Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Shakhne Epstein


Born on 10 December 1883 in Ivye, Vilna region, Polish Lithuania, into a distinguished family of rabbis and maskilim. Father -- a great scholar and businessman who gave his only son a Jewish and secular education: until age sixteen he learned with private rabbis and in a yeshiva, at the same time learning with a Russian teacher and read much in Hebrew, and also in the language he made his first literary attempt.

He displayed an ability to paint, and E. went away to Warsaw to study painting, which he soon rejected and became an extern. Although he favored unionism, E. in 1903 -- came into contact with socialist circles -- he joined the "Bund", and since 1904 became a professional socialist agitator.

1905 -- arrested in Warsaw, and shortly after his release, he continued with is revolutionary work in Poland and Lita (Lithuania), and he debuted in the Vilna "Folks-tsaytung" with fiction under the pseudonym Shakhne and Shakhnovitsh. He was arrested for a second time in Warsaw, and he was sent away to Yarensk (Vologda Gubernia), form where he fled in three months for foreign lands (Vienna, Geneva), and there was active as a Bundist secretary and was associated with the American Yiddish press as a future contributor in Chicago's "Idishe argayter-velt" in "Di tsukunft".


At the end of 1909 he arrived in America, for a short time was secretary of the "Jewish Socialist Federation", a member of her ts'k, associate editor of socialist organs, and here, such as in other periodic editions, published papers about general and Yiddish writers, memoirs, historical and publicity articles, etc.

Soon after the outbreak of the March Revolution, he traveled out to Russia, where he collaborated and edited the Bundist party organs, taking up practical party work, and in Odessa went over to the communist wing of the "Bund", later in the "Kombund", and then in the Yiddish "Komfarband". Here he also was the main organizer of the State Jewish theatre in Odessa, was editor of the communist newspapers in Odessa, Moscow and Vitebsk, and in the summer of 1921 he returned to America, where he was, as a journalist and agitator, one of the prominent leaders in the Jewish communist movement.

Under the pseudonym of Joseph Berson, E. published in Kharkov's "Idish" publishing house (1918) his one-act "Frilings-toyt, of a worker's life", which in 1921 was published in the second edition in the publishing house "Folks-bibliotek idish, Kovno-Berlin".

E. also translated: "Der shnee, a drama in four acts by Stanislav Pshibishevsky, translated from the Polish by Sh. Epstein. Publisher Mayzel and Co., New York 1911" [after earlier being published in 1906 in a translation of the same play by Jacob Richman in "Abend-tsaytung", N. Y., May 1906 in "Fraye arbayter shtime", 13 May-9 June 1906), and "Sergei sabatyev, miṭn ṿilen fun folḳ, a drama of the Revolution, in four acts, Yiddish by Shakhne Epstein, with a foreword by Olgin. Frayhayt-arbayter-bibliotek num. 1, issued by the Jewish Federation of the "Worker's Party" New York 1923" [78 pp., 24]. Most of the errors in Reyzen's "Lexicon" were given, that the plays were staged by Maurice Schwartz in New York's Yiddish Art Theatre.

E. also was a member of the management of the Arbeter-teater-farband ["Artef"], and from time to time he also was in "Frayhayt", "Morgn-frayhayt", where he published articles about the offerings of the Yiddish theatre.

  • Z. Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature", Vol. II, pp. 803-810.

  • B. Orshansky -- "Teater-shlakhtn", 1931, p. 114.






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 2, page 1595.

Copyright   Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.