_The Mendele Review_: Yiddish Literature and Language
                       (A Companion to _MENDELE_)
                    _Yiddish Theater Forum_ [_YTF_]
Contents of Vol. 06.009 _TMR_ and Vol. 01.002 _YTF_
30 September 2002

1) Letter from the Editor   (Joel Berkowitz)
2) Letters to the Editor
    a. Yiddish Theatre in South Africa  (Veronica Belling)
    b. A Yiddish Play About Roderigo Lopez  (Robin Lithgow)
    c. Zylbercweig's Legacy  (Shirley Fair)
    d. Seeking Yiddish Play on Slavery in Egypt  (Yankev Szczupak)
    e. Yiddish Pro-Zionist Plays after Balfour Declaration (James Renton)
3) A Names Index to Zylbercweig's _Leksikon_ (Faith Jones)

Date: 30 September 2002
From: Joel Berkowitz 
Subject: Letter from the Editor

Sometimes the field of Yiddish Studies seems to have as many phantom
books as it does actual ones.  Subscribers to _Mendele_ periodically
revisit the bitter debate over the fate of the as-yet-only-aleph
_Groyser verterbukh fun der yidisher shprakh_.  Less prominent, but
tantalizing in their own way, to the student of Yiddish theatre history
are the countless would-have-been, could-have-been publications relating
specifically to Yiddish theatre and drama:  some which got no further
than the dreaming stage , others begun but never completed.  Anyone who
has enjoyed wandering through the pages of Khonen Yankev Minikes's _Di
idishe bine_ (1897) or of Jacob Shatzky’s _Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun
yidishn teater un drame_ (1930) is bound to share the mixture o f
gratitude for the fact that such works exist, and frustration that the
planned succeeding volumes of these collections never came to be.

At the moment, I can hardly imagine anyone conducting serious research
on the Yiddish theatre without further contributing to the phantom
scholarship syndrome.  In this case I refer not to articles never
submitted or monographs left unfinished, but rather to notes taken
during research that are all but impossible for one individual to flesh
out into a complete guide.  Let us take, for example, some of the most
basic information about a theatre production:  When and where was it
produced?  Who were the playwright, composer, director, designer,
performers?  How much did tickets cost?  Where was the theatre located,
and what sort of building was it?  How successful was the production,
commercially and critically?  Was it reviewed in the Yiddish press?  In
other languages?  Is it discussed in any memoirs of the Yiddish stage?
Have any materials related to the production been preserved, such as
scripts, scores, designs, posters, etc.?

In an ideal world, scholars of Yiddish theatre might be gathered
together by a modern Medici who could keep them gainfully employed on a
combination of individual and communal projects.  Since that is unlikely
to happen any time soon, however, perhaps there is a way to bridge the
divide between such a scenario in which each scholar stakes a claim on a
particular subject and works on it in isolation.  Are there fruits of
our labor that we can share not because we are compensated financially
or with additional lines on our curriculum vitae, but simply because it
will advance our field of study in ways that individual endeavors,
whatever their other merits, cannot do?

In the abstract, this might sound like the daydream of a Pollyanna, but
if each of us has made notes that are of limited use on their own, and
are part of collections of data too vast for any individual or small
group of researchers to have a reasonable chance of completing, then
perhaps it is time to start developing systems by which to pool our
formidable but scattered resources—-a kind of ‘tikkun olam’ of Yiddish
theatre research.  Take, for example, the countless instances of memoirs
of theatre personnel that were published in newspapers or theatre
journals, but never collected in book form:  the recollections of
prominent figures such as Avrom Fishzon, Bertha Kalish, and Maurice
Schwartz, to name just a few examples.  In some cases, directories such
as Zylbercweig’s _Leksikon_ would lead the researcher to the specific
time and publication in which a theatre figure’s memoirs were published,
but far more often, coming across such writings depends on serendipity,
an exciting but notoriously unreliable handmaiden.

I therefore suggest that the _Yiddish Theater Forum_ serve as a central
repository of such information.  In order both to test the waters and to
keep the task focused, let us begin by trying to assemble a list of
memoirs like those discussed above.  If y ou have come across such
writings, please submit them to the Forum, indicating the publication as
well as the full range of dates when the memoirs were published, if
possible, e.g.:

Schwartz, Maurice.  _Forverts_, Jan. 1941 – May 1942.

If not all the dates are known, please provide as much information as
you do know, e.g.:

Fishzon, Avrom.  _Morgen zhurnal_, as of Mar. 1925.

Please submit only information that you have verified firsthand.  We
will also be happy to read your suggestions for future joint ventures as

In the meantime, this second issue demonstrates that the _YTF_ is
already beginning to bear fruit by serving as a cyberkiosk announcing
important new research projects, and as a vehicle for airing _shayles_
and (one hopes!)  _tshuves_.  The announcements below by Veronica
Belling and Faith Jones are welcome news indeed; we encourage other
readers to inform your colleagues of recently completed projects as well
as of works in progress.

Date: 30 September 2002
From:  Veronica Belling  
Subject:  Yiddish Theatre in South Africa

I thought I should let the Forum know about my research on Yiddish
theatre in South Africa....  Some readers might have come across my
article on the Golden years of Yiddish theatre in South Africa,
1902-1910 in _Jewish Affairs_ 2000 ["The Golden Years of Yiddish Theatre
in South Africa, 1902-1910," _Jewish Affairs_ 55 (2000), 7-14.  --
eds.]. This article formed the basis of the first chapter of a
comprehensive history of Yiddish theatre in South Africa, which I am
currently in the throes of finishing off.  It will be submitted as a
dissertation in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the
University of Cape Town. It is a pioneering research as Yiddish theatre
has up to now been totally omitted from South African Jewish

It has been a fascinating undertaking, at times very frustrating as
Yiddish theatre was for many years very scarce and even when it was more
plentiful, was under reported in the South African Jewish Press, which
forms the basis of the research.  The histor y includes overseas
visiting companies and solo artistes, as well as local amateur theatre.
It spans the years 1896 when the first Yiddish theatre performance of
Yankl Rosenfeld, a Goldfaden disciple, together with three other actors
from Europe, was repo rted, to 1960 when Yiddish amateur theatre had
become increasingly scarce and the vision of establishing a permanent
Yiddish Theatre in Johannesburg had finally been put to rest.  The main
history takes place in Johannesburg, although Cape Town also featu res
fairly largely.  It also includes several smaller towns in the Transvaal
and the Western Cape, as well as a brief mention of Durban in Natal and
Port Elizabeth and East London in the Eastern Cape.

Veronica Belling
Jewish Studies Librarian
University of Cape Town Libraries (021) 650-3779; Fax (021) 650-3062.

Date: 30 September 2002
Robin Lithgow 
Subject: Is there a Yiddish Play about Roderigo Lopez?

I have heard that there is a Yiddish play about Roderigo Lopez, the
surgeon to Queen Elizabeth I, who was tried and executed for "treason"
(for allegedly attempting to poison the queen) and later exonerated by
most historians.  Do you know of such a play?  Is there a version in

Date: 7 September 2002
From:  Shirley Fair 
Subject: Zalmen Zylbercweig's Legacy

My name is Shirley Fair, daughter of Celia and Zalmen Zylbercweig, sole
writer of the 6 volumes of the Lexicon of the Yiddish Theater.  [In
fact, he collaborated with Jacob Mestel on the first three volumes.  --
eds.] My father passed away 30 years ago, and left a magnificent legacy.
All of his manuscrips, works, photos, etc., were willed to Israel, and
are displayed in Mount Scopus "Israel Goor Theater Archives".  Very
happy to hear that there is such an interest in Yiddish Theater.  Should
you want to contact me, please do so.

Shirley Fair

Date: 12 September 2002
From: Yankev Szczupak 
Subject: Seeking Yiddish Play on Slavery in Egypt

Beshas mayn hayorikn bazukh in poyln hot eyner fun di teatrale
artistishe farvalter un rezhisern mir gebetn tsu fartaytshn un shikn tsu
im a (fule) dramatishe pyese vegn der shklaferay un bafrayung fun
knekhtshaft fun di yidn in mitsraim.  Tsi kent ir mir helfn gefinen di
rikhtung vu zol ikh zikh vendn tsu gefinen aza oder an enlekhe shpil?

During my visit to Poland this year, a theatre director there asked me
to translate and send him a (full-length) play about the enslavement and
liberation of the Jews in Egypt.  Can you point me in the right
direction to find such a play, or a comparable one?

Date: 21 September 2002
From: James Renton
Subject: Yiddish Pro-Zionist Plays after Balfour Declaration

I am looking for Yiddish plays that were written during the First World
War concerning the Balfour Declaration.

Date: 30 September 2002
From: Faith Jones 
Subject: A Names Index to Zylbercweig's _Leksikon_

Leonard Prager (YTF 01.001) mentions parenthetically the need for an
index to the _Leksikon fun yidishn teater_.  An index to the name
entries in the six published volumes will shortly be available on the
web site of the Dorot Jewish Division of The New York Public Library.
The index was compiled initially for our own purposes, that is, to
assist librarians in cataloging, particularly when we come across an
actor, playwright or producer who is not already in the library's
catalog as either an author or subject.  We were delighted to realize
the need for such an index went beyond our own purposes and to share the
work we've done so far.  A further index of the theaters and productions
mentioned within the entries would be desirable for researchers:  while
we await a volunteer for that mammoth task, the name index will, we
hope, provide relief from at least one impediment to using this unique
and wonderful reference work.  One of the unexpected joys of being
forced to look at every page of the _Leksikon_ as we compiled the index
was our continual amazement and wonder at the head shots, which could
today be sent only to an agent casting a production of Dracula.

The index, the projected launch date of which is October 7, will be
available in PDF format through the Jewish Division's web site:  Individuals are welcome to print out
the index for their own use.  Libraries and other institutions may print
out and bind the index if they wish:  they are requested to credit The
New York Public Library.  A catalog record is available in RLIN (ID
number NYPH01-B12627).

Theater researchers may also find useful two related projects.  The
Jewish Division's large collection of Thomashefsky playscripts has been
cataloged and is searchable through our on-line catalog
(  A finding aid is posted on the Division's web
site.  Finally, a group of Yiddish theater posters from New York and
Buenos Aires has been selected for digitization by The New York Public
Library's Digital Library Program.  These images are available on-line
for viewing and personal use.  High-quality digital versions suitable
for reproduction are available for a fee.

Faith Jones
Jewish Division, The New York Public Library

End of _The Mendele Review_ 06.009   /  _Yiddish Theater Forum_ 01.002
Leonard Prager, editor                                    Joel Berkowitz, editor

_Yiddish Theater Forum_

                             Honorary Board

Raphael Goldwasser, Shifra Lerer, Bernard Mendelovich, Joseph Schein

                             Advisory Council

Dror Abend-David, Jean Baumgarten, Helen Beer, Paola Bertolone, Mendy
Cahan, Jeremy Dauber, Jerold Frakes, Ben Furnish, Itsik Gottesman,
Avraham Greenbaum, Nina Hein, Barbara Henry, Dov-Ber Kerler, John Klier,
David Mazower, Laura Mincer, Edna Nahshon, Yitskhok Niborski, Leonard
Prager, Alyssa Quint, Ron Robboy, Nahma Sandrow, Vassili Schedrin,
Joseph Schein, Jutta Strauss, Jeffrey Veidlinger, Nina Warnke, Seth
Wolitz, Moshe Yassur

Subscribers to _Mendele_ (see below) automatically receive _The Mendele
Review_ and all of the latter's joint issues with _Yiddish Theater

Send "to subscribe" or change-of-status messages to:

        a. For a temporary stop: set mendele mail postpone
        b. To resume delivery: set mendele mail ack
        c. To subscribe: sub mendele first_name last_name
        d. To unsubscribe kholile: unsub mendele