Archive of Jewish music

Inventory of the archive 


Music and songs have always accompanied all significant events in Jewish life: weddings, childbirths, and funerals. Compositions were also performed on religious holidays.

One can find the most complete collection of lyrics and notes of Jewish folk music in the manuscripts of Moisei Berevovsky. Tunes that he recorded are used in stage performances and Purim Spiels; Jewish music bands include them in their repertoires. The first volume of the five-volume series, which the well-known collector of Jewish folklore started in 1930, included labor and revolutionary songs; the second one, songs about lyrical and daily matters; the third one, instrumental pieces; and the fourth volume had versions of Purim Spiels, performances on Biblical topics, etc. The fifth volume included melodies without lyrics. Berehovsky looked for heirs of the leaders of famous bands in many Ukrainian cities and towns and collected thousands of historical documents.

Moisei (Moshe Aaron) Berehovsky (1892–1961) was a musicologist, collector and researcher of Ukraine’s Jewish folklore.

Moisei Berehovsky was born on the 28 December 1892 in the village of Termakhika, then Kyiv Province (today’s Ivankiv district of Kyiv region) to a family of a melamed. In 1905, he moved to Kyiv and finished gymnasium as an external student. Moisei continued his studies in the conservatories of Kyiv (1916–1920) and Petrograd (1922–1924). In 1928–1936, he was the head of the Cabinet of Musical Folklore at the Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. In 1936–1949, Berehovsky successively held the positions of a research fellow at the Institute of Language and Literature, the head of the Folklore Section of the Academy’s Cabinet of Jewish Culture and the head of the Cabinet of Musical Ethnography. In 1947, he became a lecturer at Kyiv Conservatory. In 1950, Moisei Berehovsky was arrested. Next year, he was sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment in supermax labor camps for his fictitious engagement in “mass anti-Soviet agitation”. He was released (officially because of poor health) in 1955 and exonerated in 1956. During his final years, Moisei Berehovsky was systematizing his manuscripts to prepare them for transfer to the archive. Moisei Berehovsky died in 1961 and was buried in Kyiv, in Baikove cemetery.

Moisei Berehovsky was an active collector and researcher of Jewish musical folklore as well as the author of research papers on Jewish folk music. He wrote his works in Russian and Yiddish. Moisei Berehovsky’s magnum opus is a five-volume anthology of Jewish folk music. During the author’s lifetime, only the first volume was published (Jewish Musical Folklore, 1934). By 1941, Moisei Berehovsky’s sound record library contained around 1,200 phonograph cylinders. In 1944–1945, he recorded 70 songs of Jewish ghetto survivors. 

Eda Berehovska, the daughter of Moisei Berehovsky, handed over the materials from the scholar’s personal archive to the Institute of Jewish Studies in Kyiv (a predecessor of the Center for Studies in History and Culture of East European Jewry). After her father’s death, she managed to obtain his manuscripts from the KGB archives. Moisei Berehovsky’s archival legacy includes more than 50 units of storage. These materials can be interesting for art and cultural historians who study the development of Jewish folk music and theatre. 

The most valuable are Moisei Berehovsky’s manuscripts of articles and notes about his anthology Jewish Musical Folklore:

  • Jewish Musical Folklore, Vol. 2: Lyrics (article, Russian and Yiddish);
  • Jewish Musical Folklore, Vol. 2: Notes;
  • the lead sheets entitled Music Notes, chapters 1 and 2; 
  • “Blessing of Jacob. Selling of Joseph” (article, Russian and Yiddish; music notes);
  • “The Wisdom of Solomon. David and Goliath. Binding of Isaac” (article, Russian and Yiddish; music notes);
  • “Ahasuerus Spiel” (article, Russian and Yiddish; music notes);
  • “Purim Spiels: Jewish Folk Musical and Theatrical Performances: (article, Russian and Yiddish; music notes).

In 2013, the Center for Studies in History and Culture of East European Jewry issued the collection of five CDs Jewish Musical Folklore (with e-books), which were based on the materials from Berehovsky’s archive and contained his collected works:  Vol. 1: Workers’ and Revolutionary Songs. Recruits Songs and Songs about War; Vol. 2: Songs about Love and Family Daily Life Songs; Vol. 3: Jewish Instrumental Folk Music; Vol. 4: Jewish Folk Tunes without Lyrics; Vol. 5: Jewish Folk Musical Performances.

Researchers of life and works of Moisei Berehovsky can be interested in photos from his family archive as well as his auto bibliography, a list of Moisei Berehovsky’s works compiled by the scholar himself (late 1950s, manuscript in Ukrainian). Historians of Stalinist repressions can be interested in the printed copies of documents from Ukraine’s Security Service archive (former KGB archive): the arrest warrant and minutes of Moisei Berehovsky’s interrogations (August–December 1950), copy of Moisei Berehovsky’s case, which contains excerpts from the interrogation protocols of Itzyk Fefer, Abram Kahan, Elye Spivak, David Hofshtein, Khaim Loitsker, Menash Shtutman, and Natan Zabara (1949); and Moisei Berehovsky’s reference by the rector of Kyiv Conservatory, Oleksandr Klymov (1950).