Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yonah Rozenfeld

Born in 1880 in Chartorisk, Volin (according to the first publication of Reizen's "Lexicon" -- in the village of Rafalovske, near Chartorisk), into a poor family. His father was half [secular]- teacher and half-religious teacher, with a nature to learn German, even to play violin for poor weddings, but all of this was not enough to make a living because of the seven children and his wife had to take care of in the village.

Until age twelve he learned in a cheder. His father wanted to make a rabbi out of him, and R. had to leave the yeshiva in Pohost, near Pinsk, where he began to learn. R. took to wander off to his brothers, until he arrived on foot to Alik, not far from Rovno, where for a time he was an assistant to a printing teacher. Then he left to continue to his brothers in Odessa, where he became a turner, and he worked in this job for ten years, not reading and not writing anything the entire time. At first after his freedom from military service he dips his pen for the first time, in order to compose a love letter to his beloved ...

Under the effect of the renaissance in Yiddish literature, R. wrote two stories and displayed them start during his visit in 1902 to Odessa. At first in 1904 he published his first thing, "Dos lernyungl" in "Fraynd." From then on he was a frequent writer in the periodical Yiddish press, and since 1905 he withdrew completely from his craft and made writing his exclusive profession.


In 1909 in Warsaw he issued the first edition of his stories, later other editions, until a six-volume edition (New York, 1924), then his novel, "Eyner alayn" (1940), and still after his death in 1955 through the L.M. Stein publishing house in Chicago his volume, "Geklibene verk," put together by Kh. Grade, with a biographical critique introduced by Sh. Niger

In the beginning of 1921 R. arrived in America, where year-round he was a constant contributor to the "Forward," while at the same time working in a series of Yiddish journals in American daily newspapers in Europe, where he made several visits to  since his settling in America.

R. belonged to the popular and original Yiddish writers.

R. published an entire series of one-acters (a full list follows), and his play, "Konkurentn (Rivals)" on 3 March 1922 was staged through Maurice Schwartz in his "Yiddish Art Theatre" (with Schwartz as "Velvl di baleboste"), with great success. Later Schwartz guest-starred with the play. With great success in Argentina, and evoking a strong difference of opinion when it was staged in Mexico. The play also was staged through Ludwig Satz during his guest-appearance in 1932 in Romania.

Celia Adler writes about the New York production:

"After the few 'run-ups', we were finally struck again for an unintended success. This was a play from the very powerful, uniquely-talented narrator Yonah Rozenfeld, under the name, 'Konkurents (Rivals),' which he had originally written as a story. ... Coming to America Yonah Rozenfeld from his account made a drama in three acts, and Schwartz staged it. There is no doubt that 'Konkurents (Rivals)' as a drama wonderfully reported characters; it reveals a corner of life and human weaknesses of an extraordinary and unique kind that are revealed. We think that's a big part in the success of 'Konkurents' must also be ascribed to Ab. Cahan's spirited critique ... There is also the wonderful acting of the performers. Maurice Schwartz, Anna Appel, Yekhutiel Goldschmidt -- and let's get into it already -- in a very successful way it brought out the deep psychological characters of the play. A great sensation in 'The Rivals' was the acting of an eight-year-old boy. The role is far from an ordinary children's role, and Motele Brandt was very successful in his role. His acting then had in the Yiddish theatre world almost made an impression like the small Jackie Coogan made in the movie with Charlie Chaplin."

In December 1924 in the "Irving Place" Theatre, there was staged R.'s play, "Areyngefaln," a comedy that was strongly torn apart by the critics.

The one-acter, "Hayntike tsaytn (Modern Times?)" was staged through the New York "Folksbiene."

In 1931 R. published in "Tsukunft" a three-act drama, "Farplonterte libe."

R. became ill from cancer, and in 1937 was operated on. The doctors soon denied him life, but he resigned after seven years, and he passed away on 9 July 1944 in New York.

R.'s published plays:

  1. Der shvartser shleyer
    (dramatized scene)
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 23 April 1922)

  2. Ver iz shuldig?
    dramatized treatment
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 26 August 1923)

  3. Yonah Rozenfeld
    Man un vayb a kurtse tsayt nokh der khasene
    (a scene)
    ("Illustrated Week," Warsaw, 48 (50), 1924, pp. 11-13)

  4. Yonah Rozenfeld
    Fun liebshaft un has
    a drama in one act
    ("Di tsukunft," N.Y., July 1925, pp. 379-83)

  5. Eyz
    a scene
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 1 May 1926)

  6. Di tragedye fun a farliebtn man
    in one act and two scenes"
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 13, 14 June 1926)

  7. Bankrot
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 24 April 1927)

  8. Aropgenumen fun shtrik
    (dramatic scene)
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 31 July 1927)

  9. Dos hartz hot gezogt
    (dramatic scene)
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 1 Dec. 1929)

  10. Vi azoy unmeglikhes inmeglid
    (from a trial that took place in France)
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 16 March 1930)

  11. Hayntige tsaytn
    (dramatic scene)
    by Yonah Rozenfeld
    ("Forward," N.Y., 27 April 1930)

  12. Yonah Rozenfeld
    A farplonterte libe
    a drama in three acts
    ("Di tsunkunft," New York, January, February, March 1931)

  • Zalman Reisen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish LIterature," Vol. IV, pp. 133-39.

  • S. Dingol -- Two New Plays on the Yiddish Stage, "Tog," N.Y., 10 March 1922.

  • Ab. Cahan -- Yonah rozenfeld's "di konkurentn" in shvartz's theater, "Forward," N.Y., 13 March 1922.

  • L.S. Bieli -- "Konkurentn" in shvartz's kunst theater, "Yitg"blt," dort, 17 March 1922.

  • Aksel -- Konkurentn, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y., 21 April 1922.

  • Melekh Epstein -- Meys'er fun bintl brif, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 26 Dec. 1924.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- Shrayber ishe psult, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 26 Dec. 1924.

  • Dr. A. Koralnik -- Ver vemen?, "Der tog," N.Y., 27 Dec. 1924.

  • Shmuel Rozshanski -- konkurentn (fun yonah rozenfeld) oyfgefirt durkh moris shvartz in teater 'argentina," "Yidishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 27 July 1930.

  • Solomon Kahan -- A briv tsu moris shvaqrtz, "Dos vort," Mexico, Sept. 1952.

  • A. Weissbaum -- Male vos m'redt, dort.

  • A. Observer -- Un dos zol zayn yidish teather?, "Foroys," Mexico, N' 180, 1952.

  • Jacob Glatstein -- Prost un pshut, "Daily Morning Journal," N.Y., 10 Nov. 1952.

  • Shmuel Rozshanski -- Ibergetribene feynshmekerishkayt, "Der veg," Mexico, 13 Dec. 1952.

  • Moshe Katz -- Yonah rozenfeld, "Yidishe kultur," N.Y., N' 7, 1954.

  • Yonah Rosenfeld -- "Geklibene verk," New York, 1955.

  • "Fertsik yor folksbine," New York, 1955, p. 152.

  • Celia Adler -- "Celia Adler Recalls," New York, 1959, pp. 580-81.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2808.

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