Kosher-tants (LKT)

This entry is part of the Lexicon of Klezmer Terminology (LKT). The LKT compiles a wide array of source materials that shed light on the historical and contemporary state of knowledge about klezmer music. Each entry includes a number of citations from primary and secondary sources that include or refer to the term in question. It also indicates whether musical notation or sound recordings are included in the source. By clicking on the bibliographic hyperlink at the end of each citation, you get the full reference.


Kosher-tants. It is astonishing to me that my friend, the scholar Dr. Yitzhak Rivkind... wonders from where Avraham Rekhtman derives that the kosher-tants is ‘the dance of the groom with the bride after the wedding-meal to certify that the bride is a kosher one’ [i.e., virgin]. Justly he provides a pair of sentences later: ‘This practically verges on vulgarity and wantonness.’ But my friend has forgotten that he alone cited Druianov, where the other writes that at the end of a wedding-feast, when the time for the couple to be alone comes, people dance a kosher-tants to show that the wedding is a ‘kosher one,’ which means the bride is a kosher one.

And in truth it was really like this in Lithuania and in other places... In some places people used to dance the kosher-tants in this way: if the bride was a kosher one, the groom used to clasp the bride’s hand and dance with her, and the in-laws and the rabbi used to dance with a kerchief, holding one end of the kerchief and the bride the other; if the bride was not a kosher one, she used to dance with the groom also holding a kerchief.” Ben-Ezra 1963, pp. 46-47

“It can also happen that a dance has a Yiddish name and the melody for the dance is borrowed from another people. Thus, a polonaise might always be played for a košer-tanc. Many klezmorim, when we asked them for such a dance, played Aginski’s popular polonaise ‘Les adieux à la patrie.’” Beregovski 1937 [= Beregovski/Slobin 1982, p. 535]

‘Kosher tants.’ Even though the the name of this dance (‘kosher dance’) is originally Jewish, in all instances its music was typically foreign and taken from outside sources. In most cases the dance’s accompaniment was with a Polonaise (Polish dance in 3/4 in a festive step...) Many klezmorim accompany the ‘kosher-tants’ with a Polonaise tune of Auginski (1765-1833), that burst into popularity during his time and was called by the name ‘Separation from Birth’. Indeed the musical literature of the klezmorim was original and characteristic, but they responded to the requests and did not avoid also airing Polonaises, Minuets, Gavottes, etc. Rather they would ‘enrich’ this music in the ‘klezmer mode’, meaning they would add all kinds of ornaments (‘dreydlakh’) in their characteristic manner.” Fridhaber 1960, p. 31

“[After a number of other dances at the wedding celebration on a Saturday night,] the special dance with the bride that was called ‘kosher-tants’ (the kosher dance) was arranged. The closest in-laws were honored with this dance. The bride would hold one end of a handkerchief...” [Jerusalem, pre-World War I]. Frush 1962, pp. 39-40

Kosher-tants -- The dance of the groom with the bride after the wedding-meal to prove that the bride is a kosher one [i.e., a virgin]. Among Hassidim the dance of a rebbe with his Hassidim in a karahod [circle] was called this. Rekhtman 1962, p. 251

“Exactly when people began to use kosher-tants as a synonym for mitsve-tants -- no one knows. The earlier sources all show the second half of the nineteenth century. To them can be added the ethnographer of Lithuanian and White Russian Jews, Moshe Berlin, who brings in his study only the kosher-tants.

Harkavi is the only one that in his Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary made a distinction between kosher-tants -- bride’s dance, and mitsve-tants -- dance with the bride and groom. Lastly, Avraham Rekhtman interprets the kosher-tants completely unlike a mitsve-tants, only as a bride-groom dance: ‘the dance of the groom with the bride after the wedding-meal to verify that the bride is a kosher one.’ From where he took such a kosher-tants --only he alone knows, because such a public example, ‘that the bride is a kosher one’ is far from in good taste for Jewish modesty...

In newer times the maskilim began to wage a war against the kosher-tants, as a relic from an old-fashioned custom, which ought and must, just as with other ancient wedding ceremonies, become abolished.” Rivkind 1962, p. 46

Kosher Tants: Most dances are for either men only or women only. The kosher dance, however, is done between a man and a woman: the bride and groom, parents of the bride or groom, the rabbi and bride. Since holding hands in public between men and women is forbidden, the partners hold the corners of a handkerchief between them. No other dancing takes place at this time and everyone watches.” Roskies and Roskies 1975, pp. 231-32

“Shabbat Nahamu was the season of festivities in the town...there were the sweet notes of the musicians who were preparing themselves for Friday afternoon weddings and the dance on Saturday night after Zemirot. How beautifully the town band played freilachs, and the ‘Kosher Dance!’” [Zhagare, Lithuania, late nineteenth-century]. Sachs 1928, pp. 144-45

“[After the bazetsns and badekns,] then the bridegroom and all the males return to the house where they are lodged. Only the klezmorim and the badchon remain for the third ceremony, called ‘mazol-tov-dance’ or ‘kosher dance.’ The badchon calls aloud the name of each woman present, who then embraces the bride and completes a circle with her. The wedding guests are amused by this dance, but it is a great strain on the bride. Weakened by fasting the entire day, she grows dizzy with the continuous whirling to which she is subjected.

If the bride is an orphan, the chazan now recites the prayer for the dead, ‘Mercifiul God, etc.,’ chanting it in the accepted mournful tone. The klezmorim after each sentence reply antiphonally in the same tone, accomapnied by floods of tears and the loud sobbing of the women, especially the bride.” [late nineteenth century]. Schauss 1950, p. 193

“Following the solo number of the violinist or clarinet, they danced the kosher-dance (‘kosher-tants’) and the badkhn returned to perform... (mus. ex.  p. 166)... now comes the dancing... so he invites everyone to dance...” Stutschewsky  1959, pp. 164, 166, 214. (Musical notation included). 

“And then came what was known as the Koschertanz... The bride... [held] her handkerchief in hand... and the badkhn called on one of the men to dance with the bride...They danced around twice...” [Brest-Litovsk, Poland, 1848]. Wengeroff 1913, I, p. 191

“After the grace-after-meals the bridegrooms used to take the bride and place her in the middle of the room. A handkerchief was wrapped around her hand with one end out, [which] each in-law would take the end of and dance around with the bride, and this was called ‘kosher-tants’... [After the last man, being the groom, had his turn,] the klezmorim would play a karahod, meaning a dance in which all men and women circled separately in a round... Right in the middle of the dance... the bridegrooms snatched the couple from the room...” [Vilna, Lithuania, c. 1880s-90s]. Zizmor 1922a, p. 875.

See Mitsve-tants.