Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Mikhl Davidzon

Born in 1883 in New Konstantin, Podolia region, Ukraine, into a rabbinic family. In his younger years he traveled with his parents to Lieve, where his father was received as a rabbi. He learned in a cheder, Bet Hamedrash, and with his father's assistance, was soaked in Chasidism and Kabala. He familiarized himself with the Hebrew writer Yehuda Steinberg, and on his recommendation published Hebrew songs in "Heulm (World?), which he wrote. In 1903 he learned in a Kishinev gymnasium, and during the pogroms he was the active member in Jewish self-defense, and due to this he had to leave Russia.

For a long time D. lived in Germany, studied technology in Gottingen University, founded the local Jewish student organization, "Hatkuh," which in 1907, in his Hebrew translation, staged David Pinski's "Family Zvi." In 1909 he arrived back in Russia, lived in Warsaw, and in various cities of Russia and Ukraine. In 1919 in Kiev he helped create the "Kinstler heym (Artist Home)," the start of the Kiev "Culture League." In 1923 he went away to Western Europe, and in 1924 arrived in America, settled in Chicago as a Hebrew teacher, and was a member in the circle around the "Culture" journal. In 1938 he arrived in New York, where he was a Hebrew teacher in a yeshiva. here he lived alone, in his last years was very religious.

D. wrote a children's drama in two acts, "In veldl," which in 1918 was performed in Hebrew in Odessa, under the direction of Kh.N. Bialik, and in Yiddish it was published in 1936 in Chicago with illustrations by Todros Geller (138 pp., second edition-- dort, 1938). In 1935 in Chicago there was published D.'s play, "Der liever rebe," a historical drama in four acts. In the Forward it is mentioned that the author, that the historical facts he freely adapted in the play.

D. participated in the Yiddish and Hebrew periodicals, translated a drama by Hirshbein, various works for a Hebrew house publisher, among them "Kabole un libe," and "Di royber (The Robbers)," by Friedrich Schiller.

D. passed away on 1 December 1941 in the middle of the street. He went to work in the Bensonhurst yeshiva in New York.

Y.Z. Frishberg writes about the drama, "Der liever rebe" (in our translation):

"The name, 'historical drama,' in its accepted form, does not express the character of work. We have here an artistic attempt to recapture what has been the subject of historiography; to shed light on a hidden phenomenon, which is gone as a shadow, and according to the image of the shadow, historiography has made its claims.

In the history of Chasidism there are two remarkable phenomena that arouse interest through their mystery: Two famous Chasidic 'rabbis' in various times, R' Mendl from Kotzk, and R' Ber from Liev, the 'rebellious' era was thrown out of it. More fortunate was the Kotzk story, which was helped by such a personality as R' Itshe Meir from Ger, a wiser and stronger writer, and the entire history was forever buried in the 'court' and left no historical documents for scholars of antiquities, except some rubbish words from the rabbi. What was worse was the situation in Liev, from which several extraordinary events were brought up on the stage and became 'material' for historians, and even the best of them just looked at it as a play, not seeking access to the individuals and their psychology.

There are historical plays, and these are one of them that cannot be covered only scientifically. Artistic talent does not matter to them. They can only be buried with Chasids ... No honest artist will commit to a staff who is foreign to him. Only those who are immersed in these spheres, their appearances, are well acquainted with their descendants, hear their language and feel their smells, but only one can take the steps, signs, appearances and voices. The stranger is looking alone and lost. ... In this play, we feel like the 'theme' has been selected by the author and said: 'I won't let you go until you give me a fix [tikun].' The author has in himself entirely forgotten. We don't see the hand that binds and unites people and facts. ... This does not mean to say that there are no shortcomings. ... It is desirable that this play should not remain only in literature. In my opinion, it is excellent material for the Hebrew theatre in Eretz Yisroel, and it is worth it that the author, who is also a Hebrew writer should translate it into Hebrew."

Dr. L. Zhitnitski writes:

"It is a Chasidic rabbinical history in a dramatic form, and when you look through it, the question arises: Borrowed so much time, ink, and paper for such insignificance, for want of force to make a 'yesh' and the essence of a crippling appearance. In addition, Mikhl Davidson precisely wanted to maintain a Peretz style, but it was felt that he was acting quite badly in Peretz's 'Goldene kayt (Golden Chain).' Even where he wants to delve into such picturesque phrases as 'Somebody's got the black-and-white sky,' and the Hebrew essays that need to touch upon the literary, artistic, and philosophical work.

Part of the drama is left unsaid, that Mikhl Davidzon is well-versed in Hebrew knowledge, but is in Hebrew, however, there is still very little to be able to construct and develop a dramatic action. This work would be more rewarding When Mikhl Davidzon had it in the form of a regular story or novel. It could at least be an 'entertaining lecture' for the Americanized tsnah and the pure Jewish and cylindrical Sabbath Jews."

  • Y.Z. Frishberg -- "Hrbi mliev," "Hdur," N.Y., N' 30, 31, 1935.

  • L. Zh. -- Der liever rebe, "Di prese," Buenos Aires, 12 June 1935.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5361.

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