Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Abraham Hochban


Born in 1893 in Ostrow, Volin Gubernia, Russia. He was educated in religious elementary schools (cheders), learned Russian in the city school, and at age sixteen left home and joined a theatre group that used to tour across various cities.

In 1913 he arrived in Philadelphia, America, having a place to sell newspapers, learned English, and in the evening he took a course in newspaper advertising at Temple University. In 1919 he joined the Business Department of the Philadelphia branch of the "Forward".

H. performed in the "Drama Guild" (also known as "The Institute Drama Guild"), in the name of the Labor Institute where the "Guild" was founded).

David Ber Terkel writes:

"When Hochban one evening was finishing late with his work in the "Forward," he took to the arts. He used to sit through the night and translate in Yiddish dramas and one-acters from the Russian, preparing the roles for the members, and generally working out all the details for the offering. ...with time the "Mendele Folks Bine" strongly became impaired (opgeshvacht), and Avraham Hochban had taken together the tsefalane forces among who was also found the "Y.L. Peretz Dramatic Society," and in 1922 had organized "The Institute Drama Guild." ...the "Drama guild" was fortunate enough to get the complete

assistance of the workers' institute, socialist party, and Workmen's Circle. ...the main activist and actor for the "Guild" all were intelligent and seriously given over to Yiddish performance. ... the "Drama Guild" of the Labor Institute, from time to time the troupe read in other ways, and in small towns around Philadelphia."

On 29 January 1928 the "Drama Guild" under the direction of H., staged "Der zeyger vos hot geshlogn 13," a folk-comedy by Avraham Hochberg, and "Gelt," a social drama by Michael Gold, translated by Avraham Hochban.

On 16 December 1928 H. directed in "Muz. Hol" in Atlantic City the one-acter "Hercules" by Bell, "Dos eybike lid" by Arnstein, and "Zayn ershter kleyent" by I. Podruzhnik.

On 9 March 1930, H. directed with the "Guild" in Atlantic City Gottesfeld's "Income (Parnuse)" which on 22 March 1931 was staged in Reading, Pennsylvania. On 27 April 1930 he directed in the Jewish Center in Philadelphia Gottesfeld's "Di naye almanah" [likely "Parnuse."] On 12 June 1932 he directed in Philadelphia's "Labor Institute" Nadir's "Moshiakh," Michael Gold's "Gelt" and Deyksel's "Shlofloze nakht."

Tirkel recalls that the "Drama League," whose task was to be involved with the better Yiddish drama among the Jewish working masses, began to "undermine" through the staging of plays in English. One of them was the play, "Rest Rust," a Soviet play by V. Kirchon and A. Ouspensky. The play was translated into English by Virginia and Frank Vernon, and in 1926 [1929-ed.] was staged in New York. The press remarked that the play was Communist propaganda, and should be banned. H. decided to make his own translation, closer to the original, as it was played, and he had the play in his translation, staged on 17 October 1930 in Philadelphia's Institute, and he played the role of "Lukitsh."

On 20 August 1936, H. passed away at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and was brought to his eternal rest at Montefiore Cemetery in Philadelphia.

About H.'s children, one, a daughter, is a nationally famous child photographer, and a son, a painter and a writer of English books for children.

Sh.E. from his brother Jack Hoben.

  • David Ber Terkel -- "Di yungtlekhe bine," Philadelphia, 1940, pp. 41, 42, 55, 85, 87, 89, 190.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2575.

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