Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yohan (Yona) Paley


Born on 6 February 1871[according to N. Zolovitz's remarks -- in 1860] in Pleshtchenitz [in various Yiddish encyclopedias it was most of the time Doshkovitsh is indicated], Minsk Gubernia, White Russia. His father was a Jewish scholar, had given him a traditional Yiddish education.

From his early youth he manifested great ability, and at age thirteen he enrolled in the Volozhiner yeshiva, later spent several years in Libove, where he had received a general education, also learning in R' Yitzhak Elkhanan's yeshiva in Kovno. Then he was manager of a house of commerce in Moscow, and in 1888 he immigrated to America.

On the ship P. wrote his first novel "Di rusishe heldn (The Russian Hero)", and soon with his arrival in New York he became a contributor for "Der folks-advokat", with which he later became the editor-publisher. Soon he also took to writing for Yiddish theatre and debuted in 1889 with the play "Di rusishe gihilistn un di ermordung fun rusishn tsar". On 21 March 1890 in "Poole's Theatre", there was staged his "Der mbul fun dzshonston (The Johnstown Flood), a life-drama from Yohan Paley [tspur drur)".

About that play, B. Gorin writes:
"A piece, 'The Johnstown Flood', and the director of Poole's Theatre, who was now at daggers drawn with the Thalia Theatre,


were preliminary, and ordered from Yohan Paley a piece that should have to do with a flood, and should be called 'The Johnstown Flood'. In Poole's Theatre they had staged this piece earlier, but it failed there".

According to B. Gorin, there also was staged P.'s play "Kroynprints rudolf".

Later P. was a contributor and editor for various Yiddish newspapers in New York.

P.'s wife and her sister have -- according to Boris Thomashefsky -- acted for a short time on the Yiddish stage, but soon retired.

On 23 December 1897, P. passed away in New York..

  • Zalmen Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature", Vol. II, pp. 859-862.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. II, pp. 66, 271.

  • Morris Rozenfeld -- Yohan paley's "mbul dzhonston", "Der folks-advokat", N. Y., 28 March 1890.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Es hot zey getsoygen tsum teater un shpeter zeynen zey fun teater avek, "Forward", N. Y., 10 September 1923.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Idishe dramaturgen, "Di idishe velt", Philadelphia, 23 December 1928.

  • N. Zalovitz -- Galeree fun tsikave parshoynen un interesante menshen, vos hoben geholfen makhen dem "tageblat" far erfolgreykher tseytung, "Forward", N. Y., 13 August 1939.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 1636.

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