Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Mordechai Rivesman


Born in 1868 in Vilna, Polish-Lite. Until age twelve he learned in cheders. After attending a Vilna gymnasium, later on five years a folks teacher in Vilna, and since 1896 a teacher in the school of "Khaverah m'sivta haskalah" in Peterburg, his literary career began in Yiddish in 1892 in Peretz's "Yudishe bibliotek," but under the works of the Russian-Yiddish writer I.L. Levanda, who spoke to him about writing in Yiddish, "because it is a decent language, and because we live in Russia." He went over to Russian and published stories and songs in Russia's "Voskhod." A part of the local Arbeter Ring in 1907 issued in Petersburg a book, "Yevreskim dietat" (for Jewish children). R. went back to write in Yiddish for Ayzik Meyer Dik, who he motivated with "You can understand every Jewish woman....Yiddish is still the language of the brighter masses."

With the publication of "Fraynt (Friend)," he continued to write in Yiddish, and in the span of five years there published a series of stories of poor Jewish life, as well as songs, also working in other periodical editions, quite especially under the pseudonym of "Motele," in he joke page, "Der shaygets" in "Der bezim." He became popular with the book, "Dem zaydens meshulim" (Peterburg, 1908, "Free and entirely Yiddish adapted after Krilov"), which in 1918 was published in a improved and revised edition, and a selction from them in 1919 issued for children for the commissar of Jewish issues in Peterburg.

Nachman Maysel knows that in a "song collection for the Yiddish school and family," there was assembled by Z. Kiselgoff

 (Peterburg 1911) to songs with notes of the oratorio "Megadl Babel," two songs from the opera, "Macabre," Glino's and Kukalinik's "A Yiddish Song" from the tragedy, "Kniaz cholmski," and a song from Mussogorsky's oratorio, "Yehoshua Ben Nun," all translated into Yiddish by R.

R. used to participate in amateur productions for which he wrote plays.

R. wrote the plays:

  • "Glikn," which was played through the Kaminski troupe under the name of "Yidishe glikn,' and through the Vilna Troupe in Vilna

  • "Ende zumer" (staged through the Kaminski troupe)

  • "Di finstere nakht"

  • the miniature "R' Meier bel hns"

  • "Nokhn kholent"

  • "Eylenish"

Besides this an entire series of children's plays in Russian, most adapted for the Jewish holidays (issued by the publishing house "Ezra" in Peterburg). After the Revolution in 1917, there was a tour by the formerly founded Yiddish Theatre Society in Petersburg and was translated for Moscow's Jewish State Theatre Gutzkoff's "Uriel Acosta." He also published in a collection book, "Yevrieski lietopis," his memoirs and bagegenishn for the years 1915-1917, with a series of Yiddish, Russian-Yiddish and Hebrew writers.

Dr. Israel Tsinberg writes about him:

"For the half-assimilated, in the Jewish environment the Jews still prayed, those who had lived in the Russian Peterburg, R. was actually a treasure, the embodiment of popularity, from good-natured humor and merriment, a living reservoir of juicy Vilna Yiddish, from popular jokes, puns, grammatical combinations, and we had laughed from jokes from his false Kirov parables, songs, declamations, theater scenes and humorousness. He had passionate love for the scene, the old folks scenes with the precarious repertoire, and the old-fashioned manner of capturing, knew his audience, who paid him with love and recognition, and a large audience had accompanied him to his eternity."

On 9 May 1924 R. passed away in Leningrad.

  • Zalmen Reisen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vilna, 1929, Vol. 4, pp. 325-329.

  • Nachman Maysel -- Yidish tematik un yidishe melodies bay barimte kompozitorn, "Yiddish Culture," N.Y., N' 2, pp. 6, 8.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 4969.

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