Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Zeydl Shmuel-Yehuda Helman


Born in 1855 in Iasi, Rumania. His strongly religious father had wanted to make him a shokhet (ritual slaughterer); he however became a cantor and music teacher in a Yiddish school. H. wrote many songs and by himself composed music for them: a part of those songs wer taken into the repertoire of the old Yiddish theatre and several of them, such as "Ishmkhu", "Tsyuns tsua", "Gedenk zshe yenkl", "Ervad, isralik", are up until today very popular in Rumanian and were sung as folksongs.

H. had printed up to two hundred songs (all under the pseudonym of "Hazman") with and without melodies. It also includes the songs that were taken into Kornfeld's Yiddish translation of "Zikhrunus lbit dovid" (printed in Kornfeld's "Folkslat", Iasi, 1895-6).

H. also wrote Hebrew songs, issued in Iasi the "hmbshr -- beletristishe monatshrift fir tsiunizmus, kultur, interesante nakhrikhten, kunst und unterhaltung", and as the editor of the socialist "Veker" (1896), he wrote many publicity articles.

In 1890 H. began to act in the Yiddish theatre (together with Aaron Rosenblum), across the Rumanian province. Aba Schoengold then took him to America, where he acted under the pseudonym "Helmanesko" in New York's Roumanian Opera House, in Gordin's "Sholomo khokhem (Solomon the Wise)" (together with Adler, Schoengold, Feivel Fridman, Tornberg and Moshkovitsh), but after


three months, H. went over to the Thalia Theatre (together with Thomashefsky, Blank and Finkelstein). Also here he acted for only two months, then some seasons in Philadelphia (with Aba Schoengold), Boston (with Largman), Pittsburgh (with Largman), and then he returned to New York, where however he hadn't any possibility to act, and so he returned to Rumania. Here H. acted for a year. Besides songs, couplets and one-acters, H. also wrote the following plays: "Bal-Shem" (performed in 1891-2 by Juvelier in Iasi), "Bal-nes" (performed by the author in 1893 in Iasi). Then H. was a cantor in the neyshatss temple, and has performed since then on the stage only in his revue "Gug umgug" (staged in 1920 in Iasi by Kahane, Berger and Tefner).

H. -- today a sgni nhur, -- has in manuscript a time-play "Pantilemon", and a biblical play "Ruth" -- both not yet staged.

M. E.

  • Z. Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature", Vol. I, pp. 857-8.

  • Moshe Gross -- Oyf di vegen fun velvel zharzher un abraham goldfaden, "Tog", 9 August 1930.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 631.

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