Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


The Badkhan of Bober

N. Slutzky characterized the Bobover Badkhan, according to Simeon and Jacob Dobin (David’s father) and others in the following way (in brief):

"Outwardly, David the Bobover badkhan, a man of forty-five, with nothing to distinguish him from all the other Jews of Bobov, except for the fire burning in his eyes.  He wore a long kaftan, a long beard, and payes. He was not a distinguished student.

He lived with his family in Bobov (a town in Galicia, Southern  Poland), but he used to travel around with a klezmer company, performing at weddings. His chief assignment was to amuse the wedding party while the guests were having dinner. First he used to focus on sleight of hand magic tricks, and afterwards he would perform.

David the Badkhan was an improvisational badkhan, but he astutely studied actions he wished to mimic and then with great enthusiasm performed them.

From his better known skits are “A Goy with Jews at Pesach,” “The Polish Man," “The Resident of Jerusalem," ”A Dance with Marlania," and “The Biography."

The most beloved number, with great audience appeal, was “A Goy with Jews at Pesach.” David used to dress up as a White Russian peasant with a crooked beard, and both with his distinctive movements and White Russian expressions; he used to perform an artistic, humorous, monologue in which he mimicked  with authentic, skilled facial expressions in the mannerisms of a naïve, half-witted and boorish peasant, as the peasant narrated his visit to the Jews during Passover.

The monologue was not written down, but the Bobover residents, Jacob and Simeon Dobin reported that this piece was literally sprinkled with healthy humor and with a deep knowledge of the Jewish and non-Jewish customs and was memorable with its realistic insights of the psychology of a peasant who might fall into a strange, crazy, and unfamiliar environment.

In his piece,”Marlania,” a young Jewish, insolent boy dances with the non-Jewish woman, Marlene.  David the Badkhan dressed as a young peasant; he used to fold his hands and throw himself at Marlania's feet and take hold of her and gradually unfold into a dance and sing happy songs, with love and ecstasy  as a true “sheygets (insolent boy)." David was in general a good dancer.

In his number the “Polish Man”, he dressed as a Polish landowner, an impoverished man, but still with honor. He used his beard to supply a prop for his skit “Cheeks and Beard." He also used his large moustache as a prop. He twisted it in the style of the Polish landowners and proclaimed and sang in Polish about the situation of the fallen landowner. It was a satire both of the rich and poor landowners.,

In his “biography” he used to talk about himself with humorous and preposterous style. The form of his recitation was part of the humor; in the middle of his spiel he would fall into a rhythm, like a purimshpiler. To fall back on his Talmudic training, he would pose apparent questions, talk nonsense, and laugh at his pilpl (sophistry); he was even able to get the serious Jews to  laugh at this skit.

In his piece, “The Resident of Jerusalem,” he performed as a good Jew and was able to ridicule in jest the leaders of the Jewish communal life.

His other skits, except a short number about “A Goy As He Accompanied a Corpse,” are not well known.

He did not have any connection to purimshpilers, as he considered his performances a higher art form.

  • B.Slutzky -- Yiddish Badkhans and Actors, the “Magazine” Minsk, 1926, vol.1, 257-259.







Home       |       Site Map       |      Exhibitions      |      About the Museum       |       Education      |      Contact Us       |       Links

Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 134.

Translation courtesy of Earle Halsband.

Copyright ©  Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.