The actor Jacob Silbert who acted around 1887 with a
Yiddish troupe in Cairo wrote that he attempted to
organize a Yiddish play in Jaffa and Jerusalem, but he
was warned from all sides that he would not receive
permission to play in Yiddish. He had to be satisfied
only to stage a Yiddish concert in Jerusalem.
In 1891 Harry Krohn, who arrived in Jaffa from Odessa,
managed successfully to stage the Play "Shulamis" by
Goldfaden. The first Yiddish theatrical presentation in
Eretz Yisrael occurred in one of the first newly built
houses in the Jaffa suburb that would later become Tel
Aviv. This attempt met with so many stumbling blocks and
difficulties, that it never reoccurred.
Zalmen Zylbercweig wrote about this event: "The
Hebraists in Eretz Yisrael had its own point of view,
which was not very knowledgeable. The root cause of it
was that the 'Lovers of Zion' movement like faithful
policemen, were incited by the thought that 'jargon' (as
Yiddish was called at that time) should not sneak into
'Eretz Yisrael.' They, who should have been the
potential audience for the Yiddish theatre, drew upon
their recall of Russian government restrictions and did
not allow Yiddish theatre to exist there."
Dr. Harari, one of the founders of Hebrew theatre in
"Eretz Yisrael," told us that after approximately 1888
we could stage "Shulamisí in Jerusalem, and in 1899 in
the colony of Rishon LeZion they performed Goldfadenís
"Dr. Yozelman." They also performed it in one of the
smaller colonies, Rehovot. M. Genessin, one of the
founders of the Hebrew Theatre in Eretz Yisrael, tells
in his memoirs about the founding of Hebrew theatre in
Eretz Yisrael. He said that after the 1905 Revolution in
Russia, many of the revolutionaries were guided by their
revolutionary principles. Every Wednesday shiploads of
immigrants arrived in Eretz Yisrael. They also brought
with them their political discussions, and they didnít
forget to also bring their ideas of a language war. ...
Meanwhile, and at the same time "Di troupe" (which had
just been founded) strengthened itself, and through the
devotion of its members, became bigger. A new idea
arose: We must play in Yiddish. But soon after, the
fanatics from Russia found out about the newly formed
Yiddish drama society. Dr. Metman-Kahan came from
Russia, bringing with him the "crazy" thoughts to create
a Hebrew High School in Jaffa. He was looked upon like
many other crazies who found themselves in the "landí
and had big plans. Many people poked fun at them. A
language war broke out (Hebrew or Yiddish) between these
According to Sh. Ernst a group of Jewish artists who
came to visit Eretz Yisrael and remained there without
any means to earn money in order to leave, organized in
the summer of 1909 in the hotel "Bella Vista" in Jaffa
two Yiddish plays: Goldfadenís "Shulamis" and Chirikovís
"Di yidn (The Jews)." The hall was packed, but the
Rabbis and other religious leaders from Jerusalem and
Jaffa let it be known that they absolutely forbid anyone
to attend these performances. It reached them that any
future presentations would be destroyed.
According to A. Koskovyetzkyís article in the Hebrew
press, "The Laborers in Jaffa on the Nineteenth of
Shevat, in 1910 presented Goldfadenís "Ahasuerus (Akhashveyresh)."
At the end of 1910 they presented the operetta "Bustanai"
in Jaffa, in which there appeared Chana Goldwig
("Dora"), Vaisborshtís "Letz (Clown)" and M. Altzmanís
"Bustanai." During Passover in 1910 in the hall of
Shaybergís hotel in Jaffa, they performed Jacob Gordinís
"Yiddish kenig lier (The Jewish King Lear)," with Mr.
Specktaroff as "Dovid Moisheles (David the son of
Moshe)," Vaisborsht as "Shammai,"and Chana Goldwigís as
"Tabelle" (archived in the history of Yiddish Theatre
After a much longer break during the summer months of
1914, they presented through Nachman Zilber at the
Arabian Theatre hall in Jaffa, Lernerís reworking of
Skripís "Zhidovka (Jewess)."
In March of 1919 there was presented through the
writerís legion, Hirsch Leyb Gordinís one-act play, "Dos
eybike licht (The Eternal Light)," in the amphitheatre
of the Jewish Legion near the Lod train station.
With the settlement of the "so-called fourth Aliya"
(1923-1926) in 1924, the Haifa branch of the Left Wing
Poalei Tzion founded a dramatic circle, "Unzer Vinkl
(Our Corner)," which took on the responsibility to keep
the Yiddish word alive. The circle began its activities
with recitals and monologues in Yiddish given in private
homes and for select groups. Their actual theatrical
undertakings began first of all with the arrival of
Shimony (Leibel Rabinowitz) from Kovno: On the terrace
of a house they founded the Yiddish stage. In February
1925 they presented one of Anskiís one-act plays. But,
at the second performance, members of the group "The
Battalion in Defense of the Language" arrived to disrupt
the play. A real pogrom was set in motion. This was
the fiftieth anniversary of the Yiddish theatre.
Not looking at all of the obstacles, the drama circle
staged six plays: Sholem Aleichemís "Dos groyse gevins
(The Big Prize)," and three others: "Ganovim (Thieves)"
by Bimko, "Foter un zun (Father and Son), " Konsperative
dira (The Conspiratorís Apartment)," and "Der zeyde (The
Grandfather)" by Anski, and "Dos eybike lid (The Eternal
Song)" by Arnshteyn. Less frequently they presented: "Shver
tzu zayn a yid (Itís Hard to be a Jew) by Sholem
Aleichem, "Dem shmidís tekhter (The Blacksmith's
Daughters)" by Hirshbein, "Shvester un brider (Sisters
and Brothers)," "Agentn (Agents)," "Mazl tov (Good
Luck)," "Der get (The Divorce)" by Sholem Aleichem, "Síbrent
(Its Burning)," "Nokh der kvureh, (After the Burial)" by
Peretz, and "Mit'n shtrom (With the Current)" by Sholem
Asch. There were also performances of Peretzís "Dos
kranke yingel (The Sick Boy)," and fragments of
Hirshbeinís "Puste kretshme (The Idle Inn)," plus
several rhyming literary events.
The members of "Unzer vinkl (Our Corner)" were:
Mordechai Puttershnit (Lodz -- now in Montreal), Bronya
Zelikovitch (Lenshitz), Yehoshua Sher (Besarabia), Nota
Ash (Vilna), Yehudis (Lithuania), Yehudis Volkavitch (Kalish),
Mendl Tzvillinger (Brod), Posniak (Grodno), Shmuel
Lemmer (Tarograd), Kayla Efter, Yosi Erlich (Warsaw),
Henigman, Avraham Volkovitch (Kalish), Layzer Greenberg,
Haya Shrayer, Kestenbaun (Poland), Sonya Shochet (Berditchev),
Yeshayahu Zilberberg (Russia), The leader of the
dramatic circle was the director Shimony (Kovno) and
Aryeh Binstein (set design).
The government finally locked out the club and forbid
all the activities of this dramatic circle.
In 1925 in Tel Aviv they founded another group also
called "Unzer vinkl." This was a dramatic group that
began its activities through readings in Yiddish. The
first reading someone from the Poalei Tzionís Zionist
club presented Sholem Aleichemís "Mazl Tov (Good
Luck)." Future presentations of Bimkoís "Di ganovim
(The Thieves)" led to a terrible scandal in
Haifa. Despite this the group presented
Reisen-Peretz-Sholem Aleichem and Yehoash evenings. But
the police forbid them to play in a barrack, based upon
building codes and that was the end of the "Drama
The members of the Drama Circle were: Itkin (Warsaw),
Moritz (Grudek), Fisher (Galicia), Shmuel Meller
(Warsaw) and Reshelbak (Zshichlin).
In 1930 in Tel Aviv there was a demonstration at the
showing of the film "Di yiddishe mama (The Jewish
Mother)." "The battalion of defenders of the language"
using terroristic means, blocked the theatre so that the
film had to be taken down.
Sh.E. from L.
Asher Hagilili --
Theater un moving piktshurs in eretz yisroel,
"Forward," N.Y., 25 March 1921.
L. Krohn -- Di
pionern fun a yidish teater in palestine, "Di
arbeter tsaytung," Warsaw, 14, 1927.
Zalmen Zylbercweig --
"Hintern forhang," Vilna, 1928, pp. 140-156.
Jacob Silbert --
Yidish teater in yerushalayim (published in "Teter
Zikhrones," Editor Z. Zylbercweig, Vilna, 1928, pp.
M. Shapiro -- Yente
redt un shilt oyf hebreish, "Forward," N.Y., 24 Feb.
M. Ngesin (memoirs)
-- "Kol nue," Tel Aviv, N' 11, 13, 1932.