Texts & Translation

אַ שטיקעלע ברויט

A Crumb of Bread

David Edelstadt

Translation by Zachary Groz


A Shtikele Broyt” (1889) is a sev­en-stan­za poem writ­ten in the pro­le­tar­i­an tra­di­tion by David Edelsh­tat. Edelsh­tat, born in Kalu­ga, Rus­sia in the spring of 1866, emi­grat­ed to the Unit­ed States at the age of fif­teen in the days fol­low­ing the Kiev pogrom. Upon his arrival, he became involved in local anar­chist cir­cles, most notably the New York-based Pio­nire der Fray­hayt (Pio­neers of Free­dom), an orga­ni­za­tion formed in response to the Hay­mar­ket Mas­sacre. To sup­ple­ment his income, Edelsh­tat worked in a sweat­shop as a but­ton­hole-mak­er, an expe­ri­ence which fur­ther con­firmed his ide­o­log­i­cal con­vic­tions and con­tributed to his pre­ma­ture death at the age of twen­ty-six from tuber­cu­lo­sis. At the same time, Edelsh­tat com­posed numer­ous poems — all deal­ing with con­se­quen­tial social ques­tions — that reached the Yid­dish-speak­ing pub­lic in labor news­pa­pers includ­ing Di Varhayt (The Truth), Freie Arbeit­er Stimme (Free Voice of Labor), and Arbeit­er Fraynd (Worker’s Friend). Edelshtat’s A Shtikele Broyt,” like many of his oth­er poems, con­tends with the bru­tal­i­ty of indus­tri­al soci­ety, wage slav­ery, and human moral­i­ty. Struc­tural­ly, the poem fol­lows a strict ABAB rhyme scheme and a semi-reg­u­lar met­ri­cal pat­tern, mak­ing it adapt­able to music. The Eng­lish trans­la­tion below attempts to pre­serve, as well as pos­si­ble, the inter­nal rhyme scheme of the orig­i­nal text, while remain­ing faith­ful to its intend­ed mean­ing. Edelshtat’s cor­pus has also seen some­thing of a renais­sance in the last decade. Con­tem­po­rary klezmer musi­cian Daniel Kahn and his ensem­ble The Paint­ed Bird have, through trans­la­tion and per­for­mance, demon­strat­ed the con­tem­po­rary rel­e­vance of his work to a new gen­er­a­tion of listeners. 

Zachary Groz

Click here to down­load a PDF of this poem and its translation.

פֿאַר אַ שטיקעלע ברױט אָן קײטן, אָן סם!
ביז מײַן טױט װאָלט איך אַרבעטן גערן,
אָבער ברידער! מײַן ברױט איז איצט פֿול מיט מײַן דם,
פֿאַרגיפֿטעט מיט בלוטיקע טרערן.

עס רעבעלירן מײַן האַרץ און מײַן מוח,
קעגן דעם שענדלעכן ברױט,
פֿאַר װעלכן איך אָפּפֿער מײַן לעבן, מײַן כּוח,
און לײַד דערצו ביטערע נױט.

אַ שטיקעלע ברױט אָן סם און אָן קײטן,
ברידער! פֿאַרלאַנג איך דען פֿיל?
בין איך דען שולדיק, אַז איך קען ניט טײטן
אין מיר יעדן מענטשן־געפֿיל?!

אַ שטיקעלע ברױט אָן שענדלעכע קײטן,
ברידער! װער עס װיל אַזאַ ברױט,
דער מוז אונדזער הײליקע לערע פֿאַרברײטן,
קעמפֿן אױף לעבן און טױט!

ער מוז איבעראַל אין זײַן ברוסט מיט זיך טראָגן
פֿון פֿרײַהײט דעם הײליקן פֿלאַם,
יעדן קנעכט, יעדן הערשער װאָרהײט נאָר זאָגן:
„מיר װילן קײן קײטן, קײן סם.

מיר װילן פֿרײַ אַרבעטן און אױך פֿרײַ געניסן
די פֿרוכטן פֿון אונדזערע הענט,
מיר װילן איר זאָלט אונדז דאָס בלוט ניט פֿאַרגיסן,
מיר װילן פֿון קנעכטשאַפֿט אַן ענד!

מיר װילן די פֿרײַהײט, מיר װילן די ערד;
מיר זעען די צוקונפֿט מיט קלאָרהײט.
יעדער שקלאַף איז אַ מענטש, יעדער מענטש איז אַ העלד,
װען זײַן װאָפֿן איז ליבע און װאָרהײט!“

For a crumb of bread without poison, without chains!
I’d be glad to toil all my years.
But brothers! my bread’s now filled with my pain,
Toxic with bloody tears.

My heart and head rebel,
Against that vile bread,
For which I go through hell,
And endure such bitter dread.

A crumb of bread without poison, without chains,
Brothers! Is that too much to ask?
Am I guilty if my life still remains
And in me humanity lasts?

A crumb of bread without chains, without claws,
Brother! if you’d like a bite,
You must help to advance our cause,
And join in the eternal fight.

Everywhere he must carry it in his bones,
For freedom, the sacred flame,
Every slave and every master he will tell the truth alone,
“I want no poison and no chains.”

We want free labor and free reward,
The fruits of our very hands,
We want blood to be shed no more,
And slavery forever banned.

We want this freedom, this world,
We see the future with clarity,
Every slave is human, every human,a hero,
When his weapons are compassion and veracity.

David Edelstadt. “A Crumb of Bread.” In geveb, April 2019: Trans. Zachary Groz . https://ingeveb.org/texts-and-translations/a-crumb-of-bread.
David Edelstadt. “A Crumb of Bread.” Translated by Zachary Groz . In geveb (April 2019): Accessed Feb 26, 2024.


David Edelstadt


Zachary Groz

Zachary Groz will be entering Yale University as an undergraduate in the fall of 2019, where he intends to study History and Classics.