Lives in the Yiddish Theatre



Binyamin Chaim Reiz
(Ber Meir)

Born on 31 January 1863 in Brisk, D'Lita. Until he became a bar-mitzvah he learned with the best religious teachers [melamdim], then he spent two years in the Volzhin yeshiva, where he also began to take up a secular education. Later he created together with volunteer teachers in the course of a middle school, but due to the various disadvantages he did not go to the examination for his certificate of graduation [mature].

In 1881 he settled in Warsaw, where he was dealing in merchandise, and in earlier times he turned to literature. He debuted with a series of stories in "Hasif," and in the daily "HaTzfira," in which throughout the year he published large and small stories, as well as critiques and publicity articles, and during his touring as a traveling salesman across deep Russia. He used to publish small novels and articles in the Russian press. During the time of the First World War he worked in the daily orthodox Yiddish newspapers, "Dos yudishe vort" and "Yud."

During the First World War, being in Warsaw, he got a job as a censor for the German press department, lost his post, and according to F. Korn:

"His condition became worse every day. At home there began to be a shortage of necessary basics. His only son, who at the time was a student in high school (gymnasium) in Warsaw, whom he loved very much, could not be provided with a music teacher. This was a great tragedy for both R. and his wife. Due to her depression, his wife, whom he loved very deeply, began to grow ill. She suffered from her illness at home until her death. The death of his wife, whom he adored, left its mark on his future life; the mark of loneliness.

Korn convinced him to write something about his life experiences deep in Russia, and under the pressure of poverty he started to write skits and novels that could be printed in Polish translations in "Nova Gazetta." He also wrote a play that was presented on the Polish stage; however it wasn't a financial success.

R. also composed several Yiddish plays for the theatre, among them "God's Finger," "The Sixth Symphony," and "Constable Merzavin," which were presented in the Yiddish theatre.

Y.L. Wohlman wrote about his play, "The Sixth Symphony":

"This time we were honored with a lyrical play from the directors of the 'Elysium' Theatre. The play is as described on he poster as 'lyrical,' and it is indeed lyrical. Its name is 'The Sixth Symphony.' The subject is as old as heaven and earth. The hero is Kronenberg, a Jewish landowner. He has a daughter named Rochelle, a girl, neither sweet nor sour. From her spiritual cultural point of view, neither I nor the writer and perhaps herself doesn't know how, but she falls in love. Like most other heroines in all the other dramas, even in the simplest drama, she falls in love with a man of flesh and blood. In lyrical dramas she must fall in love lyrically... so it must be. Rochelle falls in love with her music teacher. But her parents, as expected, don't want this match. Hence it becomes a drama, but this one is a terrifying one."

N.M. (Mayzel) characterizes his so:

Whoever saw and met the ancient, gray B.Ch. Reiz could recognize immediately that this quiet, modest old man was a typical man from a bygone era who did not fit in to our hoo-ha-life. He was accustomed to the old-fashioned open spaces and to the old slow, cautiousness of the wide, far off Siberia, and to the quiet carefree life he lived there. He was used to the broad Russian natural world and the current, often cold atmosphere of this world was too narrow for him. He was happy to sit and chat with another person who understood this other world and location. ...Besides that, in Siberia he had an old love. This was the old-time newspaper “HaTzfira." In addition, lately he had frequently been published in today’s Jewish press …But it was…seldom that we met him in the company of journalists and writers.

R. passed away on 23 November 1933 in Warsaw.

  • Z. Reisen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. 4, Vilna, 1929, pp. 342-343 [342, 32-343].

  • N.M. [Mayzel] -- Binyamin khayim reyz, "Haynt," Warsaw, 24 November 1933.

  • F. Kor[n] -- Binyamin khayim reyz (B.Kh.R.), "Haynt," Warsaw, 2 March 1934.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5027.

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