Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Jacob Prager


Born on 3 January 1884 in Kobrin, Grodno region, Polish Lithuania. His father was a Jewish scholar, a language expert, a bookkeeper in a tobacco factory. At the age of two he became an orphan after his father, and P. until the age of ten was raised by a grandmother in Drogichin. Then he lived for several years with his stepfather in Warsaw, where he became an employee.

He debuted in 1908 with songs in "Roman-tsaytung," and since that time he had published in many periodical editions and issued several song books.

On 12 August 1927 the Vilna Troupe staged in Lemberg "Der nisoyen (The Temptation?)," a dramatic story in four acts, directed by David Herman, with the following personnel:

Leyzer Schneider
Chana Leah
R' Motl
Der shrrh
  Jacob Weislitz
Noemi Natan
Rachel Holcer
Symcha Natan
Abraham Morewski
Miriam Orleska
Chava Eisen
Joseph Kamien
Yocheved Weislitz
Dina Kamien
Nadia Kareni

The subject of the play was taken from P.'s poem "Oyfn veg (On the Road?)" (Warsaw 1919) and was based on the folk legend about the handsome young tailor, who had allowed himself to be buried alive, so as not to give in to the desire in him for the landowner's daughter. On the same theme there was written Harry Sackler's play "Yiskor," which was staged on 13 April 1923 in New York's Art Theatre (filmed by the same troupe in 1924 in Vienna, and "Der feldsher-yung" by Alter Eisenschloss, staged on 31 January 1925 in Lodz.)

The play was later performed over many cities of Poland during the guest appearances of the Vilna Troupe.

In December 1931 the play in Hebrew was, in the translation of M. Wolfanski, under the direction of H. Halevi (?), was staged in Tel Aviv by the troupe of "Ohel."

The play also was translated into Polish by Celina Meyerson.

In 1932 in Warsaw there was published P.'s dramatic poem "Shlomo Hamelekh (Solomon the King)", which was not staged.

At the end of 1935 in Warsaw, there was staged P.'s play by the Yiddish experimental studio "Yung Teater":

Simche Plachte, a comedy in three acts, dramatized and staged by Michael Brandt (directed by Michael Weichert), music by Henekh Kon, scenery and costumes by Dina Matis, choreography by Rena Spatsenkop, with the following personnel in the main roles:

Simche Plachte
R' Yosele Parnes
Der Litvak
Der Prints
  W. Heiblum
B. Gudis
Y. Glikson
A. Hauer
F. Sivak
D. Fakel
F. Ziegelbaum

[The subject of "Simche Plachte" was taken from the small book of Jacob Morgenstern (according to Zalmen Reyzen--the pseudonym of Y. Katshko), a religious teacher, a "writer," who also took up with shadchans and also performed as a badkhan, was born in 1820 and passed away in 1890 (according to the director Avi Cohen--in 1895):

R' Simche Plachte, or, Der Velt Shvindler (The World Crook?)

Every person who virn the story lezen, Have great fergnigen, young and old, poor and rich, will be free to everyone immediately. The story virn the readers to make vasen, everyone who reads virn, Virn must laugh. To give out fon R' Yakov Morgenstern called Jacob Lehrer oys lodz.

The book may have been published for the first time in 1879 in Warsaw, and later many times reprinted (1881-Warsaw, 1895-Vilna, 1909-Vilna, 1910-Warsaw, and also later than that date. According to Reyzen, there may also have been a Premysl edition.

As to the second variant of the Purimshpiel "Der khokhem mitn nar," printed in I. L. Cohen's "Yidisher folklor" (Vilna, 1938, pp. 222-229), the director Itzhak Shipper, that:

"The variant was actually a compilation of two plays, today: 1) a play with a 'Simcha Plachte'-motif, Where it has on an intellectual way identified the regime of rebbes, and 2) a play, that one can characterize it as a recruiting play.

... The play with the 'Simcha Plachte' motif has a prominent, intellectual poetry which also is sharply applied against Chasidism and especially about the false regime of the rabbis. It glances here by prominent notions of the intellectual repertoire of the Broder Singer, especially of the anti-Chasidic poetry of Velvel Zbarzher. ...probably it is our Purimshpil compilation was not released earlier as in the sixties and seventies of the previous century, where the Broder Singer artistry had reached his highest penetration among the masses."


The success of "Simche Plachte" had led the author to publish in 1882 (Trm"b) "Der gliklekher nor oder der khaver fun R' Simche Plachte."

The play had made an extraordinary impression and played for a very long time. The manager of the American Yiddish Actors' Union, Reuben Guskin, who then was a guest in Warsaw, brought the comedy to America, where it was staged on 23 December 1936 by Maurice Schwartz in his "Yiddish Art Theatre," under the name:

A folks-comedy in 2 acts
by Jacob Prager
Music by A. Olshanetsky

with the following personnel in the main roles:

Simche Plachte, the Water Carrier
R' Yosele Parness
Der Litvak
Der Prits
  Maurice Schwartz
Anna Teitelbaum
A. Tenenholtz
Anna Appel
Michael Rosenberg
Berta Gerstin
Moshe Silberkasten

The play was later staged across the American province, and during the guest appearance of Maurice Schwartz in Paris and London (with Genia Shlitt in the role of "Tsipe.")


On 25 November 1938 the "Folks- and Yung-teater", under the leadership of Clara Segalowitz, staged the play in Lodz's Filharmonia Theatre, P.'s:

A folks play in 3 acts with a prologue,
dramatized and stage directed by Michael Weichert
music by Israel Shayewitz, settings and costumes by St. Robzhinski
choreography by Zina Krush, with the following personnel:

Kopl Tselokhes
R' Shayele Kronengold
Di Mome Pesele
Avrahamele Shuster
Mendl Shneider
Yompe Koval
Zimele Koimenkerer
Yantl Klezmer
Kheykl mitn Peykl
  Vladek (Willy) Godik
Moshe Lipman
Esther Goldenberg
Natalia Lipman
Zipora Feinzilber
Daniel Shapiro
Abraham Kurtz
Simcha Rozen
Shlomo Ribak
Shlomo Kon
Moshe Garbarz

The play was staged in 1939 in Warsaw, in the "Teatr Rozmaitości."

P. may have, during the Second World War, remained in the Warsaw Ghetto, and his fate is unknown.


[1] Jacob Prager
Der nisoyen

A dramatic story in three acts
Publisher "Culture League," Warsaw 1925 [289 pp., 16]

[2] Shlomo Hamelekh
A dramatic poem in three acts, ten scenes
by Jacob Prager
Publisher "Turem," Warsaw 1932 [143 pp., 16]

  • Z. Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. II, pp. 970-971.

  • Noah Prilutski -- "Yidishe dialektulugishe furshungen," Warsaw, 1917, Vol. 1, p. 224.

  • Aaron Zeitlin -- Bay di vilner in lemberg, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 34, 1927.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatzky -- Di naye yidishe historishe drame, "Fraye arbayater shtime," N. Y., 19 August 1927.

  • A. A. [Einhorn] -- Vilner troupe, "Der nisoyen," "Haynt," Warsaw, 1 April 1928.

  • B. K--s [Karlinski] -- Der nisoyen, "Der moment," Warsaw, 1 April 1928.

  • Dr. Tsvi Cohen -- A poylisher sholem aleichem, der mkhbr fun "r' simche plachte," "Di tsukunft," N. Y., February 1930.

  • Z. Reyzen -- Yakov pregers "nisoyen" bay di "vilner," "Vilner tog," 23 December 1930.

  • Israel Rabon -- A naye premiere, "Lodzer Togblat," 16 June 1931.

  • Y. L. Wohlman -- Grusen fun eretz israel, "Der tog," N. Y., 10 March 1932.

  • Avraham Bley -- 3 hebrewishe forshtelungen in tel aviv, "Di idishe velt," Philadelphia, 24 March 1932.

  • Y. Rapoport -- Der treyer riter fun reiner romantik, "Vokhnshrift," Warsaw, 33, 1932.

  • [Aaron Zeitlin] -- A biblishe poeme, "Globus," Warsaw, 12, 1933.

  • Henekh Kon -- Vegn a nayer komedye, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 33, 1933.

  • Nachman Mayzel -- Yakov pregers "simche plachte" in yung teater, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 1, 1936.

  • [--] -- vos shreybt di prese vegn "simche plachte" in yingteater, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 13, 1936.

  • M. Kitay -- Arum simche plachte, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 19, 1936.

  • William Edlin -- A mesh vegn a vaser-treger vos verta a "guter yid," "Der tog," N. Y., 26 December 1936.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Di naye piese vos moris shvartz hot importirt fun varshe, "Forverts," N. Y, 28 December 1936.

  • N. Buchwald -- A sheiner spektakl in kunst-teater, "M"F," N. Y., 1 January 1937.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Der vaser-treger, "Morning Journal," N. Y., 1 January 1937.

  • William Edlin -- Do un dort in der velt fun teater un muzik, "Der tog," N. Y., 2 January 1937.

  • Ts. H. Rubinstein -- Gut shabes, gut yor, "Der tog," N. Y., 2 January 1937.

  • Nachman Mayzel -- "R' Simche Plachte" un zayn mkhbr R; Yekl Lerer, ""Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 5, 1937.

  • Maurice Schwartz -- Moris shvarts vegen der prage fun di "gefeferte frozen" in  preger's "vaser gtreger," "Der tog," N. Y., 18 January 1937.

  • B. Ts. Goldberg -- In gang fun tog, "Der tog," N. Y., 25 January 1937.

  • Zalmen Zylberzweig -- Di videroyflebung fun moris shvarts kunst-teater in amerike, ""Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 7, 1937.

  • M. Katz -- Der vaser-treger--a folks-komedie mit muzik, "Idishe velt," Philadelphia, 18 March 1937.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Zayn lebens-bukh, "Forverts," N. Y., 24, 25 March 1937.

  • Herman Gold, Slave Estrin Ben-Ami -- 2 artiklen vegn vaser-treger, "Nyu yorker vokhnblat," 58, 1937.

  • Dr. Sh. Melamed -- Moris shvarts zogt tehilim, 'Nyu yorker vokhnblat," 59, 1937.

  • Y. L. Cohen -- "Yidisher folklor," Vilne, 1938, p. 312.

  • D. Z. -- Yakov pregers "meylekh freylekh" oyf der bine, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 44, 1938.

  • M. Kitay -- Yakov pregers "meylekh freylekh" oyf der bine, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, 50-52, 1938.

  • N. Frank -- Riziger erflog fun moris shvarts in "vasertreger," "Parizer haynt," 16 April 1939.

  • W. A. Darlington -- Yiddish Players in Comedy, The Daily Telegram, London, 19 May 1939.

  • J. G. B. -- A Yiddish Musical Comedy with vigour, The Evening News, London, 19 May 1939.

  • E. P. Montgomery -- Yiddish Drama in vivid art, News Chronicle, London, 19 May 1939.

  • V. Vevyorke -- Maurice Schwartz hot vider eyngenumen pariz, "Di prese," Buenos Aires, 21 May 1939.

  • Jacob Mestel -- "Unzer teater," New York 1942, pp. 28, 65.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 1888.

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