing a different tune. They were bright forces of light to be reckoned with.

My mother decided to pursue a graduate degree in Psychology. To get coursework done in the summers, she would have my Aunt Sheila fly down to Memphis to help take care of me and my younger sister.  Sheila was the youngest sister, about 18 years older than me.  To have an Aunt come “hang out” at our home with us several times a year was a gift.  Some of my favorite memories are of Sheila and my mother cooking and baking together, and singing songs together in the kitchen.

And, I remember watching the Sonny and Cher show with them. I remember thinking that my mother and Sheila should be up there, singing with Cher. They had the same beautiful tone and timbre. Their harmonies were spot-on to whatever Sonny and Cher were singing that night. Of course, their beauty was unparalleled as well.

Fast forward to 2023. Here I am living in Israel. Trying to make sense of this surreal and crazy time. I have not been to the U.S. to visit my Aunts, Uncles, or cousins in almost 7 years. Life gets busy, and somehow I just did not get the chance to travel there. Yet, every time I turn on the radio, I harmonize with the singers, and I hear my Grandmother, my Mom, my Great Aunts, and my Mom’s sisters harmonizing along with me.

Last night, I attended the wedding of my daughter’s Sister-In-Law to her betrothed (a current soldier in the War of Swords against Hamas). It was a beautiful affair, nestled in the Jerusalem hills. My Son-In-Law was released from Gaza especially to attend the wedding. His family, too is musically talented. They each sing, play instruments, and dance. All of the siblings sang and harmonized with their father and mother under the Huppah. The melodies would have made Moyshe Oysher proud!

And, throughout the Huppah, my pregnant daughter sat with my grandson…holding her husband’s gun strapped to her chest. She wanted her husband to be able to stand near the Huppah, play his darbuka, dance, and sing with his siblings. This was such a powerful image…my daughter (a former army sergeant, as well) bore the strong message that the Nation of Israel lives. We are strong, we are mighty like the Maccabees, and we are going to continue to dance and sing throughout it all.  The Beat Goes On….like the drumming sound of our hearts and souls. LaLa-de-da-de-de, la-de-da-de-da.

Lyrics of The Beat Goes On, by Sonny and Cher (Song written by Sonny Bono, 1966, Atco Records, Gold Star Recording Studio).

The Beat Goes On, Sonny and Cher

The beat goes on, the beat goes onDrums keep pounding a rhythm to the brainLa-de-da-de-de, la-de-da-de-da
Charleston was once the rage, ah-huhHistory has turned the page, ah-huhThe miniskirt’s the current thing, ah-huhTeenybopper is our newborn king, ah-huh
And the beat goes on, the beat goes onDrums keep pounding a rhythm to the brainLa-de-da-de-de, la-de-da-de-da
The grocery store’s the super mart, ah-huhLittle girls still break their hearts, ah-huhAnd men still keep on marching off to warElectrically, they keep a baseball score
And the beat goes on, the beat goes onDrums keep pounding a rhythm to the brainLa-de-da-de-de, la-de-da-de-da
Grandmas sit in chairs and reminisceBoys keep chasing girls to get a kissThe cars keep going faster all the timeBums still cries, “Hey buddy, have you got a dime?”
And the beat goes on, the beat goes onDrums keep pounding a rhythm to the brainLa-de-da-de-de, la-de-da-de-da
And the beat goes on (yes, the beat goes on)And the beat goes on (and the beat goes on, on, on, on, on)The beat goes onAnd the beat goes on
About the Author
Ariel Edery is a mother (and mother-in-law) of three IDF soldiers, a trained Clinical MSW, an English and Diplomacy teacher at Amit Hallel Rehovot, and the author of Gila Makes Aliyah, Menorah/Koren Publishers.
Related Topics
Related Posts