Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Berl Botvinik


Born 24 December 1885 in Rakov, Minsk region, White Russia. His father was a poor carpenter. He studied in a cheder (religious elementary school) until the age of thirteen, and then in the Minsk Yeshiva. At sixteen he became a painter of signs, was drawn into the Bund (socialist) movement, was arrested for disseminating illegal literature, and was then active in illegal activities under the name “Berele the Painter”.

In October 1905 he immigrated to America. Here he began at first to work in his profession and participated in the Jewish Worker’s Movement, and then – after debuting with two stories in 1909 – he slowly left his profession and became a co-worker in various publications, and then from 1913 in the “Forverts (Forward)”. Here he wrote under his own name as well as under the pseudonyms “Led Pensil”, “B. Brondz”, “A. Teater Patriot”, and “A. Beyzer Shlinger”, and published various humorous theatre stories, as well as theatre accounts and episodes, and biographies and characteristics of Jewish actors. From 1914 to 1922 B. was responsible for the theatre news and later for the weekly theatre page that appeared in the “Forverts”.

While in close touch with the Yiddish theatre, he himself wrote several plays for the theatre, and his “Beylke maronetta (Bella the Marionette)” was performed on 12 September 1913 in the Royal Theatre – with Malvina Lobel and Maurice Schwartz in the leading roles.


Soon after, the “Freye yidishe folks-bine” performed his play “Der vegetarianer” (a comedy in one act that was printed in the “Forverts” on 12 October 1919).

On 19 January 1921, “Beylke maronetta” was performed in a reworked version titled “Tayvlshe libe”. On 12 January 1923, his and B. Kovner's play “Shayke fun bronzvil” was performed at Brooklyn's Lyric Theatre, and later at the National Theatre, a sketch called “Polyakn oyf hyuston strit”.

B. also wrote a drama “Yezus kristus” of which several parts were published in “Der veker”.

M. E.

  • Zalmen Reizen – “Leksikon fun der yidishen literatur (Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre)”, Vol. I. pp. 198-200.

  • B. Gorin – “Geshikhte fun dem yidishn teater”, Vol. II, (list of plays). Special issue about artistic theatre.

  • A. B. Cahan – New talents, “Forverts”, September 24, 1913.

  • Y. F.  – Beylke maronet, “Yidishn teater blat”, September 27, 1913.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum – “Beylke maronetke”, “Keneder odler”, Montreal, October 1913.

  • Y. Miller – “Mini di finisherin”, “Der kibitser”, N.Y., October 1913.

  • Dr. Moyshe Mukarty – “Beylke maronetke”, “Der kibitser”, N.Y., October 1913.

  • B. Y. Goldstein – “Shayke fun bronzvil” in the Lyric Theatre. “Tog”, N.Y., 10 February 1922.

  • Sh. Robinson – “Shayke fun bronzvil” “Yidishn teater blat”, 4 February 1922.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 119.
Translated by Berl Botwinik.

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