Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yitzhak Dov Berkowitz

Born on 15 October 1885 in Slutsk, Minsk Gubernia, White Russia. Received a traditional Jewish education. Later, as a teacher of Hebrew, B. began to approach self-education and acquainted himself with Hebrew literature. B. settled in Lodz, and in 1903 he debuted in "HaTsofe (The Spectator)". In the same year he received the first prize in a literary conference of "Ha Tsofe", for his story "Moshkhele khazir (Moshke the Swine)", which made a name for him in Hebrew literature, and he dedicated himself entirely to literary activity. In 1905 he was editor of fiction in a Vilna bimonthly newspaper "Hazman". After the pogroms of the same year, he traveled together with his difficult Sholem Aleichem to Galicia, spending a year in Switzerland, and from there traveled to New York, but was unable to appeal to the environment of America, and he returned to Europe. After the outbreak of the war, he immigrated with Sholem Aleichem's family to New York.

After in 1905 B. published in the daily "Hazman" an article about Yiddish theatre ("Hitatrun Hihudi", gekhtmet "Brk"). Also in 1906, being in Lemberg, he put into print in the "Lemberg Togblat" an article about Yiddish theatre.

In 1920 B. wrote his one-acter "Landslayt" (performed by Schwartz and printed on February 1921 in "Tsukunft"), which he later adapted as a three-act play, and on 16 December 1920 it was staged by Schwartz in his Art Theatre.

The same one-acter, under the name "Bartsut hrkhukut" was printed in B.'s Hebrew translation in "Mklt", N. Y. (November 1920),


and later as a comedy in three acts in the daily "HaDur", New York, (summer 1921).

The comedy also was translated and published in Berlin in White Russia in the first White Russia collection book that was published there after the war.

In "Tsukunft" (Feb., Mar., April 1925) B.'s drama, "Untern tslm", was published in three acts [dramatized continuation of his story "Moshkele khazir (Moshke the Swine)]". The play in August 1924 was staged for the first time by Schwartz in the Vienna Karl Theatre during his tour of Europe, and on 29 September 1924 in New York's (Yiddish) Art Theatre, and then by various other Yiddish troupes in America, Europe, Cuba and Argentina.

The same play [not in B.'s translation] was soon thereafter performed in Hebrew in the Land of Israel.

In February-April 1928 in New York's "HaDur", there was put into print B.'s Hebrew translation of this play, under the name "Utu vat bnu".

On 5 November 1926 in the Irving Place Theatre, there was staged B.'s drama "Fun yener velt" (director L. Sniegoff). Later the same play was performed in Europe through Lidia Potazce.

B. also published in the "Forward" his sketch "Gey zey a nbia un tref", which he later put into print in "HaShlkh", under the name "Mi nbia vide". The one-acter was performed in both languages in America and in the Land of Israel.

In the Hebrew publishing house "Mkrut ktnut", N. Y., there was also published B.'s "Mshkhk Purim", a comedy in one act, with the music by Professor Moroz, was staged by Dr. Nisn Turow in Boston as a comic opera.

Spending 1928-1930 in the Land of Israel, B. there issued in the publishing house "Dbir" (Tel Aviv, Trp"h, 171 pp., 16] a volume of his plays in Hebrew" "Bartsut hrkhukut", a comedy in three acts, "utu vat bnu", a drama in three acts, "Mi nbia vide", brikhh bmerkhh ekht, "Mshkhk-purim", mkhzh-htulim bnuskh hmshkhk hemmi, as well as a volume of dramatic adaptations of Shalom Aleichem's plays ("Hutzr", "Mazel-Tov", "Emkh" ["Dos groyse gevins"], Sholem Aleichem, khtbim, khdkh shshi, kumdiut, ebdu vtrgmu e"y Y. D. Berkowitz, "Dbir", Tel Aviv, Trp"t, 188 pp., 16). "Hutzr" in `919 was staged in the Land of Israel by the "Habima" (director A. Dickey).

B. also published a series of dramatic satires (under the pseudonym "") in literary and social themes (Warsaw's "Di naye velt", 1909, Vilna's "Tog", 1911, "Der groyser kunds", 1914; in Hebrew -- in "Hazman", and in "HaTurn").

B. published the Sholem Aleichem opening dramatic work. Thus he adapted Shalom Aleichem's "Tsezayt un tseshprayt" for Schnitzer's Art Theatre, wrote together with Sholem Aleichem the play "Hard to be a Jew", dramatized the later-published Sholem Aleichem play "Tuviya the Milkman", and dramatized and adapted " The Big Winner" and "Gold Diggers", which were performed on the Yiddish staged in the entire world.

In the publishing house "Mtnut" (New York), there was also published:
"Sholem Aleichem, Tnukhh-gelt, children's play in three scenes, freely dramatized by Y. D. Berkowitz." A Hebrew variant of "Meut shl khnukhh", published by the publishing house "Dbir".

Sh. E.

  • Zalmen Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature", Vol. I, pp. 380-383.

  • Z. Kornblith -- "Di dramatishe kunst", pp. 130-131.

  • L. Kristol -- Vegen "landslayt" fun y. d. berkovitsh, "Unzer teater", N. Y., 1921, 2-3.

  • Shachne Epstein -- "Moshke khazir" in idishn kunst teater, "Frayhayt", 7 October 1924.

  • A. Kretshmar-izraeli -- A idishe drame fun nayes rusland, "Der idisher fihrer", Boston, 15 October 1924.

  • A. Epstein -- "Moshke khazir", "Der tog", 7 October 1924.

  • Regidebel -- Drame eyn, drama oys, "Der kunds", 10 October 1924.

  • L. Kesner -- "Moshke khazir", "Idishes tageblat", 10 October 1924.

  • Sh. Niger -- A gute drame mit a shlekhtn nomen, "Der tog", 26 September 1924.

  • Paul Wertheit -- Der kritiker fun "nayer frayer prese" vegen "moshke khazir", "Der tog", N. Y., 3 October 1924.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Y. D. Berkovitsh's naye drame in shvarts'es kunst teater, "Forward", N. Y., 10 October 1924.

  • A. M. Mandelbaum -- Menshlikhe silueten, "Der idisher zhurnal", Toronto, 15 October 1924.

  • Alter Katyzne -- Teater, "LIterarishe bleter", 47, 1925.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Berkovitsh's naye drame in irving plays teater, "Forward", 9 November 1926.

  • A briv fun y. d. berkovitsh mit an entfer fun shakhne epstein, "Frayhayt", 16 December 1926.

  • Alter Epstein -- "Fun yener velt", "Farn folk", 12 November 1926.

  • A. Glantz -- Etlikhe veter vegen di dramatishe verk fun y. d. berkovitsh, "Tog", N. Y., 12 December 1926.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 210.

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