Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Philip Krantz
(Yakov Rombro)

Born on 13 October 1858 in Zupran, Oshmyany kreyz, Vilna Gubernia. This is according to a birth announcement issued in 1883 from the Kaziana Rabbi--Hirsch Eppel in Zupran. In various biographical notes printed during his life and also after his death, his birth place, according to Zalman Reisen -- was given as the shtetl of Chorok in Podolia into the area which his parents brought him when he was a child. His father was a tax collector and later moved to Oshmyany where K. studied Humash (the Five Books of Moses) and Tanakh (The Bible), and afterwards in a rabbinical school in Zhitomir. And after its unification in 1873 he went to the Real-School apparently in Kremenchug, where he humbled himself by giving lessons in rich houses. After completing the real school, he studied for two years in a technological institute in Peterburg. Still as a student in the real school, he joined the Revolutionary Movement. In 1877 he was arrested in Kharkov for political propaganda, sitting a year in jail, and after the killing of Kaiser Alexander II, he was forced, due to his connection to a prominent revolutionary leader, to flee from Russia and settle in Paris, as he studied in the Sorbonne and began in "Razsviet" (1880) his literary activity with a great work about Spinoza, later from Paris and then also from London worked with others in a series of Russian-Yiddish journals, At the same time he led in Paris his socialistic activity among Jewish workers, founding with several socialist leaders a Jewish workers' union. Around 1883 he came to London, where Winchevsky wanted to attract him, as well co-worker in his "Poylish yidl," but K., due to his weak knowledge of Yiddish, published here only a few articles. When in 1885 he founded in London "Der arbayter fraynd," and K. was invited to be editor and there began his literary activity in Yiddish, which he had since then directed in a span of thirty-seven years.


In 1889 in London his Yiddish translation of Friedrich Lassalle's [sp] brochure, "Dos arbayter progres," one of the first socialist issues in Yiddish.

K. participated in the first international socialist congress in Paris, after his return to London for a short time was manager of "Arbayter fraynd and raveled in February 1889 to New York, where he was editor of the Yiddish socialist weekly page, "Arbayter tsaytung" (1890). Here he wrote light articles, articles about socialism, a short history of the French Revolution (later in a strongly forgotten form published in book forms), translated novels, and in the summer of 1891 traveled to Chicago, and after returning to new York he began to study chemistry, but he continued to maintain his literary work. In 1894 he became manager of "Arbayter tsaytung" and was selected as editor of "Di tsukunft," which he edited until October 1894, when he became editor of the Yiddish daily socialist newspaper, "Dos abend blat." When he was removed from office in 1899 by De Leon, K. became editor of the weekly "Folkstsaytung." Then he went over to various periodical editions, also including in the bourgeois newspaper, "Di yidishe velt," and later with the united "Morgn zhurnal." K. then became editor of many other magazines, also including again of "Di tsukunft," and in 1907 editor of the monthly journal, "Di proletarishe velt," settling in Warsaw, Poland, and then traveled around across Russia and Galicia. He returned to America, and for four years was the General Secretary for the "Arbayter Ring" and joined the "Forward," where he remained as a collaborator until his death. K. collaborated and edited various periodical editions and issued many original writings and translations of various works (for details see Reisen's "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature").

According to Reisen, K.'s statements on the Jewish national question were an assimilator, but in fact he contributed to the greatest extent to build the Jewish socialist literature and press. In his personal life he was an example of goodness, kindness and friendship.

In 1893 K. wrote theatre critiques in New York's "Der shtadt Antseyger," which was published under his and Sharkansky's editing.

On 20 April 1894 in the "Thalia" Theatre through the "Social Dramatic Union," there was staged "Doktor libe," adapted by K. after Moliere's play.

In K.'s brochure, "Di shriftn fun mitsrayim," also there is an article about Yiddish theatre.

Zalmen Zylbercweig writes:

"Directly, K. had little to do with Yiddish theatre. According to his erudition, he stood too high for the situation in which the Yiddish theatre found itself during his literary or journalistic activity in America. However, indirectly he played a significant role in the history of Yiddish theatre, not only in America, but generally. It is a remarkable fact that in both cases, both the very foundation of a stable Yiddish theatre in 1876 in Iasi, as well as Avraham Goldaden's decision to dedicate himself to the Yiddish stage, played indirectly an important role, a side person, a mashkhil, a former sexton in a conservative synagogue, Yitskhok Libresko, and when K. played, indirectly, an important role in the revolution, which in 1891 was created in the Yiddish theatre through Jacob Gordin. Gordin recalls in his memoirs: "The first, which gave me this thought to become a dramaturge was H' Philip Krantz, who was in agreement with the representative of the Yiddish stage. My first acquaintance with them was made in a restaurant."

One of the important figures in the Russian-Jewish colony of that time was the Jewish-Socialist writer Philip Krantz. He soon became one of Gordin's closest friends. Although Krantz alone was not in American very long,he already appeared to be acquainted with the Yiddish theatre family. He knew Adler and Kessler well, and so he fell upon a plan, that thanks to his protection, Gordin would perhaps find employment with the Yiddish theatre. With Krantz there was not any question that Gordin could write for theatre, whether he possessed the ability of a dramaturge, because at that time writing for the Yiddish theatre did not mean that one needed an idea, a subject, and one knew the stage and all its laws. The Yiddish drama of that time was the most important part of it, that they took past plays of German, Russian or other languages, and they freely translated, changed the subject a bit, localized the action, and gave Yiddish names to the heroes and -- play a play!

Philip Krantz, who knew that Gordin was cultured in Russian and knew the Russian drama, was therefore certain that Gordin would easily fit into Yiddish theatre."

K. proposed Gordin for Jacob P. Adler, and the result is that Gordin wrote his first play, "Siberia," which on 13 November 1891 was staged in the "Union" Theatre by Jacob P. Adler, and this was the beginning of Gordin's fruitful dramatic activity.

On 27 November 1922 K. passed away in New York.

  • Z. Reisen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. 2, Vilna, 1929, pp. 728-740.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Teater zikhrones," Vilna, 1928, pp. 5-10.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Di velt fun yakov gordin," Tel Aviv, 1964, pp. 10-14.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5366.

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