Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yitskhok Leybush Peretz
(translation incomplete... Do you wish to help?)


For a long time it was accepted that P. was born on 25 May 1851 (Lag B'Omer tri"a).  However, according to a birth-shayn, that was maintained in a Zamosc magistrate, and also according to a document that P. had submitted for his petition to Warsaw's magistrate regarding confirming him as an employee of the Jewish kehillah (community council), he was born on 18 May 1852 in Zamosc, Lublin region, Poland.

His family, a strict msngd'ishe, may have descended from Spain.

The father, Yehuda, traded with Danzig and managed timber on water. Later he, with a partners, opened a liquor distillery, and the mother, Rivka Levin, managed a notions (sewing) store.

P. was the third or fourth child of his parents, but the earlier-born died, and he remained the eldest.

Already as a child P. painted, carved, pasted figures from wax, etc., at age three began to learn Chumash, and at age six Gamara. For a short time he learned in Shebreshin (Szczebrzeszyn -- ed.) three miles from Zamosc (several scenic directions in "A Night in the Old Marketplace" were as a copy of this market), afterwards in the home with a scholar, and in a Beit HaMedrash. At age twelve or thirteen, there came a crisis in his pious gezinung. He receives student Haskalah books. As an autodidact he was a little familiar with Polish and German., "shlingt eyn" the library of the city maskil and khzr't oys a French  teaching method, in order to also know how to read the French books.

He was ready to go to Vilna or Zhitomir to a rabbinical school, but his love for his mother he remained in Zamosc, where he had in 1870 married a Sarah Lichtenfeld, and with her had two sons, Yakov (who soon passed away), and Lucjan (passed away in 1919). After the wedding he lived in Tzoizmir (Sandomierz) and Apt (Opatow -- ed.), where he had, for several years, managed with a partner a brewery, but neglected the business because he wrote songs (in Polish -- although already earlier he had written in Yiddish and Hebrew), which circulated in handwritten collections. Later again he began to write in Hebrew and finally in Yiddish. His Yiddish songs were mostly used by badkhans and Goldfaden styles.

In 1875 he began to study in Warsaw as a lawyer and debuted with his first published song in Hebrew, "Hashutfut", in "Hashakhar" (Sion Trl"h). A year later (1876) he divorced his wife. In 1877 he published, together with his former brother-in-law (?) Gavriel Yehuda Lichtenfeld, his first book "Sipurim be-shir ve-shirim shonim (Stories in Verse and Selected Poems)", which contained both creations. He then returned back to Zamosc, married Nechama Rukhl (Helena) Ringelheim from Lentshne (Łęczna -- ed.) (died 22 November 1937 in Warsaw), and here he managed for a very short time (together with an uncle) a mill. He survived the examination given by the county court, he became in the span of more then ten years active as a private lawyer. In this time he continued to write in Yiddish and Hebrew.

In 1888, due to a denunciation during a revolutionary movement, P. had to give up his law practice in Zamosc, and he began to think more of drawing an income from writing. He now composed his first large work in Yiddish, "Monish". In 1889 he moved over to Warsaw, where he developed a lifelong friendship with Jacob Dineson, worked for a short time with a relative, and then became invited into the city expeditors, which the known economist and philanthropist Jan Bloch (a convert) had organized then across the Polish province. This served him later as material for his works. After a half-year P. returned to Warsaw and became an employee in the Warsaw kehillah (gmine; community council). There in 1890 there was published Peretz's first book in Yiddish, "Bekente bilder".

[For more details about Peretz's biography and his role in Yiddish and Hebrew literature, see Vol. II, pp. 974-1043, as well as the tens of books about Peretz, and long articles about him in the limitless books about Yiddish literature].

According to P. in his memoirs, in his youth he was familiar with Ettinger's comdy "Serkele" and other matters in his uncle's house, where the Broder Singers also used to come to sing during their travels to Zamosc.

Peretz's interest in Yiddish theatre dates still from a very early time, when he was yet in the Polish province.

So as told by the actor M. Modovink in his memoirs:

"From Tomaszow we migrated to Opotshna (Opoczno -- ed.) or Kutno. There we happened upon Yitzkhok Leybush Peretz (by chance we had met with the city badkhan, and he gave us a tip: 'There is here in town Yitzhkhok Leybush Peretz, the Yiddish writer, he can give a good tone because he has a great knowledge of the city"). had the director turn to him, as he had a great knowledge  of the city and is a popular person, and he bahilfik us, that we may be able to put on several productions.

Peretz had us work it out that we may obtain the theatre in two nights.

...We had put on 'Kuni lemel' and "Treyfniak". The Sabbath was a little isolated, and Sunday absolutely nothing... that [when] we had completed the two productions (in Opotshna or Kutno), [that] Sharavner, Titelman and Chizhik had begun, they went away to Warsaw to Weisfeld. We continued without a shepherd. Had overtaken the "director" Herman (Hershl) Berman. Ordinarily we would have gone away, as we no longer had Hershl Berman again to turn to I. L. Peretz, and they had us in the city do both of them together. We had the money until we traveled to Kielce".

S. L. Citron writes in his memoirs a conversation that took place between P., during his visit to Warsaw, and the founder of Yiddish theatre Avraham Goldfaden, when Goldfaden had recited his well-known poem "Der shtayn fun hartsn".

"I recall that Peretz did not become so strongly appealing the content of the expected (?), as Goldfaden's artistic declamations. There had begun a general conversation about the Yiddish theatre, and Peretz had used the opportunity to raise Goldfaden's "Shmendrik" with "The Two Kuni Lemels" a. a. v.

-- That I wished to have your talent -- so had Peretz then expressed, even though as we later discovered several times for him to hear, he had from Goldfaden's talent not so deeply held -- I wanted to built my dramas  and comedies on many important and truthful sides of Jewish life. That took, lmshl, the systemization of our children's achievements in Poland...

... Goldfaden, I recall, was deeply taken with his "heroes", and wanted to show that they were absolutely not any caricature, only a truthful creation....

...Peretz had with Goldfaden long been in a dispute (?), had teed off all of his virtues and read an entire list of scenes that can and must be done in dramatic forms and be produced on the Yiddish stage. That I mention now without the picture gallery, I find among them several such, that later had with time many collaborations with Peretz's greatness".


As P.'s first dramatic creation must be considered "Er un zi (He and She)", published in his journal "Literature and Life" (Warsaw, 1894), which later was included in every edition of P.'s collected works.

The one-acter is the English translation of H. Champert, published in "East and West" (N. Y., August 1915).

According to L. Blumenfeld in his French translation of the scene published in 1916 in a French newspaper.

In 1919 the one-acter was published in the Spanish translation of S. Reznik in his volume of translations of P.'s works.


In P.'s "Yom-tov blattlekh (Holiday Issues)" ("Evng shabat" and "Hmshh eshr") in 1896 was published his "Bay dem fremdn khupe-kleyd", which later was included in every edition of P.'s collected works.

In 1933 in the publishing house "Der kundas", Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the volume "for drama circles" (pp. 163-174), there was published "Brider, fragment fun "Baym fremdn khupe-kleyde" by I. L. Peretz, adapted as an opera libretto in one act, two scenes, from N. Zucker".

In 1936 there was published "Tsvey brider" by I. L. Peretz, oratorio, music Jacob Schaeffer, issued by the Jewish Music Alliance, New York, with Yiddish text of a song and also an English translation, with an introduction by B. Chertkov, 94 pp., 8.

In 1922 in the volume "Nine One-Acters from Yiddish", there was published the one-acter in the English translation of Bessie F. White, with a foreword that analyzed the scenic structure of the dramatic poem, with directions for staging the one-acter, a list of appropriate music, as also a bhdrgh'dike staging from the text with introductory remarks and staged sketches.

On 26 October 1923 through "Frayhayt gezang farein" in the "Aryan Grotto Temple" in Chicago, there was staged Jacob Schaeffer's oratorio "Tsvey brider" (parts of "Baym fremdn khupe-kleyd"), conducted by the composer.

On 20 February 1926 the oratorio was staged through "Frayhayt gezang garein" in New York's Mecca Temple, conducted by Lazar Weiner. Since then, the oratorio often has been staged with various conductors across various cities of the United States and Canada.

In 1934 the oratorio was staged in "Camp Kinderland", dance and direction -- Idit Segal, who also danced as "Shlang". The "Tsvey brider" was performed through Michael Goldstein and Shlomo Levine. In 1935 the oratorio was staged in New York's "Coliseum", dance, choreography and direction -- Lili Shapira, who danced the role of "the shlang", and David Opatoshu and Vol Valentinov in the role of "the two brothers". On 21 November 1936 it was offered again in "Carnegie Hall", with settings by Zuni Maud.

About the offering, Dr. A. Mukdoni writes:

".. I. L, Peretz's "Tsvey brider" belongs to the Haskalah-like books laykht mesh'lekh, and N. Schaeffer here has brought about too much seriousness, but it is a very interesting piece of music. Singing the oratorio, as every other number, has the Frayhayt gezang farein with warmth and with heart. The oratorio in the scene was pantomimed and danced. One can not say that the pantomime and the scene had helped out the oratorio much. I am inclined to believe that they have hindered their chances. The acting and the dances have not begun to lift the height of the music, and either way the performed oratorio did not look good."

About Schaeffer's music, M. Yardeini writes:

"...Schaeffer had to write the most advanced melodies, the finest motifs, the warmest Yiddish formulas of various Jewish prayers, parts from poetry, from the scrolls, from forms, from folksongs and Chasidic melodies, which put themselves mkhih'dik in the air. It is one of the beautiful pearls in the entire Yiddish music literature that up to present day has been published".


In 1899, in "Der yud (Krakow), under the pseudonym "Ltz", there was published P.'s "A literatur stsene", which later was included in the edition of P.'s collected works.


In 1902 P., under the pseudonym "Ltsfr", published in the weekly "Der yud", his dramatic scenes "Gegn hakata" and "Etrs yesoymim in varshe", which were later included in every edition of his collected works.

In 1902 P. created his first dramatic attempt in Hebrew and published in the collection book "Akhisf" (Warsaw), the scenes "Bkhuts", "Khasen vkhale", "Bgn heir", "El yid hakhlun" and "Amnon and Tamar".

"Bkhuts" and "Amnon and Tamar" were never published in a Yiddish translation.


In 1921 in a Warsaw journal "Ringen", there was published for the first time the found rewritten manuscript of P.'s adaptation of his Hebrew scene "Khasen v kale (Bride and Groom", under the name "In kretsme", which was published together with a second scene "Bay der lvnh" under a common title "Poren". "In kretsme" is reprinted in the Moscow "Eynikeyt" (3 April 1945), and is under the name of "Leygen firn" staged through David Herman in Warsaw's "Azazel", and later through Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison in the "Regnboygn" evening of the "Vilna Troupe' in New York.

About the publication of the one-acter, the editor of "Rigen" remarked:

"Peretz's "Poren" we have found among Dinezon's papers. The manuscript, finely rewritten -- not by Peretz's hand -- and through a black kalke penetrated (?), is, as it points out, was prepared to be published. To us the durchshlag found itself (?). He kept five boygnzeytlekh and numbered from 1 until 5.... more to translate...."

"Khasen vkale" was staged in English by Joseph Buloff on 26 May 1929 in Chicago in the "Majestic Theatre". The scene was put into print in English in the "Observer" (Chicago, 1930), and was reprinted in the "Social Orientation" (Chicago, 1930).

"IN SKVER (In Square)" ("IN SHTOT-GORTN [In the City Garden]", "BAY DER LVNH")

In 1907 in the Yiddish translation of I. L. Naumov, there was published under the name "In shtot-gortn" in "Idisher kempfer", Philadelphia, P.'s scene "Bgn heir".

In 1910 she in the Yiddish translation of the author under the name "In skver", was published in Warsaw's publishing house "Progress", and then it was included in his collected works.

An adapted text of the scene under the name of "Bay der lvnh" was created after the author's death. according to a found manuscript by Dinezon, and was published in "Ringen", Warsaw, 1921.

The editor of "Ringen" remarks that:

"...'Bay der lvnh" is in an adapted form, under the title "In skver" included in "Odem ve-Havah". ...more to translate...." (top of pg. 1903).

The scene also was performed through Warsaw's "Azazel" under the direction of David Herman.

In 1922 in the scene in the Spanish translation of Solomon Reznik, there was published in Buenos Aires in P.'s volume "Odem ve-Havah" (in Spanish).

In 1923 the scene was published (Berlin-Vienna) in the German translation of Alexander Eliasbrerg in his translation volume of P.'s "Odem ve-Havah".


On 2 February 1906 in the New York "Tsayt-gayst", there was printed P.'s scene "Baym fenster", which was published by the author in the original Hebrew after being in the journal "Hshlkh" in 1902.

In 1908 the one-acter was performed through the "Progressive Dramatic Club" in New York.

Later the author had the scene adapted under the name "Far der tir", and thus it was included in his collected works.

In 1922 the scene was published in Buenos Aires in the Spanish translation of Solomon Reznik, in his translation volume of P.'s "Odem ve-Havah".

In 1923 the scene was published (Berlin-Vienna) in the German translation of Alexander Eliasberg in is translation volume of P.'s "Odem ve-Havah".


In 1903 P. published in "Hshlkh" the secne "Bnim", which he had later translated under the name "Vegn kinder", in two dramatic scenes, which at first was printed in P.'s "Shriftn", with the andatirter date of 1907, and then it was included in every edition of his collected works.

[The volume "Dramatishe zakhn", which included the seven one-acters: "Er un zi", "Shvester", "Nokh kburh", "A frimorgn", "Shampanier", "S'brent" and "Vegn kinder", was really published first in 1907. He is however given to the reprinted prior anniversary edition of 1901, leaving over in the title page the old date, which can demonstrate the belief that already in 1901 P. had published his dramatic works in Yiddish].


P. had even sought to create repertoire for the Yiddish stage. Thus he had in "Di yudishe bibliotek (The Yiddish Library)" (Krakov, No. 6, 1904), which was published under his editing, published a Yiddish translation of Herman Heyerman's play "Ghetto". And when the translation was anonymous, they had in the actor's circles they had always maintained that it originated from P.'s uncle.

Nachman Mayzel maintains explicitly that the drama is P.'s translation.

The play was soon included in repertoire of the amateur groups. In 1907 the well-known actor Mark Meyerson staged and acted in the role of "Zakhl". In 1909 the play was staged through the "Hirshbein Troupe".


In 1904 in the Shavous supplement to Peterburg's "Fraynd", there was published P.'s one-acter "S'Brent", which later was included in every edition of P's works.

In 1906 there was arranged in the association "Hazamair" a Chanukah evening, and under the direction of Mark Arnstein and the author's providence, an offering of the one-acter.

Avraham Teitelman, who had participated in the production, characterizes the course of the rehearsals:

"...After his...more to translate...." (middle p. 1904).

By the following rehearsals:

"...[P.] sat together with Mark Arnstein at the director's be included a short, cutting remark, lozt however ongayn the work with his natural way, and ...more to translate..."

Due to technical difficulties to divide the stage into two parts (as was needed according to the play), P. had to in the last day to make a change in the text and include a new character: "...Peretz dictated the scene easily, but... more to translate....


Around 1905 P. published the scene "Eulm hba (World to Come[?]", which later was included in his collected works.

In 1906 the scene was published in the Russian translation of A. M. in Peterburg's journal "Yevreyskaya zhizn", under the name "Rey".


The first play of P. in a professional Yiddish theatre was this one-acter "Di shvester", which was performed at the end of 1905 in Warsaw's Yiddish theatre with the following personnel":

"Leah" -- Esther Rukhl Kaminska
"Mirel" -- Khiena Braginska
"Nechama" -- Vera Zaslavska
"Zorakh" -- [Lemkoff]
"Moshe'le" -- Itzhak Arco

About the production Noakh Prilutski writes:

"...more to translate...."

N. Auslander provides a longer assessment of the production, understood the press reaction of that time:'"In that one-acter, I. L. Peretz.... more to translate..."

[top, p. 1909]

The information about the Warsaw production also turns to New York, and on 18 May 1906, the one-acter was staged in New York in the "Kalich Theatre", with Berta Kalich as "Leah".

The production was advertised as a full play: "Di shvester" by Peretz and Pinski. Knowing what they had about the information, Peretz, and in a letter of 29 August 1906 he asked Pinski for the truth, that Pinski had written an act of "Di shvester", and if he should send to him the act....more to translate....

On our inquiry regarding the topic, David Pinski declared to us that he did not write any act, and that really the idea was to play both Peretz's "Di shvester" and Pinski's "Gliksfargesene":

"In the advertisement, in fact, there stood "Di shvester" by Peretz and Pinski. An incident such as it was, because also in "Gliksfargesene", it was a story with sisters. On the poster, however, there was given "Gliksfargesene".

Peretz had seen an advertisement and had to accept it, also this exact name. I had naturally declared that matter to him.

...more to translate (new paragraph, middle pg. 1909).....

The one-acter later was performed very often by various amateur groups, and in 1915 it was put on in the "Neighborhood Playhouse", in a benefit production for Jacob Ben-Ami, and in the 1920-21 season in Philadelphia's "Arch Street Theatre", under the direction of Jacob Mestel (with Celia Adler in the main role).

"'Di shvester' -- wrote Joel Entin (in 1907) -- more to translate...."

In his greatest work "I. L. Peretz as a Social Poet", writes Shakhna Epstein:

"In the one-acter 'Shvester'....more to translate...."

top, pg. 1910

"Also H. D. Nomberg maintains that:

'Di shvester' is a deep thing, deep with her natural truth..... more to translate..."

The one-acter "Shvester" at first was printed in "Dos yidishe vort" (Krakow, 1905), then in 1907 was included in the reprinted edition of P.'s work, dated 1901, and later in every other edition of P.'s works.

A Hebrew translation of the author (or completely the original), under the name "Bshfl", was previously printed (1904) in "Hshlkh", and then was included with P.'s Hebrew works.

In "Yevreyskaya zhizn" (Peterburg, No. 10, 1906), the one-acter was published in the Russian translation of D. Z., under the name "Na dnye" ("Oyfn opgrunt").

An English translation of H Champert was published in 1915 in New York's journal "East and West".

A second English translation, from Yetta Black, in 1929 was published in her volumes of translation "One-Acters".

In 1919 in Munich's publishing house of George Miller, there was published the one-acter in the German translation of Alexander Eliasberg (in the first volume "Yidishes teater").


P.'s first large dramatic creation made for the professional Yiddish stage was "Der nisoyen (The Temptation)", a second variant of his Hebrew play "Churbin bis tsadik" (published in 1903 in "Hshlkh").

The Yiddish translation of "Churbin bis tsadik" was first done in 1940 through A. Yuditsky, and with an introduction by the translator, was published under the name "Untergang fun tsadiks hoyz" in the Kiev "Sovetishe literatur" (N' 10, 1940), and was reprinted in the New York "Yidishe kultur" (April, May-Jun, 1941).

The Yiddish text of "Der nisoyen" was never published.

top, pg. 1911....

About the true beginnings of P.'s dramaturgical creations, Nachman Maysel writes:

"....Peretz.... more to translate...."







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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 1898.

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