Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Abraham Goldfaden


Abraham Goldfaden was born on 12 July 1840 in Starokonstantine, Volhynia Province. His father was a watchmaker. According to Goldfaden his father was the only craftsman in their town. He derived great pleasure from reading a Yiddish book. Hence he didn’t economize, even with his last penny to teach his son Hebrew. Goldfaden’s father from time to time used to have his correspondences, both letters and editorials, printed in Hebrew newspapers.

His father’s attraction to the printed word had a strong influence upon his children. In 1869 Goldfaden’s younger brother, Yosef, submitted articles to the modern Yiddish newspaper, "Kol Mevaser," about Russian and German literature. "Apparently, in Goldfaden’s father’s house, year after year, they kept alive the ember of cultural and community interests." (N. Auslander and U. Finkel’s "A. Goldfaden," Minsk, 1926).

Goldfaden studied in a cheder (Jewish elementary school) with a Gemara scholar and a tutor at home -- studying Russian, German, and Bible in a German translation.

With no fear of the edict enacted by the Tsar to kidnap young Jewish children and to recruit them into the army as soldiers, his father taught him watchmaking. This was done in order to send him over the Romanian border as an accomplished artisan.

 Goldfaden demonstrated excellent talent, but then it became known that a "ukase" (proclamation) saying that students in the newly founded "Jewish crown schools" were free of recruitment, his father registered him in 1855 in such a school. He did this without paying attention to the fanatic religious opposition to these schools.

Goldfaden’s teacher at that time, Avraham-Ber Gottlober, wrote about this later in his memoirs:

 "Among all the students there was a young boy, a very young boy, Avremele Goldfaden. In addition to his studies in our school, the child also studied with me in my home. He loved to look at my jargon (Yiddish) writings: this was his passion. I don’t have to tell you, you know who he was, and what he had written. Apart from this he had already started to become active in Yiddish theatre."

Goldfaden finished school with high commendations at the age of seventeen (1857). He then entered the rabbinical school in Zhitomir. The purpose of this school was to prepare Reform rabbis and teachers. Actually, some of the students only were there to receive a secular education and a few other Jewish studies, "in order to reform Jewish traditions." Practically the entire population at that time was far removed from Reform Judaism and was not interested in this aspect of their studies. The school itself was dominated by a modern spirit." Upon their request the students received permission to dance and used to enjoy dressing up in costumes, searching out masquerade balls and the Zhitomir theatre. One of the students, Wolf Kamrash, back in 1853, wrote a biting satire in dramatic format about the local Jewish congregation. The Kiev censor committee labeled it "nihilistic," and it was censored. Further: upon the initiative and under the direction of Madam Slonimska, the wife of the school inspector, initiated an introduction in 1862 of a Jewish student’s presentation of Dr. Shloyme Ettinger’s comedy "Serkele." This was done despite the opposition from students, teachers and the majority of the Zhitomir Jewish intellectuals. The leading role of "Serkele" was played by Goldfaden himself, who, according to memoirs of a fellow student, A.J. Paperna -- he excelled and outperformed every other player.

Goldfaden, in the course of a conversation with D.Y. Silverbush, recalled that Goldfaden was "the right hand of Mrs. Solinimska. He concerned himself with the personal histories of the players and teaching the students (Here he was a big hotshot.)"

Goldfaden, for the first time, learned to adjust to minimalistic scenic possibilities in an improvisational theatre. ... In any case, Goldfaden learned a great deal from that evening to remember, how to be satisfied with minimum scenery and to proceed without female actors in the troupe, and without the most necessary acting materials." (G. Auslander and U. Finkel).

In the rabbinical school Goldfaden was a zealous student: He was completely absorbed by the Haskalah movement, at the same time he received a literary education, especially in European literature.

As D.Y. Silverbush tells us in his memoirs, Goldfaden told him that he began to create rhymes, even as a child of six or seven years of age. Because of this his father called him "Avremele badkhan (Little Abraham the Jester)." When Goldfaden was still working for his father (ca. 1854), a young man came to them as a worker. His name was Nachman from Brody, who even in his hometown was already a choir boy who sang with the cantor. Nachman used to sing cantorial pieces at work, and also Yiddish songs by Berl Broder and Velvl Zbarzher. Goldfaden sang several of his own songs, which he sang with a unique sweetness. This awakened in Goldfaden the desire to write new songs and new melodies, which were immediately sung by other singers, and still later by girls and young women from their shtetl and the surrounding towns. Nachman wrote all of the songs in a notebook with the following introduction: "Songs and ditties composed (to which he added his own melodies) by Nachman Broder." It was only now that Goldfaden acknowledged himself to be the author of these songs.

In the Zhitomir rabbinical school Goldfaden wrote songs in a folksy style. These songs were sung by people everywhere, including the province and surrounding towns. After a day sitting on a school bench, he became a popular and much loved folk-poet.

"It’s hard to understand -- said N. Auslander and U. Finkel -- that these songs were written by Goldfaden and yet he lived in isolation at the rabbinical school in Zhitomir.

It appears that Goldfaden was the only student who had, one way or another, a connection with the surrounding population, and who was aware of how the local population lived, and who remembered their faces and lifestyles.

"About his familiarity with the Zhitomir intellectual circles, we know very little. Goldfaden was a frequent guest in M. Warshawsky’s home. Warshawsky’s father was the father of the famous poet M. Warshawsky, and had a home with an atmosphere of cultural interest.

"Here in Zhitomir, Goldfaden once again met with A.B. Gottlober, at whose house there were musical evenings. Here he met with Linetzky with whom, later they would accomplish so much. The rabbinical school left many doubts in Linetzky’s mind, so that even at that time when he issued an anonymous booklet on Yiddish, Goldfaden was very impressed.

It’s not certain that Goldfaden met Mendel there. Mendel lived in Berditchev and visited Zhitomir quite often."

In 1862 Goldfaden came out with a song in "Ha-Melitz (The Defender)," and immediately after this he started to print his Yiddish songs in "Kol Mevaser" (Number 25, 42, 1863).

Thanks to his Hebrew songs, his teacher would point to Goldfaden as an example and show his appreciation for Goldfaden’s many successes in other studies too. (e.g. mathematics, etc.).

In 1865 he put out a collection of his Hebrew songs. The name of this book was "Tzitzim u’frachim m’et Avraham ben Chaim-Lipa Goldfaden (Blossoms and Flowers From the Pen of Avraham son of Chaim-Lipa Goldfaden)," dedicated to his father. The book made a big impression. A year later (1866) Goldfaden finished the rabbinical school and put out a collection of his Yiddish songs "Dos yidele fun Abraham Goldfaden (The Little Jew, by Abraham Goldfaden)," -- dedicated to his mother. Soon after the issue of this book, Goldfaden was viewed as a folk poet.

(B. Gorin tells us that upon the advice of a teacher in the rabbinical school, Goldfaden changed his name to Goldenfaden, in order to get rid of the coarse Yiddish sound. Later he shortened the name back to Goldfaden.) These songs were sung almost immediately in all the towns and villages and Goldfaden’s name as a folk poet quickly spread over the land.

About his book, G. Auslander and U. Finkel wrote: "He (Goldfaden) was no stranger with nationalist feelings (Zionism) of the 'Pintele yid (the ordinary Jew), who longed to be emancipated.' By the way, I think that Goldfaden was the first to use 'Pintele yid' in a Yiddish song. He was also no stranger to sing the one hundred and thirty-seventh psalm; 'Al naharot bavel (By the Rivers of Babylon).' He sang it in such a tone that it penetrated the heart of an 'enlightened' person; albeit, a 'traditional Jew.' The greatest number of Goldfaden’s books were based upon social norms that were taken from everyday life and saturated with the faded voices of the Jewish middleclass -- known as "the anxious little boss."

It was rendered in such a tone that it could identify with the widest mass of Jews, the impoverished classes.

In 1867 Goldfaden became a teacher in the Simferopol State School. However, he only taught here for a short time. In 1868 he moved to Odessa. Here he lodged with his uncle, the rich Jew, Kesselman, in whose home he -- according to Riminik -- was going to receive considerable support. At first Goldfaden was a very welcome guest, always welcome and happy. Goldfaden was the pet in the family. One of the reasons was that he was well received by Kesselman’s children. One of them, Joseph, was a very good pianist As it is told, he did much to help Goldfaden to gather music for his songs. But if the children loved Goldfaden, the uncle and the aunt quickly became unhappy with him. Goldfaden was a person with lofty goals and high expectations from life. Having his uncle at his side, Goldfaden could have had enjoyed the life of freedom that he loved so much. The entire time that he was there, the entire household was topsy-turvy. His dancing about and his singing knew no limits. His greatest shortcoming was that he was a freeloader. Yidl (his uncle) therefore often had encounters as to why he wasn’t thinking about his goals in life. Just as the day is long -- he hung around with Linetzky and Bernstein writing songs. During the nights he’d be wherever there was a theatre. They all came home at two or three after midnight with a coachman and started such a commotion that the entire household went topsy-turvy.

"The characters in this comedy are personified by the members of the household including Goldfaden as the hero. Added to the actual events are a number of vaudeville details. In that way it possessed a definite influence from Ettinger’s "Serkele." "

Later, when Goldfaden and his troupe came to Odessa, he did not stage this comedy due to the fact that the prototypes in this comedy could be found in this city.

Later when "Di mume Sosye" was so well received that Goldfaden printed it in "Kol Mevasar" (number 44, 1871): "Paulige ('Palge' in that region was a tailor) the drunkard, a drinking song about a tailor in my vaudeville who was the wife of the state rabbi," a prominent person in a dramatic tryout that he never finished.

The environment of writers (Sh. Bernstein, Ulrich Kalmus, Sh. Trachtman), and especially his opening appearance with his own work for the intellectuals of the Odessa public, was crowned by the enormous success (as Goldfaden himself tells us) strengthened in him his determination to write. His material plight in Odessa was very difficult: Eighteen rubles a month for a married man was not even modest. He threw away his teaching career and became a cashier in a hat shop. When he was the owner of hat store, his cash flow at the time was "enormous" and -- "he declared bankruptcy to the amount of eighty-thousand rubles. When creditors came to him demanding payment, he sang songs to them that he composed. Goldfaden had the talent to sing songs, even when he was a student in the rabbinical school. He often sang his own songs that were parodies of his teachers. He also composed and sang pornographic songs, also modeled after the teachers. Understandably his creditors were not satisfied with his songs. When Goldfaden saw that they were serious and menacing, he ran away from Russia." (Yitzhak Libresko in his memoirs in Z. Zylberczweig's "Behind the Curtains," Vilna, 1928).

In 1875 Goldfaden went to Munich where he thought that he would study to become a doctor. However, due to certain obstacles, he threw away any thought of further studies and traveled to Lemberg with the idea of dedicating himself to literature.

In Lemberg he met his old childhood friend, I.J. Linetzky. Together they put out a weekly newspaper, "Yisroylik," (issued from 23 July 1875 till 2 February 1876), which had a radical outlook on the language question .

Abraham Fiszon tells us in his memoirs that Goldfaden visited Russia in order to gain subscribers to this paper, "Yisroylik" (which was printed in Lemberg). In Zhitomir he met Goldfaden when he (Fiszon) and Gradner were giving "Yiddish concerts." Goldfaden showed him his feuilleton, "Di mume Sosye," which Fiszon immediately changed into a play (a skit?).

Fiszon relates: "With tears in his eyes Goldfaden, right after he saw the presentation said: -- Thank God that I finally could see my mute words come alive. For me this is the biggest celebration in my life. My writings will live on. Now I know that my words will endure. You have blown the breath of life into them.

"He (Goldfaden) received in an envelope with a hundred rubles honorarium. This was his first honorarium. He was so happy, that he gave us (Fiszon and Gradner) another play in 3 three acts: 'In der rote (In the Company),' aka 'The Recruits' ?).

(Thus Fiszon wanted to prove that he was the first to play Yiddish theatre, before Goldfaden even started in Romania. Fiszon possessed a poster from those days).

Sh.L. Citron tells us in his book "Dray literarishe doyres (Three Literary Generations)": "After sitting on the benches of the Zhitomir rabbinical school, Goldfaden wrote his first comedy in four acts "Di mume Sosye." It was staged under conditions that were rather rigid for show business people. Finally it was presented on the stage with Goldfaden’s help, and with the help of his friends. Due in large measures to his initiative, they were able to create from among the students of the rabbinical school, a small circle of "Lovers of Dramatic Art." This group presented, together with Goldfaden, playing the leading role of Dr. Ettinger’s piece "Serkele." From that time on Goldfaden began to dream about Yiddish theatre."’

In Lemberg Goldfaden had many opportunities to read and to see the best dramas and operas, Polish, Russian, German, from the smallest operettas to the most famous -- Verdi, Meyerbeers, HaLevis, and in Vienna he had the opportunity to see at the Opera Theatre, all of Wagner’s presentations. "I had the chance to see and to hear the best artists of those times, not only Fossi and Salvini." (Abraham Goldfaden’s autobiography).

In 1876 Goldfaden moved to Czernowitz (Bukovina), where he put out a weekly journal, "The Bukovina Israelite Folk Page." On being asked by D.Y. Silberbush as to why he broke away from Linetzky, Goldfaden answered: "You shouldn’t forget that Isaac Joel is well connected, the son of a rabbi, the son of the Vinitzer Rabbi, and I Avremele Goldfaden am a mere mortal made of flesh and bones, the son of a craftsman, the son of Chaim Lipa the watch maker in Old Constantine. I myself have, since my boyhood, learned his trade." The weekly journal existed for only three months, and as Goldfaden proved -- "The few Bukovina Jews did not like jargon (Yiddish)."

Goldfaden’s material condition in Czernowitz was very difficult. Yitzhak Libresko was the agent of Goldfaden’s weekly. He said in his memoirs: "On average every day I got one more subscription, and immediately after that I submitted the gulden subscription money to Libresko. Just like Goldfaden’s wife, Polia, who later told me there were times that with these guldens we were able to survive. When Goldfaden saw what a great agent he had in me, and that Iasi took in a pretty large number of his journal, he wrote a note to me once saying more or less the following:

Subscription Friend Libresko!

My paper would be gone, except that I had to change its name over and over again. This is killing my business. Distributing continuously under one name is impossible for me, because I don’t have three-thousand gulden to cover the necessary security deposit. Since there is no law in Iasi that we would have to pay three thousand gulden for security, we could distribute our journal without that expense. Therefore I ask you if this is possible to fulfill, and perhaps you could bring me to Iasi."

Libresko sent money for expenses immediately, and Goldfaden in the autumn of 1876 came to Iasi, where he was met at the train station with great aplomb by the local followers of Haskalah. Immediately after his arrival they founded a society "Chutei Zahav (Golden Threads)." Goldfaden was elected honorary president. In order not to compete with a preexisting society, "Lebanon," the newly formed society was annulled and Goldfaden was nominated honorary president of the "Lebanon Society."

After staying with Libresko for two weeks Goldfaden agreed to an honorarium of one hundred francs to do a reading of his works in Shimon Mark’s Garden at which two Brodersingers, Israel Gradner and Moishe Finkel used to perform, singing an assortment of songs, including Goldfaden’s.

Goldfaden described his appearance in Gardens in the following manner: "Shimon Mark was not a fool. He had a good business. That night he put out a big entrée. His Garden was full to capacity full of ... I can’t even begin to tell you -- both with people, with animals … I can only say that as soon as I was brought to the stage and began to recite my familiar poems, "Dos pintele yid (The Essential Jew)," throughout the garden you couldn’t hear a pin drop. Of course, I said to myself, instead of a singer of song wearing shoes and socks they suddenly saw, standing before them an elegant "nobleman" in a frock and with sincere facial expressions who certainly garnered respect. They held their breath and amazingly listened to the words. I recited loudly, full of ecstasy. I ended my poetic reading and the audience was silent. I bowed and still the audience was silent. I left, and yet the audience was silent.

So! ... I thought perhaps the audience found it difficult to conceptualize what I was trying to get across. Perhaps they weren’t used to sincere patriotic poetry. I’ll go back and recite one of my humorous satirical poems, "Der malakh (The Angel)." I recited the first part of "Di yunge neshome (The Young Soul)." -- They were silent. I then recited, "Di alte neshome (The Old Soul)," -- and still they were silent. Their silence must have been good, I thought. I’m curious and left. Brothers! They’re whistling!"

Libresko in his memoirs describes Goldfaden’s appearance a bit differently: "The evening when Goldfaden stepped on to the stage, the garden was very full, but Goldfaden was a complete failure. Goldfaden wrote about this failure himself. He didn’t tell the correct reason for the failure. In truth, it was Goldfaden's fault. He didn’t possess a good singing voice, in order to appear before an audience. He sang only his own songs, which Gradner sang previously for that same audience. But Gradner sang with charm and in good taste. This audience was very angry. First of all they paid very good prices for their tickets. Shimon Mark arranged this in order to retrieve the one hundred francs that he paid Goldfaden beforehand. Secondly, the audience looked at Goldfaden, who was late coming to perform. Therefore, for several members of the audience there was great anger. Some even wanted to beat him up. Gradner and myself were barely able to hold them back and saved him from getting a beating. I sat him on a coach and brought him to his house."

Now Goldfaden decided energetically to go out to distribute his journal. But even before he went out onto the street to recruit new subscribers, the plan changed and now the plan was to found a Yiddish theatre.

Libresko tells us more details about this in his memoirs: "Goldfaden stood wearing a top hat, taking his walking stick into his hand to go out onto the street. My wife suddenly calls out to him:

-- Mosye Goldfaden in Bucharest, there already exists a journal "HaYoetz (The Advisor)." The editor is dying of hunger seven times a day. What will you accomplish? You too want to put out a journal. Then both of you will die of hunger. Listen to me, I have read your "Di mume Sosye" in four acts -- it is exactly ready to be performed. You only gave a reading of it. Can’t you arrange to make it to be performed? I’m talking about a Yiddish theatre, exactly as the gentiles have. Not like Gradner and Finkel do.

When my wife finished speaking, Goldfaden put down his walking stick, took off his top hat and said to me: 'You know Libresko, your wife gave me an idea. We’re going to provide Goldfaden with a shovel.' We sent for Gradner and told him the plan about creating a theatre. Gradner agreed and said that Romanian actors who came to hear him often kissed him and requested that he establish a theatre much like others have. He never did this because he didn’t have material to play.

"Gradner soon brought a whole group of people. Who they were I can’t recall. Gradner had shaven his moustache. A good-looking young boy arrived, named Shachar Goldstein. If Finkel was present, I don’t remember. Certainly this youngster was among the first. He played together with Gradner in Mark’s garden. I do remember that later he left, and that Finkel was not present at the inauguration of the first Yiddish theatre.

"Goldfaden himself was quickly energized by the plan. He completely forgot why he was in Iasi. He took up residence in my home and started to write a theatre piece. He already had several Yiddish songs prepared at that time that would be incorporated into a play yet to be written, "Di bobe mitn eynikl (The Grandmother and the Grandson)." He used the songs as a basis for an entire theatrical piece."

This play was quickly completed in Libresko’s home. The musician who had prepared the music was called "Big Velvl."

Goldfaden described his memories of the Yiddish theatre differently:

"In those days the Iasi Jewish public supported singers that would appear in different venues, presenting Yiddish songs. In as much as the singers sang many of my songs, curiosity made me wonder what kind of impact my songs had in different exposures. Once, sitting in one of these venues, it entered my mind for the first time to combine songs with prose, and that this prose should have some content for a theatrical piece that I could present to the public.

... I have already forgotten that the main reason I came here was to create a Yiddish newspaper. In my mind and in my emotions I was preoccupied with one desire: that I should be in the position and have the opportunity to realize my dream.

... My idea came to fruition and was completed. During Sukkos I laid the foundation stone of 'Yiddish Theatre.' "

Goldfaden discussed this with Gradner. Gradner said: "With the addition of a few more singers, it would be possible for us to put together such an undertaking. For example, we could stage "Der tabak-makher (The Snuff Maker)," "Dos odes vaybl (The Odessa Woman)," "Der rekrut (The Recruit)," with real actors. But as far as the public was concerned, it hardly impressed them. Did the plan appeal to them? Just then Goldfaden appeared "writing" a theatrical piece.

Regarding this memory, Gradner wrote: In Sholem Perlmutter’s biography, "The Beginning of Yiddish Theatre," which appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper, "The Jewish World," he wrote: "I immediately talked with Gradner regarding the idea of a two-act piece. I emphasize 'talked it over,' and not 'wrote,' since we did not yet not have a 'for what' and 'for whom.' So long as we had an incomplete idea, we could boast with whatever words came into our mouths -- so long as the most important of all, there were funds were there. This meant -- a piece with complete songs and dances. I proposed to Gradner that in order to write dialogue for the stage you had to have someone to speak with; you can’t talk to yourself. There has to be at least a few other people apart from the one speaker. He told me that he had a friend that he helps from time to time. He’s a mere craftsman, but he believes that this guy has talent. He went away and returned with a young man whose name was Shachar Goldstein. He told me that he took the young man away from his work (he worked for a saddle maker.) I studied the young man and understood right away that with his youthful face, he would be just right to play female roles. Together with Shachar Goldstein, he brought another young guy. I sat Gradner and Goldstein near me and wrote several sincere and humorous songs that they immediately learned. I told them what they would have to do, and what they would have to say. Even if they couldn’t remember what I told them accurately, they could improvise -- with whatever words came readily to their mouths. They only had to know when to kiss, when to fight, and when to make up and dance. At home we started to rehearse, and to my bad luck we came up with a two-act piece. ... I myself don’t recall what it was all about. It was a sort of annoying bit, a bit of nonsense, a churning, so that I myself don’t remember what we called this piece."

The piece played for two days (around the 5th or 8th of October 1876). The audience loved it, but the play was quickly buried in some archive.

The subject of the piece was dealt with in Goldfaden’s autobiography.

The second play that was also supposed to be staged by Gradner and Goldstein was put together by Goldfaden using two songs "Di chaside (The Lady Chasid)," and "Shlof mayn kind (Sleep my Child)." Since it was after Sukkos, and in Shimon Mark’s Garden it was no longer possible to perform, (The tavern belonging to a certain Zelig Raysher was not available because Raysher decided to have nothing to do with "dirty Yiddish singers.") Therefore it only remained that Goldfaden and his actors had to go to Botosani, which was part of the territory of the "Lebanon Society" that had a branch there. Together they were Goldfaden, Gradner, Goldstein, Aaron Rosenblum, a certain book binder Schwartz, and a few others, most of whom soon after left the Yiddish theatre.

In Botosani, there lived a large number of Galician Jews who had earlier tried to engage the "Brodersingers" to perform for them. So Goldfaden rented a large theatre in which to perform. In no time at all, the Romanian army recruiting officers arrived. Goldfaden and his actors had to hide in an attic where they began to rehearse the repertoire when the recruiting chaos would pass. Goldfaden told his actors that the theme of "The  Cat and the Well" (taken from his father-in-law’s oral tales, "Eydim N’amim  (Faithful Witnesses)," would later serve as the foundation for Goldfaden’s operetta ("Shulamis"). He could quickly see that his troupe was not yet ready to undertake such a production. Goldfaden read them his comedy "Di mume Sosye.". The comedy included a cast of four women and twelve men. Due to this, they could not contemplate such an undertaking.

Goldfaden decided to write a one-man show about recruits. In one role -- he wrote in his autobiography –- an energetic comedian had the opportunity to show off his talent. The performance would last for exactly one hour. However if one of the actors should decide to be clumsy or raw and go off in a wild tangent, we would have to start to teach him some of the important rules of acting. Gradner immediately told him that he knew such a person and quickly brought him a comic type to represent a Jewish recruit. Zbarzher's humoristic song, "Der yidisher soldat (The Jewish Soldier)," would be the inspiration for an entire skit. The song tells us of the soldier’s lineage and complains that such a "kosher" child from such a pious family, should be snatched for a soldier. Gradner (the same as all the other Brodersingers) used to sing it, dressed as a soldier named "Chaim Shaya Koter (Chaim Shayer the Tom Cat)."

This song by Zbarzher inspired Goldfaden with the idea of writing a three-act operetta with the title "Der rekrut (The Recruit)," in which there appears a woman and several other life-like roles. Goldfaden hired several of the cast from his previous performances (such as the "Chasidic Soldier"), or "Reboynu shel Oylem (Master of the Universe)," "Fun’m yidishe tchasovo (Watchman)," "Chet idiot (The Sinning Idiot)."

Several weeks later during which time Goldfaden, with his troupe in Botosani while waiting for the riots to pass, wrote songs for his new operetta, plus a monologue and two acts for the leading man and the rest for the other participants.

After this, "The Recruit" was presented in a proper theatre.

Goldfaden describes this performance in this way: "The theatre was packed. I myself had to stand, at times behind the wings at other times I sneaked into the prompter's box and acted as the prompter. The audience applauded especially for the last dance. The theatre -- as I said was full, but the money was too little. After all the accounts and expenses were paid, we were still owing several hundred francs. We couldn’t perform any longer in that theatre because the weather turned rainy, and the streets became muddy, so that it was impossible to get to the theatre. I had to leave my troupe at the inn as security. The cast was made up of, you shouldn’t know from it, two brothers (I can’t call them actors), Gradner and Goldstein. I went to Galati to rent a venue and borrow money to bring my troupe here.

"The Recruit" never appeared again as a show. Fragments of it, and the subject of the piece, were printed in Goldfaden’s autobiography and were reprinted in B. Gorin’s "History of the Yiddish Theatre" (Vol. 1, pp.174-6).

A year later the actor Yakov Spivakovski joined the troupe. He had earlier played in "The Recruit" in the role of "Tzadok." Goldfaden wrote a special piece for him, which was a parody of Schiller’s "The Maiden of Orleans."  About the first Yiddish presentation in Botosani we read in Libresko’s memoirs: It didn’t take long till I received a letter from Goldfaden saying that they were very unhappy. In truth, and just between us, a great turmoil broke out due to the Russian-Turkish war, I mean, the failure in Botosani was not because of it, but rather because the public was unhappy with our troupe. Goldfaden began to bombard me with letters asking me what he should do. He was simply asking for advice because he already knew that he couldn’t get any more money from me. I put together a meeting between the Iasi head office of "Lebanon" and myself. We wrote to our society in Galati saying that since Goldfaden, a very gifted person, is in Botosani and that he was in great difficulty, it would be perfect if he could come to Galati to perform and that we’re asking if he could be supported while he’s there. We also sent Goldfaden and his troupe several hundred francs for expenses. The whole troupe came to Galati."

Goldfaden was very warmly received by the "Lebanon" society. Thanks to their help they built a provisional stage with sets painted by sixty-year-old Moishe Bass and Goldfaden.

Here, Goldfaden became friendly with one of his future actors Max Karp.

After this, when "The Recruit" was presented here (around Purim 1877) eight or ten times and was a great success, Goldfaden thought up a vaudeville piece in one act with songs, "Dos bintl holtz (The Bundle of Wood)," which was presented by Gradner and Goldstein.

The theme of the vaudeville piece (which was never presented in a separate edition) can be found in Goldfaden’s autobiography, and in a complete manuscript by Sh. Perlmutter in New York.

In order to be able to produce bigger plays, Goldfaden started to look for a woman who would agree to become an actress. Eventually he met a girl of sixteen years of age ("Her name was Sarah. I forget her family name") (Goldfaden’s autobiography deals with Sarah Siegel and later Sophia Goldstein-Karp.) Since her mother was afraid to let her travel alone with strange men, they made a match between her daughter and the actor Shachar Goldstein.

Goldfaden decided now to write a drama. "You can’t imagine, dear reader -- wrote B. Gorin in his "Goldfaden biography" -- "how very pleased I was at that time (said Goldfaden) -- not with the girl, but with the idea of a new play that I decided to write. I really wanted to have my revenge with this play because I was very angry with the world. This energized me with a force that even if I should fall on my face with my 'stage.' I would not give in. No, brothers, when I finally had my hands on a stage, let it be a lesson to you. You who never had any time in your youth to study, to educate yourself, should come to me and see how I paint endearing pictures of life for you. I do this so that you can see for yourselves, as though looking through a mirror, the good and bad sides of life. What’s more that you should learn a life lesson and improve the errors of your ways, which you made between yourself and your family? Mistakes you made either with Jews or between yourself and 'Christians,' with whom you live continuously in peace. You laughed so heartily and you enjoyed my funny jokes, but my heart cried out at the same time merely by looking at you. Now brothers, here’s a drama for you, a life tragedy, cry and my heart will rejoice when you do so."

Because that actress had no stage experience, Goldfaden wrote a small role, mostly to allow her to shine on the stage rather than to glow in her acting. This new play actually was already written. The play was titled, "Di intrige (The Intrigue, oder, Dvosi di spletnitze)" (pliatke-makherin), or "Dvosi the Gossip Maker."

This drama was later rewritten by Goldfaden as a comedy. It was never presented as a featured play in a separate presentation. In Goldfaden’s autobiography we can find only the subject.

The cast was comprised of the following:

"Di intrige, oder, Dvosi di pliatke-makherin"

A realistic drama in five acts by A .Goldfaden.

Yosef, a young man of 32 years of age ...
Rochelle, his wife, a young woman of 22 years of age ...
Hershele, their 8 year-old child ... (meaning we're going to search for the child)
Gutman, Yosef's young friend ... (meaning a walk-on role)
Dvosi, their neighbor; a Jewish woman of 35 years ...
Chaim, Rochelle's brother, a Jew around 40 years old ... (meaning a walk-on role)

[Israel] Gradner (the Litvak)
Sophia Goldstein-Karp
Not yet known to us
A Street Child
[Shachar] Goldstein
A Street Child

In this play Goldfaden included two light songs for his actress: "A kush duet (A Kissing Duet)" and "A song that was [presented] also was a translation of the former popular couplet, "Madam Anna" from Lecoq’s operetta, "The Daughter from Hell."

As Goldfaden tells us, the audience generally was pleased with the performance.

"Galati, I can say, -- wrote in his autobiography, this was the first town on our tour, and we left peacefully. Meaning: despite all of the difficulties that we endured that month, we paid off our debtors, most of which were stage expenses incurred by our first prima donna, the bride. We gave everyone hard cash, a few francs as pocket money. The expenses and financial supervision were overseen by our courageous and yet, at the same time, brother actors in 'Lebanon.' They saw to it that we tighten our belts and economize, so that when it was all over there would be something left over for us."

Similarly, Libresko’s comments confirm our performance in Galati: "Here the troupe played in a large theatre, and with great success. The Romanian press praised the presentation highly. The Christian Romanian actors from the Romanian theatre were also very warmly mentioned by the press." But the troupe was there for a long time before they went on to Braila (without the actress Sarah, whose brother did not allow her to travel with them due to several factors.) There in the beer hall in the "Hotel Weibel" they erected a small improvised stage where they presented "The Recruits." But they came to blows with the audience over the intentions of the comedy. The result was that the troupe itself mocked the "Yiddish Recruit." This comedy could never again be performed there. Goldfaden decided to placate them with an evening that would include a program in three parts:

1) Abraham Goldfaden would personally hold a significant talk with the audience.
2) A sing-along of patriotic songs.
3) As a peace offering of a new, interesting comedy in two acts with music and song, "Di bobe mitn eynikel (The Grandmother and the Granddaughter)."

The theme of the new comedy was taken by Goldfaden from a popular Russian song, in which a young Russian girl pours out her heart to her precious governess about her affection for a secret lover.

Goldfaden made a parody from it in Yiddish with the same original melody, but instead of a governess he had her sing to her old grandmother. In the Yiddish format Goldfaden divided the dialogue between three people: "The grandmother" (a role for Gradner), "The grandchild" (Goldstein) and the "lover" Israel Weinblatt (who had just joined the troupe). Goldfaden wrote the prose. At the time the melody of the song sung by the Jewish granddaughter was originally in Russian. The comedy was performed shortly thereafter and was very well received. Later the comedy was rewritten by Goldfaden as a melodrama in three acts and was a success under the name, "Di bobe mitn eynikl," oder "Bontziye di kneytl leygerin (Bontziye the Woman Who Makes Wicks for Ritual Candles)." It was published in 1879 and appeared several times in print. 

After a stopover of two weeks in Braila, the troupe had once again accumulated debts. Goldfaden left the troupe in a hotel and went off to Bucharest in order to find the wherewithal to bring the troupe there.

According to Libresko a certain Lazar, the proprietor of a coffee house in Bucharest, traveled purposefully to Braila in order to bring Goldfaden and his troupe to Bucharest.

Goldfaden reported in his autobiography that he performed (after Passover 1877) in Bucharest on a real stage in Lazar Kapedshoy’s in a salon on Strada Kaleyia Vakaresht (Vakarest Street Way).

From an announcement in the Bucharest "Der yidishe telegraf" in April 1877, "Goldfaden remained in Bucharest for twelve performances with his famous troupe ...

B. Gorin adds that Goldfaden came to Bucharest with a recommendation to a certain Aaron Shnap, who was going to help him book the theatre "Jignitza" where he staged "The Recruit." They played in that theatre only once. A new actor joined them at that point, Pinchus Shapiro. ... After this presentation, Goldfaden booked a hall from a certain "Lazar."

On 30 April 1877 Goldfaden presented, "Hot zshe mir gezuner (Do Well and Be Healthy for Me)," a vaudeville presentation in one act (according to Dr. Shatzky -- this was probably his play, "Di tsvey shkheynim (The Two Neighbors)." But apparently since future engagements did not exist, it remained that Goldfaden once again had to do something, so he decided to use the time to strengthen the troupe. At the time, his first two actors who joined him were folksingers. Now he embarked on a search for more stage actors from among his choir singers.

B. Gorin wrote about this: "In every town and village the choir singers were the most joyous tricksters. At one high-spirited meeting they imitated the facial expressions, the gestures and movements of the distinguished proprietors, and also of the cantors. No one was too important for them to mimic, and nothing was too sacred. When Goldfaden came to Bucharest, the cantor there was the well-known Mr. Cooper. Among his singers was Zelig Mogulesko, Lazar Zuckerman, Moishe Zilberman and Simcha Dinman (or Dilman). At the same time Mogulesko, was still a youth of seventeen years of age, and Zuckerman was only a year or two older. They were members of Cantor Cooper’s choir. They also sometimes sang in a church. Understandably the cantor and the proprietors were not allowed to know anything about this matter. They had the opportunity to sing as choirboys and in operas. The acting to which they were exposed made such an impression upon Mogulesko that when Simcha was invited to a celebration, along with other members of the choir, Mogulesko  entertain the audience not merely with singing but with imitations of various Romanian actors. He would also perform pranks on the cantor in his home. When the choir boys and the rich proprietors got together on a Saturday night in his home, the audience licked their fingers with delight. This carrying on came to the attention of Goldfaden and immediately after he arrived in Bucharest, he sent for the aforementioned clowns."

Attracting choir boys into the Yiddish theatre resulted in considerable opposition on the part of the synagogue members. Not being able to punish the choir boys, the congregation told Cantor Cooper, who forbid his choir boys to appear in Yiddish theatre. However he would attend such presentations. (This matter is written in the chronicles of the Great Synagogue in Bucharest, with a Yiddish translation of the Hebrew and was printed by Dr. Meyer ben Avraham Halevi in the "Archives of the Yiddish Theatre," published by YIVO.)

Apart from these men, Goldfaden also attempted to attract female actresses. He worked so diligently that one of the actor’s wives Rosa, became an actress.

They performed their well-acted repertoire in Bucharest (with some changes in personnel). According to B. Gorin, Gradner was now gone from the "Bobe mitn eynikel." His acting, however, had made such an impression on the audiences that years later when the Yiddish stage involved as many women as men, the famous male comics, whenever they had the opportunity, they still performed as "The Grandmother." Mogulesko -- as "the granddaughter," Pinchus Shapiro as "the matchmaker," Moishe Silverman as "the teacher," and Lazar Zuckerman as "the Turk," and in "The Intrigue," Mogulesko played as both Rochelle and the "Zayike Singer." Goldfaden too including some new dramatic roles. Mogulesko imitated Goldfaden’s appearances in his operetta in three acts, "Shmendrik (conducted by Tzigayner Kostaki).

By the way, Goldfaden always mentioned that "Shmendrik" was one of his original plays, and only the songs sung by  "Shmendrik’s Bride" were translated, and that the Romanian melodies were borrowed. B. Gorin adds to this: Based upon statements made by Mogulesko and Zuckerman -- at the audition Mogulesko presented a scene from the Romanian piece "Vladutzu Mamu." This was the original source of the play "Shmendrik." Goldfaden was so impressed with this play that he not only took it into his troupe, but he swore the he would translate this play ,and from this he would make a Yiddish play. ... For  Mogulesko and for Kerman and all the others who were involved with Goldfaden ,after he came to Bucharest or shortly thereafter, everyone said as if with one mouth that Shmendrik was recreated before their eyes from "Vladutzu Mamu." From Mogulesko's speech it emerged that it was him that Goldfaden had to thank for it. The others who were present had observed with their own eyes that Goldfaden composed it. It’s amazing because everyone remembered very well the name of the original Romanian play. Decades have gone by since this all happened. Therefore there can be no doubt that "Shmendrik" was created by Goldfaden in Bucharest shortly after he came there in 1877. We must therefore come to the conclusion that "Shmendrik" was either printed in Lemberg in 1875, or was issued using a false date."

As B. Gorin went on to say -- the language and the layout of this composition prove that this play was written in Galicia. The Lemberg edition (printed and published by B.L. Necheles) did not offer the name of the composer, and we have to assume that either there was a mistake in the date, or that the date was purposely altered.

In 1879 "Shmendrik" was printed in Odessa and was reissued again and again.

The comedy, over a period of time became one of the most frequently performed play in the Yiddish repertoire throughout the world.

Six musical numbers from "Shmendrik" were arranged by Joseph Rumshinsky and were issued in the New York "Hebrew Publishing Company."

On 10 November 1924 it was published in a modified format as, "Joseph Rumshinsky's new musical sensation, by Abraham Goldfaden, who rewrote "Shmendrik," which was newly edited and produced on stage by Jacob Kalich," who appeared with Molly Picon in the title role in New York Kessler’s "Second Avenue" Theatre.

After "Shmendrik" Goldfaden issued his melodrama in five acts, "Di kaprizne kale (The Capricious Bride)," with "Kabtsnzohn et Hungerman." Mrs. Rosa had a small role in the play too. Immediately after this she left the stage and the troupe was left once again with only men.

This same play later was frequently performed in Yiddish theatres all over the world.

In 1887 the play was printed in Warsaw, and since that time it was issued in various printings.

The success of Mogulesko, especially in the title role of "Shmendrik," elicited feelings of jealousy from Gradner who demanded that Goldfaden write a drama especially for him. Goldfaden translated Katzenboy’s "Di vayse inzl (The White Island)," a tragedy in two acts, which appeared under the title "Di vilde inzl (The Wild Island)." It was staged, very soon thereafter, with Gradner as "Der erupeyer (The European)," with Shachar Goldstein as "Regina" and Mogulesko as "Di negerin (The Negress)." Mogulesko was a success in this role too. An argument broke out between Gradner and Mogulesko and Gradner quit the troupe.

Goldfaden said that at that time he received an invitation from Shimon Mark in Iasi to go there with his troupe. Not wanting to travel by himself, he sent Gradner there in his place. He also sent several additional scripts with Gradner. Gradner started to act almost at once in Iasi together with Rosa Friedman. They were later joined by Mogulesko, who meanwhile had also left Goldfaden.

Goldfaden later wrote and staged "Di shtume kale (The Mute Bride)," a play in three acts with music and song. In this play they featured a woman actress in a role in which she is mute. In later plays she began to speak her small role.

The first cast of "Di shtume kale" consisted of: Shachar Goldstein ("Brayne," a woman’s part), Pinchus Shapiro ("The Grandfather"), the new actress (she was listed as Madame Rosa) ("Chaya"), Moishe Zilberman ("Leon"), Mechele Glickman ("Ayzik Meyer") and Lazar Zuckerman ("Tzadok").


Title page of
"Kabtsnzohn et Hungerman"
Warsaw Edition

The play was never printed. The subject matter can be found in Goldfaden’s autobiography. A manuscript is owned currently by Sholem Perlmutter in New York.

On 12 May 1877 Goldfaden staged "Shmendrik" in a new adaptation ("Shmendrik" -- Golditze, "Di kale" -- M. Zuckerman).
Goldfaden described the conditions of his theatre at that time: "The new actress (Golditze) quickly progressed on the stage at first as a street urchin. Prior to her appearance on the stage she learned not to be afraid of the audience. She demonstrated both courage and nerve. Later she played "Shmendrik," where she very successfully followed by the run-away Mogulesko. ... Later she proved, perhaps without even knowing and still raw, to be a very fine actress. "I now had three cast members who were females. A new actor joined us at the same time. His name was Lazar Zuckerman, and he turned out to be a fine comedian. To sum up, it got to be very jolly on the stage, and the theatre came alive. Suddenly a terrible thing happened something so horrible that it destroyed all of my efforts. A bolt of lightning struck us, and with its mighty power it descended upon us, and it started as a deluge over us. It completely drowned all of my fresh, green seedlings that cost me so much effort till I saw them grow and thrive; till I lived to see them mature and to bloom. In short, I had to leave my post. Each of my students had to remain at home, never to return while I was left to sit alone, confused. I didn’t know where to begin. In the theatre it was hard to imagine what was going on here. The theatre was empty. Everything happened in 1877. The Romanian government was no longer grabbing Jewish recruits to the army, only now those that grabbed were by commissars dressed in the uniforms of the police. They spread out over the streets of the Bucharest. One could hardly see a young man on the streets. If one did appear, they grabbed him and forced him into the military. ... The grabbing took place when a young man showed himself on the street. The commissars would fall upon him in the schools and in the coffee houses. ... All young men left school and the coffee houses. Since my theatre was an open place, someone could be grabbed here; people were afraid to come. Even the few actors that I had were afraid to come, lest they grab them too. Each of them hid alone in his house. They stopped coming to the theatre to work. If you don’t work the restaurants, it won’t give you credit to eat, and if you can’t eat, you become hungry"!

Without any choices Goldfaden decided to get his livelihood elsewhere. Libresko wrote about this in his memoirs:

"Businesses in Bucharest looked like a storm in the middle of winter. I received a letter from Goldfaden in which he wrote that he had an idea, one which my wife had suggested to him. This idea at first looked like a good one, but in the end it was not worth much. He, Goldfaden, was starving from hunger. The only good thing that happened was that it caused him to come to Bucharest, and inasmuch as it was now wartime, he hoped to earn some money from the entrepreneurs to stage a play there."

However the hope turned out to be a big nothing.

An unexpected occurrence drove Goldfaden out of the theatre, but it also became the solution to this horrible situation. Goldfaden talked about this in his autobiography: "I ran into one of my good friends from Odessa.

-- What are you doing here? -- I asked him with a sad face.

-- What do you mean by asking me what I’m doing here? -- he answered me. The whole world is coming here. It’s wartime. I came here to look for a business opportunity or a commission. What are you doing here?

-- I should only know! I tried unsuccessfully to put together a theatre and stage comedies here.

-- I’m so sorry! I would have loved to see that.
-- How can you see it if I left my friends behind me?

-- No one came. If you would promise me that you would come tomorrow with a group of friends, at least twenty to thirty people, I would call my people together and we would put on a comedy.

-- Here’s my hand. Tomorrow I’m coming with a whole group of my friends from Odessa.

-- For sure? But how?

-- And how we’ll come! We are going crazy from boredom here.

"I left him and went to call my friends and told them that tomorrow we’re going to play for a small audience who had booked us to perform.

The next day he really arrived with thirty of his friends. Well! We have to understand that curiosity excited them. They enjoyed the performance. They promised the next day, that they will be here with more people.

Right! The next day they returned. This time there were over eighty people to see our play. Every day after that, and until the salon became too small and it could no longer contain so many newly born theatre-goers. It was now the middle of summer and it was too hot to perform here. I had to search for a garden which would be much larger, and where the air would be cooler. Then I could bring the whole crowd there. Just as a wasteland can, with the passage of time be turned into an oasis for young seedlings, so it was with our newly blossoming 'Yiddish theatre.' We thought we were wiped out, but the same horrible events could have such a wonderful result. My Yiddish theatre came back to life … "In the Romanian capital city, Bucharest, in a courtyard we found a garden with some trees that today is well known by the name "Jignitza" (The Garden). At that time it was not well known. Only the neighborhood residents would frequent it in the summer evenings when it was too hot. They came to drink a fresh glass beer and to enjoy the garden. The garden and the beer belonged to a German, who had a brewery and an old wooden house. It also had a long house that stood on one side, where an innkeeper lived with his family. I turned to the German asking him to rent me that garden. Immediately with my own money, I constructed a provisional stage, and it was here that I created my theatrical venue.

B. Gorin describes that period in the following manner: "From Russia there was a steady flow of hordes of people hoping to make an easy buck. The commissioners of the Russian army made their headquarters in Bucharest. A steady stream of gold flowed into the pockets of anyone who was not too lazy to take some of it for himself. Nothing was cheaper than money. People that arrived poor, in a short while became rich. With this easy-to-come-by money came the desire to live an easy life. The theatre seemed to be created just for them. In that great immigrant, newly rich world we played for packed houses, and the theatre enjoyed great prosperity. We no longer worried about empty benches and actors forgot their hungry days. The audiences also took on another appearance: it had a different face. Till now the audience obviously came from the lower classes. Now we could see fine, well-off people, followers of the Haskalah To a small measure the theatre now became an institution for all the people. In the theatre we saw a combination of Russian officers, students, entrepreneurs and ordinary people. The melodies and the dancing with which the first plays were entwined, became available to everyone. It was now, through and through, full of Yiddish life. The long frocks and beards with side curls in the audience were certainly signs of Russian Jews. If this mixture alone did not raise up the Yiddish stage, it certainly helped the box office.

... Between those who had escaped from Russia and the local Bucharest population we found Moishe Finkel. He came there to earn an easy ruble, but he fell into Goldfaden’s troupe instead.

On 9 August 1877 Goldfaden once again presented "Dos bintl holtz (The Bundle of Sticks)," "Shuster un shnayder (Shoemaker and Tailor)" (Goldfaden tells us in his autobiography; We staged "Fosa in tzvey aktn (Fosa, a play in two acts)." However the text was never printed. Sholem Perlmutter owns it in manuscript form, where it is known as Goldfaden’s one-act "Kamerel (Office)." In which the leading role was played by Zangwill Shnayder. Another play was called "Der lebedike tate (The Living Father)." It was the same as a vaudeville piece called "Der lebedike mes (The Living Corpse)." The last play was written by Goldfaden in Odessa in 1882 for the celebration of a family event and was performed by his family members. The subject of this vaudeville piece can be found in "Shriftn (Writings)," Kiev 1928, Volume 1 page 342.

On 25 August, 1877 Goldfaden presented a benefit showing of "Di mume Sosye," a comedy in five acts.

No additional repertoire was needed at this time because the audience was constantly changing. This flourishing business had become a bit chaotic:
Goldfaden was now  looking "to make money": "In truth I must acknowledge this -- he wrote -- till I take a pen into my hands to write a new, original piece and the spirit starts to move me, then I start to spin around in an altogether different sphere, in a domain that is idealistic. At that time I forget about the existence of money, prejudice and honor. I often forget my worries and even eating and drinking. When the piece is finished I become somewhat cooler. At those times I’m filled with the spirit of the art, Then I attempt to learn the roles, the gestures and write down how to design the sets, costumes and music. Then when the play is staged and the cashier takes over the ticket box and the tickets, I forget about everyone that ever existed. The typesetter is confusingly entangled with a merchant, a businessman, who now is in control of my talents. Also here when the public starts to come in droves into my garden I fall into a trance."

This fantastic business tempted others to try their luck in the theatre. That’s what Moishe Horowitz (better known later as Professor Horowitz Ish HaLevi,or Hurvitsh), who used to "walk around" the theatre, happened to open his own Yiddish theatre in Bucharest with Aba Shoengold, Moishe Teich, Hershl Goldenberg, and a certain (Sarah) Goldstein. In order to wipe out any competitors, Goldfaden took over Shoengold’s and Horowitz’s troupes and was badly trounced in doing this.

Due to a small revolt that broke out among the troupe members, Goldfaden took the side of all the actors, but not of Zuckerman and three women. He wrote a two-act farce, "Icks, micks, dricks," for which Goldfaden’s secretary and choir director notated the musical notes for the melodies that Goldfaden sang for him, which were sung in the second act of "Wagner’s" The Flying Dutchman." This farce was immediately staged with Zuckerman, and the remaining three females as backers. He also included the newly returned Abba Shoengold and Moishe Teich.

Goldfaden wrote later about this: "It was entirely unnecessary to write a play that didn’t need to be written down.; I studied the small roles thoroughly with everyone. It was only for that beggar Teich did I have to write his little role so that he could learn it well by heart. He was deaf. The theme of the farce was printed in Goldfaden’s autobiography. A manuscript can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York.

Till the end of the summer season 1877, Goldfaden used his same old repertoire plus his translation of "Der farkoyfte shlof (The Sold Sleep)," or "Bankir tyran (Tyrant Banker)," a melodrama in three acts that we had printed. The manuscript can be found in YIVO’s Theatre Museum with interesting hand notations.

In order not to finish the play too early, Goldfaden gave a speech after every performance. Due to this, every other day he wrote a new couplet. However as he said later, he did not enjoy this: "For me all alone to stand on the stage was not in my nature. Especially after some unusual mistakes were made by an actor or two, or when actor did not show, and I had to explain this to the audience. Sometimes I had to animate the remaining actors to show them how to position themselves on the stage. ... Anyone who is not completely in control of his own nature, so that  he can adapt himself, cannot know himself enough to offer anything to the profession. I don’t say his in order to prove my own qualities. Through this I demonstrate my own lack of ability, and a minimum of talent, which does not allow me to tread the boards of the stage in my own theatre as an actor. I only wanted through this to render to others the rules of drama as art. I wanted to teach others mimicry. By doing this I learned about talent.

At one time I would be embarrassed if someone merely requested me to be an orator, or to perform as a humorous, satirical singer  speaking in front of the sounds of a melody that the violinist played behind my back. I stood on the stage and spoke freely in a friendly but false tone. Even the innocent listener could not bear my  presence for a long time. The more the business of theatre confused and entangled me in its activities as an administrator, director or mime teacher, the worse and sicker I became. It often occurred that I had to hide and write behind the wings. I became angry with chaos and at that moment my audience would request for me to sing a happy, joyous song.

Please understand me, instead of writing for the public something joyful with a happy face and with a loving grin, I would emerge with a serious face, and with an angry resentful expression, and interpreted the song in accordance with what was in my heart. Therefore my performance had no taste and no smell. That’s what I felt inside me and excelling for the audience became for me revolting."

On 30 September 1877 Goldfaden transferred his plays to the "Pomul Verde," where the owner allowed him to tear down a wall in order to build a stage. At the first performance they played Goldfaden’s "Di shkheynes (The Female Neighbors)," aka "Tzvey shkheynes (Two Female Neighbors)," "Der koter (The Tomcat)" -- the manuscript is in the Theatre Museum in YIVO,


For "Der faryoyfte shlaf"
(The Sold Sleep)
drawing by Werbel

Caption under the photo:
Natalin – Dear man -- Dear man!
Enough already.

listed under the title "The Tomcat, a  cheery play in one act, printed simultaneously with  "Di komishe khasene (The Humorous Wedding)," from " Shmendrik mit di kale (Shmendrik With the Bride)," Lemberg 1875 (?), (from the middle of page 30, until the middle of page 46, 32o).

On 29 September 1877 they presented Goldfaden’s "Yokel and Yukel" (according to Dr. Shatzky’s explanation -- "Tzutzik and Mutzik." (Not printed, a manuscript can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York), and G.'s "Der fabricant (The Manufacturer)."

On 31 September 1877 they presented Goldfaden’s "Di tzvey toybe (The Two Deaf Women)," which was never printed. The text is with Sholem Perlmutter. The translation is from a work by Moana).

On 1 October, 1877 they presented Goldfaden’s "Di ongeshparter (ayngershparter?) kale moyd (The Stubborn Bride)"  ("Di kaprize kale [The Capricious Bride?"]).

On 6 October 1877 they presented Goldfaden’s "Di shtime kale (The Mute Bride)."

On 11 October 1877 they presented Goldfaden’s "Yentl shnader (Shnorer? according to Dr. Shatzky, probably "Dos gloz vaser [A  Glass of Water]," a one-act play and never printed.)

On 13 October 1877 the presented Goldfaden’s "Vos tiht men (What Can We Do)"(?).

Approximately at the same time they performed some of Goldfaden’s one-acters: "Der shpil (The Game)," a shvank in one act, after Katsenboy," (no text exists); "Fir por portselane teler (Four Pair of Porcelain  Plates)"; "Di shvebelakh (The Mushrooms)," (Both of which were never published. A manuscript is owned by Sholem Perlmutter), "Di dray toyber (The Three Deaf Men)," and "Di tzvey fardulte (The Two Dazed Men)" (both of which were never published. The last one, a one-act play, had a manuscript that can be found with Sholem Perlmutter).

Business continued to go on in an exceptional manner. A ticket which once cost one franc now went up to four, and then to six, and even as high as twenty francs.

The success was so great that a special book came out about it in Yiddish produced by Goldfaden’s theatre; "The witness Avraham Gershoni -- from the sons of Kahat." In the dedication of a poem, at the start of the book we are informed that the correct name of the author was -- G. Abramsky). The book exposed both the good and bad moments of their performances, as well as the positive and negative sides of the plays. In it we are told about the spirit that was created around the Yiddish theatre in Romania at that time.

The Russian journalist N.B. Shinourin who attended the presentation of "Di shtume kale" in Pomul Verde, tells us in his Russian book: "The Russian Jews Abroad" (Kiev, 1878, pp. 49-71): "The hall was always packed. They played three plays each week, and yet this was not enough especially on Saturdays and Sundays, when there are no available seats. What’s more they came by the tens if not by the hundreds, many were latecomers who couldn’t find a place in the theatre and had to return home unsatisfied. (cited in the Minsk Goldfaden book).

B. Gorin talked about the situation at that time: "The prosperity was enormous for the Yiddish theatre at that time. The biggest prosperity was in Goldfaden’s theatre in Bucharest (Gradner was playing with a troupe in Iasi). The director and the actors were virtually swimming in success. Hence it wasn’t even necessary for the actors to get paid high salaries. As soon as a play in the theatre ended, their fans waited for them and treated them in the most posh restaurants where they ate, drank and enjoyed themselves till the light of day. So it was night after night. The finest wines were being poured out like water. ... This prosperity wasn’t only found in Bucharest; in every important town where Goldfaden visited with his troupe, the local theatre was full. In Galati two supporters offered to build a special theatre for Goldfaden. This took place in the last months of the war.

Here’s how Goldfaden confirms this story: "My little group of actors came to life under these conditions. They had very little to do apart from the theatre. We weren’t staging any new plays. We put on our old plays in which they had already performed perhaps twenty or thirty times. To spend the day they found that they had a new passion, to drink the wonderful Romanian wine." -- but -- under hasty conditions I made an agreement with the owner of the hall (Schneider). It became clear to me that the he was over charging for lighting the hall. Forty-percent gross of the box office take went to him. At the same time from my sixty percent, I had to pay the most necessary director’s expenses. My actors, for whom there would be no desire to go to work if it weren’t for me, and without me the desire of my audience would be to lose their passion for drama. I gave unbelievable salaries; Zuckerman my delegate took eighty francs every night. Every new decoration or new costume cost me three times more than it was worth, so long as it was exactly what I wanted for the new play. Maybe I should have been more interested in the material aspects of my profession and amass capital. If only I had two feet on the ground, instead of having my head in the air. I was mostly concerned with my creations, writing and teaching. Later I looked around and could see that they were skimming the box office. Who did I appoint as the person in charge of the box office? Schneider! I treated him as if I was his father."

Goldfaden wanted to really concern himself with the commercial side of the business, and he also wanted to attract other writers to compose new repertoires: There are other writers who have in the interim grown up in Bucharest. Many of them were my friends from Russia, such as A.B. Gottlober, Yitzhak Linetzky, Lerner and more. As much as I asked them, as people who could hold a pen in their hands, if they would write a theatre piece. I wanted to pay them well. Alas, they did not even listen to me. A. B. Gottlober had taken enough gold from the entrepreneurs for his books. Linetzky had a businessman for whom he made barrels for sauerkraut for the army and was making thousands. Lerner took silent money from these same businessmen to keep him quiet and not tell the government the true story of  how the entrepreneurs were swindling the government. Shaykevitch (Shm"r) wrote popular novels The Yiddish "Asian Sea" was something that Jews had not yet started to dream about, so he thought about other themes for his novels and then turned them into plays. At that time he was also providing the army with hay and oats for the horses. In summary, all the work fell on my shoulders. I was the one who was running the administrative business machine. The wheels could spin on their own downstairs in the box office, while I was sitting upstairs in my room at my writing desk. I had a pen in my hand as I wrote and edited new works for the stage."

But Goldfaden with the passage of time realized that he needed a business director for his theatre. It happened that in Lazar’s hall Gradner and his troupe along with Goldfaden were testing their competitors with Goldfaden’s plays. Goldfaden had given them the authority to use his repertoire. At this time Gradner’s troupe had fallen apart, along with its two major actors: Rosa Friedman and Moishe Finkel. They eventually joined Goldfaden’s troupe.

Goldfaden now called for Libresko to manage his troupe. Soon thereafter they went out for appearances in Galati, and after that in Braila.

With the passage of time and after their guest appearances in the provinces, the Jignitza Theatre was ready in Bucharest with a separate theatrical venue. In order to return to Bucharest, he had to have new plays. Still in Bucharest, Goldfaden (stimulated by a discussion with the actress Rosa Friedman about her private life) adapted Offenbach’s operetta "Bluebeard" and wrote his Yiddish operetta "Brayndele kozak," a dream set in four acts with a prologue and an epilogue.) This was immediately staged with Rosa Friedman in the title role, Lazar Zuckerman was "Yakov," and Moishe Teich was "Guberman."

This play later became one of the gangbusters in the repertoire in Yiddish theatres all over the world.

The theme of this play and bits of the dialogues can be found in Goldfaden’s autobiography. The play was never published. The manuscript can be found in YIVO’s Theatre Museum.

At that time Goldfaden had also written "Di kishufmakherin (The Witch)," known under the titles: "Di tsoyberin (The Conjurer)," "Koldunye," "Di bobe yakhne (Yakhne the Grandmother)," was staged almost immediately. The same play on 2 December 1922 was staged in the Moscow Jewish State Theatre (The Witch, with music by Aaron, using a preexisting folk theme by Z. Kisseldorf and Abraham Goldfaden, directed by -- A. Granovsky, sets by Isaac Rabinowitch). On 11 March 1925 the same play was staged in the New York Yiddish Art Theatre ("Di kishufmakherin") ("Koldunye"), reworked in two parts and eight scenes by Maurice Schwartz, sets and costumes designed by Maud and Cutler, produced by A. Cherkoff, musical arrangement by Joseph Cherniavsky, directed by Maurice Schwartz.) Since 1887 the play has been published in many collections.

Fifteen musical numbers for the "Di tsoyberin (The Conjurer)" were arranged by H.A. Russotto, and was published in New York’s "Hebrew Publishing Company."

Later Goldfaden wrote the play "Der podriatchik, oder, Der rusishe/terkish krig (The Entrepreneur, or, The Russian/Turkish War)." A manuscript can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York.

This play was at first meant to be an attempt to poke fun at Bucharest, its environs and its entrepreneurs. When the same play, in January 1880, was presented in Odessa under the name "Der ondenk fun plevne" (In Memory of Plevne)," it was, according to a Russian correspondent (for Russki Yevraii – The Russian Jews) Number 7 -- 1880). It was edited so as not to embarrass local entrepreneurs.

Belonging also to that period was "Todros bloz, oder, Der ligner (Todros' Blow, or, The Liar)" (or as the actors called this play "Turro’s Doi.")

This play was staged almost immediately, and later, After a long hiatus it became part of the repertoire of the Yiddish theatre. A manuscript of this play can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York.

Since 1911 this play has been mentioned in many sources.

At that time they wrote that Goldfaden was going to stage his "Nye beh, nye meh, nye kukorikoo (Baa, Moo, Rooster)," depicting a battle between education and fantasy.

The play, which was for a certain time in the repertoire of the Yiddish theatres, was never printed. A manuscript can be found in the Theatre Museum of YIVO.

The play was translated into Russian in the form of a libretto by D. Ivanoff and was printed in 1880 in Odessa, and in 1881 in Petersburg.

Only now did the troupe returned to Bucharest.

It was very characteristic of the manner in which Goldfaden wrote his plays.

 Libresko tells us:

Goldfaden awoke in the middle of the night because at times a song or a joke of a scene came to him. He would leap out of his bed immediately and write it down. Once I came upon a song he had jotted down in chalk on the floor. ... Goldfaden would have an inclination to write the leading roles of his plays, each part fitting his actors exactly. He sketched and examined the character of his leading actors, and after he would create a great role that had in it the same personality traits as the actor who was going to play it (that’s why the "Recruits" failed, and later the same with "Brayndele kozak," "Shmendrik," etc.) And so the actor was exactly fitted to his role. Goldfaden once said to me that he could create a role even for me, I’ll be famous for being a great actor, even though I never acted. I didn’t doubt it because I believed Goldfaden. That’s how he made "Shmendrik" for Mogulesko, and similarly "Brayndele kozak" for the actress Rosa Friedman. She had such a sparkle in that role that we forgot her real name. Everywhere you went people called her "Brayndele kozak." When she went for a walk they would point at her saying: "There goes Brayndele kozak."

Similarly Goldfaden tells us: "The way I made a famous comedian of Zuckerman was altogether very simple: I endeavored to include in his role a bigger percentage of humor into each and every word, and even more comedy in all his actions. In addition I gave him a humorous grin and funny clothing. I did this so that the audience would not notice that actually he was really an automatic figure.

Regarding the contacts between Goldfaden and his actors, Libresko reports: "Mrs. Goldfaden, who had taken notice of the approach of the actors towards me, once said to her husband in my presence: -- The actors like Libresko more than you, he’ll drive you out of the troupe one day because of this.

"Mrs. Goldfaden certainly had a reason to be so confident since the truth was that Goldfaden, except for his wife, treated the actors very poorly, and they did not like him. They felt that he was helpless, and that without his plays they could not survive.

"Goldfaden’s wife understood this. She once said this openly: -- It’s a good thing that Goldfaden writes their plays. If he didn’t, they would have thrown him out a long time ago."

Meanwhile the war ended and hard times returned to the Yiddish theatre once more.

B. Gorin wrote about this: "We have to consider that the war would not last forever. Sooner or later it will end, however no one thought about this. They thought that the prevailing conditions would be permanent for the Yiddish theatre, and that the abundance would continue forever. The ordinances came one after the other. The war ended and all of a sudden the entire business with the commissars was over. One after another Jewish entrepreneurs packed up their things and their newly acquired gold and went back home. Before any of us noticed, all of the newcomers were gone, except for those who didn’t have the wherewithal for the cost of the trip back home. With the cessation of the golden flood, the abundance in the Yiddish theatre also ceased. What remained was the same old poor element that supported the Yiddish stage before the war. The benches were now half or even three-quarters empty, and the box office was dark. But if before the war the actors and directors acted joyously in the hope that better times would arrive, now they could not under any circumstances be happy. Not after having lived so well for so long. In Iasi, Mogulesko’s troupe was decimated after the war and the actors dispersed all over the land. In Bucharest Goldfaden could see there was no more room for him there, and he began to think about Russia."

At that time Goldfaden received a letter from his father-in-law, Verbl, in Odessa saying the returnees from Romania talked about the wonders of Yiddish theatre in Romania. Odessa already had a Yiddish theatre with Israel Rosenberg. He and a few young people plagiarized plays and performances from Goldfaden’s troupe. They attended Goldfaden’s theatre in Romania. The people were waiting for "real" actors from Romania to come to Odessa.

Jacob P. Adler tells in his memoirs that when he found out about Goldfaden’s troupe from Israel Rosenberg, he wrote a letter to a local Odessa Russian newspaper. In this letter he asked that Goldfaden and his troupe be allowed to come to Odessa.

Goldfaden pawned a ring and just before Passover 1879 left his troupe in Romania behind. Together with Libresko they traveled to Odessa. In Odessa, they received a very warm reception (several hundred people came to the train station to greet Goldfaden). The two men came upon a Yiddish play in the "Remeslany (handicraft) Club," which was presented by Rosenberg accompanied by some of his young actors. In the interim Goldfaden had quietly been working with Rosenberg’s troupe. Then a wealthy grain merchant Kahan loaned them a generous sum of money. Libresko returned to Bucharest to bring the troupe, which was comprised of forty two people to Odessa. The actors and their families and several musicians, along with a few creditors, went along in order to try to get their money back.

On 7 April 1879 the troupe began to perform (in the Remeslany Club) the play "Koldunye," aka "Di kishufmakherin," ("The Witch"). Tickets for the opening night were immediately sold out; some were scalped for high prices. The audience was enchanted by the acting. The troupe performed before a full house for a few weeks with four or five performances each week.

Libresko tells us: "Money started to flow in every direction. Money was being thrown about as if it was 'mud.' Goldfaden rented several rooms on Rishelevska (later Pushkinskaya) Street, and there he opened a theatrical office. Goldfaden had his own private room there. At the entrance there was a doorman in a uniform. Whomever wanted to enter, even if he was one of the troupe actors, had to first see that doorman."

When the troupe presented "Brayndele kozak" with Margareta Schwartz in the title role, a scandal broke out there in the theatre, which included even some theatre-goers who had seen Rosa Friedman in Romania in that same role. They demanded that Rosa be brought to Odessa from Iasi, where was performing with her own troupe.

On 12 May 1879 Goldfaden’s troupe left the "club" and moved to the Mariinsky Theatre where they opened with "Brayndele kozak" starring Rosa Friedman. The theatre was packed. According to Libresko, here is when they began to make a living. Near Odessa there was a cottage and an open field that was called in German a "Liebenthal (Love Valley). It was very close to the nearby German colony. There, Goldfaden and his entire troupe settled down. Every person had several rooms to live in. The group took over half the village, and if a wealthy man wanted to vacation there, there was absolutely no more room. Liebenthal straddled a river, so members of the troupe rented boats. They could also rent carriages that brought members of the troupe back and forth."

The local Russian press initially received them with some reservation, but after Goldfaden and his troupe presented their first performances, they started giving them warm reviews and always extended their thanks to Goldfaden, who they thought that through his plays was fighting a battle against the fanatic elements of the Jewish people.

But this "friendly story" did not last for too long. According to Y. Riminik, Goldfaden did not have an opportunity to stage regular theatre or to organize "literary musical evenings." Apparently he did not even use the word "acts" on his posters. Rather he used the word "separations," to which people had become accustomed at "evening" events. The local Russian newspaper, "Novy Telegraf," which had never demonstrated any particular empathy for Goldfaden’s theatre, wrote clearly that: "We believe that since we don’t have any guarantees (not having any choices), we should forbid the Goldfaden troupe to perform theatrical presentations." A ban arrived very quickly thereafter. On this matter, Goldfaden and U. Finkel wrote: "From the point of view of the censor and of the government, Goldfaden has been told about possible restraints. He, however, has chosen to put ignore them. After several months when the theatre had been reassured of a good following in Odessa, the drama censor in Petersburg suddenly realized that Goldfaden’s plays were not officially approved by the High Censor Authority. They had merely obtained permission from the Odessa Jewish censor. Future performances were forbidden."

Goldfaden then traveled to Petersburg to intervene while Libresko and the troupe went to Iasi, where they performed for several months in "Pomul Verde." They received a telegraph from Goldfaden telling them that he had finally received permission to perform Yiddish theatre throughout the entire Pale of Settlement.

At the end of 1879 the troupe returned to Odessa, and after performing there for a short time went on to Nikolayev. Simultaneously Goldfaden organized a second troupe with the assistance of his brother Naphtali. The new troupe went to Kishinev (according to B. Gorin, Naphtali directed the troupe, along with a man named Krug, to whom Goldfaden had given permission to act. According to Jacob P. Adler, the troupe was under the direction of Goldfaden’s brother Naphtali and his assistant Rosenberg.

These two troupes however, were not the only ones. Several actors who had quit Goldfaden’s troupe put together their own troupes. One of these was led by Mogulesko and Joseph Latayner (who wrote plays for this troupe). The new troupe went so far as to compete with Goldfaden in Odessa (27 March 1880). Since Goldfaden had been preparing a tour for a while, he and his troupe traveled to Poltava, where they played for a short time and then returned to Odessa (April 1880) for a short time in Odessa. From May to the middle of June 1880, Goldfaden’s troupe played in Romania, and on 20 June 1880 they began to perform in Kharkov, where they remained for several weeks.

At this same time Goldfaden both wrote and directed his comedy, "Der fanatik (The Fanatic)," or, "Di tzvey kuni leml (The Two Kuni Lemls)."

According to Libresko, the original play was based on a German chapbook "Natan shlimiel," which Latayner later adapted for his troupe as a play called "Tzvey Shmuel Shmelkes)."

At first the comedy was performed under the name "Der fanatik," but later it was mainly played under the name, "Kuni Leml," which became a household phrase for the average theatre-goer.

The comedy is until today in the repertoire of the Yiddish theatre.

In 1924 this comedy, in a new interpretation by Z. Turkow, was presented in Warsaw’s "Central" Theatre.

On the 25 January 1924 the comedy, in a modernized version, was presented at the New York Yiddish Art Theatre, which was directed by Maurice Schwartz, with sets by Sam Ostrovsky, music by Abraham Goldfaden, arranged by A. Olshanetsky.

In 1926 the Yiddish State Theatre in Ukraine presented, "The Two Kuni Lemels," a comedic vaudeville in three acts and eight episodes; Staging and montage by Ephraim Loyter, Art (sets) by Rabitchev, music by Steinberg, dance by Bayka.

Y. Cantor wrote in "The Yiddish World;" "Ideologically this new version of the play is basically a satire in the old Yiddish style. This presentation was a great success and continued for a long time to have "sold-out" houses.

Goldfaden was insulted. They did not use his name as the musical composer. He wrote a newspaper article about this matter and placed it in the German-Jewish newspaper "Der velt (The World)" (19, 1900). In this article he gave important information about his skills as a composer.


Title page of
"Di tsvey kuni lemels"
 (The Two Kuni Lemels)
Warsaw Edition

Goldfaden sued and brought a Hungarian theatre to trial about an honorarium. The judgment of the Hungarian courts was that he merely wrote the texts, and that he was not the one who assembled the music.

There was also a Hebrew version of "Shulamis" by Yakov Lerner, but it was never staged. The English version of "Shulamis" was translated by Abraham Blum in the Joseph Rumshinksy’s adaptation of "Shulamis" as an operetta. This was never staged.

"Shulamis" was translated into Russian by A. Lichtenstein and was performed many times. There are accounts of presentations of "Shulamis" in Ukrainian that was translated by a Ukrainian playwright in Kalinitchenko.

In Riga in 1883 a libretto was printed of "Shulamis" in German.

In the years of World War I, Jacob Mestel saw a film in Hungary called "Shulamis," presented by a Hungarian troupe.

Till the end of 1880 Goldfaden and his troupe primarily visited cities in South Russia (after Nikolayev they played for a short time in Odessa, Elisavetgrad, Kremenchug, Kharkov etc.) Here he had the opportunity to get to know a new world in which he found not only their love for the theatre, but also a new respect for his efforts. At the same time the Russian-Jewish press and the rabbinical newspaper "The Israelite" in Mainz organized a systematic battle against Goldfaden, saying that he mocked Judaism, and that he accused Judaism of crimes such as robbery, murder and drunkenness.

Regarding the guest appearances of Goldfaden’s troupe in Moscow (where they played in the summer theatre of the German club from 3 August till the 16 September 1880). B. Gorin wrote: "Here was gangbuster material 'Shmendrik.' The audience was mixed. It was estimated that half of the audience were Christians, and as soon as the performances were staged they began to greet Jews on the streets of Moscow with the name 'Shmendrik.' Wherever a Christian met a Jew, he called him Shmendrik. This was completely unacceptable to the Moscow Jews, and they began to mumble against Goldfaden. The Yiddish intelligentsia threw this in his face, saying that with his plays he brought shame upon Judaism. This bothered him so much that his troupe had performed for three months (according to A. Gurstein -- but only performed fourteen times over six weeks). Goldfaden said to Zuckerman that he was weak and tired, and that he had to rest. They decided that he would hand over the troupe to Zuckerman, who he then advised to take them on a tour of  Lithuania. He himself went to Kiev."

At the end of September 1880 a portion of Goldfaden’s troupe, under the leadership of Zuckerman, performed in Minsk but a second portion of the troupe with Goldfaden at the head went on to Berdichev.

At the end of 1880, and during the first months of 1881, Goldfaden and the troupe traveled throughout the Baltic, and so he ended his first major trip over most of Russia.

"It is clear -- wrote Goldfaden and U. Finkel -- that at the time of this journey that brought Goldfaden in close contact with such a mixed audience, he proved that his theatre remained unchanged. Over the course of the trip many new actors came forth, mostly simple town’s people possessing an organic, innate attraction to the world of  the theatre. Goldfaden had to become more familiar with this phenomenon. In Petersburg and Moscow there were sensitive people who had for years been dealt with faithlessness and with scorn, but now they witnessed Goldfaden’s troupe’s theatrical  triumph. No one knows the reasons why Goldfaden had hesitated to visit these Lithuanian towns for so long. It’s possible that it was because the dialect of the people of this region  was so different to the southern Yiddish dialect of Goldfaden and his cast. In Lithuania it might have had a bad theatrical outcome. However, there quickly arose events that convinced Goldfaden to cancel his troupe's route over South Russia. In April1881 (Goldfaden had already left South Russia) there began a wave of pogroms from throughout South Russia where the poorest elements of the Jewish population suffered the most. This must have certainly posed a question 'why us' to Goldfaden’s troupe. Goldfaden’s theatre, which always had the most animated aspirations from the different levels of Jewish society, began to immediately feel the approaching impoverishment and chaotic conditions of the Jewish masses. In the south there was no longer a place for Yiddish theatre. Goldfaden’s troupe reestablished itself in another region, which were more secure than the waves of pogroms in the south.

From Jacob P. Adler’s memoirs: Goldfaden’s troupe performed "Shulamis" in Dvinsk, where on 1 March (due to the murder of Alexander II at that same time) it was forbidden for Yiddish theatre to be performed. The troupe later traveled to Minsk, where they were experiencing a run on the currency market. Thereafter Adler soon organized a strike of the entire troupe (against Goldfaden and Zuckerman). They came to the Petersburg garden, where they staged their first performance. The reaction of the Russian press in regards to the character of Goldfaden’s theatre, the acting talents of the cast was limited. They all were critical of the scenery, sets and musical accompaniment, and also of the lack of talent among the female cast. Therefore when the troupe decided to remain longer in Petersburg over the winter, in October, they decided to search for inexpensive lodgings. During this interval the theatre was renovated. They created new scenery and decorations. Zuckerman went out to hire a few new talented actresses.

The repertoire was comprised at first of plays that they had previously performed, but the negative attitude of the local Jewish community that had some interest in theatre convinced Goldfaden to change the nature of his repertoire.

The more intelligent members of the Jewish community -- says Sh. Ansky -- had been raised in a deep exposure to the printed word but was shocked by the lightness of the repertoire of the Yiddish theatre. Goldfaden, who listened to the ideas of the intelligentsia, started to write nationalistic dramas based on historical themes."

Goldfaden, Auslander, and U. Finkel reacted to this: " ... When Goldfaden traveled to Petersburg he no longer resembled the old Goldfaden, who a year earlier left Odessa. ... From the songs, and later from his plays that dealt with the new themes, his style had changed. Goldfaden’s thoughts forced him to adopt the ideology of 'Lovers of Zion.' ... In an interview that he gave at that time of "Razsvet," he had already begun to speak with a specific change of direction from his earlier works. The folksy flavor of his earlier comedies, which were so easy to stage as social satire, vaudeville or farce, the laughter of the negative characters taken from Jewish life that till now was the lively nerve center of Goldfaden’s theatrical creations, all of this faded from Goldfaden’s eyes as being incorrect. In any case, this is what he wanted to describe in this interview."

On 12 January 1882 in Petersburg they staged Goldfaden’s new rendition of a German novel, "Doctor Almasada," oder, "Di yidn in palermo (The Jews of Palermo)," a historical operetta in five acts and eleven scenes."

"Doctor Almasado" would remain in the repertoire of all Yiddish theatrical troupes for many years.

A manuscript of the play can be found in the Jewish section of the "Pubic Library" in New York on 42 Street.

Since 1887 the play has been featured in several places.

The music for the song, "Far’yomert, far’klolgt (Lamentations and Complaints)," was arranged by H. Russotto at the New York "Hebrew Publishing Company."

The presentation of a "historical" play was warmly greeted by the Jewish-Russian press, and Goldfaden prepared a special presentation for his troupe of his adaptation of Gutzkoff’s "Uriel Acosta," which was played at that time by another troupe using Lender’s adaptation.

In February 1882 Goldfaden left Petersburg and went with his troupe for a tour of Russia. It frequently led to a negative competition with other troupes (according to Lerner and Mogulesko), or to them joining together as partners. That is how he came to be a partner with Lerner at the end of 1882 in Odessa.

In January 1883 Goldfaden and his partner presented a play performed by members of his troupe at the "Odessa Handicraft Workers Club." Here they performed "Uriel Acosta." ("Uriel Acosta," a tragic play in five acts translated from the German and arranged for the Yiddish stage in ten acts with choral music by A. Goldfaden)."


Title page of
"doctor almasada"
Warsaw Edition

The Theatre Museum at YIVO owns a manuscript of "Uriel Acosta," edited and translated with appropriate music for the New York Jewish public."

In February 1883 Goldfaden’s troupe presented in the Mariinsky Theatre, Goldfaden’s play "Judah the Maccabee."

David Kessler tells us in his memoirs that a friend of his from Kishinev named Kodess, came to Odessa and gave Goldfaden a play "Di makabee’er (The Maccabees)," which was immediately staged. We must believe that the play was directed by Goldfaden and remained in the repertoire under Goldfaden’s name.

A manuscript can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York. On 5 May 1883 Goldfaden staged "Bar kochba" (Son of a Star), oder, "Di letste fun yerushalayim (The Last One from Jerusalem)."  This was a rhyming, musical melodrama in four acts with a prologue and fourteen scenes."

This play (on the title page it is noted that the author is the translator, and that "he draws upon different sources to do so.") Soon after its presentation, it became one of the foundation plays of Yiddish theatre throughout the world. And till today it is often performed.

The music in this play was assembled by Goldfaden from many different sources: The theme of "Dos pastukhl (The Shepherd)" and "Gekummen iz di tsayt (The Time Has Arrived)," was given to him by Mogulesko. The music for "Herr du, bar-kochba (You Listen -- Bar Kochba)" was according to Dov Zavadsky -- taken from Yerukhem HaKatan’s theme of the prayer "Ahava Raba (A Great Love)," and the "Vekhter motiv’n (The Watchman’s Themes)," was the last act of Goldfaden and Blumenthal’s composition for "Lekha dodi (Come my Beloved)," etc.

According to Joseph Rumshinsky, the music to "Azoy zogt got atzind (This is what God Says Now)," was taken from Velvele Shestopol’s "Nezl M’ragel (The Betraying Nose)" "Di shvue (The Oath)," and Shestopol’s "Zadik k’tamar yifrach (A Righteous Man Will Blossom Like a Palm)," and Handel’s "Hallelujah," were combined for the stage.

 "Di march tzu di kroynung (The March to the Crowning)" had a second version: In Russia they used to play Romanian folk marches. So in Romania the musician Finkelstein fitted that music to the words of the prayer "Adon Olam (Master of the Universe)."

Later the music to "Bar Kochba" was given a modern orchestration by Steinman in Odessa and was performed by this orchestra.

On 24 February 1929 in New York, Olshanetsky played "Bar Kochba" on the radio.

This play ever since 1887 has been printed in many editions in several countries. Apart from this in 1911, in Galicia they issued a Yiddish libretto of the text and all of the songs.

Seventeen musical numbers from "Bar Kochba" were arranged by A. Garfinkel and were issued by the London Society by R. Maisin Kamp.

Twenty musical numbers from "Bar Kochba" arranged by H.A. Russotto were issued in New York by "The Hebrew Publishing Company."

A Hebrew translation by Ben-Zion Yedidiah was produced in 1927 in Palestine.

An English libretto was made by Professor Dorf and was issued in New York (24 pages without a date).

M. Zeifert tells us in his "History of the Yiddish Theatre" that "Bar Kochba" was also translated and played in Polish.

But Goldfaden’s theatre -- according to Oyslender and U. Finkel -- still had bitter enemies. These were the leaders of the Jewish Orthodox movement, together with several wealthy Jewish aristocrats.

From various sources we heard that rumors about the Yiddish theatre originated with "Our Big Bankers," the flag bearers of the official Haskalah, and from the defenders of assimilation. If in earlier days the ideologues of the Jewish reactionary movement mounted a heated campaign in the Russian/Jewish press, by now we heard very little about them. Their goal was to shame the directors of Yiddish theatre.

"Bar Kochba" offered them an opportunity to do so: They say -- according to B. Gorin -- that an edict (to forbid the presentation of Yiddish theatre) started from a rumor. Someone snitched that "Bar Kochba" was not a kosher play, and the prologue was designed to be anti-government. They also said that rumors emanated from a composer who had hoped to become a censor, hoping that this would have gain him an upper hand in the theatre.

On 17 August 1883 an edict came from Petersburg forbidding Yiddish theatre throughout Russia.

For the Yiddish actors this was understood as a horrible turn of events. They started to move abroad. A small number remained in Odessa and became involved with the performances by an English-American troupe consisting of comedians, acrobats and gymnasts. Others simply emigrated. Goldfaden also thought about leaving Russia.

(It is not clear where this edict reached Goldfaden -- in Odessa or in Riga, where a troupe was performing his repertoire. From items in the Odessa newspapers we can clearly see that when the ban came out, Goldfaden’s troupe was not in Odessa at that time.)

After the ban, a certain change took place in Goldfaden’s activity. He appeared now as a man of letters. However, in that same year (1883) they staged "Dos fidele (The Violinist)" in Odessa -- a montage of Yiddish folksongs, some humorous and others serious. There was a dramatic change regarding his attitude to Yiddish: "I, myself -- he wrote in is autobiography in connection to his initial activity in the Yiddish theatre -- "was the first to oppose amateurs on the Yiddish stage, for several reasons: First!  It was customary for stage-struck amateurs to orate in an elegant German manner. Since they could not speak in a truly elegant German style, the audience would be turned off whenever an actor spoke a single German word. The Yiddish theatre  demanded pure Yiddish, but our "pure Yiddish" was more adaptable to a joke more than for something serious. Truthfully!  What kind of  appearance did it make when a young Jewish amateur stood up and said to his girlfriend: "My heart is banging in me."  In other languages this might sound good, but in jargon it leaves a terrible stench. The Jew knows nothing about such things. For a Jew, his heart never bangs. Rather: "My heart is growing weak within me," says the Jew as he stands erect. "I don’t want to exaggerate, but of his heart banging due to his love for you; of this, he knows nothing at all. Now, Goldfaden wrote in the Forward about "Shulamis," which came out in 1883: "The public that has seen 'Shulamis' on the stage will certainly notice how much I’ve changed a goodly amount of the performance. The essence will be shown to them over time, through my book, "The Biography of the Yiddish Theatre."  I have many battles to fight while I request forgiveness from the public. 'I have sinned' for using German words that in the book 'I  have sinned inadvertently" -- God knows the truth, that I too didn’t like doing this, but what could I do? Perhaps this was meant to be."

Goldfaden now grew closer to the "Lovers of Zion" movement, where he brought out a new collection of his songs "Yisrolik (Little Israel)" -- Yiddish songs from long ago (republished in Warsaw in a separate edition together with Yakov Bleichman’s one-act play, "Tzvey maisim esen frishtik (Two Ghosts are Eating Breakfast)," "Yudel Semeet (Judah the Semite)," et al.

As soon as a possibility arose to create theatre in Warsaw, Goldfaden deserted Odessa, got rid of all of his literary activity, and went to Warsaw (According to B. Gorin, Goldfaden left even earlier, right after the staging of "Shulamis," where he was in Warsaw together with Finkel to open a theatre there, but he did not receive permission.

Over the course of  the years 1885-1887 in Warsaw Goldfaden at the "Buff" Theatre (later renamed "El Dorado" and now "Boguslovski"), with a troupe called "The Jewish-German Theatre."

Among other plays Goldfaden also produced (as told by Tanzman) his operetta "Kenig Ahashverosh (King Ahashverosh)" (the music was put together by Eliyahu Zalman Yarichovsky).

This play since, ever since those days was performed by nearly all Yiddish troupes. Over the last few years it was staged at Purim.

On 8 January 1925 according to Goldfaden, "Akhashveyresh (Ahasuerus)," was staged in New York’s Kessler's "Second Avenue" Theatre, "Homen der ershter, Homen der tsveyter (Haman the First, Haman the Second)," -- based on Goldfaden and Shomer’s cooperation with Jacob Kalich (music by Goldfaden and Mogulesko), by Joseph Rumshinsky."

Since 1890 the play was printed in several versions and in several countries.

Fifteen musical numbers from "Ahasuerus" were arranged by H.A. Russotto and were issued by the New York "Hebrew Publishing Company." The presentations in Warsaw were a great success. It was almost as good as the first days of Yiddish theatre in Romania. "Shulamis" was performed one hundred and fifty times before full houses. A special brochure was issued featuring Goldfaden’s theatre -- this time in Hebrew: "Bamat Yisachek (A Playing Stage)" by Yehoshua Mazach. The Yiddish press in Warsaw seldom wrote about the Yiddish theatre, but when they did they reported that "their audiences were embarrassed to go into a Yiddish theatre."  The Warsaw correspondents of the Russian, Jewish-Russian and Yiddish press in Russia, wrote about this issue. They distinguished between ordinary plays and those with historical .

After a discussion with the Russian female director of theatre, Goldfaden traveled with the Tanzmans to Lodz. However, he quickly returned to Warsaw, and from there in 1887, he went to America.

G. Oyslender and U. Finkel noticed the following about Goldfaden’s work in Warsaw: "Noticeably, in the years when Goldfaden was so busy working for the Polish Jews night after night, he did not create even one play in which his impressions of Polish Jewish life could be depicted. Indeed, we know that Goldfaden had a nature right on the spot to depict in his dramatic works the environment with which he was involved. We see this in his play, "Di tsvey kuni lemels," where he introduced the town of Lemberg with all kinds of Lemberg personalities. In the play, "Der podriadtchik (The Entrepreneur)," he represented the Bucharest environment at the time of the Russian-Turkish War. The same is true of the Odessa story, which was depicted in his plays. Therefore, it was important that over the years that he spent in Warsaw, there was no evidence of it showing in his works. ... " But " ... Goldfaden’s leaving for America made a big impression upon the cultural circles among Russian Jews at that time. All of a sudden they felt they owed him a debt for his theatrical activity."

Goldfaden came to New York with his wife and accompanied by the actor Spivakovski. In New York at that time several troupes were playing and being led by the authors Latayner and Horowitz at their head. The actors in the New York troupes knew about Goldfaden. They played together with former Goldfaden actors, and even performed in some of his plays. Some even were former actors in one of his troupes in Europe. In the entire Yiddish theatre world in New York, everyone came out to receive their honored guest.

David Kessler tells about this in his memoirs (in "Der Tog" newspaper): We all came to wait for Goldfaden at the harbor. The entire troupe was there. First of all we wanted to demonstrate how much we‘ve worked our way up in America. Secondly, we wanted to also show him how well we could perform. We immediately invited both Goldfaden and Spivakovski to his "Bar Kochba," which we wanted to play that night in his honor. We were sure that Goldfaden would accept our invitation with thanks. This did not happen. It did not suit Goldfaden to come to see us as an ordinary guest. Goldfaden did not want to discard his European fame. He would come to us as a guest on one condition -- his condition was that we appoint him to be our director. I cannot forget his words, which he said to us clearly and openly, directly, looking right into our eyes: "Before going to a theatre I must have my own theatre. I will not go to a strange theatre." Hearing such words, all of us from young to old were frightened and clung to one another like lost sheep upon seeing a wolf approaching. The older ones among us were deeply threatened by losing their current leaders. The younger members especially were frightened by new troubles. They were used to the status quo. We had no official union, but we decided to be united and not to allow Goldfaden in any manner to get the upper hand over our troupe. Goldfaden spoke at a meeting with our managers (Levy and Goldstein). He took them to see what he could accomplish with our troupe if they would place the reins in his hands. The managers at first knelt before him at first, but later they stood up to him. Initially they came to us with a prepared plan about performing under Goldfaden’s direction. We rejected it. They started to threaten us, saying that they would throw out those who were displeased, and that they would reorganize the entire troupe. We were not threatened by their words. The managers suddenly spread the idea that we were going to play "Bar Kochba" under Goldfaden’s direction. We gathered together and called for a strike (Kessler, Mogulesko, Finkel, Feinman et al, were with us). There were only two strike-breakers, both of whom were women -- Finkel and Karp. The management did not enter into negotiations with these two. We picketed the theatre (We stood in front of the theatre and waited for scabs.) There was no lack of people being arrested. They arrested me once and took me to Essex Street Police Station, where I was bailed out soon after."

About the strike Leon Blank tells us in his memoirs about Mogulesko (in the Forward): The managers approached Mogulesko and spoke to him in a calm manner. They said that he should forgive them and take his whole troupe out of that theatre. ... What happened? Abraham Goldfaden rented the theatre and appeared with a troupe that he himself had put together. The theatre would now bear his name, "Abraham Goldfaden’s Theatre." Our complaints did not help. Mogulesko had to leave for the "Eydl Theatre." I mean no more "Roumanian Opera House." Some of our troupe members remained with Goldfaden -- Karp, Mrs. Karp, Max Abramowitz and several other actors. ... Not looking at the fact that we were not organized, we nevertheless steeled ourselves. We fought our battle against Goldfaden and maintained our strike. I must say that as far as I’m concerned, this was one of the finest strikes I ever saw. The public supported our strike in our support, any they did not attend Goldfaden’s theatre."

(Blank tells us more, that a year later he created their very own theatre. Here they presented Goldfaden’s play "Der gehenem un gan-eydn (Hell and Paradise)."

Moyshe Zeyfert in his "History of the Yiddish Theatre" wrote: " ... At the time, Abraham Goldfaden came to New York from Europe with one purpose: To form a Yiddish theatre here, and to create a Yiddish repertoire. Actually the companies of both theatres united, and did not let him come close to the Yiddish theatre, even though both of them affectionately staged his repertoire. We, despite all, paid homage to his plays, more than all the plays by other authors put together. The actors responding to his seemingly conflicted point-of-view came up with two explanations: Firstly, Abraham Goldfaden would have enslaved them much as he did in Europe. Secondly, he was not very productive, that is, it took him a long time to write a play. Both explanations were false! Abraham Goldfaden was not so naïve as to believe that in America someone could enslave someone else. He simply demanded from us that we respect the stage like real actors, and that we also enjoy its benefits and everything that is connected to Goldfaden’s productivity. This was not an endearing request, even though the actors knew very well that Abraham Goldfaden’s two plays each season would bring in more money than a dozen plays by other authors. The correct explanation as to why they did not allow Goldfaden to get near to the theatre was that the actors in both theatres at that time were already considered 'stars,' and held the roles of kings, emperors, princes, royalty, so what could Goldfaden give to increase our popularity? Abraham Goldfaden, you shouldn’t know from it, what can he do for us? Once a Jew, but always a Jew!"


Now Goldfaden had to worry not only about his repertoire, but about about hiring actors.

Goldfaden gathered together a troupe; among them, Moishe and Esther Silverman, Max and Sophia Karp, and Morris Finkel, who did not agree with the strike and returned to work with Goldfaden.

According to B. Gorin: " He had performed his old plays in the Roumanian Opera House: "Todros bloz (Todros' Blast),"  which he also called "The Magic Trumpet."

Apparently we’re dealing here with a mistake: The play "Todros bloz" was played only much later by the students of his Romanian school.

Goldfaden worked with his new troupe (1887) in the "Roumanian Opera House" on the play "In gehenem un ganeydn," a humorous operetta, a magical program in five acts, metamorphosed in twenty-eight scenes. "Der shotn, oder, Der tsenter gebot (The Devil, or, The Tenth Commandment)," (this play is familiar to us as "Lo Tahmod (You Shall Not Envy)" was written by Goldfaden in Odessa at the end of 1882. On 15 May 1883 the Odessa censor gave permission to perform the play, but due to a prohibition of Yiddish theatre, it was not performed in Russia.

Later (in 1891) Goldfaden under his direction presented a new version of the play in Lemberg.
In that same year a play was staged in New York in the Union Theatre (on 8th Street) ,"Der yidishe faust, oder, Der Tsent gebot (The Jewish Faust, or, The Ten Commandments)."

This play was performed for many years by Yiddish theatres worldwide.

On 17 January 1926 it was staged as "The Tenth Commandment" (an operetta by Y. Dobrushin, music by L. Pulver -- with several themes inspired by the music of Goldfaden, sets and costumes by N. Altman). Directed by Granovsky in Moscow through "VIKT."

Drawing by Abraham Goldfaden
of the character "Ashmedai" from his play
  "Dos tsente gebot (The Tenth Commandment)"

On 19 October 1926 the play was staged also under the name, "The Tenth Commandment" (Abraham Goldfaden’s play in three acts, seven scenes, with a prologue adapted for the stage and directed by Zygmunt Turkow, and with the assistance of Moishe Broderzon, music and Illustrations by Joseph Kaminski, sets and costumes by Joseph Shlivnik, and choreography by M. Abrashevitch, presented in Warsaw in The Kaminski Theatre by "VIKT."

On 8 November 1926 the play was performed again with the name, "The Tenth Commandment" (a musical play in three acts and sixteen scenes by Abraham Goldfaden, with a liberal interpretation and direction by Maurice Schwartz, music by Joseph Achron, scenic design and costumes by Baruch Aronson, ballet and dance by Michael Folkine, at the New York Yiddish Art Theatre.

In 1897 the play was featured in Krakow, and since then it has been staged in many venues.

According to Dov Zavadzky, the theme of Louise’s "song" in the third act, "Yo, Ikh bin dir tray (Yes, I’m Faithful to You)," was adapted from Velvl Shestopol.

One musical number from "Lo Tachmod (You shall not Envy)" and "Gehenem un ganeydn (Hell and Paradise)," was arranged by H. Russotto and Y.Y. Kamen, was published in New York’s by the "Hebrew Publishing Company," the musical numbers by H.A. Russotto were issued by the publisher Y. Katzenelenbogen, New York.

The manuscript for the play under the title, "Der Ashmodai (The Devil)," can be found in YIVO’s Theatre Museum.
This enterprise in the Roumanian Opera House, however, was not well received. The directors cancelled Goldfaden’s cast and brought back their earlier performers.

Goldfaden attempted to travel around playing in the outskirts of New York without success. (According to Bessie Thomashefsky’s memoirs he traveled around with torn shoes.") He traveled with the actor Yakov Gartenstein to Boston in order to compete (according to Boris Thomashefsky) with a Boston troupe. He even became Thomashefsky’s partner. After a short time he turned around and went back to New York.

Not fully knowing how he made his way in the Yiddish theatre, which at that time was ruled by Horowitz, Latayner et al, Goldfaden put out a periodical based upon his wonderful reception by the more sophisticated readers for whom Goldfaden was a favorite poet.

On 22 October 1887 they issued a pilot edition of "probe numer (trial run)" of a fresh New York-based Yiddish illustrated newspaper. (printed in a large format -- eight pages, divided into two large sections). In one edition we can also find Goldfaden’s short autobiography. Here he makes an announcement that starting on the 15th of November, the newspaper will come out every two weeks. After number 17 (12 July 1888), the bi-weekly stopped publication. At the end of the last issue, they printed a short notice: "The editor of this newspaper Mr. A. Goldfaden on the 11th of this month was placed under one-thousand dollars bail for his article in Issue Number 16, "Telegramming "V’khalaklukot (announcing that Jews in Philadelphia were on a slippery slope vis-a-vis Jewish law)."

Also at the time of his journalistic activities, Goldfaden made him realize that he did not want to get too far away from the Yiddish theatre: He founded a union "Lira," in which he also created a drama school. We find (in Goldfaden’s Jewish Illustrated Newspaper, page 11) the following announcement:

"After the initiative of Mr. Goldfaden to create a journal for the Yiddish theatre, he organized a Yiddish theatre school. One of the issues dealt with this art school of Yiddish drama. This project was well received by many young men and women who were interested and showed some potential for acting and singing in the theatre. Most of the members come from the working class, "The young workers." Many of them had part-time jobs. The rest of the day they were free to explore the spiritual aspects of their chosen art. Most importantly however, was to note that in the first rehearsal, every member of this organization was cautioned primarily about immorality and poor behavior."

"Mr. Goldfaden taught music and stage craft. For auditions they acted in one of Mr. Goldfaden’s plays and studied methodology. Tryouts were held every Sunday at the "American Star Hall, number 165 East Broadway."

The precise curriculum of this organization (dated 11 February 1888) is printed in the "Archive of the Yiddish Theatre" with "YIVO."

This dramatic school was later led by Feinman and Karp and called "Goldfaden’s Dramatic Circle." Among the students from this school we can find the future famous actors, Morris Moshkovitch, Gustave Schacht, David Levinson, Saul Wallerstein, Sigmund Weintraub and Bella Gudinska.

Afterwards this school was led by Jacob Gordin, Yochanan Pallay, M. Zeyfert and Louie Miller.

On 7 July 1888, in the Windsor Theatre (apparently with the member of the organization "Lira"), they performed Goldfaden’s operetta "Di tsoyber trumpete, oder, Der unkl vet m’shalem zayn (The Magic Trumpet, or, The Uncle Will Make Peace)," (aka "Todros bloz"), but apart from these few plays nothing further was accomplished and Goldfaden left America for London.

At the start of July 1889 Goldfaden took over the "Hebrew Dramatic Club" as an author in London (8 Princess Street). Earlier Adler, Mogulesko and others performed here with N. Rakow.

Goldfaden’s joined this club and was announced thus: (our orthography)

"Herr Goldfaden.
Starting next Saturday on (13 July ) the united troupe of Yiddish actors will play under the leadership of Mr. Abraham Goldfaden, the father of Yiddish theatre -- the hall is under completely new management and is newly decorated and costumed. The club will also have new rules and regulations. We will no longer be embarrassed of our Yiddish actors. Mr. Goldfaden will recite his famous Yiddish folk poetry.
Everyone come and become convinced!"
The program that is advertised through posters all over town, will please you and become familiar to you."

Of all the previously advertised actors, we will only now announce Miss Diana Stettin (later Feinman), whom we will feature on 29 July 1889. We will present "Kevod Av (Honor Your Father)," a highly interesting play that has only recently been presented on the Yiddish stage, which has been brought to you at a special premiere benefit by Mr. Goldfaden." (This play was not performed in other places, nor was it ever again mentioned. Therefore it is understandable that it is one of Goldfaden’s early pieces. He had knowingly, in order to attract an audience, changed its name and advertised it as a new play, which had never before been staged.) Our troupe will perform at a later time in a variety of melodramas, none of which are Goldfaden’s plays.

In October 1889 Goldfaden was in Paris, where he had hopes (according to his letters to Sholem Aleichem) of founding a Yiddish theatre, and to turn this into a flourishing business.

Although he was active in literary endeavors (he wrote his poem "Shabtiel" here as well as "Sholem Aleichem Reb Yisroel (Greetings Mr. Israel)," "Yamin Noraim (The Days of Awe)," and "Homen Tash,""(Haman’s Pocket) the fable, "Der hint kegen di levone (The Dogs against the Moon)," (printed under the name "Di biler gegen der levone (Barking at the Moon)," and Sholem Aleichem’s, "Folks bibliotek" (Sholem Aleichem’s People's Library) etc. Goldfaden organized (in December 1889) a Yiddish troupe. As the actor Joseph Weinstock tells us, the troupe was made up mostly with local Yiddish actors (Max Rosenthal, Mr. and Mrs. Nadolsky, Anna Held, Arye Shrage, the Singer Sisters, Julius Frond, and the pianist Bodansky.) At the same time he brought especially selected actors from Lemberg (Weinstock and his wife, and another couple). At the first presentation, in the Fantasy Parisian Theatre (De L'Ancre 42), they staged "Ahaseurus." The theatre was packed however the cashier ran away with all the money.
After half a year of endurance, the troupe stopped performing.

According to L Dushman the artist; he tells us that Mahler, Kriyuner (Minsk) lived nearby. They opened Goldfaden’s theatre in Paris without his troupe. With Goldfaden at its head, they began its presentations on Rosh Hashanah. They presented "Shulamis," "Bar Kochba," Yehuda HaMaccabee" "Shloyme HaMelech (King Solomon)," etc. For the opening night Goldfaden organized a daytime gathering of the public, where he introduced his troupe and spoke about the necessity for the public to support his theatre. At the end Goldfaden came forward with several Zionist songs accompanied by a musician. The actor Kriuger recalls that only Rosenthal, Fishkind (Fishkind swears that he never acted in Paris) and Anna Held were present.

As for the other performances business was not good because Goldfaden paid his debts with free theatre tickets, meanwhile no money came into the box office.

Goldfaden’s financial situation became very sad. One of his letters (Paris, 12 May, 1890) to Dineson at a time when he was once more ready to sell his work at any price, and under any conditions. His landlady (in Paris) sent him several times notes about his overdue rent -- Goldfaden wrote in a letter -- We’re so poor, we are not even thinking about food, nor are we thinking about clothes."

In a letter to Shomer he wrote: "You know the difficulties that distanced me from the theatre. I’m suffering with asthma, and at times I’m spitting blood ... This is proof of how the theatre, and I mean the physical theatre and the spiritual efforts, have started to take over my years. Once I was very healthy, but I have aged. Therefore I mustn’t exhaust myself any longer, and especially, I must not get any worse."

Goldfaden left Paris and traveled (in October 1890) to Lemberg, where he was very popular as a folks poet. Here Jewish everyday life started to interest him. On 29 October 1890 in Paris, Goldfaden recited "The Zionist," one of his works. It was a great coincidence, since on 10 November 1890, on a pleasant evening he attended an evening of the society "Shomer yisroel (Keeper of Israel)." Immediately after this, Goldfaden took over Gimpel’s Yiddish theatre, where he staged some of his earlier plays. He also finished "Rebbe Yozelman, oder, Di gezira fun alsace (Rabbi Yozelman, or, The Edict of Alsace)," a historical operetta in five acts and twenty three scenes," which he recently wrote while he was in Paris.

The play was staged there on 14 January1891 and was based upon (according to Goldfaden’s forward to the printed play) the work of Isadore Loeb, Elias Sheid and Dr. Lehman.

In 1892 Jacob Gordin staged at the "Union Theatre Company" in New York, his new version of the play, "Meylets yoysher (The Messenger of Justice?)."

Since then this operetta has been often performed on almost all of the Yiddish stages.

According to Dov Zavardsky, Rabbi Yoselman sang a song on the stage, based upon a Romanian melody called "Voyl is dem Menchen (Worthy is The Person)." In it he sings that all of his life he was certain in his faith about God." This was adapted from G. Blumenthal, "Min HaMetzer (From the Fortress)," and the theme from, "Fil hot yehuda ongevoyren (Yehudah Lost a Great Deal)," plus a the melody taken from Tchaikovsky’s opera "Dama Pik (Lady Pik)."

Since 1891 this play which was also titled, "Meylets yoysher," was featured in many versions.

A manuscript of the play can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York.

Four musical numbers for "Meylets yoysher" arranged by Russotto and Friedsell were published in New York by the  "Hebrew Publishing Company."

In Lemberg Goldfaden also staged his operetta, "Rothschild," with music by Morris Fall (the father of the German-Jewish composer Leo Fall).

The operetta was -- according to Bertha Kalich -- a huge success. Afterward it was seldom performed.

The play was also never printed. A manuscript can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York. 

The last play that Goldfaden wrote and staged in Lemberg on 15 December 1891 was "Meshiekh’s tsaytn (The Time of the Messiah)," which depicted vital aspects of Russian Jewry in a play with songs and dance in six acts, transformed into thirty scenes." (Music compiled by Aaron Perlmutter.)

The theme of the play was -- according to G. Oyslender and U. Finkel -- about the Jews wandering from one country to another": The first three acts took place in Russia, the fourth one in America, and the fifth in Palestine. In the last act in Palestine, Goldfaden wanted to bring to life the ideas of the "Lovers of Zion."

"The play did not have any great artistic worth. However, in many places it carried an autobiographical character and showed us that Goldfaden’s impressions of America were far from optimistic."

In 1892  "Meshiekh’s tsaytn" was staged in the "Union Theatre Company" in New York and was published in an adaptation by J. Gordin. In 1893 the play in a new rendition by the author was staged in Bucharest.

Since 1900 the play was issued in several editions.

A manuscript can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York.

"Der zeyde (The Grandfather)," which personifies the actor Yonah Raisman’s experiences in Jacob Botoshansky's books, which depicts grotesque scenes in the lives of Jewish actors. In "Nokh der forshtelung (After the Performance)," which was based on the book, he tells that "Meshiekh’s tsaytn" was rewritten as a play based on the farce "Der kroykover (The Man From Krakow)," which was performed by the Brodersingers.

Regarding the life in the theatre in the olden days, L. Dreykurs wrote in "Literarishe bleter": The father of Yiddish theatre wrote his theatrical plays while he ate preserves and dealt with tryouts in front of the entire world. Among these plays were: "Gute brider (Good Brothers),"  "Lemberg kinder (Lemberg Children)" -- his own children were the actors. The contact between the audience and the actor was very close. The actors in those days were supported by the audience. Not as happenstance, but through the theatre box office and through the ticket sales. Actually, the public that came every evening to the theatre, fed them during the day as a natural order of things. They never came empty- handed or depended upon the condition of their own pockets, but supported them with their full hearts. At lunchtime between one song and another, which was performed on the stage of the garden theatre, they sat at tables, actors and audience together. "Der yold (The Fool)" gave, and the actor ate. "Lemberger kinder (Lemberg Children)" loved their Yiddish theatre."

Kalmen Juvelier, who at that time played in Gimpel’s theatre, tells in the New York about the "Goldfaden Book," that Goldfaden. while he directed, visited with the actors in order to show them how to perform. These visits were rarely successful. He himself was not an actor. It happened that very often he needed a reminder of his directorial responsibilities. He would describe to the actors every character in the plays that he wrote. This was very helpful to the actors. They learned a great deal from Goldfaden. Nowadays this is called, conceptualizing a role or explanations before they started to perform. Goldfaden also had a lot to do to improve scenic affects. The technical work was primitive, but "the father of the Yiddish stage" was also often responsible for many of the fundamental aspects of theatre. He possessed a great deal of scenic imagination, and as for unavoidable occurrences, and in regards to technical issues in the Yiddish theatre, at that time he often found solutions. In such a way he was very successful working out the scenes. He was miraculously saved, much like Lot’s wife who was changed into a pillar of salt (in Sodom and Gomorrah) as they escaped an angel, or when the angel stopped Abraham from slaughtering Isaac (In "The Binding of Isaac") ("Sodom and Gomorrah" and "The Binding of Isaac" was combined into one play). For all of these things, as with his plays, and the music for his plays, Goldfaden was highly praised. Everyone showed him the greatest respect. For his directorial work Goldfaden was held in high regard when he was in Yakov Ber Gimpel’s theatre."

Bertha Kalich, who also performed at that time for Gimpel, tells in her memoirs, "In tog (By  Day)": We lived a good life with Goldfaden. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the theatre, he lit up every nook and cranny. His good-natured smile warmed and endeared our hearts, and we therefore were very thankful. ... Goldfaden was that sort of man that became inspired and who gave the impression that they are wild, angry people, who seemingly appear as if they are ready to kill someone. Goldfaden could drink sixteen glasses of tea before you could turn around."

But the Galicianer terrain -- according to Dr. Jacob Shatkzy -- was not favorable for the Yiddish theatre. Their intelligence was watered down much like the masses -- they were fanatically observant, and understandably they looked askance on the Yiddish "comedians."

As B. Gorin tells us, Goldfaden when he was at his best was no fanatic, and especially when he needed to take money from a poor director. And when he went out of the theatre, he barely escaped dying of hunger. At times when he would go for a stroll in a Jewish neighborhood in Lemberg, and while he was hungry, he could overhear from the brightly lit houses how happy they were, while they sang the songs of his operettas. At those times he was as happy as Yoash: Don’t they know that dragging himself nearby was the composer of those songs, and he doesn’t have with what to ease his hunger."

From Galicia Goldfaden went to Romania, where already in July 1892 he was active in Bucharest. According to B. Gorin, Goldfaden entered the Jignitsa Theatre as a director. Here he came upon the Segalesko-Zuckerman troupe. Immediately he brought over Kalich and Karl Shramek, and with them he staged "The Tenth Commandment." After that he attracted Malvina Treitler (later Lobel) and her father to his troupe.

The composer David Hirsh tells us that here he would write music for his melodies, which Goldfaden would later give to him. After that Goldfaden used to show his notations to a bagel seller, the father of an actress, who understood his songs. Goldfaden did not remain for too long in Bucharest. About this Bertha Kalich wrote in (Der Tog): "Goldfaden decided that Bucharest was no longer that it used to be. He said that Bucharest is no longer what he wanted, and that we should prepare to get ready for a new journey. Goldfaden was incapable of sitting in the same place for too long. He had a longing to go out into the world. He knew very well wherever he went the doors would open for him. One lovely morning we heard that Goldfaden was packing his belongings. Everyone became very despondent. For Goldfaden the theatre contacts (the troupe) were fine. We were well disciplined. We were in the mood to hit the road.

We came to Galati and Goldfaden arranged for the first time his "Akeydes yitskhok (The Sacrifice of Isaac)" and "Der mapecha Sodom  v’amoreh (The Revolt in Sodom and Gomorrah)," a biblical operetta in four acts and forty scenes, with Sigmund Hart as "Avraham" (later with Jacob Silbert), and  Malvina Loebel as "Sarah."

According to Joseph Rumshinsky, Goldfaden’s inspiration for "Avraham" came from HaLevi’s "Min HaMetzer (Out of the Fortress)."

This operetta till today remains in the repertoire of Yiddish theatres throughout the world.

Since 1897 the play has been performed in many versions.

A manuscript can be found in YIVO’s "Theatre Museum." Twenty-five musical numbers from "The Sacrifice of Isaac" were arranged by H.A. Russotto and were published in New York by the "Hebrew Publishing Company."

Kalmen Juvelier tells us that in the New York "Goldfaden Book," when he performed with a troupe in the Czernowitz State Theatre, Goldfaden came there as a guest all alone. His arrival made a great commotion in that city. The majority of people in the city already knew a bit about Goldfaden; his plays and melodies, and they loved him dearly. At that time he was honored by a special holiday performance in the city theatre."

In 1895 a trial was held between Goldfaden and Juvelier about an issue with the "National Theatre" in Iasi. The dispute was about staging the play, "The Sacrifice of Isaac," without the permission of its author. In his defense, Juvelier contended that he found the play in a book."

In that same year Goldfaden came to Brailia. Several days after his arrival a catastrophe occurred in their port. The event was a major topic of discussion, and Goldfaden decided to use this event in a new play. So he -- according to  Sh.Y. Dorfson -- sent the pilot plot to Latayner. The plot concerned itself with that catastrophe. He called it "Di katastroph fun brailia (The Catastrophe in Braila)."

This piece fell through and nothing more was done about it. A member of Goldfaden’s troupe composed a song and music called "Ismailia."

At that time Goldfaden’s "Judith and Holofernes" opened with music by Gabriel Finkelstein. This play was never published. A manuscript can be found with Sholem Perlmutter in New York. The "Tsigayner baron (Gypsy Baron)," a major operetta in three acts by Avraham Goldfaden (edited by Yohan Shtroyses, and "The Gypsy Baron"), the operetta that had seldom been performed and was never printed also opened. A manuscript of it can be found with Itzikl Goldenberg in Bucharest and was in the possession of the actor Samuel Leresko.

In 1896 Goldfaden returned to Lemberg. He spent a short time in Krakow during that spring. Here he spent time with the composer Yosef Fisher talking about issuing an edition of his works. He held a reading in the synagogue courtyard. Upon his return to Lemberg he became ill and returned (May 1897) for rehabilitation to Vienna. There he found himself in very poor condition. To resolve the situation Dineson was asked to be his one and only authorized representative in regards to an honorarium he was owed for his printed and performed works. (see Goldfaden’s letter to  Dineson).

In the year 1896, exactly twenty years since Goldfaden had first arrived in Romania to hold his first theatrical tryouts, and he now (In Romania) gave his last production, and with this he ended his theatrical activity. From this time on he began to live with hunger and poverty. This was the worst time that Goldfaden, the person who always had fresh energy and initiative, had no place to apply his energy. As usual, when he came upon an a break in his usual activity, Goldfaden turned to literature or journalism. At that time Goldfaden became a close friend of the Hebrew printer  R.A. Broydes, who at that time lived in Galicia. ... Broydes had a brother. Both of them, Gershom  and Reuven (Asher) Broydes apparently were interested in Goldfaden. (Goldfaden clarifies this). However, both of them disputed this). In the "Folks Calendar" of the year 1897 Broydes printed a lengthy account of his friendship with A. Goldfaden. He also wrote a parody about Goldfaden, and a book of songs that came out in 1898 under the name ‘Yiddish National Poetry.' Apparently Goldfaden surrendered himself at that time to the Broydes, looking to them to help put out his work. ... Despite the fact that Goldfaden’s books used to appear year after year, it was obvious that such an undertaking did little to ease Goldfaden’s financial difficulties. About this, R.A. Broydes wrote from his heart in the foreword in Goldfaden’s book new book." (G. Oyslender and U. Finkel).

In 1900 Goldfaden found himself in Paris where the World’s Fair was taking place. He tried once again to become involved with the Yiddish theatre. He hoped for a marvelous success. Writing about this time, one of Goldfaden’s friends, Danziger, told Boris Thomashefsky in New York that Goldfaden was now in very bad circumstances. Now in his old age he was separated from his home, thrown someplace in an attic in a Paris tenement and suffering from confusion and need. His plays to this day still attract full houses (in America), and if he could only get his rightful portion as an author, he would not have to come to anyone, and he would be able to spend his old age in comfort. For the present, however, he could not afford such a luxury. Based on the law, there had to be a reasonable solution. And the solution would finally say that the theatre should become responsible for him, at least so that he would not have to endure such neediness. And apart from the theatre there was nothing that he was more committed to than

to his actors. His commitment was even to those newcomers who came after his prime because he created their paths in their new professions. Therefore it would have been right that they all should do whatever was in their power to make the golden years of the founder of the Yiddish theatre a bit easier.

In a letter written by Goldfaden (April 1900) to his student Yosef Weinstock in Chicago, he excuses himself for not having more to do any longer with the Yiddish theatre.

In August 1900 Goldfaden was an onlooker at the Zionist Congress meeting in London, where he decided to create an closer friendship with the photographer Isaac Perkoff, (later personified in Goldfaden’s play "Ben Ami (Son of my People)." Goldfaden took advantage of this friendship whenever he came to London.

In 1901 Goldfaden began to write his biography and a self-criticism of his plays that he started to have printed. In that same year he wrote "Miniḳes’ yonṭev bleṭer (Minikes' [Hebrew] Holiday Papers)" in New York.

Right after this, Goldfaden received 3,500 francs from New York, which was the "take" from a benefit performance organized on his behalf. On 22 February 1901, he spent the summer in the warm mineral springs and then traveled back to Paris. He also had correspondence from time to time with "The Yiddish Newspapers" in New York.

According to B. Oyslender and U. Finkel: "Throughout his Parisian years, Goldfaden produced very little apart from his autobiography. "It is said that Goldfaden, during this Parisian period, lived in the poorest Jewish section of the city along with other Russian Jewish immigrants. He produced Palestine-based Jewish songs for some open gatherings of the Zionist party. He was also a frequent visitor at the homes of the Parisian-based Rabbi Cohen, where Goldfaden, as was his practice sang some of his songs. Apparently in those circles of Parisian rabbis, Goldfaden created a reaction, that had its origins going back a few years. During his Parisian years, Goldfaden was much more conservative than at any other time of his life. All of a sudden after a break of more than fifty years, he was reminded of his reputation as a young Hebrew poet.


Poster for the Benefit Production
for "The Two Kuni Lemels"

People's Theatre, New York , New York

He wanted to renew it. He reproduced a booklet "Tzitzim V’Prachim (Phylacteries and Flowers)" (though in the prologue he dealt with how to improve one’s Yiddish). He wrote a few new Hebrew songs. These songs, like most of his songs in his last period, were associated with a hidden commitment that he allowed himself now to affirm; an authoritarian bias. Here in Paris Goldfaden approached his sixtieth birthday (July 1900). In some of his works -- "Der yud (The Jew)," "HaMalitz (The Advocate)" etc., they printed several articles acknowledging Goldfaden’s jubilee. All of them concluded with an appeal to help the needy man -- A. Goldfaden.

In the summer of 1902 Goldfaden went to England (the name Goldfaden was very popular at that time, all over England. A certain man named Kaydanoff who resembled Goldfaden was -- according to Karl Silverman -- traveling throughout the land reading Goldfaden’s woks and pretending to be Goldfaden.)

About this period Goldfaden wrote in a letter to Dineson (openly but via Nachman Mayzel) in the Warsaw paper, "The Yiddish World," "I want to emphasize how difficult it is in a short time is to tell you several episodes of my life. I do this so that you will be able to have a minimum idea of the last phase of my Parisian life. It should be no wonder to others that a person can exist without a livelihood, since he has been robbed of it, and how he survived. This is eating him up alive. My only source of pleasure is that half the world is eating and living from the fruit of my spiritual labors. You know that I planted these while still in my youth, for my old age. They should have left at least something for me: This is the name that God gave me, I think. … it is important that my "Ich (I)" still has some life left in it, even if I am a living relic out of a museum. I as an improviser take him around to different countries and cities and big venues to the performances. The world pays entrance fees to look at this living antique … that’s how I lived during my first two years in Paris -- after that the Jews became very curious and happy with my "I," so I came to a large heavily populated place with Jews, the city of London -- there they established a committee of twenty of my followers. They rented one of the finest and largest halls which held over two-thousand persons and proclaimed that on a certain evening the audience would have the opportunity to see me personally and to hear me speak. How can I explain the fuss and the ovations that took place at that time. Many English reporters dragged me around to photograph me in order to put my photograph into their newspapers, along with my biography. The speech that Rabbi D. Gaster, president of the of that same committee, gave about me and the applause that followed were tied into the event. The honor, I remember even the talks. ... Most importantly I brought home a couple of thousand francs and lived for a while peacefully  and prosperously. Last year at the start of summer I wanted to get in touch with you to renew our correspondence -- I intended to go to London for two weeks, but I remained there for six months.

"Apart from London there are many more cities in England that are populated with Jews, many of whom are Zionists -- once we were settled in London I received invitations from various cities, from their committees that wanted to invite me to a "concert" at which they wanted to feature me. The concert consists of fine young men or of girls from every city that would come due to my presence and that will show their theatrical talents each evening. The will demonstrate their ability to sing (English songs) and to act. At the conclusion I will appear on the stage, and with a greeting from the local committee -- I will thank them on behalf of the audience for their openness. Then the president of the committee will present me with a gift and give a short speech -- that’s how they did it in Liverpool. They presented me with an expensive ebony walking stick with a silver top upon which they inscribed their thanks in English and praised me on behalf of the committee of that town and the date. In Manchester they gave me a golden purse (inscribed with the date). In Leeds the local B’nai-Zion organization presented me with a golden chain and a medallion (inscribed); In the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and in Glasgow, where no one I know has ever been, the local B’nai-Zion invited me for a concert (I called them the generation of preparedness) -- the committee there presented me with a silver cigarette holder ... a silver match box and a silver cigarette case also inscribed. These were the gifts. I’m not talking here of the fountain of cash that I received, and I’m also not mentioning the raves that I’m simply too embarrassed to talk about; the parade that accompanied me into every town -- the beautiful lodgings where I was treated like an devout Jew, and the parade which the held at my departure. ... In this highly emotional manner we have been living here for the past six years -- our only regret is that we don’t have our own theatre here -- we have almost forgotten all of the fake theatrical intrigues. We’re overjoyed to lead our quiet lives, our dignified lives."

Goldfaden planned to return to Russia. He even talked to Nachum Sokoloff, whom he met in 1903 in Paris, about this matter. However he changed his plans, and in November 1903 Goldfaden went back to America.

Some community leaders and theatrical persons in New York arranged for a large reception to be held for him, on 2 December 1903 in the afternoon, at the Grand Theatre. There, Goldfaden announced to the press a call to the Yiddish masses, to formally receive him.

The theatre was packed. They played selected scenes from "Shulamis," "Brayndele kozak," "Beyde kuni lemels," and "Bar-kochba," including the most outstanding stars of the Yiddish theatre. After each act Goldfaden applauded enthusiastically. After the presentation, regards were offered from such actors as Feinman, Adler and Thomashefsky. Goldfaden responded.

Returning now to theatrical activities was too difficult for Goldfaden. "I heard -- he wrote to Isaac Perkoff -- "that in London they’re building a well-financed Yiddish theatre for me. However, for me there is no interest, it’s too late for me. This is for the younger generations, and for their friend A. Lichtenstein."  He wrote: "You certainly want to know what I’m doing these days, and what I’m making? The answer is: I do nothing, and I’m making nothing -- what is the duty of a once hopeful person? It is to do and to make. I have already done and made. My mission has flown away, but I once made a Yiddish theatre for the world -- and I also made some people happy. Now I must sit and look on to see that all of my actors are happy. Many of them have their own houses and coaches, their woman are dripping with jewels, and I must be happy knowing that at least I have no more enemies, and that no one is against me. .. Some of the more intelligent, private people have invested in my interests and have arranged that every Yiddish theatre has to put aside a small sum (dollars).

Once a year they hold a benefit, and this is my existence."

Similarly, Bessie Thomashefsky tells us in her memoirs: "The father of the Yiddish stage, Abraham Goldfaden felt that 'Ben-Ami' was his last work. He repeated this countless times. He did not want for his last work to be merely a frivolous play, where the music played without rhyme or reason. He therefore demanded that 'Ben-Ami' should be staged as a drama without music. The director of the theatre (Boris Thomashefsky) instructed them to 'play music,' and it remained as the director commanded and not according to the wishes of the composer. At first the play was a failure. They wanted to remove it from the stage and replace it with another ,but suddenly Goldfaden fell ill. In a few days a cold death came and took him away from this world. Goldfaden died, and with his death his last work 'exploded.' The play 'Ben-Ami' became a success and had a fourteen-week 'straight run.'


Poster for Reception Production
Grand Theatre, New York City, NY
2 December 1903

One Act Each from "Shulamis,"
"The Two Kuni Lemels,"
"Breindele kozak" and "Bar kokhba"
Musical Direction by Louis Friedsell

Goldfaden died on 9 January 1905 and was laid to his eternal rest in Washington Cemetery in New York. As Bessie Thomashefsky tells us, Goldfaden’s last word was "Hatikvah."

At the funeral there were several thousand attendees.

The play "Ben-Ami" was not printed. By the way, his widow spoke about it being printed in a letter. Several songs from the play were printed in "Thomashefsky’s Theatre Writings," New York 1906, and can be viewed in "The Yiddish Theatre Museum."

In 1922 Bessie Thomashefsky staged his operetta, "Der goldenem fodem (The Golden Thread?)," in the New York National Theatre. This play was listed by Goldfaden’s family as "Heldn (Heroes)." The music included a potpourri of Goldfaden’s melodies.

A few fragments of Goldfaden’s unfinished plays were included under "My Testament" and can be located at Goldfaden’s brother Sh. Goldfaden’s home in New York. A manuscript of "My Testament" is also located with Sholem Perlmutter.

(Jacob Mestel who read the manuscript, "My Testament," tells us that this fragment was completed by Goldfaden’s brother Sh. Goldfaden. It assuredly demonstrated that inserts are derived from Goldfaden’s pen, and which ones were "fixed" by his brother.)

A manuscript of Goldfaden’s play, "Der sambatyon," which was written even before 1889 and was mentioned in Mezah’s "Bamat Yishak (The Stage Will Play)," can be found in the possession of Nachum Rakow in New York. Sholem Perlmutter also had  a manuscript of Goldfaden’s play "Di  farshtoysene kale (The Rejected Bride)," in three acts with a prologue.

B. Gorin has notations on one of Goldfaden’s plays, "Der mentshenfrager (The Human Question)," 1899.

From time to time there would be announcements of plays, supposedly in Goldfaden’s name, that Goldfaden had nothing to do with. This is how in a London weekly newspaper, "Di tsukunft," was advertised -- a Jacob P. Adler’s production (13 December 1884) of "Di armut, oder, Oyf an insel farvorfen (The Indigent, or, Tossed Upon an Island)," a drama in five acts with songs composed by Horowitz and Goldfaden." By 29 December of that same year, the play was attributed to "Shomer." A similar case happened with the play, "Intrigantn, oder, Unshuldig farflante (Intrigues, or, Innocently Relocated)," a  comedy in five acts with songs, presented on 22 November 1884 in Lemberg, with "Der libe far gelt (Love of Money)," a melodrama in five acts with songs. Playing on 25 January 1885 in London, along with the comedy "Lustike bakhurim (Cheerful Young Men)," which in the Warsaw Polish-Jewish weekly "Israelite" (Number 27, 1890) was presented as Goldfaden’s, and which was Herman Fidler’s Yiddishized play from a French farce that was presented in Yiddish by Jacob P. Adler "Di lustige kavalern (The Cheerful Cavalry Man)," was often advertised with Adler as the author).

Goldfaden’s popularity was also exploited in his absence: In 1905 in Warsaw a joke book was issued in which there are several funny stories by Goldfaden. The title page intended to give the impression that the entire book is Goldfaden’s work: "The Jokes, or, the World of the Exceptionally Wise," run and purchase it;  A light read that will drive away depression. A collection of jokes by the unique composer A. Goldfaden, Warsaw 1905, printed by Sh.B. Landau, Galevki St. # 38, (in the Russian edition Goldfaden’s name is not used).

Under Goldfaden’s name, and at different times many different clubs, unions, institutes etc. were created. A different sort of popularity belonged to: "The Yiddish Artistic Union -- Avraham Goldfaden branch" in Lemberg (founded in 1906 by Gershom Bader, Julius Gutman, Matisyahu Thor and Norman Glimer. The aim of this union was: To spread the spiritual and economic interests of the stage artist."  This union included members who were actors, printers, musicians and choral singers -- The "Goldfaden Union in Stanislaw," Galicia, involved itself with dramatic-musical-literary activities.

In New York there exists till this day a "Goldfaden Lodge."

In 1926 the entire Yiddish world celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Yiddish theatre, with Goldfaden as the founder.

In the larger theatres there were special holiday presentations in addition to current presentations of Goldfaden plays. On the same occasion they issued several Goldfaden books in New York, Minsk, plus a collection of "Theatre Books" (issued by a Kiev publishing house, "Culture League," in 1927). The press issued special articles in which there were many item on the history of Yiddish theatre. The Weekly "Literarishe bleter" in Warsaw issued (1925, 1926) a special Goldfaden volume. 


Gravestone of Abraham Goldfaden

In honor of the jubilee, the Yiddish "Theatre Museum Society" in New York organized a theatre department with a special section of Goldfaden plays, manuscripts, illustrations and photographs of characters and scenes from his plays. In addition they featured Goldfaden’s pictures, notes on his plays, personal possessions, his requisitions and masks from his plays, placards, advertisements etc.

Memorial Tablet  for Abraham Goldfaden
in Marienbad


Through the initiative of A. and Clara Maisels, Meyer Zelniker, and Hilda Dolitzka, a fund was set up of approximately Page 336 three-thousand Czech korunas. On 11 August 1929 in Marienbad (Czechoslovakia) they staged the celebratory unveiling of a Panel of Gratitude, on the house where the founder of "Yiddish Theatre" once lived. On this house named "Wiesbaden" -- they inscribed in German: "In this house there once lived the founder of the 'Yiddish Theatre,' Avraham Goldfaden, June 1897."

At the celebration the played melodies from Goldfaden’s play "Shulamis."

It seldom happened that regarding a Yiddish writer there should be such broad literary research as there was around Goldfaden, since the birth of Yiddish theatre. The more up-to-date the Yiddish theatre became, the clearer became Goldfaden’s significance as a pioneer of this theatre.

Goldfaden himself thought that the importance of his own first troubles with the Yiddish theatre was often answered by its primitivism."

This is what he wrote in a letter to Shomer: "I, just as you yourself have observed, had to start with small operettas (though at that time I would have been prepared to write dramas based on real life). First of all, if I hadn’t started with small operettas and decorated them with some of my fantasies, real theatre would never had occurred.; The old time raw, unlettered craftsmen would not have understood even one word if we would have written them without proper monologues.

It was the dear public in that town (Iasi) where I founded my theatre, who were even less refined and unlettered than the actors." In his autobiography he wrote: " ... I would certainly not have needed to disgrace myself with "Shmendrik" or "Nye, Be, Nye Be, Nye Me," in order for the world to understand that I was incapable of writing anything else. I was determined to write against my own will, despite my talent and knowledge, to indulge in such childish games. When a sculptor has a young child about one year old, he won’t carve a white marble image of Napoleon or Victor Hugo, and then give it to his child to play with. He would more quickly make a crude wooden puppet. ... Later this child would amuse himself even more with the white marble historical figure. He would be much more interested in it after he grows up. I didn’t dare all at once to jump into proper drama, operetta or comedy. I had to first make such interim works."

A similar idea came upon Dr. Yitzhak Shipper: "From a chorister, a singer as in olden days from simple street kids (or it might be better to say youth from impoverished streets), he created professional actors. A number of them belonged to the heroes of their age in the annals of Yiddish actors. ... From the petrified repertoire of old middle ages he removed the mold and gave them life and new breath. With the strength of the new repertoire, as well as the help of his actors among whom he found juicy, talented, real wild geniuses. He pulled the public out of the dust and cellars and created an audience, which came together in the theatre to attend one of his plays.

And so out of 'Purim Plays,' and from bench singers there arose Yiddish theatre. First of all, the repertoire permitted us a real live contact between actor and theatre-goer. The actor was the heart of the organism that called itself 'Yiddish Theatre.' Within it there also exists the high contribution of Goldfaden, who created such a healthy, pulsating heart with a normal blood circulation. We are allowed now a day not to content ourselves with that which Goldfaden had created, even if it appears naïve and primitive. This was not a reason for us to underestimate his historical importance. It may sound paradoxical, but I think that Goldfaden did not speed up the evolution of Yiddish theatre. If he would have, at the time that he created his repertoire,  placed it on a higher artistic level as he would do eventually we would have had a 'literary' Goldfaden, but who knows if we would have had a permanent Yiddish theatre with a history of half-a-century. To our good fortune Goldfaden had the ambition to become a theatre director and not a literati!

In his 'New York Illustrated' newspaper (New York, 1887), Goldfaden tried to explain in a different manner the reasons for his primitive creations for the stage: 'Since our Jew is constantly persecuted by other nations, and his heart is always embittered, so that every Jew performs his own drama. In his home the landlord is provided with his share, his wife yells and curses, his little children cry, so I made a place for him -- the theatre, where he could have a place to escape to for a few hours from the bitter concerns which pursue him all day long. The few hours that he spends in the theatre he can forget his woes. He must laugh, he must hear singing, and he must see dancing. So for a few dollars he purchases this great pleasure. Therefore it was always my plan to compose only comedies with song and dance, which we call operetta."

In contrast to David Frishman who demanded that each of Goldfaden’s plays must be performed in a "new rendition," Goldfaden wrote in a letter to Sholem Aleichem: "To improve an old item, for me is to corrupt it. I consider my old writings (at least a year old) as an antique. For me  it is as if we were to take an old Egyptian column, or an old fashioned table to improve according to the newest fashions. You know that the artist is a servant to "Bal Taschit (the commandment not to unnecessarily throw out or alter a useful object)" -- The old item has its own worth just because it is old, it is possibly disgusting in comparison to the new fashion. If we improve it, it will lose its value as an antique. I am embarrassed now for having written 'Shmendrik.' But even if the critics of Yiddish Theatre have rated 'Shmendrik' a piece of gold, they would say: You can ask how come the composer of 'Shulamis' and 'Bar Kochba' should have written 'Shmendrik'? I will answer you, 'Shmendrik' has its worth since it demonstrates how and why we needed to write when the Yiddish theatre was still in its infancy, sleeping in a the gusts of wind even when it was an infant of half-a-year. ... So, similarly 'Shmendrik' was the small bridge that carried the Yiddish theatre to the ranks that it now possesses -- then if I had begun from "Uriel Acosta," there would not have been any development or endurance of Yiddish theatre. The bathhouse boys and the street girls would have needed to speak in De Silva’s philosophical words, and the coarse tailors and shoemakers would have needed to pick up their ears to hear that which they would not have been able to understand."

In that same mind Jacob Gordin responded about his re-editing of Goldfaden’s "Melitz yoysher (The Prosecuting Attorney)," and of "Meshiekhs tsaytn (The Times of the Messiah)": " ... When I began to rework Goldfaden’s work 'Meshiekhs tsaytn,' I had to create a completely new drama, from start to finish -- new characters, new types, new thoughts, and new words. If we’re going to write about a slice of life as history, then we are then obliged to present a new concept for 'Meshiekhs tsaytn.' We would need to somehow recognize, and also to understand that we must fully comprehend the life that we want to portray. We have to understand that the idea of "Meshiekhs tsaytn" cannot be printed merely through couplets, false partisan meanings, and patriotic songs that announce our belief in 'Ata Bachartanu (You Chose Us).' ... In the play "Meshiekhs tsaytn" Mr. Goldfaden’s name can be heard recited in a few couplets, but all the rest was composed by Jacob Gordin."

However, in his article "From Shmendrik till Ben-Ami" (in 1907) Gordin further wrote: "On a stage, alas, where I was engaged as the house manager, and from which they had to knock out a hole in the wall in the theatre for my office. At that time it was a small chamber, where Goldfaden used to have a coop with geese -- that was my first theatrical stage where I had to perform with three or four actors, without a female actress, without a choir, without scenery and for an audience for whom 'Shmendrik' was almost too lofty in its spiritual message. Thus 'Shmendrik' was a surprise -- a stroke of the pen that was performed one hundred and twenty five times with great success. At that time I was supposed to compose historical, fully costumed operettas, or to translate historical tableaux and comedies by the most famous authors from the international arena.

"If it had been preordained for me to create the theatre in Russia, where there were many people who could understand all of these dramas, it would have given me the courage to advance in that genre, but a completely different repertoire would have been created. The outcome however was that I should lay the cornerstone of the Yiddish theatre in Romania, in a land and for an audience that thirty years earlier also did not possess any concept of theatrical literature. ... An audience whose entire physical and spiritual foundation consisted of a good glass of wine and Yiddish ditties" -- When I presented my first life tableau, pure, without comic pieces, without song, many of my audience members came onto the stage and verbally attacked me with the following words: 'We don’t come to the theatre for you to moan for us! ... We have our own troubles at home from our wives and children! -- We come to the theatre for you to support us, and frankly we want you to amuse us so that we can enjoy a good laugh,"

Sh. L. Citron sees a deeper intent into this matter: Based upon the reasons for the rise of Yiddish Theatre, it appears that Goldfaden stepped forward to create it only for purely materialistic motives; meaning for the cold cash, which was also the reason why he was inclined to compose his first plays adapted to the taste of the masses. This is, however, not entirely true. The idea of creating a Yiddish theatre for Goldfaden was present even when he was a young man. He had the singular idea that through this he could elevate the level of thinking of the masses.

According to M. Litvakoff’s book:, "Five Years of State Yiddish Chamber Theatre," it was In that same spirit of the Goldfaden period that there was the last of the dying but brilliant badkhonim (jesters); marshaliks (buffoons), Purim performers and comedians. He was called upon to renew and to strengthen the tradition of the Yiddish folk performances. So he created skits to be professionally managed, the future skeleton for stage acting. But neither the generation nor the environment were at that time capable of creating modern Yiddish art-theatre. Goldfaden’s objective was to direct godly subjects and to focus on them in a youthful manner ... The original creator of classical Yiddish theatrical traditions had the fate to be sentenced to be a sort of "Moshe Rabeinu (Moses our Teacher)" in the theatrical world.

... Goldfaden had the temperament of a Purim actor, and he possessed an instinct for beauty that was also bound up with bygone common folk’s theatre.

Opposition to these ideas was brought out by David Pinski in his book "The Yiddish Drama": "The founder of the Yiddish theatre takes the jester from his point of departure, which he didn’t want to do when he was the jester, so he did it now in his plays. He lays it out, so to speak with the jester upon three fundamental elements and distributes them in three personas: One who comes forward and declares openly his earnest thoughts by clowning around and allowing everyone to sing. He, the multi-talented person who has studied, is well learned and well-read, and does not need to produce an artistic work, but through a shining play and using the play cycles of the past jesters ... The content of his plays is not content at all. The story is also not a story. Something emerges for us that does not make sense, without a proper logical connection and without a proper why and when ... His worst thoughts were the ideas of the best jesters in his days with Elikum Zunzer and from Michel Gordon. ... Goldfaden’s personas arose from the jesters. There were sincere elements also present. These arose not from anyone in particular, and from no one’s reflections. They are not real people and not real types and not anyone we know. They are merely earnest thoughts, ethically enlightened standing on two feet ... First, in his clownish elements ... they are caricatures, clownish, personalities. But the humor of the jesters is folk’s humor and Goldfaden’s characters have so much of the folks humor in it so that they became the property of the folk.

Sh. L. Citron tells us a similar explanation in the name of Y.L. Peretz: "During a discussion about Yiddish theatre between Peretz and Goldfaden, Peretz used the opportunity to bring up Goldfaden’s 'Shmendrik' and the 'Two Kuni Lemels.' ‘If I had your talent’, said Peretz at that time, (though apparently on several occasions we heard that he didn’t think too highly of Goldfaden’s talent), I would have built my dramas as comedies using more important and truthful aspects of Yiddish life. For example, take the systematic manner in which we bring up our children in Poland ...

Goldfaden, I recall strongly defended his heroes and wanted to demonstrate that they were absolutely not caricatures but true creations, taken from real life, from the actuality of Jewish life, adapted for effect with various types of theatrical characters. Peretz was engaged in this discussion for a long time and defended all of his arguments. He put forth a whole list of his own creations that could and must be presented in dramatic forms and presented on the Yiddish stage."

Jacob Dineson also did not have a lofty concept of Goldfaden’s creations for the theatre: " ... For the sake of the theatre, which for him was a lifelong dedication, and to which he became so involved, he put his best talent and attitude into it. I mean by this: He, as far as the theatre and other unsuccessful theatrical bits stopped being the pure folks person, folks director. He abandoned these concepts that had earlier been part of his nature and talents ... Because of the theatre the people lost in him that which he rightfully could have offered them; Due to the theatre he also lost from the people their highest thoughts and purest attention that he could have earned through his powerful talent. Yes, he devoted the best, most beloved and most attractive share of his talent to the Yiddish stage. Since this exchange was not a natural one he did not remain unaffected. The theatre grew over and around him. His students surpassed their teacher ... I don’t know if the father of Yiddish theatre over-dressed his new born child with so many beautiful songs because he possessed a longing for the earlier Yiddish, so called theatrical presentations, for example: 'Shprintzer Haman' from the 'Purim Shpil' 'M’chires Yosef (The Selling of Joseph,' 'M’lueheh Shaul (The Reign of Saul).' and other similar plays that were composed throughout with rhymes, and with song. This was difficult even for Goldfaden himself to do. Was it possible to stage a Yiddish play without rhymes, or to direct a Yiddish play without songs, or without having to rewrite his works or to include them? Feeling himself all alone, either the Yiddish public was not prepared to a sincere theatrical presentation or for he, himself to recognize the shortcomings of his plays. Perhaps this shortcoming was that he had to include his Yiddish ditties. He could nonetheless have felt stronger about these matters. Many of Goldfaden’s songs were nonetheless already familiar to the Yiddish public and were beloved by them much earlier, before he himself had even dreamed of Yiddish theatre.

"From time to time, I was even prepared to believe that it wasn’t merely the songs that caused the theatre to be created, but rather that the entire Yiddish theatre was created because of the songs. That which took place at that time no longer makes any difference now. However, I am certain of one thing, and that is that all the interest in the early days of the Yiddish theatre despite all of its charm, came not only from the masses, but also from the intellectual world. This interest was based primarily on Goldfaden’s songs. We can therefore say: Goldfaden’s Yiddish theatre songs atoned for all of his childish mistakes, and at times even the stupidity that occurred all too often in Goldfaden’s Yiddish theatre. ... Over time his songs became folksongs."

Dineson also recounted that Goldfaden’s melodies used to be sung even in the rabbinical courtyards.

A wider evaluation regarding Goldfaden’s creation for the theatre is offered by B. Gorin in "The History of Yiddish Theatre": "Goldfaden was unique among all those who at that time wrote for the Yiddish theatre. In order to understand the essence of his stage more than all those others was that he had an instinctive knowledge that he was creating a completely new theatre. ... In truth the first years after his appearance with the stage -- the artist in him chased off the poet in him. It was the artist in him however, that made it so easy for him to compose his strange, coarse burlesques and cheap comedies. ... Originally he had one goal: to support the coarse taste of his public and to make the uncultured laugh. Goldfaden also had it in his mind that he too could laugh and thus make the world happy. These same forces, once they passed through his hands, took on the responsibility to open the eyes of the theatre-goer with the sweet light of the Haskalah (Enlightenment). Apart from the fact that Goldfaden is an artist, he is also an eager fighter. His battle was conducted without hatred, without bitterness and without gall. In the smallest skits he had the perception to see that when he mocked a certain type of Jew he must also create a fine Jew in comparison. When he showed one negative character the parallel to correct the 'error' would be to also show a benefit. The specimens which he selected for his earliest plays were coarse farces of the people of his world, where the personalities and the direction he offered were not delicately painted. Rather they were smeared on. No matter how coarsely and disproportionately he depicted them he had to achieve two objectives: Firstly to give the farces, more or less a Yiddish format by producing a Yiddish atmosphere. Secondly, that they possess homogeneity and unity. ... He didn’t show us a sour grimace when he told a bizarre joke. For him it didn’t matter that a certain situation appeared to be disproportionate, so long as it was lively and he himself could laugh and derive satisfaction from it and enjoy himself too. it. The crowds felt that the writer, in his heart and in his soul was with them, and that they laughed and enjoyed themselves heartily along with the writer himself. Neither the students from the rabbinical seminary, nor the poets had felt the pulse of the people as he did. This was the artistry found in Goldfaden, who had discovered the path to the heart of the people and which placed him on the same level as the masses.

... His pleasant sense of taste told Goldfaden how far he was permitted to trust his artistry in order to step over the awful pitfalls, lest he fall into the deep holes of vulgarity and indecency. This resulted in his farces being supported not only by the coarser elements, but also by that spectator with a more refined taste. Goldfaden never drove off the customers since they was part of his 'I.' The longer he wrote, the more power he had over them, and the more he made room for the poet within himself. ... Now (right after the pogroms) he could not amuse himself. His fantastic suffering brothers and his muse could now be heard in brand new sounds. It was at this time that Goldfaden created 'Bar Kochba.' As a defender of the Haskalah, 'Bar Kochba,' he now had a subject into which he could very easily slip and fall. 'Bar Kochba' was a soldier and a symbol of the new suffering generation of his time. His revolutionary spirit had to win over the empathy of the writer who was now conducting a bitter battle with the older generation. About the pogroms, anyone who was familiar with Bar Kochba and his generation could now see demons rising up from Goldfaden’s pen. But now his insight became more penetrating his talent more mature. He was the person who most deeply understood Bar Kochba. He was Rabbi Eliezer, the preacher who kissed the enemy's whip. Now, however, he has described things very differently. ... What’s more his talent became more timely and evolved. One could hear it when he said: 'Well, children, till now we have played around, but now it’s time to become more defined!' The harmony between the author, the public and the actor was not destroyed by this. His plays began to breath more vigorously; The public and the actor also crept out from under the tiny crevices and from his first plays. The development of these three elements was not artificial, not thrown together but completely natural. No matter how sincere Goldfaden became, he never allowed himself, not even for a second, for his work for the theatre and his methodology on the stage to ignore his audience. Whatever we played, he had to include song, liturgical poems, chansons for their pleasure. In this manner he did not become too fastidious to what was happening at that time and place. In 'Shulamis,' for example, he shoved in the song 'Raisins and Almonds.' This song is nice, but it represented a time when Jewish girls danced in the vineyards and called out to the boys, come let’s get married and didn’t sing about securities, cantors and railroads from which Yidele will make lots of money. ... Similarly we can find in almost every one of his works the one continuous truth that he squeezed this into each of his plays. This was what appealed to the audience. ... A great weight was placed by Goldfaden on the scenery and accessories. His rich fantasy worked overtime on how to capture the eye of the audience. He didn’t let an opportunity go by to create a strong stage-effect. ... Goldfaden’s plays, both the bad and the good, both the first and the most recent, demonstrate through this the ability of the author.

" ... The job of the actor is a secondary matter; the entire craft lies in the play itself. ... The audience via the words, the phrases, the situations, the songs, and if unless the actor is altogether an idiot, the play it will be a success. ... We must look at him (Goldfaden) as the father of Yiddish stage and the founder of Yiddish theatre. It’s true that even without Goldfaden, Yiddish theatre would have come into being because the demand for such an entity already existed for the people, and the demand was for vulgar presentations, which were prevalent. But there is no doubt that if not for Goldfaden this Yiddish theatre would have been created much later. Goldfaden created the craft that in turn made it possible for Jews to have their theatre ..."

For an idea of what was happening at that time, Uri Finkel arrived on the scene. In his book "Social Figures in A. Goldfaden’s First Work" in a Minsk article: "Goldfaden’s first song collection can correctly be considered as a preparation to his later dramatic creations. If, later, in his plays he needed to introduce songs of a certain characteristic, this characteristic, to a certain measure already existed and was worked out in his first book of songs. Not only the songs, but certain characters from Goldfaden’s plays were presented to us for the first time through his songs. It would have been easy to show how in Goldfaden’s first songs there were exhibited many types: clowns, the religious leaders, et al. Apart from that, it is necessary to demonstrate another aspect of Goldfaden’s songs: At the same time that Goldfaden included realistic personalities, he gave his songs a musical character. In many of his songs he demonstrated this as an appropriate motif. Here, from the character of the song was woven the operatic motifs in Goldfaden’s plays. Here there was no absolute enslavement to Offenbach, as Goldfaden was accused of doing. Here we find an organic development of those songs that originally could be found in Goldfaden’s first book. We must remember this when we approach Goldfaden’s first plays. The first pogroms in the eighties denoted a new phase in Goldfaden’s creation. Goldfaden turned away from the characters in his first works. Goldfaden already at that time devoted himself to a new series of dramas and songs that stimulated the Yiddish bourgeoisie."

Dr. Michael Weichert when speaking about Goldfaden’s creations said: "Goldfaden was the first one to write theatrical texts that were certainly meant to be performed by professional actors on a professional stage in one of his theatres, and he was for a time the one and only who involved himself with this very activity. ... At work with his students; teaching them and learning from them, he slowly and through various stages built the first actor’s collective. ... It was not through writing the first dozen texts as spectacles that we can we find Goldfaden’s historical merit. It was not only by organizing the first actor’s collective either. With a good-humored smile we look at his first efforts, accompanied with a well-intentioned smile on our lips, but with deep recognition and true amazement of his later efforts. The greatest works that he accomplished were those that arouse his theatrical instinct, the primitive strength, the impulse to play and to enjoy. In this we can find his importance for the Yiddish theatre."

In his article, "Goldfaden the Dramatist," Y. Dobrushin characterizes Goldfaden’s creations in this manner: " ... In reality the heart of Goldfaden’s dramas consists of the following: All of his theatrical pieces were composed, so to say, with the least amount of drama; they were constructed not for the typical individualistic impression. Nor was it was built on the psychological condition of personal human accomplishments. Rather it was constructed upon the schematic lines of human nature, upon general natural characteristics that arise out of well-established statutes of life-or-culture customs.

" ... Not looking at Goldfaden’s daring, sharp omission of the fanatic orthodoxy of those days, there still remains the usual universal inclination in Goldfaden’s plays to idealize free-thinking citizens and petty bourgeoisie. This increased and grew over time, Idealizing and improving him both as a clear-thinking person, and as a precious son of the nationalistic God-fearing traditions. With both of these contradictory elements within the Yiddish lower classes, Goldfaden just like many of the other followers of the Haskalah in his time, needed to keep the peace.

... Our positive attitude towards Goldfaden’s creations has no connection to refined Goldfaden’s concepts, or change the barren inclination within Goldfaden’s concepts. For us and for us only, do the dramatic elements of Goldfaden’s plays have any merit? We must only be interested in Goldfaden’s theatrical spirit, not in the types or the construction of these types, not the texts but the materializing of these texts.

... In this manner Goldfaden created and understandably prepared his texts for the stage and was able to justify the reason for his existence. Herein lays the strength for his plays, which are capable of living a theatrical life in many different times and for many different tastes and requirements.

" ... Goldfaden had a style that was laconic, even among those who slandered him. He possessed a style that was made to order for the theatre; a compatible Yiddish style.

" ... Goldfaden’s Yiddish, just as from the beginning he developed in 'Shmendrik,' is from the market place and is a folksy Yiddish. But Goldfaden did not turn the language upside down. He didn’t need language, except that it was the language of his literary theatrical forerunners. He often played around with the theatrical vocabulary and added meaning to the basic meaning of the word.

" ... Theatricalism -- above all else -- this was the heart of his success. This was the reason that he grew so close to finding an elementary comprehension, both in his creation and in his editing of his plays, which possessed so many weaknesses and often became entangled with a coarse style. But Goldfaden together with all his contacts was sent directly to the theatre, where both consciously and subconsciously he was nourished. He stood alone and thus the first Yiddish theatre was created ..."

Separately, Goldfaden’s theatricality made him the darling of Yiddish theatre. This is how Dr. Jacob Shatzky describes those times:

"Abraham Goldfaden was the inspired primitive of Yiddish theatrical instinct in the fullest meaning of these words. Goldfaden absorbed into his very being the entire European theatre tradition of his time; The Berlin 'Lust-Shpil,' the Viennese 'Folks-Drama' with its attractive ethical enlightenment, The Ukrainian "romantic and musical melodrama," and the Hungarian vulgar 'folks vaudeville' -- these were worlds that had strongly influenced Goldfaden’s theatrical creations. .. The problem of originality was at the same time more of a problem of suitable absorption of all of these theatrical elements and to rebuild them in a specific national character. And if we were to analyze and to judge Goldfaden from this point of view, we will arrive at the conclusion that this product of a rabbinical school, the author of didactic songs in the holy tongue, was so thoroughly dedicated to the theatre that the Haskalah also became a living entity, a sort of  tax payment to his time, his epoch. The means to preach ethics and to become enlightened had overgrown his goal, so that the modern director was freed from the text and from the didactic elements. Goldfaden’s works did not suffer from this. ... (They) remain much more, very much more relevant because they are primarily Goldfaden’s creation, in which there exists the actor and the constructive undertaking of the theatre. Goldfaden left us well-constructed models of plays that we can imbue with new meaning, yet they do not harm the interior construction of the original. ... The gallery of true folk types in Goldfaden’s great repertoire were the result of his creative intuition, both for the director and the actor. These same people were not merely symbols, or merely character types, they were thoroughly infused with folk humor, folk sentiment and folksy jokes, so that they were all sympathetic personalities. They quickly became companions of the 'audience' spectator, and won over his dedication. 

... The modern Yiddish stage due to Goldfaden’s repertoire became a source of creative opportunity, a treasure of theatrical successes, a field with wider and broader perspectives."

Dr. A. Mukdoni characterized Goldfaden thus: "One person, who is a metaphor for an entire theatre is Abraham Goldfaden. He is an actor, a musician, a director, a dramatist and a producer. ... It is completely dissimilar to other foreign creations. It is through and through Yiddish, folksy and at the same time modern theatre. His theatre is in no way a translation of foreign theatres. It is an original Jewish entity in all of its outward appearances and in its substance. ... He inherited all forms of theatrical poetry, drama and vaudeville. A classical clarity exists in all of its various forms and in its poetic scenic appearances. There is no blurriness, no reconstructing it from one form to another."

Jacob Mestel wrote: "The Yiddish stage created by Goldfaden is perhaps the one and only to remain 'traditional.' ... Wherever we performed Goldfaden as it was written, we presented a Goldfaden presentation there only because the audience loved to see a Goldfaden play -- there Goldfaden remained like a word of God from Mt. Sinai, like the melody of a prayer. There the thousandth Goldfaden presentation in Buenos Aires or in Johannesburg, it is identical to his first presentation in Iasi or Odessa. Goldfaden till this day remains a piece Yiddish theatrical tradition. ... However, very few traditional scenic sets remain in a Goldfaden presentation. The simple reason is because these details were not often handled by Goldfaden’s alone. Performing under various conditions so that in Iasi in "The Sacrifice of Isaac" he allowed the angels to descend from heaven, and another time playing in some God-forsaken hole in the wall, in a stall, he was satisfied when his angels were able to squeeze onto the stage through a split in a bed sheet. From this we have many differences in the Goldfaden 'accessories.' Therefore we meet even more boldly on the stage, not the well-known characters that Goldfaden’s actors created. Many of them had evolved as icons in the folk literature. In the theatre world we must never call even one of them a weakling -- we must call him a 'Papist,' or  that he has 'crossed over to the Romans.' Even with a hero such as 'Bar Kochba' or 'Breindele Kossack,' or 'Shmendrik.' it is sufficient enough to depict the character of a person."

Abraham Teitlebaum: "Like so many other great theatre pieces, Goldfaden’s comedies were very fine, masterpiece canvasses that never had the possibility to become either a stage play or a director’s invention. They leave room for the creative inspiration of every producer. They allow themselves to be adapted, and to fit every possible condition, in many different environments. They rise above all others. They allow themselves to fit all styles and are flexible in all kinds of modern and modernistic creations. They assumed the same affect when they performed Goldfaden’s plays on the provincial stages, where the fortuitous naively painted scenery was merely theatrical backdrops, and which had nothing to do with the content of the plays. Regarding props or furniture, we hardly concerned ourselves with these. We used only those things that were the bare necessities, as it was done on the formal Molière stages. The same artistic works were found in his plays when they were staged in Kaminski’s theatre on specially painted backdrops and properly naturalistic sets. ... For much more artistic undertakings, Granowsky, in his Goldfaden productions, employed creative directors. ... Whatever intentions Goldfaden had were placed in their interpretation of his plays, and despite whatever costumes his heroes should put on it would still not be possible to silence or to drive away the lofty elements that existed beneath everything he wrote, and the esteem that they garnered -- except for their simplicity and folksiness -- which was their theatricalism. See how every bit of energy, nervousness, awkwardness and other rough-around-the- edges qualities that were never straightened out by an intriguing plot and with nothing more. What emerged was not an interesting plot, and not some heavenly prose, not in thunderous metaphors, but in a fully satisfactory manner. It didn’t resemble any other undertaking, and is not comparable to any other theatrical dynamics or direction.

And Goldfaden earlier than all of this was a showman. It is enough to study the 'remarks' of his plays, the instructions for the actors or the director, to see how bright and sharp his sense of theatrical fantasy and stage movement was. ... Goldfaden did not need to be exposed to the modern secret that a play is heard more with the eyes than with the ears. For him, as for all true theatre artists, it was the content and the essence of his entire creation. Goldfaden's keen sense of theatricality also clearly shows his strong love for changing his places of action, for driving his heroes around the world. "I think it may not have been so much the national motive that led him to bring all his heroes together in Eretz-Israel (in "The Time of the Messiah"), as the strong demand for theatrical effect that such a situation does not have for him."

About Goldfaden as a musician, Joseph Rumshinsky writes:

"Goldfaden alone was not a musician, but he had a musical ear. As a poet and fervent Jew he ad a very strong feeling for rhymes and the Yiddish melodramas. Right from the start he understood that Yiddish plays should go with music. Goldfaden then was in Jewish Russia, where there had existed the 'little Russian' troupes, which used to perform lebensbilder (life scenes) with singing. These offerings were very successful. Goldfaden was friendly with the former small-Russian author and director Krupovnitzky, who had a strong influence on him, and he decided to go in that way, that it to say, presenting Yiddish plays with music. ... He used to take choir boys, who has sung with a cantor, and they were told that they should bring a book with cantorial notes, a 'big book.' The choirboys used to sing from the notes until Goldfaden liked something, and he used to create a play. ... The first period they consisted of ninety percent cantorial music. The first question that Goldfaden used to ask an actor was: ''Can he sing, does he have a voice, does he know notes?"

Goldfaden alone writes about it in a Yiddish-German journal, "The World" (our translation from the German): "First of all, I admit and thank myself: The author of the music from 'Shulamis,' and many other Yiddish singing plays, the writer of the lines, does not have any theatrical knowledge in music, and cannot even read any notes. Although I have, with the composer of my piece 'Shmendrik,' paid attention to my composer, that the music should put together from the following elements: 1) begin and end with choruses, 2) marches, 3) dance, 4) arias, 5) duets, 6) tertsets, 7) ballets, 8) songs, 9) chansonettes, -- However, I do not think it is right that my singing-acting were called 'opera'. For in order to earn the name 'opera', they would have to be a musical unit, an organic nonchalance, and this is not so, because I have created some numbers myself, and partly borrowed some from other composers. I can say with a clear conscience 'borrowed' because sometimes a cantor in my training borrowed Page 348 this or that number for his synagogue repertoire, so, that often a melody is sung in the synagogue, and at the same time in the same city the melody is 'danced' on my staged, understand, with modulations.

"May I say that I am more complimentary as a composer. I mean, however, That I am more of a compiler than a composer. But I think copying is also an art. I imagine it this way - I borrow - as already mentioned above - from a cantor some beautiful tenors of his 'holiness', from another - his 'Min Hameitzar', from a third - some chords from his 'Y'hi Ratzon,' and these melodic pieces of various tones I melt together, with the assistance of my conductor, into a melting pot of taste and harmony, So that a completely new, art-sustaining duet is released, and the like.

"I don't make any secret: In the first years of my founding the Yiddish theatre I had allowed myself here and there to make small loans, about which I have not reported to my creditors at all. I accidentally smuggled in my piece light melodies from Offenbach, Lecocq, Verdi, Meyerbeer, even from Wagner. To apologize, I can use one of the following sayings: in art there is no sixth commandment, "including the fact that I did not make my forced loans for self-interest or the desire to earn. What could a poor composer of my own kind be able to pull from "plagiarists" in greater silence? But I did it exclusively because I was striving to raise up strata of my people.

"It may actually be said that I am more of a compiler than a composer. I believe, however, that compiling is also art. This is how I operate: I borrow — as noted above — some fine notes from one cantor of his kedusha ("sanctity"); from another, his min ha’metser ("from the border"); from a third, some chords from v’yahi ritson ("let there be a will"), etc., and I fuse together all these highly-varied types of tones, with the help of my conductor, in the crucible of taste and harmony so that there emerges a completely new, artistically valid duet and the like.

"I don’t keep it secret: in the early years of my creation of the Yiddish theatre, I permitted myself here and there to make small loans about which I did not inform my creditors. On occasion I would smuggle into my pieces simple melodies from Offenbach, Lecocq, Verdi, Meyerbeer, even from Wagner. To excuse myself, I can, in addition to Heine’s saying, ‘In Art, there is no Sixth Commandment,’ also rely on the circumstance that I made my forced borrowings not on my own behalf or the desire to derive earnings. What use could a poor composer of my status derive from ‘plagiarizing’ a greater style? -- I did it exclusively because in that manner I aimed to raise the musical taste of the broad masses of my people.

"Regretfully, even this boldest step did not hit its mark. The taste of the lower classes of the Jewish population was so corrupted that they simply could not abide European music. Their ear was simply unable to accept other melodies than those sung in the synagogue and House of  Study. I had to abandon the purposeless attempts and to go down another road. I therefore limited myself to preserving a unique Yiddish folk-music that is characterized by a certain frigid [?] type of tune, and that road of mine was crowned by great success.

"… It is understood that such an audience, an audience that had a quite primitive sense of art and an undeveloped musical taste, had to be fed truly ‘light’ music. I inserted choirs, arias, duets, etc., only for their stage effect; for my audience, it had not the slightest charm. It merely ‘hummed in his head,’ as one of my unhappy theatre-attendees expressed it. Contrarily, this self-involved theatre audience heartily devoured it and always sang it along in their own homes, at work or a festive event. I will only mention the songs ‘Raisins and Almonds’ from ‘Shulamis;’ the ’Shepherd’s Song’ from ‘Bar Kokhba;’ ‘Yankele Goes to Shul’ from ‘Akhashveyrosh,’ and ’Go, Go’ from ‘Almasada.’ 

"… Now, something about my creative method. I sing or play on the piano the melody that I’ve composed and a musically-trained colleague of mine writes down the notes. My colleague then takes home the score and converts it into an orchestration. However, earlier, though I do not understand counterpoint, I give him precise indications regarding the instrumentation. I tell him, for example, that a certain melody should be played only quietly by stringed instruments with a faint accompaniment of flutes. It must not in any case be accompanied by heavy wind or percussion instruments. Or I draw to his attention that a certain number carries the character of a lullaby, another song must sound like a shepherd’s song, so that it may only be played by the flute, and so forth. For truly frigid [?] motifs I cannot at all abide any instrumentation, but I allow the cited number to be played as a solo. In such a case my bandleaders must always obey me and allow me, against their will, to follow my melodic choice.

"… When, in my youth, I wrote 'little songs,’ I also followed my muse in religious motifs because my songs were  distinguished by a religious-ethnic textual tendency and by the ‘Jewishness’ of the melodies. Even then I created lyrics and music simultaneously. Therefore, in my theatre works, the songs are the major element. Lacking them, a Jewish theatre work is impossible."

But Goldfaden "even made fun of himself somewhat" -- notes Dr. Yehoshua [Joshua] Thon in "Haynt" ["Today," Warsaw Yiddish daily newspaper]. "So he once told me himself about when he met with a former colleague from the Zhitomir Rabbinic School, who had somewhat converted and become the conductor of the Royal Opera in Petersburg. This particular friend said to him: ‘D’you hear, Avrom, I don’t know how much your plays are worth, but the music can truly cripple you …’"

Sh. L. Citron relates: "Goldfaden possessed a very pleasant voice. As a boy he would sometimes assist at the pulpit the cantor of his hometown of Starokonstantine.

"… In the summer months, when no classes were held at the Rabbinic School, Goldfaden would tour among the Wolin Province’s townlets [shtetlekh] to collect various nigunim [wordless religious melodies] and to use them later in his songs. [Avrom Ber] Gotlober, [Hebrew Enlightenment writer, Goldfaden’s teacher], who also occasionally wrote Yiddish poems with his own music, helped Goldfaden to develop and adapt the collected nigunim and all sorts of variations … Coincidentally (at the start of writing ‘Shulamis’) the thought awakened in him to arrange the work in music in the form of an opera. But a work of historical Middle Eastern life cannot be dressed in cantorial nigunim and folk-songs; for that there must be Oriental, or at least Oriental-sounding music. Knowing that Odessa often hosted Turkish and Greek wandering singers who visited the wine cellars and the other cheap entertainment centers of the underclass populations, Goldfaden would go there quite often in order to write down and note their songs. But the old (all) motifs that he gathered then were quite insufficient for him …Visiting (later) Romanian cities at various coffee houses and taverns, he wrote down huge treasures of motifs from all the various Balkan peoples and from the Eastern population in general. Among the songs were many of Sephardic and ancient Holy Land origin."

Jacob Mestel, who spent quite some time on the balcony, recalls that often, upon hearing Montenegrin and Albanian folksongs, his ear echoed all of the Goldfaden repertoire.

Specially treated by A.Z. Idelsohn in his book, "The Origin of Yiddish Music," the twenty-five musical numbers from "Shulamis" (arranged for piano by H.A. Russotto, issued by the "Hebrew Publishing Company, New York):

"Number 1 -- "Der marsh keyn yerushalayim" -- (ongelodn mit aldos guts") -- taken from Nomberg's "Zmirot yisroel," 79 pp. (lkh di hagdol).

Number 2 ("Kumt zhe gicher in eynem zikh bentshn") -- partly from Nomberg's "Mi hua zh melekh," dort, 196 p.

Number 3: ("Ybrchkh") -- In der "mgn abut"-shteyger mitn suf-motiv fun traditsioneln ton fun "ldovid brukh," in der tsayt vos der motiv, velchn goldfaden hot banutst farn vort "Drchkh" in dozikn gezang, iz enlekh tsu a timner folks-motiv.

Number 6 ("Akh, vos ze ikh dort") -- iz a tipishe italenishe arie.

Number 6 ("Rozhinkes un mandln," oder, "In Bit-Hamikdash") -- iz a yidisher folks-ton un iz gevorn zayer populer in goldfadens verter un nigun.

Number 8 ("Ikh dank dir, Got") doszelbe, zet oys tsu zayn genumen fun an italienishn kval.

Numbers 9-10 ("Yo vu nemt men di edut," oder, "Ot der brunem," un "Dos vet ober keynmol bay unz nit geshen") -- zaynen shtark adoptirt fun shestopols nigun oyf Thlim ki"d (auni zchrni), velcher hot tsu dem tsvek adoptirt di ire numer 6 fun verdis "traviata" (di arie fun violet).

Number 11 ("Pastucher-chor") -- iz oykh fun an italien kval.

Number 12 -- A "balet," iz an imitatsye fun a "mazurke."

Number 13  ("Loyf tsu mir, du sheyner bokhur") -- iz ukrinish.

Number 14 ("Kum zshe, kum zshe, bokhur sheyner") -- iz a Khasidisher tants in shteyger fun "adoni melekh."

Number 15 ("Du bizt meyn kale") -- iz khasidish in tsigeyner-shteyger. S'iz gevorn zayer populer.

Number 16 ("Shabes, yom-tov un rosh khodesh") -- iz tsu derkenen an imitatsie fun aliezers barimter arie in "di yidin," onheybndik fun "Rokhl, ven Got."

Number 17 ("Ikh heys yuab gdeuni") -- iz an ukrainisher ton.

Numbers 18-19 ("In aza sheh leyg ikh dos do" un "dortn in der vayste vayt") -- zaynen a kompilatsye fun deytshe un ukrainishe motivn.

Number 20 ("Shreyt zshe vayber mit mir in eynem") -- iz a tipisher terkisher "hedzhas"-ton.

Numbers 21-22 ("Flaker feyerl, flaker" un "Leynt zshe tsu holtz") -- zaynen a populerer yidisher folks-ton mit an andern nusakh.

Number 23 ("Got, ze aleyn, Got") -- iz a khasidisher ton fun tip "dbkut."

Number 24 ("Fun di tsveygn di fidelekh") iz der ukrainisher radian-shteyger.

Number 25 ("Git a shbkh" oder "In bit hamikdash") -- iz a rusisher marsh oder a min imitatsie.

And the seventeen musical numbers from "Bar Kokhba" (arranged by A. Garfinkel, issued by D. Mazin Co., London):

Number 1 -- Iz a khasidishe dbkut-melodye mit a khazanish dreydl.

Number 2 -- Iz a zayer bakanter follks-nigun.

Number 3 -- Iz a duet un a solo, adoptirt fun frantsoyzishe oder italienishe kvaln.

Numbers 4-5 -- Zaynen bazirt oyf dizelbe isudut.

Number 6 -- Iz a prechtiker marsh, baveyzt ukrinishn eynflus.

Numbers 9-10 -- Zaynen a mish-mash fun khazanishe motivn fun shestopol un andere.

Number 11 -- Heybt zikh on in bakantn deytshn marsh-stil un farendikt zikh mitn hedzhas-shteyger.

Numbers 12-13 -- Zaynen a gemishter ukrainisher shteyger un zaynen zayer populer.

Number 14 -- Iz a "bravura-arye" in italienishn stil.

Number 15 -- Iz in stil fun a yidishn folks-nigun un iz zayer balibt baym eulm.

Number 17 -- Iz a khasidisher ton."

A.Z. Idelsohn adds: "Although in the two analyzed operettas, Goldfaden cannot be considered an original music creator, he nevertheless demonstrated much dramatic technique and musical taste in his adaptation of charming [?] nigunim that can appeal to the Jewish masses. The nigunim are well-selected, also in terms of the dramatic effect that they need to impose. Understandably, the accompaniment is very primitive and one cannot find in them any musical style except the potpourri they present. That part of the audience whose taste is more developed is not at all impressed by Goldfaden’s operettas, but fifty years ago his operettas were a discovery in Eastern Europe and created a furor in all the Jewish settlements in Russia."

After the production of "Shulamis" in Hungarian as an opera, Dr. Felix Adler [philosopher, founder of Ethical Culture, not otherwise known for an interest in Yiddish culture] writes in the Jewish-German journal "Die Welt" (30, 1899): "One can calmly say that in all of operatic literature there has never been anything comparable to this date. Unwillingly, one must recall those ancient Temple songs that can still be heard in small pious synagogues. The quintessence of that music lies in its quite individual rhythms and harmonies as well as in the melodics that seem entirely foreign to an ear that is accustomed to modern music. No sooner than one has become accustomed to that exotica, one learns that these old Jewish songs have a notable strength; their dance contains a soft and mild grace. The song and the dance exchange places rapidly; here and there duets and quartettes also appear, as well as naturally-developed ensembles. Regrettably there is no piano excerpt by which one might, in later studies, concretize the impression one had at the moment of the presentation. One cannot, therefore, concentrate on the music; many things would then certainly have a different appearance than at the first performance. The unusual richness of the music is intriguing. Every number brings something new and original, so that it’s not monotonous and there is no localized nuance and therefore one does not lose interest in the thing. But the appeal of this music lies not in the purely melodic and not only in its exotic rhythm. It also possesses a certain dramatic expressive ability that rises to the demands of the situation. Understandably, such completely naïve music is determined by the text, and it suffers where the librettist ignored the accompanist. Since this often occurs with H[err] Goldfaden, the music is not everywhere of the same worth and is not always at a height. In all its dramatic stages, its main strength consists of its lyrical and, most importantly, its national [i.e. ethnic] element. The music is national in the same sense as Smetana’s "Bartered Bride." Both are taken from the deepest source of the people. (Our translation.)

M. Koyfman [Kaufman], a Jewish-German researcher of Jewish folk music, notes: "Since Goldfaden created both lyrics and music simultaneously, an intimate oneness arose, a oneness in which neither the text nor the music were able by themselves to bring out the general impression that both were able to do simultaneously and indivisibly."

Joseph Cherniavsky writes in the New York "Teater un Kunst (Theatre and Art)": "Avrom Goldfaden sang it out … taken from Jewish weddings … someone wrote it down, another made an incompetent sort of orchestration for six to seven instruments with a (the) most primitive harmonizing! … Listening for the hundredth time to the motifs of "Shulamis," "Bar Kokhba," "Maksheyfe," "Kuni Lemel," and to various ditties from other operettas in which are heard the sounds of Ukrainian songs, synagogue cantorials, also from pseudo folksongs, I affirm that in Goldfaden we have lost our Offenbach, who would have done for the Yiddish operetta that which the Jewish Jean [! actually, Jacques] Offenbach accomplished for world operetta. Goldfaden’s tragic situation did not consist of the fact that he was chased from town to town by both the Russian government and the Jewish population [!], but in the fact that lacking musical education, he created music. Were Goldfaden, during the period of his wanderings, to have endured exile and creative development, have studied whatever "clavier" of the immortal classicists of world operetta and would have under this influence created in the Jewish style -- his works would have remained for us into eternity as the musical book of learning, as the classical example."

G’s letters can serve as an important frame of reference for the careful Goldfaden researcher, but only a part of them have been made available so far, such as: four letters to Sholem Aleichem during the 1880-90 period (published in the New York Goldfaden "Bukh (The Goldfaden Book)"; seven letters to Yankef Dinezon [Jacob Dineson] during the time of 1890-1903, (published in "Di Yidishe Velt (The Jewish World)," Warsaw, 4, 1928); single letters to Moyshe Finkel of October 4, 1876 (published in "Arkhiv (Archive)," Vilna, pp. 255-6); to Sarason [?] (printed in the "Yidishe Gazetn (Jewish Gazettes)," December 11, 1903; "Di Yidishe Velt," Warsaw, 4, 1928, p. 126); to his wife in Paris of 1901 (published in "Arkhiv," p. 257 and mentioned in Perkof’s "Avrom Goldfaden," p. 8); to Prof, Zelikovitsh, of 1901 (published in "Arkhiv," p. 259); to the "Forverts (Forward)" of the same time (published in "Arkhiv," p. 260); a letter about a conversation with Max Nordau [co-founder with Herzl of the Zionist Organization] (published in "Arkhiv," p. 261); a response by G to the reception for him in New York, November 1908 (published in "Arkhiv," p. 264); a letter to Shomer [popular "trash" novelist], around 1902--3 (published in "Pinkes (Records)," New York, 1927, p. 159); to Sholem Aleichem (published in "Pinkes," 3, 1928, p. 266); a letter to the editor ("Der Folks-Advokat [The People’s Advocate]," N.Y., 19 Sept., 1888); to A. Torczyner, New York, 30 December, 1908 (published in "Arkhiv," p. 277); six letters to Yitskhok Perkov during the period of 1903-1907 (published in Perkov’s book, "Avrom Goldfaden," London, 1908); and two letters to Yozef Vaynshtok, Paris, 15 April, 1900 (published in "Arkhiv," p. 461).

In the "Archive for Yiddish Theatre," where are found many new materials for Goldfaden research, there is also published a manuscript by G., in the form of a letter to the editor, as his reply to a review of "Nye Be, Nye Me." That letter provides some new facts in the history of Yiddish operettas.

For the second volume of the same archive there are prepared for publication another twenty-five not previously published letters by G..

Much material for research into the Goldfaden period is to be found in G’s autobiographies.

The first autobiography was published by G. during his first visit to America in its New York Illustrated Newspaper (No. 4, 1887). In 1888 this autobiography was re-published in "Hoyz Fraynd (House Friend)," (Vol. 1, pp. 165-8) in the form of a biography (shortened and told in the third person) written under the pseudonym of "A. Vohliner." The same autobiography also appeared on 9 January, 1908, in the New York "Di Varhayt (The Truth)" and was later republished several times.

In 1896, G. sent to Kh[anan]. Y. Minikes [1867-1932] for his book "Di Yidishe Bine (The Yiddish Stage)," an article entitled "The First Period of the Yiddish Theatre." The article was announced for the second volume of the collection which did not actually appear, and the article was lost.

Finally, on 1 August, 1901, G. in Paris begins to write his autobiography, of which 3 installments were immediately published in "Minikes’ Yontif Bleter (Minikes’ Holiday Leaflets)" in New York and later republished in part in later editions of "Minikes’ Yontif Bleter," as well as in the New York "Goldfaden Bukh (Goldfaden Book)" and by Sholem Perlmuter in the "Forverts" of 24 April 1927.

In "Di Velt "(1900,19 [?]) G. published an article in which he touches on issues that bear a biographical character.

Of the same character is also G.’s article, "Fun Shmendrik Biz Ben Ami (From ‘The Fool’ to Ben Ami)," published 29 March 1907 in "Der Amerikaner (The American)" and republished in "Arkhiv."

On 5 April 1929, Sholem Perlmutter began to publish in the Philadelphia "Di Yidishe Velt )The Yiddish World)," under the title of "Beginnings of Yiddish Theatre," G’.s autobiography based on his manuscript in four notebooks. This is G.’s first detailed autobiography, reaching to past the production of "Brayndele Kozak (Little Braynde the Cossack)." At the end of the last installment (published 5 July 1929), Perlmutter notes: "I have not yet fully organized Book 4, so I must now interrupt my series. From the first few pages that I have in Goldfaden’s manuscript, one can only see that he did not remain in Romania for too long, and in the year of 1878 (1879) he arrived in Odessa to compete with Israel Rosenberg, and he started his theatre in Russia, in Odessa, with "Brayndele Kozak" in the year of 1878 (1879).

Other than longer and shorter biographies in the periodic press, in lexicons and encyclopedias, other than poems dedicated to G., many articles and reminiscences [were written] about him as a writer, editor, dramaturge and founder of the Yiddish theatre.

There have also been published special works about G’s activities in the fields of Yiddish literature and theatre.

In approximately 1877 or 1878, there was published in Romania in Yiddish the brochure [only Hebrew title given] (G. Avramski). The brochure consists of thirty pages and is a rarity. Its most important portions were quoted by Noyekh [Noah] Prilutski [Polish Jewish politician, Yiddish linguist, philologist, lawyer, renowned scholar] in an article in "Bikher Velt (Book World)" (Warsaw, 3-4, 1923).
In 1908, in London, there was published I. Perkof’s brochure, "Avrom Goldfaden: My Memories and His Letters" (30 pp., 16°, double-columns), which also includes some photos and Goldfaden’s. facsimile. The brochure appeared right after G’s death, and the author assigned the proceeds of the brochure’s sale to G.’s widow.


Page of Manuscript of Goldfaden's Autobiography
(in possession [at the time] of Sholem Perlmutter in New York)

In 1926 there was in New York published "The Goldfaden Book" by the Yiddish Theatre Museum, New York (104 pp., 16°), which includes beyond two short introductions, some articles about G.’s letters to Sholem Aleichem and to A. Likhtenshteyn; a reprinting of G.’s autobiography (as in "Minikes’ Holiday Leaflets"); a Goldfaden bibliography (listing of his biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, articles, first reviews and critical appraisals about G. and his theatre (228 sections), as well as some photos.

"That same year, in Minsk, there appeared N. Oyslender’s [Auslander’s] and U. Finkel’s book, "A. Goldfaden: Materials For a Biography," published by the Institute for Belorussian Culture (104 pp., 16°) which also contains a new listing of seventeen bibliographical references.

In "Tsaytshrift" [a periodical magazine], Uri Finkel published a major work entitled "Societal Figures in A. Goldfaden’s First Works."

In "Teater Bukh (Theatre Book)," (Kiev, 1927), I. Dobrushin published an attempt at an analytical consideration entitled "Goldfaden the Dramaturg."

In Zalmen Zylberczweig's book, "Behind the Curtain" (Vilna, 1928), there are 117 pages entitled "The Memoirs of Yitskhok Libresko, the Founder of Goldfaden’s Theatre," dedicated to G.’s stage activities in Romania and in Russia.

G.'s compositions that were published:

  • "Akhashveyresh," (No. 15), arranged by H.A. Russotto, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York, 1899.
  • "Di tsoyberin (The Witch)," (No. 10), arranged by H. Russotto, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York, 1900.
  • "The Sacrifice of Isaac," (No. 25), arranged by H. Russotto, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York, yr. unk.
  • "Bar kokhba," (No. 20), arranged by H. Russotto, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York, 1909.
  • "Bar kokhba," (No. 17), arranged by A. Garfinkel, "The Music Company," London.
  • "Shulamis," (No. 25), arranged by H. Russotto, "The Hebrew Publish Company," New York, 1911.
  • "Shmendrik," (No. 6), arranged by J.M. Rumshinsky, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York, 1911.
  • "Kuni lemel," (No. 10), arranged by J.M. Rumshinsky, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York, 1911.
  • "The Messenger of Justice," (No. 4), arranged by Russotto and Friedsell, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York, 1921.
  • Heaven and Hell," (No. 1 -- the quartet from "La takhmod") (Thou Shall Not Covet), arranged by H.A. Russotto, I. Katzenelbogen Publishers, New York.
  • "Hashivenu nazad" (from "La takhmod") (Thou Shall Not Covet), arranged by I.J. Kammen, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York.
  • "Farjomert farklogt" (from "Doctor Almasada"), arranged by H. Russotto, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York.
  • "Yeytser hore" (from "La takhmod"), aranged by H. russotto and I.J. Kammen, "The Hebrew Publishing Company," New York.
  • "Shteh oyf mayn folk," (from "Doctor Alamasada"), arranged by H' Russotto, "Hebrew Publishing Company," New York.
  • "Shoifar shel moshiach," (from "Moshiach's tsaytn"), arranged by J.M. Rumshinsky, "The Hebrew Publication Company," 
    New York.
  • "Dos boimele" (from "Melitz yoysher"), arranged by J.M. Rumshinsky, "The Hebrew Publication Company," New York.
  • "Nikolai's mapelah" by Sol Small (Shmulewitz), music by A. Goldfaden (motif from "Raisins and Almonds"), arranged by H.A.
    Russotto, "Hebrew Publishing Company," New York.
  • "A tremp biztu, geh vayter, geh," words by I. Rheingold, music by A. Goldfaden (motif from "Farjomert farklogt"), arranged by 
    J.M. Rumshinsky, "Hebrew Publishing Company," New York.

G.'s published plays in Yiddish:

1. Tsvey shkheynes (Two Neighbors), published in "Di yudene," 1869.

2. Di mume sosye (Aunty Susie), published in "Di yudene," 1869.

3. Polyeh Shikor (Polyeh, the Drunkard), a drinking song by a Sheindl of Vaudeville, "Di vibores fun gubernskn rev." (fragment published in "Kol mbshr," No. 44, 1871.)

4. Anonymous Comedy in 2 Acts, which was played with around 5-8 actors, 1976, in Iasi (subject in G.'s autobiography).

5. Di rekrutn (The Recruits), an operetta in 3 acts (subject and frgments published in G.'s autobiography.)

6. Dos bintl holtz (The Bundle of Sticks), vaudeville with singing in 1 act. (subject published in G.'s autobiography).

7. Di intrigeh, oder, Dvosye di pliotkemahern (The Intrigue or Dvoisie Intrigued), a realistic drama in 5 acts (subject published in G.'s autobiography.)

8. Di bobe mit dem eynikil (The Grandmother and the Granddaughter), oder, Bontsye di kneytlekhleygerin, a melodrama in 3 acts with singing, written by Avraham Goldfaden. (The music, the costumes and the sets for the play were furnished by the author.) Huba lbit hdfus e"i hmdfisim hshutfim a. boymritter ukhtnu n. ganshar ashr knu hzchut mhmkhbr. Varsa bdfus boymditter ukhtnu ganshar rkhub bieleynske 16. (without a publication year. Tsenzurirt in varshe 19 February 1891, 40 pp., 16o.) (First edition in Odessa 1879).

8a. Published by Jacob Sapirstein. 139 Division Street, (corner of Ludlow Street), New York, 1893. (published by the Warsaw       Magtritsn, bloyz an ander sher-blat.)

8b. Goldfaden's Theatre Magazine, Y. Lidsky, publishing house, bookseller, Warsaw, Navelki 82, Warsaw Trs"h (1905), published by Sh.B. Landau.

9. Shmendrik, a comedy in three acts with singing and dance. Heroysgeber: Yitskhok Libresko in Iasi, and E.M. Werbel in Odessa., Odessa 1879, 40 pp.

9a. Warsaw, by Y. Liberman, 1890.

9b. Goldfaden's yuishes theater, Shmendrig, oder, Di komishe khasene, a comedy in three acts, authored by Abraham Goldfaden. (the music, the costumes and the sets of the play were supplied by the author), Warsaw Trs'z (1907). Ferlag un eygenthum by Lieb Morgenstern, bookstore in Warsaw. Frantsishkaner shtrasse, No. 26.) (40 pp, 16o, with a scene, "Mefirt shmendrig tsu der khupe")

9c. Di komishe khasene fun Shmendrik mit di ikale in dray aktn. Tsu shtendrk mut du kale loyft koynem alu vet ur hobun a sheynum unter halt vet etz zen vos mut un geshen bald men hot du kale far buten. Unter du khupe un muten. Es iz eyn fargnugen far di velt. Ir vet ds kenun koyfn far a shpat geld: (Name of the author not given. Published together with G.'s one-acter, 'Der kater," and a comedy in 3 acts, "Lid fun feitel nar mit notki ganev" (by ?, 30 pp., 32o, oyf deitsh ongegebn: published by the house of BL. Necheles, Lemberg, 1875 [?]).

10. Di kaprizne kale-moyd, oder, kabatzon et hungerman, a melodrama in 4 acts and 5 scenes, composed by Abraham Goldfaden. (The music, the costumes and the sets for the play were furnished by the author.) Huba lbit hdfus e"i hmdfisim a. boymritter ikhtnu n. gansher ushutfu r' aaron gazlavsky, Ma"sm asher knu hzchut mhmkhbr. Warsaw bdfus boymritter ukhtnu gansher. Rkhub Bleynska 16, Shnt trm"kh lp"k (1887). (46 pp.,16o.)

10a. Published by Jacob Sapirstein, 139 Division Street, (corner of Ludlow St.), New York, 1893. (published by the Warsaw Matritsn mit a nayem sher-blat un a tseychnung).

10b. Goldfaden's Theatre Magazine. Kabtzonsohn and Hungerman (et al.). Publishers Y. Lidski, bookstore, Warsaw Nawelki 32, Warsaw Trs"h (1905.)

10c. F. Kantorovitsh Publishers, Warsaw, 1922, Marianska 2.

11. Di shtume kale (The Mute Bride), played in 3 acts with singing (subject published in G.'s autobiography).

12. Der lebedker mes (The Living Corpse), vaudeville in 1 act. Subject published in "Shriftn," Kiev, 1928, Vol. 1, p. 342).

13. Iks, miks, drikt. A farce in 2 acts. Subjec published in G.'s autobiography.

14. Der Katar (Catarrh), one lust sphil in one act. Published anonymously, together with "Di kamishe khasene fun shmendrig mit di kale. Lemberg, 1875 (?).

15. Brayndele kozak, a dream scene in 4 acts with a prologue and epilogue. Subject and some dialogue published in G.'s autobiography.)

16. Di kishufmakherin (tsoyberin) (The Witch), an operetta in 5 acts and 8 scenes. Composed by Abraham Goldfaden. (The music, the costumes and the sets for the play were furnished by the author.) Huba lbit hdfus e"i hmdfisim a. boymritter ikhtnu n. gansher ushutfu r' aaron kazlavsky, Ma"sm asher knu hzchut mhmkhbr. Warsaw (year of publication unknown, 64 pp., 16o.) First edition, 1887.

16a. Di kishufmakherin (The Witch), a theatre piece by A. Goldfaden, price 10 cents. Published and printed by the Hebrew Publishing Company. 83-85-87 Canal St., New York. (year of publication unknown, Bamt nor a naye sher-blat, un tekst ibergedruken fun di varshever matritsn).

16b. Di kishufmakherin (tsoyberin) (The Witch), Publishing house F. Kantorovitsh, Warsaw, 1922, Marianska 2.

17. Der ligner, oder, todres blaz (The Liar, or, Todres Blow). A comic operetta in 4 acts by A. Goldfaden.

18. Der fanatik, oder, Di beyde kuni-lemel, an operetta in 4 acts and 8 scenes (first edition, Warsaw, 1887).

18a. Goldfaden's Yiddish Theatre, The Two Kuni-Lemels, Hebrew Publishing Company, New York (publication year unknown, probably only a reprint of the Warsaw Matritsn, with a drawing of the hile.)

18b. Abraham Goldfaden (oygekrats: Der fanatiker), or, The Two Kuni-Lemels, F. Kantorovitsh Publishing House, Warsaw 1922, Marianska 2.

19. Shulamis, or, Bet Yerushalayim, a musical melodrama in person, and in 3 acts and 15 scenes. Authored by Abraham Goldfaden. (The music, the costumes and the decorations for the play was put together by the author). Printed and published by R. Mazin and Co., Whitechapel, London (1902. First edition, Warsaw 1886 in another publishing house.) Price with the notes, 4 schillings (62 pp., 16o).

19a. (Reprinted in the Hebrew Publishing Company, 50-52 Eldridge Street, New York. Without the publication year.)

19b. (Reprinted in Warsaw, 1922, F. Kantorovitsh Publishing House).

19c. A. Goldfaden. Shulamis, oder, Bet Yerushalayim, adapted by Z. Haber. Mit vidergabe fun di vikhtigste lider. "Familienblat" Publishing House, Nadvurna, 1911. Kleiner teater-firer numer 1. Pice 12 H', 10 ff (82 pp., 32o).

20. Doctor Almasado, oder, Di yudn in palermo, a historical operetta in 5 acts, and in 11 scenes, adapted from a German novel by Abraham Goldfaden. (The music, the costumes and the decorations for the play was put together by the author). Huba lbit hdfus e"i hmdfisim a. boymritter yhtnu n. ganshar, ushutfu h'aaron kozlovski ma'sm ashr knu hzchut thmkhbr. Warsaw bdfus boymritter ukhtnu gansher rkhub bieleynske 16 shnt trm"kh lp"k (1887) (62 pp., 16o).

20a. Published by Jacob Sapirstein, 139 Division Street (corner of Ludlow St.), New York, 1898. (reprinted by the Warsaw Matritsn, with a new title page.)

20b. Goldfaden's Theatre Magazine, Y. Lidsky Publishing House, bookstore, Warsaw, Trs"h (1905), Sh.B. Landau Publishers, Nalevski 38.

21. Bar kokhba (Der zuhn fun dem shtern), oder, Di letste teg fun yerushalayim, a musical melodrama in rhyme, in 4 acts with a prologue, in 14 scenes. Written by A. Goldfaden (adapted after fiele historishe kvelen) (First Edition, published in Warsaw, 1887).

21 a. Price 10 cents. Printed and published by the Hebrew Publication Company, 122-128 Leonard Street, Brooklyn, New York (unknown year of publication, 80 pp., 16o).

21b. Bar kokhba, a musical melodrama in 4 acts and a prologue with 14 scenes by Abraham Goldfaden, with the image of the author. Price 35 cents. Publishing house of David Roth Bookstore, Lemberg, Trm"t (1909). Published by A. Salat, (80 pp., 16o).

21c. A. Goldfaden, Bar kokhba, musical melodrama in 4 acts with a prologue, "Muzik," Warsaw, 1928. Price 1.50 gr. (70 pp., 16o, publiished in our orthography.)

21d. A. Goldfaden, Bar-kokhba, adapted by N. Rotshprecher. Mit vidergabe fun di vichtigste lider. Kleiner teater-firer, numer 2. "Familienblat" Publishing House, Nadburga, 1911. Price 12 h', f''f. (35 pp., 32o).

22. Theatre of King Ahasuerus, or, Queen Esther, a biblical operetta in 5 acts and 15 scenes. (First edition, Lemberg, 1890, Necheles Publishing House).

22a. A. Goldfaden's Theatershtike, King Ahasuerus, a biblical operetta in 5 acts and 15 scenes, by A. Goldfaden, Krakow, Tr"s (1900), printed and published by Joseph Fisher (Gradngaske 62).

22b. King Ahasuerus, or, Queen Esther, a biblical operetta in 5 acts and 15 scenes, by A. Goldfaden. B. Rabinowits Publishing House, 398 Grand Street, New York, (48 pp., 16o, publication year?).

22c. Publishing house of the Hebrew Publication Company, New York, price 10 cents. (without a publication year).

23. The Tenth Commandment, Thou Shall Not Covet, a comical operetta (transformed) in 5 acts and 10 transformations and 28 scenes. Originally composed by Abraham Goldfaden (music, sets, costumes, arranged by the author). Tsum ershten mol oyfgefirt oyf der bine, intter der perzenlichen leytung dem oytars, in New York (oyfn droysik sher-blat: A. Goldfaden's Theatershtik.)

23a. A. Goldfaden's Theatershtik (Takst vi oybn), Krakow, Trs'b (1902).

24. Rabbi Yozelman, or, Di gzirut fun elzas, a historic opera in five acts and twenty-three scenes, composed by Abraham Goldfaden. (music, costumes, sets, put together by the author). The first time it appeared on the Yiddish stage was in Lemberg, 14 January 1891. Price thirty kreitzer. Printed and published by Tsvi Hirsh Necheles in Lemberg. Nachdruk Verboten Lemberg 1892 (68 pp., 16o).

24a. Meletz yoysher, oder, Rabbi Yozelman, a historic opera fun di gzirut fun elzas in 5 acts and 23 scenes. Composed by A. Goldfaden. Publishing house of B. Rabinowitz, 398 Grand Street, New York, 1900. (72 pp., 16o)

24b. Hebrew Publishing Company, 83-85-87 Canal Street, New York (without a publication date).

25. A. Goldfaden's Theatre Shtike. "Time of the Messiah?" an epoch scene of Russian scenes. Als shoyshpil mit gezang un tentse in 6 acts, 4 transformations and 30 scenes. Originally composed by Abraham Goldfaden (written and directed under the personal leadership of the aughotrs in Lemberg (Galicia) in the year 1891 on 15 December. The first time it appeareed on the stage was in Bucharest (Romania) in the year 1893, ferbestert mit gezenge, lieder und stsenes unter der perznlichen leytung dem autors), Krakow Tr"s (1900) (100 pp., 16o).

26. A. Goldfaden's Theatre Shtik, Akeydes yitskhok, au Mhpct sdm uemrh, a biblical operetta in 4 acts and 40 scenes. Originally composed by A. Goldfaden. Krakow, Trn"z (1897). Printed and published by Joseph Fisher (Gradngaste no. 62) (70 pp., 16o).

In Hebrew:

1. Hknai, au, Shni iktn-ikshn, Mkhzh tskhuk (ufuriTh) Barbeh meshim, Khbr avraham goldfaden blshun yehudit ashchnzit bshm, The Two Kuni Lemels. Mtrgm evrit e"i mr-drur. Jerusalem bdfus merch "Htsvi." Bhutsaut ben tsion Taragon ushi Yisroel shizli (72 pp., 24o, publication year unknown).

2. A. Goldfaden, Shulamis, KHziun mit kdm, Trgm yakov lerner, Hutsat F. Knturuvits, 1 ulicia Marinska. Ursh 1921 (70 pp., 16o, Faran frierdike edition). Di iberzetsung hot zikh mit yorn frier gedrukt in a periodisher oysgabe).

3. Dovid Hamelekh, Khziun -- Isudtu bdbri himim l'yisroel, Bmerch akht ukhmsh mkhzut bshirim umkhulut, Mat, Avraham ben Chaim Lipa Goldfaden (published in the "Archive of the HIstory of Yiddish Theatre and Drama," Vilna, New York, 1930, pp. 293-98).)


M.E. from Sholem Perlmutter, Saul Wallerstein, Sigmund Weintraub, David Hirsh and Adolf Shteyn.

Sh.E. from Jacob Mestel, Karl Zilberman and Pinchas Tanzman.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. I, pp. 147-256; Vol. 2, pp. 52-60, 145-151, 182-184, 223.

  • Abraham Goldfaden -- A brief in redaktsie, "Der folks-advokat," N.Y., 9, 1888.

  • Israel ben Oylem -- (Entfer), "Der folks advokat," N.Y., 11, 1888.

  • Felix Adler -- Eine Judische Original Oper, "Die Welt," 30, 1899.

  • Abraham  Goldfaden -- Die Music meiner Judischen Singspiele, "Die Welt," 19, 1900.

  • R.A.B. (Reuben Asher Broydes) -- Abraham goldfaden, "Di velt," 28, 1900.

  • Briv fun Dr. Dantsiger tsu boris thomashefsky, "Der theater zhurnal," N.Y., 1901-2.

  • Sh.Z. Tsipkin -- "Bshrh," New York, Sukkos tr"h.

  • David Frishman -- "Ale verk," Warsaw, "Central" Publishers, Vol. 3, p. 75.

  • Hutchins Hapgood -- "The Spirit of the Ghetto," New York, Funk & Wagnals Comp., 1909, pp. 113-176.

  • B. Gorin -- Der yudisher teater in amerike, "Di yudishe velt," Vilna, 5, 1913.

  • B. Borukhov -- Dos yidishe theater far goldfaden's tsaytn, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 14 Nov. 1915.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- (Memoirs), "Forward," N.Y., 13 May 1917.

  • David Kessler -- Goldfaden, lerner, sheykevitsh, "Der tog," 21 January 1917.

  • David Kessler -- A klap dem yidishn theater, "Der tog," N.Y., 4 February 1917.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- 40 yor oyf der bine, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 4, 7, 18, 29 January; 1, 28 February; 29 September; 15, 22 December; 5, 12 January; 2, 16 February; 9, 16, 23, 30 March; 6 April, 2 July 1918.

  • B. Botwinik -- Di orime shene "shulamis," "Forward," N.Y., 5 Nov. 1920.

  • M. Kaufman -- Ab. Goldfaden der Begrunder der Yudischen Theater-Singspiele, "Neu Zeitschrift Fur Music," 14, 1920.

  • Moshe Broderzon -- Beyde kuni lemelekh, "Teater un kino," Lodz, 1, 1922.

  • Moshe Teitsh -- Goldfaden oyf a nayem shteyger, "Ta"k," Lodz, 5, 1923.

  • Hillel Rogoff -- Di tsvey "kuni lemels" in shvartss kunst theater, "Forward," N.Y., 9 February 1924.

  • L. Dreykurs -- Brif fun galitsie, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 29 (21 Nov. 1924).

  • Alter Kacyzne -- Di bobe-yakhne goldfadens in teater "tsentral," "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 33, 1924.

  • Dr. N. Sirkin -- Di tsvey kuni lemels, "Der tog," N.Y., 1 February 1924.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Moly pikon als "shmendrik," "Forward," N.Y., 13 NOv. 1924.

  • N. Buchwald -- Golfdaen's a shpil modernizirt, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 1 February 1924.

  • N.B. Linder -- Moly pikon als "shmendrik," "Tog," N.Y., 21 Nov. 1924.

  • Shakhna Epstein -- Der veg fun'm nayem teater, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 9 February 1924.

  • L.S. Bieli -- "Di tsvey juni lemels in shvarts kunst teater, "Yidishe tageblatt," N.Y., 1 February 1924.

  • Dr. A.M. -- "Di tsvey kuni lemels" in kunst teater, "Morning Journal," 25 January 1924.

  • Abraham Fiszon -- 50 yor yidish teater, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 19 Dec. 1924.

  • N. Buchwald -- "Shmendrik" konkurirt mit moly pikon, "Frayhayt," 28 Nov. 1924.

  • Dr. Sh.M. Melamed -- "Thit hmtim" fun fartseytiker operete -- lebhaft un farbendig, "Di naye varhayt," N. Y., 16 March 1925.

  • "Goldfaden Book," N.Y., 1926.

  • N. Auslaender -- Av. finkel -- "a. goldfaden," Minsk, 1926.

  • A.R. Mlachi -- Goldfadn als redaktor, "Undzer bikh," N.Y., 1, 1926.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Di ershte piese in shvartz'es nayem teater, "Forward," 19 Nov. 1926.

  • N. Buchwald -- Vi lang vet men dulden kahan dem kritiker?, "Forward," Frayhayt," N. Y., 25 Nov. 1926.

  • Jacob Botoshansky -- "Nokh der forshtelung," Buenos Aires, 1926, p. 86.

  • B. Botwinik -- Mkht di oyffirung fun goldfaden's "la takhmod" in shvartes kunst teater, "Der veker, "N.Y., 18 Dec. 1926.

  • N. Buchwald -- Fun goldfadn biz goldfadn, "Der hamer," N.Y., May 1926.

  • Goldfaden-numer fun "literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 95, 1926.

  • A. Gurshteyn -- Tsu a. goldfaden-forshung, "Literarishe bleter," 109, 1926.

  • A. Gurshteyn -- A frantszizisher feyzender vegn goldfadns teater, "Literarishe bleter," 120 (20 August 1926).

  • L. Dzhman -- Materialn tsu der geshikhte fun yidishn teater, "Aktiabr," Minsk, 5 November 1926.

  • A. Gurshteyn -- Goldfaden in moskve, "Der emes," 6 January 1926.

  • B. Karlinius -- Teater-notitsn, "Moment," Warsaw, 22 Oct. 1926.

  • Nachman Mayzel -- Goldfadns "dos tsente gebot" in kaminskis teater, "Literarishb bleter," 130, 1926.

  • Ester Rokhl Kaminska -- (Memoirs) -- Der moment," Warsaw, 23 July 1926.

  • Y. Dobrushin -- Goldfadn un granovski, "Der hamer," N.Y., Dec. 1926.

  • Y. Riminik -- Di ershte finf yor yidisher teater in odes, "Di royte velt," Kharkov, 12, 1926.

  • Sh.Y. Dorzon -- "Shulamis" oyf der ungarisher bine, "Parizer bleter," Paris, 123, 1926.

  • Dr. Y. Kritikus -- Goldfaden's "dos tsente gebot" in moris shvartz kunst teater, "Der amerikaner," N.Y., 26 November 1926.

  • Ab. Cahan -- "Bleter fun mayn lebn," N.Y., 1926, Vol. II, pp. 389-91, 378.

  • Michael Weichert -- "Teater un drame," Warsaw, 1926, Vol. II, pp. 56-59.

  • Y. Kantor -- Der yidisher melokhe-teater fun ukraine, "Di roite velt," 7-8, 1926.

  • H. -tsh -- Bibliographie, "Di roite velt," 11 1926.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Goldfaden un der moderner yidisher teater, "Zamelbukh tsum khanukah hbit fun yidish kunst-teater," N.Y., 1926.

  • (--) -- La takhmod (Amol un haynt), dort.

  • B. Aronson -- Di plastishe oyfgabe fun "la takhmod," dort.

  • Maximilian Hurwitz -- "The Tenth Commandment" by Abraham Goldfaden.

  • M.W. -- Avraham goldfadn "Arbeter-lukh," Warsaw, 1926, pp. 164-171.

  • Uri Finkel -- Sotsiale figurn in a. goldfadens ershte verk, "Tsaytshrift," Minsk, 1, pp. 87-104.

  • G. Zelikovitz -- Hobn di yidn amol gehat a drama?, "Yidishe tageblatt," N.Y., 29 January 1926.

  • Michail Ya -- Goldfadens yerushe, "Frimorgn," Riga, 19 March 1926.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Avraham goldfaden, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 22 January 1926.

  • Nachman Maisel -- Avraham goldfaden, "Haynt," Warsaw, 12 March 1926.

  • A. Fri -- Der tate fun yidishn teater avraham goldfaden, "Kunst un lebn," 1, 1926.

  • A. G. Kompneyets -- Goldfaden un yakob adler, "Au"vort," Bucharest, 27, 1926.

  • Y. Kirshenbaum -- Avraham goldfaden tsu  zayn 19tn yahrzeit un tsum 50 yorignen yubileum fun yidishn theater, "Der amerikaner," N.Y. 22 January 1926.

  • Y. Kirshenbaum -- Tsum andenken fun avraham goldfaden, "Yidishe folk," N.Y., 4, 1926.

  • REP -- Grandiezer goldfaden miting in bukaresht, "Au"veg," Bucharest, 2, 1926.

  • Dr. Y. Shatzky -- Avraham Goldfaden un zayn teater, "Tsukunft," 3, 1926.

  • Yakov Shternberg -- Di vig fun yidishn teater in rumenye, "Au"vort," Bucharest, 23, 1926.

  • Ipsilon -- Shulamis, "Afrikaner," 38, 1926.

  • N. Buchwald -- Bay a probe-forshtelung fun "la takhmod" in idishn kunst teater, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 19 November 1926.

  • N. Buchwald -- Di groyse dergreykhung in yidishn kunst teater, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 24 November 1926.

  • A. Glantz -- "La takhmod," "Der tog," N.Y., 19 November 1926.

  • A teatral -- "Dos tsente gebot" in varshever yidishn kunst-teater," "F"tst," Warsaw, 22 Oct. 1926.

  • Tetrikon -- Di ershte premiere in nayem yudishn kunst-teater, "Warsaw Express," 22 October 12926.

  • Y.T. -- Beyde kuni lemel, "Shedletser vakhnblat," 15, 1926.

  • Israel the Yankee -- "Dos tsente gebot," Schwartz's "bearbeytung" un naye oyffirung fun goldfadens shtik, "Yidishe tageblatt," N.Y., 28 Nov. 1926.

  • B. Stoliar -- Vi azoy goldfadens "la takhmod" vert oyfefirt in shvartzs kunst teater, "Yidishe velt," 26 Nov. 1926.

  • Alter Epstein -- "La takhmod," "Farn folk," N.Y.,1, 1926.

  • Pompadur -- "Dos tsente gebot," Kundt," N.Y., 48, 1926.

  • M. Katz -- Di oyffirung fun "di tsvey kuni-lemels" lchbud a halbn yorhundert yidish teater; "Yidishe velt," Philadelphia, 6 Oct. 1926.

  • Kh. M. Kirshenbaum -- Golfadens operete in stenderd teater, "Yidisher zhurnal," Toronto, 23 Nov. 1926.

  • L. Kesner - "La takhmod" oder "Dos 10te gebot," "Yidishe tageblat," 10 Dec. 1926.

  • L. Krishtol -- Dos tsente gebot in yidishn kunst teater, "Fraye arb. shtime," 9, 1926.

  • Dr. Y. Shatzky -- Goldfadens "la takhmod" in yidishn kunst-teater, "Oyfgang," N.Y., 6, 1926.

  • Sh. Niger -- Di lider fun avraham goldfaden, "Tsukunft," 3, 1926, "Teater-bukh," Kiev, 1927.

  • Moshe Shtarkman -- Goldfaden un shomer, "Pinkhus," N.Y., 1927, pp. 158-161.

  • Jacob Dinezon -- "Zikhrones un bilder," Warsaw, p. 211-34.

  • R. Granovski -- Yitskhok yoel Linetsky, "Pinkus," N.Y., 1927, pp. 149-50.

  • Sh. Perlmutter -- Vi azoy goldfaden hot gegrindet dem yidishn teater, "Forward," N.Y., 24 April 1927.

  • Kalmen Marmor -- Tsvishn bicher un zhurnaln, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 26 April 1927.

  • Nate Zarin -- Dos teater un khazanut, "Teater un kunst," N.Y., 1927, p. 37.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Avraham goldfaden un dos yidishe teater, dort.

  • Sh.Y. Dorfzon -- Avraham goldfaden in rumenyen, "Yudish teater," Vienna, 1, 1927.

  • Mendl Neygreshl -- "Goldfaden-bukh," dort.

  • Dov Zavatski -- Yidishe opereten-muzik, dort.

  • Moshe Shtarkman -- "Ben Ami" -- goldfadens letste shafung, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 33, 1927.

  • Z. Kutler -- Dr. aba kh. silver, "Duar hium," Jerusalem, 29 July 1927.

  • Shaul Raskin -- B. arronson's dekoratsies tsu "dos tsente gebot," "Teater un kunst," N.Y., 1927.

  • N. Frank -- A. goldfaden in pariz, "Parizer haynt," 22 April 1927.

  • Sh. Niepomniashtshi -- Goldfaden in bukarest, "Tsaytshrift," Minsk, 1928, II-III, pp. 779-84.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Der "ani mamin" fun avraham goldfaden, "Teat"tst," Warsaw, 3, 1928.

  • Y. Riminik -- Di ershte trit funm idishn teater, "Der hamer," N.Y., February, April 1928.

  • Y. Riminik -- Tsu der geshichte fun goldfadens "mume sosye," "Shriftn," Kiev, 1928, 1ter band, pp. 337-43.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Retsenzies, "Pinkus," N.Y., 1928, p. 394.

  • A. Frumkin -- Di fier periodn fun der idisher operete, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 13 April 1928.

  • Moshe Shalit -- Bleterndik, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 10, 1928.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "hintern forhang" ("Di zikhrones fun yitskhok libresko, der initsiator fun goldfadens teater"), Vilna, 1928.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Idishe dramaturgen, "Di idishe velt," Cleveland, 21 Nov. 1928.

  • K. Marmor -- Avraham goldfaden, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 9, 10 January 1928.

  • Nakhman Mayzel -- Avraham goldfadens briv tsu yakov dinezon, "Di yidishe velt," Warsaw, IV, 1928.

  • Jacob Waxman -- Tsulib goglos "revizor" hot men aroysgegeben dem ershtn farbot tsu shpiln yidish teater in rusland, "Teat"tst," Warsaw, 4, 1928.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Zayn bruder hot erfundn dos yidishe teater un er erfindet kinstlerishe zeygers, "Teat"tst," Warsaw, 7, 1928.

  • N. Auslander, D. Volkenstein, N. Lurie, E. Fininberg -- "Idishe literatur," Kiev, 1928, Ershter teyl, pp. 133-44.

  • Bibliografishe yarbicher fun YIVO, Warsaw, 1928, p. 403.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- A nit-farefntlechter briv fun avraham goldfaden tsu sholem aleichem, "Pinkus," N.Y., 3, 1928. p. 266.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Hintern forhang," Vilna, 1928, pp. 118-139.

  • Meir Tselniker -- Helft shafen a denkmol far goldfaden, "Di post," London, 26 July 1929.

  • Joseph Rumshinsky -- "Shulamis" far a milion iden, "Der tog," N.Y., 25 January 1929.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Der onfang fun idishn teater, "Di idishe velt," Philadelphia, 5 April--5 July 1929.

  • Israel Gezund -- Der bazukh fun idishn teater, "Di idishe velt," Philadelphia, 5 April -- 5 July 1929.

  • David Yeshayahu Zilberbush -- Abraham goldfaden, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 1, 2, 1929.

  • N. Shtif -- "Di literatur," Kiev, 1929, pp. 247-79.

  • Abraham Teitelbaum -- "Teatralia," Warsaw, 1929, pp. 43-53.

  • Jacob Waxman -- Dos ershte yidishe teater in peterburg, "Theatre Times," Warsaw, 1(8), 1929.

  • Dr. Yeshaya Thon-- Lemberger geshtalten, "Haynt," Warsaw, 10 May 1929.

  • Leon Blank -- Mogulesko tsukrigt zikh mit yeakov gordin tsulib a lidl in a piese, "Forward," 22 January 1929.

  • A.Z. Idelson -- "Jewish Music in its Historical Development," New York, pp. 447-53.

  • M. Starkman -- Filip krantses literarishe bagegnishn, "Filal. shrift. Bay "YIVO," Vilna, Vol. 3, 1929, pp. 65-66.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Der suf fun lembrerger idishn teater fun vagen amerike hot importirt ire bavuste artistn, "Der tog," N.Y., 7 Feb. 1930.

  • A.R. Malachi -- Di hebraish-idishe shprakh-frage mit a zekhtig yor tsurik, "Tsukunft," N.Y., May 1930.

  • Dr. Meir Ben Avraham HaLevi -- Di "groyse shul" in bukarest in der geshichte funem yidishn teater, "Archive of the History of the Yiddish Theatre and Drama," Vilna-New York, 1930, pp. 239-42.

  • B. Weinstein -- Di ershte yorn fun yidishn teater in odes un in nyu-york, dort. pp. 243-54.

  • Moshe Starkman -- Materialn far avraham goldfadens biografie, dort, pp. 255-75.

  • H.N. Fisherman -- Goldfaden in likht fun zikhrones, dort, pp. 276-79.

  • Sh"S -- Roman -- Der repertaur fun yidishn teater in bukarest in 1877, dort, pp. 280-85.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Goldfadcens a statut far a yidisher dramatisher shul in nyu-york, in 1888, dort, pp. 286-90.

  • Dr. Yehoshua Bloch -- Goldfacens hebreishe drame, dort, pp. 291-98.

  • Y.Sh. -- Di eltste retsenzie vegn yidishn teater in nyu-york, dort, pp. 431-36.

  • Y. Sh. -- Tsvey briv fun a. goldfaden tsu yosef vaynstok, dort, pp. 461-3.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- "Teater-bukh," dort, pp. 465-6.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- N. Auslander -- U. Finkel. A. Goldfaden, dort, pp. 479-80.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Abraham goldfadens briv tsu yakov dinezon, dort, pp. 479-80.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Jewish Music in its Historical Development, dort, pp. 481-5.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Klener arbetn tsu der geshichte fun yidishn teater, dort, pp. 498-501.

  • Fannie Shapiro -- Der teater-muzey a"n fun ester-rokhl kaminski bay YIVO, dort, p. 512.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 275.

Translation courtesy of Paul Azaroff, Steven Lasky and Hershl Hartman.

Copyright ©  Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.