49 thoughts on “‘Tzena, Tzena’: History of an Israeli-American Hit – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. i am issachar miron’s daughter and i urge you to check your facts with him. miron is not the lyricist, but the composer of the melody for tzena, tzena. please verify the facts and post a correction as soon as possible.

  2. many thanks for replying to my comments and posting a correction so quickly!!
    sincerely, miriam lipton

  3. I am a music education professor at DePaul University in Chicago. I am teaching a vocal methods class to undergraduates.

    I learned this song from Christopher Moore the Founding director of the Chicago Children’s Choir in 1980 when I was a conductor there. I wanted to share this song with my students. Each week I give them many songs to put in their notebooks so that when they become teachers, they can have a nice collections of wonderful songs that can inspire their students.

    As I looked up some background on the song, I found your web site and comments. There are so many sources for this song, but yours stood out. How wonderful that you share this passion for music and life and peace. Thank you for giving me some insight into the song. I will share it this morning with my students. They are all instrumentalists required to take this class. They must learn something about singing and teaching vocal music so they must come to me. They have turned from grumpy skeptics who don’t like to sing to eager to learn pick-me kind of kids. I really enjoy the class.

    Just wanted you to know that your article on Tzena was helpful and that it was great to read about you.

    Marty Swisher.

  4. Hi, I was named after this song in 1957. My parents like Mitch Miller, who also helped make it famous, and decided to name me Tzena. I get to explain the origin of it all the time. We are not Jewish, but it is interesting to tell the story. I was told that “Tzen” means “to go” an action verb in Hebrew.

    Tzena M. Scarborough
    Spokane, WA

    1. Helo Tzena, my name is Shira (which means a song or poetry in Hebrew. I’m an Israeli btw..
      Just wanted to let you know, since it’s your name that:
      1. Tze- means to go (without the ‘n’)
      2. Tzena – when you refer to women and tell them : “please go”..
      The “na” ending is basically taking the verb tze (go) and converting it to a request for females only.
      Well.. have a nice day! can’t believe your name is tzena! 🙂 I’m saying it only in a good way of-course


      1. Thank you for your translation of my name. I too, never knew it’s meaning. My Dad loved folk music, and I’m sure, this is how he found the name.
        Tzena Ramona

      2. That is very interesting! My name is also Tzena. My mom said she sang a song in grade school called “Tzena, Tzena” – other than that I don’t know much about my name, but I am researching more about it now. I was born in 1987. I have found the lyrics and versions of people singing it, very pretty song!

  5. Ms. Scarborough is close. The word “Tzenah” is the feminine plural imperative of “to go out.” The root is Y-TZ-‘ The N is not a root letter, but rather part of the fem pl formation in the imperative and imperfect (i.e. future) tense.

  6. To our surprise, last evening my husband found an old vinyl 33 instrumental recording of that song. Searching some topics about it on the web, we found you.
    We are French Canadians, living in the Province of Quebec, Canada. Since many years we, evangelical christians, sing on that Miron’s melody the words of Mose’s Song (Exode 15), and our children attending Sunday School name it “The Horse and the Rider”, referring to the crossing of the Red Sea by the Hebrews while Pharaon and his army were pursuing them.
    If someone know the story behind how such melody become basic for a Christians’ Victory famous song would you teach us about it? Thanks.
    F. Bilodeau
    Quebec, Quebec (Canada)

    1. Just wanted to poke you on this thread, though it’s been a few years. Reading below, I’d deduce that Tzena Tzena made the transition to the Christians’ Victory songbook through the Girl Scouts, or in the same way. At that time there were more singing groups, and it seems they were always grabbing pop music of the day to fill their song books.

  7. I remember being mentioned that tsena tsena was composed by Miran in Italy during WW2
    while at a rest stop before entering a village whose people raised a white flag of surrender.
    Is it true that the copyright settlement in US amounted to $1 million or more? [ which today would have been a major fortune]

  8. Thank you for publishing the lyrics in hebrew, it was difficult to find!! I red lots of english versions and translations that have nothing to do with the original joy that spring from my understanding of the song: the happiness that pervades the town when peace has been declared. At least that’s how I understand it, I’m too peaceful to marry an ish tzavá (soldier)!!!
    PS: Sorry, I´m not an english speaker, I´m from Argentina.

  9. Dearfolk,
    Great information here!
    Seems to me I remember that The Weavers originally recorded “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena” in Yiddish for DECCA; this was released on both 78 and 45. THEN they re-recorded it in English, as the intended A-side of “Goodnight, Irene” (DECCA 27077).
    I’d love to know if this is true (the Yiddish version). I’m a 45 collector, and would love to have the thrill of scrounging up a copy of this. Does anyone out there know anything about this, or am I wronger than a Georgia snow in August? (Feel free to e-mail me.)
    Gratuitous thanks!
    Sincerely, Ort. Carlton in Athens, Georgia.

  10. I am very interested in doing a concert band arrangement of this song and wonder if anyone knows its current copyright holder.

  11. Spike Maiden Muller said: “I am very interested in doing a concert band arrangement…”

    I have completed a concert band arrangement of “Tzena Tzena” in combination with “Zum Gali Gali”; the work is titled “Songs of the Pioneers” (“Shirim ha-Halutzim”). I’ve been researching the copyright issue; it was at one time widely thought that the work was P.D., but it appears that the copyright is held by Mills Music and will expire about 2035 under current law. I plan to contact them and investigate further.

    1. Did you ever find out whether Mills still holds the copyright? I would send them a request for permission to arrange if I could just find out where to send it.

      I’d love to hear your arrangement someday.



  12. Bing Crosby and Judy Garland did do a duet of this back in September 1950, when she was a guest on his radio show promoting her latest (and final) MGM film, SUMMER STOCK. Their version is high spirited and the band sounds great.

    Judy was a frequent guest on Bing’s show from 1950-1952 when she was making the transition to live stage performing (again…she’d started years earlier in vaudeville) and was without both a record contract and a movie contract.

    She’d go on to play London and then opened in September 1951 at the Palace Theatre in NY before coming back to Hollywood to make A STAR IS BORN for Warner Bros.

  13. Greetings!
    Many thanks for this wonderful website. Although I was raised in the Episcopal faith, I am Jewish (both mother and father), and have a lot of catching up to do. I really missed out on the wonderful traditional songs, and am trying to make up for lost time. The Weavers’ version is magical and joyful. Now, I just need to learn Hebrew (and Yiddish)!
    Happy New Year,

    1. Dear A.J. Weinstein.
      Not withstanding the fact that your Jewish parents raised you Episcopalian, if you believe in Jesus you are not Jewish. Judaism is not a race, it’s a religion.

  14. What a nice way to revisit my teens! For some reason I was wondering if the words I learned by ear were anything like the correct Hebrew and I find real information about the song!
    I was raised Methodist, but my high school was about 70 percent jewish and every school dance had a Hora and a Mayim (sp?). I loved the energy of the Hora and I suspect my sanity was saved by an environment fostering intellectual achievment.
    For the record, the school was Cleveland Heights High and I graduated in 1961.
    Thanks for the posting

    1. Gale,
      I have been having a great time today reading the posts about Tzena, Tzena. (I found this page after reading an article about the Song of the Sea manuscripts being brought together) I first learned it as a dance and then later learned the English version from Exodus 15, as above. When I read about your high school, I thought about how much it was like mine. Imagine my surprise when I read your last line and found out it was my high school, too! I graduated from Heights High in 1973.

  15. I noticed that the article above has the composer and lyrics writer reversed right above the hebrew lyrics– does it need correcting? Thank you for the article.

  16. I learned “Tzena Tzena” many years ago as a ROUND.
    Try it; with the 3 verses following one another, it works.

  17. I am the video poster and I don’t think it’s sexist, as sung by The Weavers. Maybe they were uninformed, but in that period (40’s and 50’s) it was normal, there was not such communication as today. Anyway I’m happy that you took interest in my video.

  18. -I learned Tzena at Girl Scout camp in the 1960’s. Am thrilled to here it in Hebrew. Columbia River G.S. Council

    1. I am also so happy to have found info on this song. I have also kept the tune in my head from my Girl Scout years too!
      I learned it at Treasure Mountain G.S. Camp located near Lake Tahoe California, in the mid-1960’s. We also learned the song Zum Gali Gali. My mother’s family was Jewish, but I was raised as a Christian by my English Father and Step-Mom. Since then I have returned to my Jewish roots and I am married to someone Jewish, so our kids have been raised Jewish.
      My husband and I were just remarking how marvelous it is that so many people from so many places have bonded here due to this little Israeli Folksong!

      1. I know, isn’t it great?! i’m a law student in Tel-Aviv, Israel. and actually have heard this song for the first time, in 2006, in Chicago, IL. It was at my family’s house, and my uncle was like so excited that his Israeli cousin is comin, so the first thing he did to make me feel comfortable or like welcome or whatever, was by singing this song to me. and i was like “i don’t know what song you’re talkin about, you must have been makin it up right now!, and he was like “r u sure u’r israeli??? that an israeli song, i bet u a cookie on it!!” so we called up my mom in Tel-Aviv, i was sure my mom will have no clue what this song is, apparently, she did.. and that’s how i got to know this song and loose a very fine cookie..
        Anyways, this brings back great memories. That nternet is just amazing when u actually stop to think about it..


  19. I heard this song at YMCA Camp Kiamesha in NJ circa 1950. It played from the mess hall endlessly, but really never became tiresome. Despite having “C” sponsorship, a number of the counselors were Jewish, which may account for the song’s popularity. Just on a whim I googled Kiamesha only to find the camp has been abandoned, but traces–including the mess hall–still exist. I named my new Golden Retriever rescue girl, age 8, Tsena. Amazingly there are those who remember the song and the Weavers’ version when I tell them her name.

  20. i was taught this song in school nearly 40 years ago in england i attended a roman catholic school and we learnt it in our music lessons. i still often hum it and its only this evening that i learned of its origin. its a lovely warm tune and stays with me forever

  21. i still love this song and am teaching my 3 year old grandson it, he smiles so much when i sing it to him while out together in the car or when i visit his house. the tune in my head or when i hum it lifts me up so much especially envoking warm memories of my childhood. it will go on forever this wonderful song for generation after generation.

  22. I was in grade school in the late 60’s. The lyrics I remember are (to the best of my memory): Tenza, Tenza, come into the fields we’ll begin to work the land,
    sewing growing, pionenering all together, come we’ll work the land
    tenza, tenza building a new nation soon we’ll dance and have a cellebration,
    but first we’ll work then play

  23. Why do you only have the first chorus, and not the rest of the song in Hebrew?
    There is a lot more of the song in Hebrew that I remember, also recorded by other artists.
    I remember being in a Yeshiva of Central Queens (in NY) choir directed by Julius Grossman, who seems to have some credit associated with this song, as you indicate.
    Other web sites also indicate that this song was recorded by a lot of other artists including Mitch Miller, Connie Frances, and even a Judy Garland duet with Bing Crosby. It was also recorded by several Israeli artists.

  24. Nobody in this thread has mentioned that the song title is a pun. Tsena spelled tsadik-nun-ayin (one word) means austerity, which was what Israel was going through during the first years of our statehood. Coupons for meat, limits on sugar purchase, etcetera. People were sick and tired of hearing Ben-Gurion declare on the radio “Chaverim, yaish tsena b’aretz” (my friends, we have austerity in our country). And here come two composers with a song called Tsena, spelled tsadik-aleph nun-aleph (two words), and instead of griping about the tsena the people were singing Tsena in the streets. The melody predated the austerity, but the lyrics were a timely pun that reflected the era.

  25. As a lover of history and the Hebrew language, this is a fascinating article matched by wonderful responses. Thanks to all of you!

  26. I was born in the United States on September 14th, 1950 – between Rosh HaShanah (the Feast to remind us to blow the Trumpet) which is September 11th sundown THIS year (Vayikra 23:23-25 / Leviticus 23:23-25) AND Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) September 20th sunset (Vayikra 23:26-28 / Leviticus 23:26-28). My mother heard the song and it touched her heart. She named me Tzena.
    The first time I heard My Father’s voice Calling Me (out) BY name, was when I was 12. THAT IS THE DAY (that) I learned that there are true CONSEQUENCES (reward or recompense) for what we do.
    The Hebrew version by “Issachar” Miron and “Yechiel” Chagiz is correct and these young British Israeli soldier’s in Israel may have seen a young (twelve year old), beautiful, shy girl from the Moshava, BUT what man meant for entertainment, our GOD meant for His delight: Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha’olam- OUR creator WANTED this song to “go out” into the world all right! It is a song of innocence, beauty and encouragement… “RISE UP & GO FORTH into joy” that is truly why so many like it. By the way Issachar means “Reward or recompense” AND Yechiel means “May God live” (in you). I find it very beautiful that Tzena, Tzena, Tzena” (I have heard) is sung at Arabic, Israeli, Polish and Russian weddings. PERHAPS we will hear/here it at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Shalom, Tzena Bayless Smith

  27. I first heard and then learned the words of Tzena in 1950. I was a camper in Palmer, MA at Camp Mohican. It just so happens, that Julie Grossman was the music director of that camp and that’s exactly who taught us the song.

  28. Dave Ish remembers the same version I learned in my grade school. Here’s what I remember as the lyrics:

    Tzena, tzena, tzena, tzena, come into the fields and we’ll begin to work the land!
    [something], sowing, new things growing, pioneering all together, come and lend a hand!
    Tzena, tzena, building a new nation,
    Toiling busily all day,
    Soon we’ll dance and have a celebration,
    but first comes work and then comes play.

    I was all ready to run off and join a kibbutz, age and ancestry notwithstanding 🙂

  29. Heidi- your translation is someoe’s rewrite totally unrelated to the actual words. Today the words sound bizarrely chauvinistic militaristic and funny. But in the context of the time they are more appropriate. They sound like the type opf song you might have heard sung by young Russian idealist soldiers during the revolution. I am not being facetious here. The young pioneering Zionists and young Russian revolutionaries had similar visions and sentiments, for better or worse. The women are being encouraged to “support and encourage” the boys who are fighting the good fight.

  30. Yes, I’m fully aware it’s a rewrite. I just thought I’d fill in the gaps from Dave Ish’s post (the word I couldn’t remember when I posted was hoeing, btw).

    I often wonder why they so completely rewrote the lyrics to so many folk songs for school music books. Did they simply assume we’d never have any actual contact with the real thing?

  31. An interesting sidebar (totally unrelated to the original lyrics) is a “Christian” version of the same song, often sung in Sunday Schools, using a translation of Moses’ song from Exodus 15:

    “I will sing unto the LORD,
    for he has triumphed gloriously,
    The horse and rider fall into the sea.
    The LORD, my God, my strength, my song,
    Has now become my victory.
    The LORD is God and I will praise him,
    My father’s God, and I will exalt him.”

  32. I was taught this song when I was in 5th grade, 1987. I attended a Roman Catholic School in New Jersey at the time and remember this song fondly. Has stuck with me all these years!

  33. I woke from a dream (entirely unrelated) in the middle of the night and Tzena, Tzena, Tzena was going through my head, lyrics and all. I have no idea why I should suddenly remember this song; the last time I heard it was as an infant (I’m now 68) being played on my family’s old radiogram as a 78 and haven’t thought about it since although clearly loved it. Strangely my father who is now 97 was also from Poland and served in the Jewish Brigade.

    Thank goodness for the internet – I didn’t even know how to spell it!

  34. Just listening to a CD of Judy Garland and Bing Crosby (see Greg S. December 27, 2008 4:58 PM) and I remember singing it as a child at school. I had forgotten it but instantly slid into the music and words.

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