Among his students in this
rabbinical school was also Goldfaden. In his memoirs,
Gottlober writes about Goldfaden:
"Among my students was a
youth, only a younger, Avrahamele Goldfaden. This boy,
apart from my school, studied at home privately. Over
and over, he used to look very much like I wrote jargon:
That was his passion. I do not need to tell you, you
already know who he is and what he has already written."
Gottleber's influence on
Goldfaden Is even bolder from the following remarks of
A.J. Paperna (in his memoirs, published in Vilna's "Pinchas,"
"Like Goldfaden, Gottlober
also became acquainted with the Yiddish song. A son of a
cantor, Gottlober inherited from his father a good voice
and a love of melodies. By himself, he used to create
the melodies to his songs. Goldfaden took over these
songs with the melodies. In Gottlober's house Goldfaden
learned to appreciate the Yiddish language and love the
Jewish people. He knew everyone on the outside and loved
to sing. ... In the rabbinical school, in the time of
recreation, Goldfaden often used to draw on a small
Gottlober song, and the other students used to be
Sh.L. Zitron writes
something similar ("Three Literary Generations," Vol.
II, pp. 14-15): "In Zhitomir at Gottlober's home, the
city's biggest players often gather. It would have been
special singing evenings for him, in which they used to
talk about various matters of music, both secular and
Yiddish. Those evenings had a great influence on the
young Goldfaden, who then had already begun to compose
his popular songs, for which he had also personally
composed the music."
That Goldfaden recognized
Gottlober as his rabbi, Yitskhok Libresko testifies in
his memoirs ("Hintern farhang" by Zalmen Zylbercweig):
"In the meantime, Avraham Ber Gottlober came to me for "Sftsi
haskalah," as I deal with common matters, especially
with matters dealing with newspapers, that I should
support him because he is starting to publish a page, "Hbkr
ur." Gottleber then was an older man. At home with him,
we indeed did celebrate his sixty-eighth birthday. (As
it happened in 1876, G. was then turning sixty-five
years old.) But still he still wanted to live his own
life. I went out with him in the street to be a friend,
made a few hundred francs, and he left Bucharest to go
to Goldfaden. Gottlober used to tell us that he was
Goldfaden's teacher in the rabbinical school in Zhitomir,
and Goldfaden used to call him "Rabbi."
Under the impression from
Dr. Ettinger's comedy, "Merkele," which the author read
to him during G.'s visit in Zamosc (circa 1837), G. in
1838 composed a three-act comedy "Der dektukh, oder, Tsvi
khupes in eyn nakht (The Bridal Veil, or, Two Weddings in One
About Ettinger's influence
on him, Gottleber recalls alone in his memoirs (Sholem
Aleichem's "Yudishe folksbibliotek," Vol. 1, p. 254):
"The rector Ettinger enraged me, I felt anxious and I
started to write in jargon. (Sh. Niger remarks that G.
wrote Yiddish even before, and it would have been
more correct to say, "The desire to write in the book
In the year 1838 I wrote a
comedy in three acts, "Dos dektukh, oder, tsvey khupes in
eyn nakht." Later it was truly published in Warsaw and
forgot to cite my name. He still did something wise and
wrote to him at the beginning: "Strictly forbidden."
That comedy went around for
a long time in manuscript form, until it was printed in
an enlarged form without the knowledge of the author,
and his name: "Der dektukh, oder, tsvey khupes in eyn
nakht, a comedy, issued by Yozef Verbleynski, Warsaw
publisher and alone by Yehuda Leib Morgenstern,
bookstore in Warsaw, Shnt trtg Lp"k." (1876, 51 pp.16o).
It means that the text has
been reprinted many times -- even with the old date of
B. Gorin characterizes G.'s
comedy in the following way:
"Gottlober in his
'bridal veil' is much further away (from Wolfszon). He
included a rabbi and a good Jew in his comedy and showed
that the rabbi is an honest Jew, but a fool, and the
good Jew is simply a swindler. The entire comedy is
built on the silly belief of the clowns, devils, and
For Gottlober had little to
contend with. He sought to attack the entire foundation
of Hasidism, and therefore he adopted the central
pillars and applied his heroic deeds to destroy them. He
also brought all the means, even the "chanson-couplets,"
which during that time At that time, a Jewish playwright
did not even dream of seeing his piece played. (Sh.
Niger remarks that in the published editions, in
general, there were not any "chansonetkes," emphasized
the diminished expression, "chansonetkes," instead,
"chansons," but were actually found in texts of couplets
The personnel of the comedy
were portrayed more or less with special faces. They are
not just people, but everyone has lighter or bolder
individualism. Ezriel, the renderer's servant speaks
with a digging, daring language, the teaching teacher
speaks like a Talmudist. Fraydele is a sentimental girl
at times and at times she jumps into the country girl.
Yosele is a happy, lively young boy.
In the comedy Gottlober
shows that he has the eye to notice what is going on,
and the ear to hear what is being spoken about him.
Almost all of his beauties do not only speak with a
human tongue, after they use the correct words they need
to say. But at the same time, he was strongly influenced
by the sentimental literature of the day, and this calls
for the portrayal of his positive persons.
The jokes and the humor in
the comedy are plausible. The synagogue caretaker (Yisroel)
needs to describe the one with the whip, the coachman.
When the "wedding jester" starts to ridicule the groom
and remains standing for a moment by the phrase
"ignorant," because he can't so easily a word to rhyme
with it, Yosele says to him under his breath things that
cannot be printed. The groom Lemel is a person with a
nasal voice, the rabbi is a stutterer. This is all a
cheaper decision, but because of this, he is very close
and understandable to the proud people, and this shows
that Gottlober, more than any other playwright, had a
sense for him, for the practical side of a theatre, a
sense that more than ever was needed to reach that
prestigious public from which a stable Yiddish theatre
had to depend. There is no doubt that under other
circumstances, Gottlober would have been the founder of
Yiddish theatre. He had those qualities that, a few
years later, were so brilliant in Avraham Goldfaden.
The language in the "Dektukh"
is a pure Yiddish, and the positive individuals, even
when they Melitsa, also speak the same pure Yiddish."
Dr. Jacob Shatzky
characterizes G.'s creations as such:
"His satirical talent is not
from a high pitch. Nevertheless, it is higher than the
badkhan satirists of his time. With his Yiddish work he
also exhibits a certain popular and cultural-historical
Palatiel Zamoshtshin adapted
G.'s Hebrew poem, "Khutm shdi," into Yiddish as "Der
medolion, an operetta in one act in two scenes (freely
worked from the Khutm shdi from A.B. Gottlober), from
Palatiel Zamoshtshin" (published in "The Family's
Friend)," published by M. Spektor, Warsaw, 1887.")
According to A. Fiszon and
Z. Reisen, G. also wrote a play, "Di farkerte velt (The
Inverted World?)," which together with other writings
Avraham Fiszon recalls in
his memoirs that when he and Gradner, with his wife,
played in Rovno, Gottlober came to them in the theatre,
and as much as he liked to act, he lent them two
comedies, "Iks driks" and "Tsvey por portseleyene teler,"
which he gave them to play. (one-acters with these names
were played through the itinerant Brodersingers. Among
Gottlober's manuscripts one does not find any theatre
pieces. Goldfaden later composed one-acters with similar
On 12 April 1899 G. passed
away in Bialystok.
In 1925 in Vilna's Kletzkin
publishing house, there was published "Avraham-Ber
Gottlober and his Epoch" (380 pp.,16o),
published by A. Fridkin and Z. Reisen.
In that book there was also
included G.'s comedy, "Der dektukh, oder, Tsvey khupes
in eyn nakht" (pp. 79-134).
In the "introduction" the
publisher says: As it appeared in the original play- -
we do not know, because we do not have it. ...
Hand-in-hand, in manuscript, a preposterous copy fell to
one who had printed it, full of print, not preserving
the intricacies of Southern Jewish dialect, blending it
somewhere with elements and forms of Polish Yiddish, and
as an addition -- under a foreign name. Gottlober even
at a time when a cry was made, the publisher defied a
process, withdrew from the printed text and offered
another text to the publisher, greatly improved and
edited, but we cannot and we can only judge that text
from the printed copy we own."
The publisher characterizes
the comedy by writing:
"Once again Gottlober says:
He introduced the first song into the play, he was, so
to speak, the boss of the modern Yiddish melodrama, who
so brilliantly developed his pupil Avraham Goldfaen, and
also here showed his sense for popularity -- to live his
work through a melody, a melody - in the course of the
ancient Jewish folk: 'Makhres yosef (The Sale of
Joseph),' 'Hakhokhem Shlomo (Solomon the King),' et al.
... It is right to say that
if Goldfaden was the founder of Yiddish theatre,
Gottleber was his godfather."
Z. Reisen -- "Lexicon
of Yiddish Literature," Vol. I, pp. 451-7.
B. Gorin -- "History
of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. I, pp. 97-98, 114-124.
A.B. Gottlober --
Memoirs, "Yidishe folks-bibliotek," editor Sholem
Aleichem, Vol. I, p. 254.
A. Fridkin --
"Avraham gottlober un zayn epokhe," Vilna, 1925.
Avraham Fiszon --
(Memoirs), "Morning Journal," N.Y., 6 March 1925.
A. Fridkin and Z.
Reisen -- "A.B. gottlobers yidishe verk," Vilna,
Dr. J. Shatzky --
Avraham-ber gottlober un zayn epokhe, "Pinchas,"
N.Y., 3, 1928, p. 284.
Zalmen Zylbercweig --
"Hintern forhang," Vilna, 1928, pp. 40-1.