Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Yiddish Theatre

New Approaches
Edited by Joel Berkowitz

This collection of essays conveys a broad range of fundamental ideas about Yiddish theatre and its importance in Jewish life as a reflection of aesthetic, social, and political trends and concerns. The contributions cover such topics as the Yiddish repertoire, including the purimshpil and the relationship between Yiddish drama and the broader European dramatic tradition; the historiography of the Yiddish theatre; the role of music; censorship, both by governmental authorities and from within the Jewish community; and the politics of Yiddish theatre criticism. Taken as a whole, these essays make a significant contribution to our understanding of Jewish literature and culture in eastern Europe and the United States.

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'A stimulating and encouraging book that I am happy to recommend to the specialist and the curious reader alike . . . It is not only a politically opportune moment to investigate the history of Yiddish theatre . . . but also a time to create a comprehensive study of Jewish theatre.'
Yana Meerzon, Modern Language Review

'Carefully and lovingly edited . . . represents a genuinely heroic effort at elevating a genre . . . The scholarship is impeccable, and the contributors all serious scholars.'
S. Gittleman, Choice

This volume of essays is the first collection of scholarly studies on the Yiddish theatre to appear in English. Drawing on a variety of academic disciplines, it considers the dramatic and musical repertoire of Yiddish theatre and their historical development, popular and critical reception of productions, and the practice and consequences of state censorship. The time-span covered is broad—from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century—as is the geographical range: Cracow, London, Moscow, New York, St Petersburg, Vienna, and Warsaw. The Yiddish Theatre not only presents a comprehensive study of the field but also helps illustrate the significance of the Yiddish theatre as a vital form of expression in the Jewish world. Yiddish drama and theatre has had an enormous capacity to entertain audiences on six continents, while at the same time highlighting social, political, religious, and economic concerns of vital interest to the Jewish people.

The Yiddish Theatre is a valuable resource for scholars, university students, and general readers interested both in Yiddish theatre specifically and related fields such as Jewish literature and culture, east European history and culture, and European and American theatre. The book contains the most comprehensive bibliography to date of sources relating to the Yiddish theatre.

 

About the author

Joel Berkowitz is Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the State University of New York at Albany. He previously taught Yiddish literature at the University of Oxford and English language and literature at the City University of New York. He is the author of Shakespeare on the American Yiddish Stage, as well as a number of scholarly articles on Yiddish theatre and drama.

Contributors

Ahuva Belkin, Joel Berkowitz, Paola Bertolone, Miroslawa M. Bulat, Brigitte Dalinger, Barbara Henry, John Klier, David Mazower, Leonard Prager, Nahma Sandrow, Nina Warnke, Seth L. Wolitz

Contributor information

Ahuva Belkin is head of the Theoretical Concentration in the Theatre Studies
Department, Tel Aviv University
Joel Berkowitz is Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Studies, State University of New
York, Albany
Paola Bertolone teaches in the Department of Theatre, Università ‘La Sapienza’, Rome
Miroslawa M. Buwat teaches the history of Polish and European theatre, Jagiellonian
University, Kraków
Brigitte Dalinger lectures on Yiddish theatre and drama, University of Vienna
Barbara Henry is Mellon Fellow in Slavic Literatures, Northwestern University
John Klier is Corob Professor of Modern Jewish History, University College London
David Mazower is a journalist with the BBC World Service
Leonard Prager is Emeritus Professor of English, Haifa University
Nahma Sandrow is Professor of English, Bronx Community College, City University of
New York
Nina Warnke is Assistant Professor of Yiddish, University of Texas, Austin
Seth L. Wolitz holds the Gale Chair of Jewish Studies, and is Professor of French, Slavic,
and Comparative Literature, University of Texas at Austin

 

Contents

Note on Transliteration and Orthography
List of Plates
List of Tables

Introduction
Writing the History of the Yiddish Theatre JOEL BERKOWITZ

I Purimshpil
1 The ‘Low’ Culture of the Purimshpil AHUVA BELKIN

II Repertoire
2 Romanticism and the Yiddish Theatre NAHMA SANDROW
3 Jewish Plays on the Russian Stage: Moscow and St Petersburg, 1905–1917
BARBARA HENRY
4 The Text of Goldfaden’s Di kishefmakherin and the Operetta Tradition
PAOLA BERTOLONE
5 Shulamis and Bar kokhba: Renewed Jewish Role Models in Goldfaden and Halkin
SETH L. WOLITZ

III Regional Centres
6 Yiddish Theatre in Vienna, 1880–1938 BRIGITTE DALINGER
7 Stories in Song: The Melo-deklamatsyes of Joseph Markovitsh DAVID MAZOWER
8 From Goldfaden to Goldfaden in Cracow’s Jewish Theatres
MIROSLAWA M. BUWAT

IV Censorship
9 ‘Exit, Pursued by a Bear’: Russian Administrators and the Ban on Yiddish Theatre in
Imperial Russia JOHN KLIER
10 The Censorship of Sholem Asch’s Got fun nekome, London, 1946
LEONARD PRAGER

V Criticism
11 The Child Who Wouldn’t Grow Up: Yiddish Theatre and its Critics NINA WARNKE

Notes on Contributors
Bibliography
Index

 

Reviews

'A comprehensive study of the field . . . a wonderful read . . . A valuable resource for any person interested in the history of the Yiddish theatre, or anyone interested in Jewish literature and culture, or anyone interested in the history of theatre in general in eastern Europe and America.'
Sara Marcus, AJL Newsletter

'There is nothing comparable in English . . . it is a pioneering volume that necessarily lays a foundation and implies an agenda for Yiddish theatre scholarship in the English-speaking world. Because it is the first and as yet only such publication in English, it will repay careful scrutiny in its parts and as a whole.'
Michael C. Steinlauf, All about Jewish Theatre

'Carefully and lovingly edited . . . represents a genuinely heroic effort at elevating a genre . . . The scholarship is impeccable, and the contributors all serious scholars.'
S. Gittleman, Choice

'The volume contains eleven excellent articles and has been produced by a publisher of repute: the Littman Library . . . All in all, Yiddish Theatre: New Approaches is a landmark in the field of Yiddish cultural history. It is a thought-provoking book, which will hopefully inspire new collective volumes and monographs.'
Gennady Estraikh, East European Jewish Affairs

'A pioneering volume that necessarily lays a foundation. implies an agenda, for Yiddish theatre scholarship in the English-speaking world. Because it is the first and as yet the only such publication in English, it will repay careful scrutiny, both in its parts and as a whole.'
Michael Steinlauf, Modern Jewish Studies

'A stimulating and encouraging book that I am happy to recommend to the specialist and the curious reader alike . . . It is not only a politically opportune moment to investigate the history of Yiddish theatre . . . but also a time to create a comprehensive study of Jewish theatre, comparable to what has been done in publications on the history and traditions of Jewish film. It is a pleasure to acknowledge that Yiddish Theatre: New Approaches constitutes a very effective step in this direction.'
Yana Meerzon, Modern Language Review

'Aside of the high level of papers there are many extra advantages of the book: selection of interesting plates and tables, many interesting texts (written in transcription for the sake of those not knowing Hebrew . . .), and above all detailed bibliography (34 pages) and thorough index.'
Przemyslaw Piekarski, Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia

'One the book's best attributes is the ability of its contributors to place their subjects within larger European contexts . . . the calibre of the contributions is high, demonstrating the degree to which Yiddish theatre is attracting the attention of serious scholars . . . [the book] succeeds not only in its goal of presenting some of the most important new scholarship on Yiddish theatre, but more importantly in helping to bring the study of this integral component of Jewish culture into wider academic circles and into a more complex scholarly discourse.'   
Jeffrey Veidlinger, Shofar