Lyric of the Week: THE BALLAD OF JOE AND MOE SCHEISKOPF
It all began sometime in the mid-nineteenth century
Rabbi Yosef Moshe Scheiskopf was a big rabbi in Germany
All the yekkes loved their Herr Rabiner though his head was a bit verkakt
But when he made a decision it was never k’nocked
There was no shortage of money in the Scheiskopf household
Close to a billion dollars in diamonds, silver, and gold
But the happy story ended in about 1874
Rabbi Yosef’s kids decided to go Reform
Well the old man kicked off after a year of being ill
And in his last will and testament he wrote a codicil:
Not a pfennig to my descendants regardless of demand
Until one will go sit in Yeshiva in the Holy Land!
Fast forward now to the end of summer 1981
The offshoots of the Rabbi lived on shoestring funds
In a slum on Chicago’s South Side a Mrs. Scheiskopf lived
Banging her head to bring home bread to her three teenage kids
Joe and Moe dropped out of school, sister Bo went from job to job
This aggravated Momma until her head would throb
And what about Poppa? He packed his bags and left
Leaving Joe, Moe, Bo, and Momma a family bereft
Now the boys had a reputation for being a wild pair
They were the only white Jewish blues boys on the South Side, there
But their home was hell and their life was a mess
They had to somehow find a way out of distress
The boys made the rounds in the Chicago clubs playing in a band
And after a month they bought plane tickets with the cash they had on hand
With only the clothes on their bodies, Moe’s blues harp and Joe’s guitar
By October they found themselves at Yeshivat Hamivtar!
Well they got into the swing of things at Brovender’s Yeshiva
Come Chanukah time they got a letter from Geneva
The letter said something like “We are the executors;
Your great-ancestor’s fortune is now all yours!”
So the boys flew to Shvitzerland to pick up all their gelt
And from then on they didn’t ever tighten their belt
Now the good life they never had was no longer a dream
‘Cause they’re the two richest yeshiva bochurs the world has ever seen!
©2020 The Hesh Inc.
Joe & Moe Scheiskopf are the alter egos of myself (Joe, left in photos) and high-school chum Eli "Sugar Bear" Wolicki (Moe, right). This whole thing came about when we were juniors at Ohr Yerushalayim, the high school then operating under the auspices of Yeshivat Hamivtar, a/k/a "Brovender's" after its dean, located in Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem. We were quite fond of The Blues Brothers movie and music, and we concocted a whole backstory based on a scenario of the brothers being Jewish and somehow ending up studying in yeshiva.
The music is a sort of blues/beat monologue backed up by upright bass, brushed drums, and jazz guitar, à la early Tom Waits. It hasn't been recorded, but it came about after I saw the late Moshe Yess perform his own "Ballad of Jack Schwartz" in the café he once owned at Zion Square in downtown Jerusalem.