The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to MENDELE)
Contents of Vol. 08.007 [Sequential No. 146]
16 June 2004

1) About this issue of TMR  (ed.)
2) Review of Joel Berkowitz, ed.  _Yiddish Theatre:  New Approaches_
   (Michael Steinlauf)
3) A French translation of the 1602 editio princeps of _Mayse bukh_
   (Astrid Starck)
4) The Contribution of Ayzik Zaretski to Yiddish Linguistics
   (Zelda Newman)

Date:  16 June 2004
From:  Leonard Prager 
Subject:  About this issue of TMR

This issue of TMR centers on three works from widely different branches of
Yiddish studies -- theatre, linguistics and Old Yiddish literature -- areas
in which few of us are specialists but in which most of us as Mendele
readers would admit to a strong curiosity at the least.

Michael Steinlauf's detailed and informed review of _Yiddish Theatre: New
Approaches_ edited by Joel Berkowitz, is a virtual vade mecum of Yiddish
theatre scholarship.  Steinlauf places the Berkowitz collection of essays in
its proper context and critically examines each essay, alert to
inconsistencies and errors but also to fresh insights and originality.
Criticism of the kind and level of Steinlauf's can only encourage serious
studies of Yiddish theatre; Steinlauf sees the Berkowitz volume as a
promising beginning.

Zelda Newman is a veteran student and admirer of the Soviet Yiddish linguist
Ayzik Zaretski (1891-1956).  In a short essay she gives her reasons for
valuing one work of Zaretski's in particular, his _Praktishe yidishe
gramatik_ (Moscow, 1926).

Dr.  Astrid Starck announces her forthcoming translation into French of the
1602 Basle edition of the _Mayse bukh_.  Her work includes a facsimile of
the entire 1602 Basle text, the editio princeps of which there are now only
two copies left.  Dr.  Starck's work is bilingual (French on the left page,
Yiddish on the right page) and her translation is the first, not only in
French but from the editio princeps.  Her work includes extensive annotation
of the text.  Dr.  Starck's work is thus of special importance from a
textual perspective -- we will now have a tool for examing variants and
cruces and, more generally, the evolution of the 1602 text.

Dr.  Starck will discuss the book at a gala evening on June 24th at the
Institute of Jewish Studies of the University of Basle under the auspices of
the Institute, the University Library and the publisher, Schwabe Verlag.

This work may be ordered from Schwabe Verlag:  _Un beau livre d'histories /
_Eyn shoen Mayse bukh_ Traducton du yiddish, introduction et notes par
Astrid Starck.  Schriften der Universitaetsbibliotek Basel, Band 6/1 and 6/2
2004. 2 Baende.  CXXXIV, 875 Seiten.  Leinen mit Schutzumschlag.  Fr. 128. /
Euro 89.50.  ISBN 3-7965-1091-4.  ISSN 1422-7517.

Schwabe AG Verlag Steinentorstrasse 13 4010 Basel / Tel. 061 278 95 65 / Fax
061 278 95 66 / / CH-4132 Muttenz Shweiz /

Date:  16 June 2004
From:  Michael Steinlauf 
Subject:  Review of _Yiddish Theatre:  New Approaches_, ed.  Joel Berkowitz

Joel Berkowitz, ed., _Yiddish Theatre:  New Approaches_ (Oxford:
Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2003), 269 pp.

"Unique and almost unnatural is the path of Yiddish theater research." So
begins Jacob Shatzky's introduction to the last (and nearly the only)
Yiddish-language anthology devoted to serious scholarship on the history of
Yiddish theater, _Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun yidishn teater un drame_.
Published in Vilna in 1930 by Boris Kletskin, under the auspices of the
Ester-Rokhl Kaminska Theater Museum and Archives of the YIVO, the collection
was intended as the first volume of a serial publication (which never
developed presumably because of lack of funding).  Its five hundred pages
include over twenty articles and another twenty-some annotated documents
(materyaln tsu der geshikhte). Perusing the _Arkhiv_ today one feels
immersed in a lost and legendary world . Yet Shatzky's volume has found
contemporary successors.  Over the past decade, four volumes of scholarship
on Yiddish theater have been published in Poland and one in Israel:
_Pamietnik Teatralny_ [Theater Journal] (Warsaw) 41 (1992); Jan Michalik and
Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, eds., _Teatr zydowski w Krakowie:  Studia i
materialy_ [Yiddish Theater in Krakow:  Studies and Materials] (Krakow,
1995); Anna Kuligowska-Korzeniewska and Malgorzata Leyko, eds., _Teatr
zydowski w Polsce_ [Yiddish Theater in Poland] (Lodz, 1998); Malgorzata
Leyko, ed., _Lodzkie sceny zydowskie_ [Yiddish Theater in Lodz] (Lodz,
2000); Mordechai Altshuler, ed., _Hateatron hayehudi bevrit hamoatsot:
Mekhkarim, iyunim, teudot_ [Yiddish Theater in the Soviet Union: Studies,
essays, documents] (Jerusalem, 1996).  With the exception of _Teatr zydowski
w Polsce_, which is a collection of conference papers, these volumes are
similar in structure to Shatzky's _Arkhiv_.  The five volumes comprise about
2000 pages.

There has been nothing comparable in English, however, and that is why Joel
Berkowitz's anthology is cause for celebration.  More modest in size than
its counterparts -- it contains eleven articles (all based on conference
papers) along with an editor's introduction and bibliography -- it is a
pioneering volume that necessarily lays a foundation, implies an agenda, for
Yiddish theater 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.  Let's begin with the

Ahuva Belkin's article, "The 'Low' Culture of the Purimshpil," is a long
overdue introduction to the _purimshpil_, that is, to the traditional roots
of modern Yiddish theater.  Belkin focuses on, rather than apologizes for,
the bawdy, transgressive content of the _purimsphil_. She points out that
until recently mainstream academic criticism has avoided literary analysis
of such folk genres, and connects her own work to the postmodern interest in
recovering the history of the Other.  It should be noted, however, that in
Yiddish scholarship at least, the matter has not been so straightforward.
Belkin cites Tsinberg's and Erik's scorn for the _purimshpil_.  But other
scholars, such as Prylucki, Schiper, Shatzky and Weinreich, were hardly so
dismissive. Indeed, Prylucki published the texts of meticulously transcribed
_purimshpils_ nearly a hundred years ago.  The work of these scholars,
though rooted in outmoded notions of _folksshafn_ rather than a notion of
the Other, should be given its due.

Belkin is to be highly commended for subjecting the _purimshpil_ to the
light of contemporary theory, specifically, the work of Victor Turner and
above all Bakhtin.  She correctly points out, however, that Bakhtin's ideas
need to be modified when applied t o Jewish culture. Thus, while the
_purimshpil_ is an excellent example of "popular festive" culture that mocks
and degrades everything high and thereby turns the world upside-down, the
relationship of even the most socially marginal Jews to their own high
culture was more ambiguous than that of their Christian counterparts.  This,
as Belkin points out, is because Jews were nearly universally literate and
therefore even the "carnivalesque" holiday of Purim maintained a
relationship to text, to the Scroll of Esther, as well as to a host of
related biblical and midrashic materials.  A further distinction, one which
Belkin does not explore, concerns the physicality of the carnivalesque, its
link to eating, drinking, defecating, copulating, birthing and dying.  What
can be seen as unambiguous momentary freedom in the Christian context is
complicated in the Jewish case by the association between physicality and
the _goy_.  Unlike for Bruegel's peasants or Rabelais' Gargantua, for Jews
carnival designated something besides a taste of utopian freedom:  it also
meant momentarily embracing, indeed becoming, the Other.  Liberating to be
sure, though not unambiguously so.

Nahma Sandrow's essay, "Romanticism and the Yiddish Theater," is the
distillation of years of experience reflecting on, writing about, and
working in Yiddish theater; her writing is suffused with a unique insider's
sensibility.  Unlike more narrowly academic scholars, Sandrow is unafraid of
explaining, for example, that "[t]he tears that we nowadays dismiss as
sentimental reaction were valued by nineteenth-century Romantics as nature's
free response to truth -- an attitude that Yiddish theatregoers preserved
well into the twentieth century" (55).

Sandrow's use of the notion of Romanticism brings together some of the
frequently noted characteristics of Yiddish theater -- what she terms its
variety, emotionalism, nationalism, and rebellion -- within a single
conceptual framework.  Interesting things result; her perspective allows us
to think, for example, of the aesthetic of Second Avenue operettas and 20th
century expressionist dramas on a single continuum.  She is also right to
suggest the aesthetic roots of Yiddish theater in the late 18th and early
19th century; this helps explain why Schiller and Gutzkow, for example, were
still popular on Yiddish stages in the early 20th century.

As with other such syntheses, however useful, this one threatens to overstep
its bounds.  Sandrow concludes:  "Indeed one could think of Yiddish theatre
itself as a splendid Romantic rebel, making art in the teeth of starvation,
persecution, migraton, assimilation, and -- as time passed -- the ageing of
its own artists and audiences" (59).  One could, of course, think of things
this way, but at the risk of ignoring the shabby, crassly commercial side of
this theater, the reality of so many popular productions. One can usefully
apply the perspective of the Romantic to Yiddish theater history, but one
must avoid thereby romanticizing that history.

Barbara Henry's article, "Jewish Plays on the Russian Stage:  St.
Petersburg, 1905-1917," is problematic.  The title is ambiguous:  is the
author's subject Russian-language plays, Yiddish-language plays, or both? In
his introduction to the volume, Berkowitz says the article is about Yiddish
plays in Russian translation (18, 24).  But Henry's article devotes only two
paragraphs to this subject (66-67, with additional footnotes on 70-71).
These paragraphs are actually quite interesting; Henry suggests, for
example, that in such plays, the Pale of Settlement functions like the Wild
West in American literature.  But unlike the rest of the article which is
well-documented, this discussion is not footnoted.  Where do her conclusions
here come from?

What Henry's piece is mainly about is not Russian-language plays but Yiddish
plays staged in Russia.  And what is astonishing about her article is the
complete lack of Yiddish sources.  Henry makes use exclusively of "[r]ecent
scholarship based on Soviet and Russian sources and archives" (61) as well
as her own research in Russian-language sources which she uses to
"contradict...the conventional view of [Yiddish theater] as a moribund art
form, revived only under the ministrations of the Bolshevik state" (62).
Henry appears unaware that this view was conventional only in the Soviet
Union.  She then devotes herself to presenting Russian-language "evidence of
a continuing Yiddish theatrical tradition both before and after the ban of
1883" (62).  Henry does not cite a single Yiddish source.  She is apparently
unaware of Nokhem Oyslender's _Yidisher teater, 1887-1917_ (which, it
happens, is based on exhaustive study of Russian newspaper reviews), as well
as numerous other works, not to mention the Yiddish press and Zilbercweig's
6-volume _Leksikon_.  What makes all this truly inexplicable is Henry's
acknowledgement of the "comments on this chapter" of several reputable
Yiddish theater scholars including Berkowitz (who in fact mentions
Oyslender's work in his introduction) (61, 18).

In recent years, new English-language studies of Goldfaden have begun to
appear, most notably articles by Seth Wolitz and a dissertation by Alyssa
Quint.  This is an important development; previous scholarship on Goldfaden
has particularly suffered from id eologically motivated approaches.  More
than ever, it appears, understanding Goldfaden in all his complexity, as
batkhn, maskil, and impresario rolled into one, is critical to re-evaluating
the theater which he was said to have fathered.  The volume under review
reinforces this trend with three essays on Goldfaden, by Paola Bertolone,
Seth Wolitz, and Miroslawa Bulat.

Bertolone's article, "The Text of Goldfaden's _Di kishefmakherin_ and the
Operetta Tradition," is the product of a scholar clearly knowledgeable in
European theater history.  The article, however, lacks a consistent
argument; it is frequently hard to follow and sometimes contradictory.  Some
of these may be problems of translation from the original Italian.  For
example, Bertolone seems to dismiss the accepted notion of Goldfaden as the
father of modern Yiddish theater as "a myth." But she never deconstructs
this myth and, moreover, later seems to support it by calling _Di
kishefmakherin_ close to "the origins of Yiddish theater" and describing
Goldfaden as "lay[ing] the foundations of the modern Yiddish theatre" (79,
83).  She disagrees with Oyslender and Finkel about the existence of a clear
break in Goldfaden's work after 1881, but provides little to substantiate a
different view.  It is also quite an over-simplification to describe
Goldfaden as moving "from Haskalah to Zionism" (79).  There is an
interesting analysis of Hotsmakh that traces him back to the _purimshpiler_
tradition (82), but this is followed by an attempt to theorize about
Goldfaden's use of theatrical space based on the cover illustrations of
early published versions of _Di kishefmakherin_, illustrations with which,
knowing contemporary publishing practices, Goldfaden probably had little to
do. Bertolone concludes with brief descriptions of two later productions of
_Di kishefmakherin_, Granovsky's at the GOSET and an Italian version staged
in 1998 in Trieste.  The latter, in which Bertolone was personally involved,
seems to have been a wonderful transferral of Goldfaden into contemporary
theatrical practice.

Seth Wolitz's piece, "_Shulamis_ and _Bar kokhba_:  Renewed Jewish Role
Models in Goldfaden and Halkin," compares the cultural political subtexts of
Goldfaden's most celebrated "national" creations with those of Halkin's
recreations fifty years later in the Soviet Union.  Wolitz begins with a
marvelous formulation of the national context of Yiddish theater:  "the
Jewish stage dared to become the lost sovereign land of Israel, restoring
through performance the national homeland of the past and the future" (88 ).
This is a far cry from Zionism.  Wolitz then offers a fine analysis of
Goldfaden's _Shulamis_ as a heroine rooted both in the _eyshes khayl_
tradition and, even more so, that of Western Romantic opera.  Wolitz's
discussion, drawing on intimate familiarity with both Jewish and European
sources, is exemplary.  Among the delights he throws our way is the fact
that Goldfaden's most common link to European operetta was probably by way
of contemporary Ukrainian musical melodramas (91).  He also points to the
biblical/orientalist turn in mid-nineteenth century European opera that
doubtless provided, perhaps more than midrash, a context for the world of
_Shulamis_ (92).  In contrast to Bertolone, who sees an artist vacillating
as he creates a new genre, Wolitz insists on a Goldfaden who "knew precisely
what he was doing" (90), including the creation of tableaus and the musical
structure of his plays.

Wolitz frames his discussion of Halkin's work by noting that the larger
issue of the Soviet turn to folk themes as a way of beating bourgeois art is
still insufficiently explored.  This is a particularly important matter in
our own little world, since much of the valuable Soviet scholarship on
Yiddish theater proceeds out of these currents.  In the late 1930s, a time
of shallow "proletarian" art (as well as deadly peril for Soviet artists),
the use of folk sources at least offered audiences a bit of depth and
traditional resonance.  For Halkin, as Wolitz shows, the result was a
folklorized Goldfaden projecting a "bizarre peasant or proletarian vision of
the single-class state" threatened by invaders (97).  Eisenstein's film
Alexander Nevsky immediately comes to mind.

Miroslawa Bulat's study, "From Goldfaden to Goldfaden in Cracow's Jewish
Theatres," is among the fruits of over a decade of assiduous research into
the history of Yiddish theater in the author's home town of Krakow. Bulat
commands Yiddish as well as Polish sources; among the Polish scholars who
have written about Yiddish theater in recent years, she is the only one to
have made Yiddish theater her exclusive focus.  Her article demonstrates the
possibilities of such a monographic approach, but also its limitations.
Bulat has fully exploited newspaper and archival sources (in one case the
Ringelblum Archives), and is thereby able to trace sixty years of successive
productions of Goldfaden in Krakow.  The sources, typically, reveal much
more about the "art" productions of Weichert, Manger and Zygmunt Turkow than
about the earlier "traditional" popular ones.  Bulat chronicles the polemics
that developed around the "art" productions, which typically turned around
their "authenticity."  To learn about the "traditional" productions,
however, one can't limit oneself to Krakow.  One needs a sense of the
development of Yiddish theater in Poland as a whole, along with theoretical
and theater-historical perspectives from which to interpret these
developments.  Bulat emphasizes the apparently unique situation in Krakow,
where the "better" Yiddish theater was nurtured by a small group of
Polish-speaking critics and cultural activists.  She notes the coexistence
during the interwar years of "traditional" and "artistic" productions of
Goldfaden.  Was this coexistence, as she suggests, a function of Krakow's
general cultural conservatism?  Until the situation in other cities, and
especially Warsaw, is examined, it is too soon to say.  Many contemporary
critics regarded "traditional " versions of Goldfaden as primitive, while
the new "artistic" productions were hailed as nationally creative.  But when
we factor in Wolitz's observatons about the national content of Goldfaden
and, indeed, popular Yiddish theater as a whole, the movement "from
Goldfaden to Goldfaden" becomes more nuanced -- and more interesting.

The volume under review includes an article about Yiddish theater in Vienna,
and two about Yiddish theater in London.  Brigitte Dalinger's "Yiddish
Theatre in Vienna, 1880-1938" is an admirable survey, with particularly
interesting material on popular songs and plays with topical references that
were common at the turn of the century.  But would it not help, for example,
to relate the history of Yiddish theater in Vienna to the development,
beginning during World War I and lasting for about a decade, of a
flourishing Viennese Yiddish literary scene populated by emigre modernist
poets and writers?  Here and elsewhere in the volume as a whole,
considerably more could have been done to situate theater history amidst
larger cultural currents.  Dalinger concludes by pointing out that "for
every Moscow, New York, or Warsaw, there were many Kharkovs, Philadelphias,
and Viennas" (117).  The history of Yiddish theater in the latter cities is
eminently worthy of study.  In our little world, however, we still know so
little about the former that turning to the latter sometimes seems like an

Leonard Prager's article, "The Censorship of Sholem Asch's _Got fun nekome_,
London, 1946," is a fascinating note on an entirely unknown (and odd) corner
of Yiddish theater history.  Prager illuminates a particular incident, the
circumstances surrounding the banning of Asch's controversial play by the
Lord Chamberlain's office, which licenced all new plays performed in
Britain.  Even more important, Prager presents a new research source, first
uncovered by Brad Sabin Hill (currently head librarian at YIVO):  the
archives of the Lord Chamberlain's plays at the British Library.  Prager
provides a useful appendix listing applications to the Lord Chamberlain's
office, by author and by date (1880-1961), for licenses to perform Yiddish

David Mazower's essay, "Stories in Song:  The _Melo-deklamatsyes_ of Joseph
Markovitsh," focuses on another discovery:  a collection of dramatic poems
set to music which Mazower unearthed by recovering forgotten manuscripts
from veteran Yiddish actors in England.  Mazower presents a synopsis of
Markovitsh's life set amidst the Yiddish theater in London, then conducts us
into what Mazower plausibly argues were Markovitsh's greatest creations.
Mazower suggests that these _melo-deklamatsyes_ may represent a unique art
form.  Yet such works certainly had antecedents in the tradition of
_forleyzungen_, dramatic readings of literary and dramatic works,
occasionally with musical accompaniment, going back at least to the turn of
the twentieth century and perhaps earl ier, to the Broder Singers.  In a
marvelous bit of serendipity, I was recently contacted by Paula Eisenstein
Baker, whose forthcoming edition of the chamber music of Leo Zeitlin
includes compositions called _melodeklamatsyes_ that were composed in Vilna
in 1922.  When she asked me whether I had ever heard of the genre or whether
it may have been unique to Zeitlin, I was delighted to be able to refer her
to Mazower's article.  A history of this genre clearly remains to be

John Klier's article, "'Exit, Pursued by a Bear':  The Ban on Yiddish
Theatre in Imperial Russia," shows what can emerge from rigorous archival
work in recently accessible Russian archives.  Klier is rooted in
comprehensive knowledge not only of state policies toward Jews but toward
other minorities in the Russian Empire.  He succeeds in illuminating a key
event in Yiddish theater history, the 1883 imperial ban on Yiddish theater.
This event has heretofore been wrapped in the kind of hearsay and legend
that, as Joel Berkowitz points out in his introduction, is typical of much
of what has been passed down to us as theater history.  Klier convincingly
argues that the ban was not ideologically motivated, as previously believed,
but rather the product of typical low-level antisemitism according to which
anything not specifically permitted the Jews was prohibited.  This analysis
of the ban's origins helps explain the well-known phenomena of its
inconsistent enforcement throughout the empire, as well as the problems
connected with its supposed lifting.  Klier shows that even after the First
Russian Revolution, which previous scholarship has seen as a turning point
in the legal fortunes of Yiddish theater, Yiddish troupes were sometimes
kept from performing.  The ban, casually instituted, was apparently never
lifted, although after 1905 it seems to have been increasingly ignored.

In her article, "The Child Who Wouldn't Grow Up:  Yiddish Theatre and its
Critics," Nina Warnke conducts us into the little-known world of American
Yiddish theater criticism.  This was a discourse essentially created by a
group of radical intellectuals with Russian populist / socialist values. Its
cornerstone was a rejection of so-called "folk" performances in favor of
"realism," which in practice amounted to the rejection of Goldfaden, and all
the more so of his _shund_ epigones Hurwitz and Lateiner, and the
canonization of Jacob Gordin.  The most commonly used trope was that of
educating children to be adults. Sometimes Warnke does not make it
sufficiently clear that she is only talking about the United States.  We
should remember that by the first decade of the twentieth century, in Warsaw
Y. L. Peretz was calling Gordin a _shund_ writer and working and reworking
his own dream play, _Bay nakht afn altn mark_.  Then came the Vilna Troupe,
Habima, GOSET, Yung Teater, and other innovative companies, followed by an
entourage of enraptured Eastern European critics.

Warnke's central argument is sound and important:  that we inherit a
historiography that has marginalized popular theater, and that today we need
to turn precisely to this "despised 'child,' the Hurwitzes and Lateiners,
and Gimpls and Mishurats, the methods and messages they used, and the
audiences they entertained...not from the vantage point of their
critics...but as a legitimate art form" (216).  As we do this, however, we
should remember to peruse Shatzky's _Arkhiv_ as well as the work of Soviet
scholars of the same period.  Here we will discover pioneering approaches to
Yiddish folk and popular theater.  These writers' assumptions are rather
different from our own, of course, but they are equally far from those that
motivated turn-of-the-century American Yiddish critics.

In his introduction, Joel Berkowitz provides a useful sketch of the
historiography of Yiddish theater.  He correctly stresses that "artistic and
ideological agendas have driven much of the research on the subject" (12).
Like Warnke, he emphasizes the need for research on popular Yiddish theater,
whose history has been largely ignored in favor of "art" theater.  The
latter, after all, constituted only a small proportion of what Jewish
audiences saw on the stage.  Historians must address the history of
so-called _shund_, and do so using methods that are rather different from
those employed in the study of high culture. >From our contemporary vantage
point, it is less its hoped-for parity with other great national theaters
than its powerful popular presence that may be most attractive about Yiddish

Berkowitz also correctly points to one of the key difficulties in our field,
the fact that "[m]uch of what has been written about the subject has tended
to recycle half-truths, unconfirmed anecdotes, misconceptions, and perhaps
even outright lies" (12).  John Klier's article, as noted above,
disentangles one important case of such confusion.  Unfortunately, Berkowitz
unwittingly provides another example in his introduction.  Discussing the
origins of Yiddish theater, he cites accounts of a professional Yiddish
theater in Warsaw in 1838 performing the work of "a very talented young
actor and playwright, Herr Isaac Shertsshpiler of Vienna" (4).  Berkowitz
gives Sholem Perlmuter as his source, and follows his suggestion that the
name in question may be Shoyshpiler; Perlmuter in turn cites Weinreich.[1]
But twenty-five years before Perlmuter, Jacob Shatzky had already cast doubt
on these accounts by citing a contemporary claim that they were "pure
fabrication" and "a satire."  The likelihood that this was in fact the case
is strengthened if we reject the emendation of _sherts_ to _shoy_ and recall
that in German, _scherz_ means 'joke'.  This matter clearly merits further
research.[2] Shatzky, supplemented by recent Polish scholarship, is also our
source for the earliest reliable reference to Yiddish theater in Warsaw, an
account of performances of plays on biblical themes with songs and dances
staged at a dancehall known as Pod Trzema Murzynami [Under the Three
Negroes] in 1832.[3]

There is also a more general problem in Berkowitz's introduction, and it
concerns the manner in which he configures the historiographical field.
"Just as New York looms large over American-based studies, Moscow has
dominated the attention of scholars writing about the Yiddish theatre in
Europe," writes Berkowitz (17).  In a footnote, he then cites work that has
been done "in other areas of Eastern Europe," first in Rumania and finally
in Poland (18).  But this skews both history and historiography. For one
thing, it marginalizes the history of Yiddish theater in interwar Poland,
which was extraordinary in terms of the number and quality of its "artistic"
companies as well as the size and social composition of its audiences.  By
the 1930s, Yiddish theater in America was declining; American Jews were
bringing their aging parents to the Yiddish theater while they themselves
went off to Hollywood movies.  In the Soviet Union, for all of GOSET's
international acclaim, Yiddish theater faced dwindling audiences even as
deadly shadows lengthened around Mikhoels and his colleagues.  In Poland,
young audiences of _folksinteligentn_ thronged to the "better" theaters and
the literary cabarets, while masses of _yidn fun a gants yor_ filled the
_shund_ theaters.  Even as Yiddish publishing in Poland began to decline in
the 1930s, Yiddish theater attendance surged.  An enormous amount was
written about Yiddish theater as well, both reviews and historical studies,
not to mention the recent works cited at the beginning of this review. Until
the Holocaust, Poland remained the world center of Yiddish theater, as it
remained the world center of Yiddish culture as a whole, for its three and a
half million Jews continued to represent the most direct contemporary link
to the entire history of Ashkenaz.  A pioneering work that first brings the
field of Yiddish theater history into English-language scholarship has a
responsibility to make such things clear.  While there is nothing wrong with
presenting what one has, however marginal (e.g., Yiddish theater in Krakow
but not in Warsaw), one does have a responsibility to make one's limitations

There are also a number of editorial oversights in the volume.  Wolitz, for
example, states that "biblical plays could pass muster before the Russian
authorities as part of the Western cultural tradition" (88), but Klier
suggests otherwise (164).  Wolitz also mentions the story, discredited by
Klier, that it was a performance of Goldfaden's _Bar kokhba_ that provoked
the Yiddish theater ban (89).  Henry states, incorrectly, that the ban on
Yiddish theater expired in 1908 (61).  Such errors should have been
corrected and discrepancies resolved, or at least noted.  And why does
Bertolone cite Goldfaden's titles in German and not in Yiddish (77, 83)?

Berkowitz's introduction is to be commended for the useful annotated
bibliographical information in his footnotes, which directs us, among other
things, to actors' memoirs published in book form; studies of actors,
playwrights, and directors; and works on Yiddish theater in Argentina (nn.
22, 25, 33).  But his bibliography (221-55) seems to have been compiled less
carefully.  Footnotes from the articles reappear here in bibliographic
format.  But some of these works are relevant only in the specific context
of the articles in which they are cited (e.g, Ben-Sion's _Evrei reformatory_
or Dregel's _Khorosho sshityi frak_) and have little place in a general
bibliography.  The entry, "Diamant, Zaynvl, _Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher
literatur_," makes no sense unless we know, from the context of Bertolone's
article, that Diamant is the author of the _Leksikon_ article on Goldfaden.
Why cite the same article by Fuks-Mansfeld twice, once in Dutch and once in
German?  What sense does it make simply to list _Ale verk fun mendele
moykher sforim_? On the other hand, one searches in vain, for example, for
the theater criticism of Y.-L. Peretz or the scholarship of A. Gurshteyn and
Moyshe Beregovski.

Nevertheless and above all, with all its strengths and faults -- a

      Michael Steinlauf

1 _Yidishe dramaturgn un teater-kompozitors_ (New York, 1952), 27-28.

2 Jacob Shatzky, "Tsushtayer tsu der geshikhte fun dem far-goldfadenishn
teater," _Yidish teater_ (Warsaw) 1 (1927):  288-90, citing _Allgemeine
Zeitung des Judenthums_ 2 (1838), nrs. 89 and 155, 3 (1839), nr. 12; these
accounts in turn cite the _Journal de Francfort_ as their source.

3 Jacob Shatzky, "Yidisher teater in Varshe in der ershter helft 19tn
yorhundert," _Yivo bleter_ 14 (1939), 2-3; Faustyna Toeplitz, "'Pod Trzema
Murzynami':  Z dziejow teatru zydowskiego w Warszawie," _Pamietnik
Teatralny_ 41 (1992):  187-91; Redakcja [Zbig niew Raszewski], "Szesc glos
do artykulu Jakuba Szackiego," ibid., 193-209.

Date: 16 June 2004
From: Astrid Starck 
Subject: A French translation of the 1602 editio princeps of _Mayse

Many TMR readers will be familiar with Moses Gaster's two-volume English
translation of the _Mayse bukh_ published by the Jewish Publication Society
in 1934 [_Ma'aseh Book; Book of Jewish Tales and Legends Translated from the
Judeo-German_].  Fewer TMR readers, perhaps, will identify Freud's famous
Anna O. with the feminist Bertha von Pappenheim who was engaged with the
_Mayse bukh_ (as well as a translator of Mary Wollstonecrafts' "A
Vindication of the Rights of Women" into German). Like Gaster five year s
later, Pappenheim based her work on the 1723 edition [See _Allerlei
Geschichten, Maasse-Buch:  Buch der Sagen und Legenden aus Talmud und
Midrasch nebst Volkserzahlungen in Judisch-Deutscher Spache_ / nach der
Ausg. des Maase-Buches Amsterdam 1723 bearb . von Bertha Pappenheim ; mit
einem Geleitwort von I. Elbogen (Frankfurt a.M.  :  J. Kauffmann, 1929)]. We
are not surprised that the women's activist Pappenheim was drawn to the
_Tsenerene_ (See Jacob ben Isaac aus Janow.  _Zeenah u-reenah, Frauenbibel_
/ Ubersetzung und Auslegung des Pentateuch von Jacob Ben Isaac aus Janow ;
nach dem Judisch-Deutschen bearbeitet von Bertha Pappenheim ; hrsg. vom
Judischen Frauenbund (Frankfurt a. M. :  J. Kauffmann, 1930).

Gaster's translation, as he himself explains, was based on the Amsterdam
edition of 1723.  Gaster writes:  "The present translation is based on the
Amsterdam edition of 1723, which is identical with that of 1701, and, with
the exceptions noted above and some dialectal variations, with the edition
of 1602.  All these books are extremely rare, and very few complete copies
of any of them are known.  The Amsterdam edition forms an exception in the
manner of completeness."  (p. xii) More recently, Ulf Diederichs' G erman
version of the _Mayse bukh_, like Gaster's, follows the Amsterdam edition of
1732.  [See _Das Ma'assebuch_.  Altjiddische Erzaehlkunst.  Mit 33 Bildern.
Ins Hochdeutsche Uebertragen, kommentiert und herausgegeben von Ulf
Diederichs.  [Muenchen 2003. 845 S., Fr. 25.20.]

French translation by Astrid Starck of title page of the _Mayse bukh_

                  Un beau livre d'histoires

Approchez, messieurs et mesdames, venez voir ce beau livre d'histoires qui,
jamais, au grand jamais, depuis que le monde existe, n'est sorti d'une
imprimerie. Il contient plus de trois cents histoires faites toutes a partir
de la _Gemara_, du _Rabota_ et du _Behaye_. Et des histoires de rabbi Judah
le Pieux, il ne vous en manquera pas une seule. Vous y trouverez aussi les
histoires du _Sefer hasidim_, du _Sefer ha-mousar_ et du _Yalqout_, comme
vous le constaterez a la fin dans ma table des matieres. Voila pourquoi, mes
cheres dames, vous avez devant vous les livres en yiddish au grand complet.
A present, vous possederez meme la _Gemara_ en yiddish. Ainsi vous aurez la
Torah dans toute son integralite.

            Par les bons soins de Jacob fils d'Abraham,
            qu'il repose en paix, de la sainte communaute
                          de Meseritch en Lituanie

                              Ici a Bale la grande
                    en l'an 362 selon le petit comput
                         Chez Conrad Waldkirch.

Date: 16 June 2004
From: Zelda Newman 
Subject:  The Contribution of Ayzik Zaretski to Yiddish  Linguistics

          The Contribution of Ayzik Zaretski to Yiddish  Linguistics

Even if Zaretski had written nothing but _Praktishe yidishe gramatik_ and
issued only the 1926 edition, he still would deserve a place of honor in the
annals of Yiddish linguistics.  The virtues of _Praktishe yidishe gramatik_
are not immediately obvious.  This grammar which proceeds from the level of
morphemes and ranges upwards to the level of sentence groups, does not have
any new theoretical message.  It is, as its title suggests, a practical, not
a theoretical grammar.  It claims to be formalist in methodology (in the
manner of the Soviet formalists of the 1920s) and it does in fact use
formalist methodology.  There are no particularly new, theoretical insights
to be found here.

Why, then, is it so important to the history of Yiddish linguistics? Its
importance lies in the ambitious goals it sets for itself, and in the way in
which it piles data upon data in an effort to gain an understanding of the
facts.  Zaretski envisioned his grammar as a bi-directional grammar:  in its
first direction it was to proceed form sound to meaning, thus taking the
forms of grammar as primitives and meaning as a derivative notion; in its
second direction it was to proceed from meaning to sound, thus taking
meaning as primitive and the forms of grammar as derivatives.  The great
bulk of _Praktishe yidishe gramatik_ is taken up with the First Direction;
the Second Direction is allotted only a very small portion of the whole
book.  But it is this Second Direction that is most ambitious.  Here
Zaretski sets up outlines that have yet to be filled in by any linguist
since then, outlines that could serve as lifetime projects for future

One such outline concerns itself with what Zaretski calls _objective
relations_.  Here we find a quasi-formal logic whose basic terms are topic
and predicate.  We should note that Zaretski does not say here how _topic_
is to be related to _subject_, or in what way _predicate_ differs from and
should be related to _verb_.  But the outline is there nonetheless.  A
second attempt at getting at the logic of sentences uses the terms _agent_,
_action_, _circumstance of action_.  Once again there is no discussion of
the ways one might relate _agent_ to _subject_. Nor are we told why or when
to prefer one set of logical terms over the other.  The answers may not be
there in the grammar, but the challenges clearly are.

In addition to the _objective relations_, there are also something Zaretski
calls _subjective relations_.  Under this heading Zaretski outlines, once
again very schematically, the grammatical ramifications of what has come to
be called the speech situation. Here we find notes on the relationship of
the speaker and the addressee to each other and to the utterance at hand.
For example , in order to explain the meaning of words like:  _gor_, _dokh_,
_den_, _take_, we need to refer not only to the speaker's attitude to the
facts at hand, but also his attitude toward the addressee and the
addressee's state of mind.

One wonders what Zaretski might have done with these outlines had he not
been subjected to silence as a result of the Soviet crackdown on Yiddish in
the thirties and forties.  The innovative Second Direction that appears in
the first edition of _Praktishe yidishe gramatik_ did not appear again in
either the second or the third editions.  Apparently its experimental nature
was not looked upon favorably.  In any case it this Second Direction that
makes the first edition of _Praktishe yidishe gramatik_ interesting to
historians and challenging to contemporary linguists.

So much for the partially realized promise; let us proceed now to the
genuine achievement.  I said before that Zaretski's second major achievement
is the way in which he piles data upon data in an effort to achieve
understanding.  As any linguist knows, a good deal of the truly creative
work of a linguist is the finding of solid, interesting data, not data that
is chosen for the way in which it obligingly confirms the validity of a
proposed rule, but data which fits no rule but `feels' as though it shoul d.
And one form, or one phrase, or one sentence, for that matter, will not do.
In order to be certain that the phenomenon is not simply an idiosyncratic
quirk for the linguist, there should be more than one form or one phrase, or
one sentence.  And if the data is taken from newspapers, books, and
converstions, if, in other words, it is a true sample of the living
language, then so much the better.  This is the greatness of _Praktishe
yidishe gramatik_:  it is chock-full of interesting data.  Its data i s
taken from newspapers, from the classics, and from conversations.  There are
times when Zaretski's explanation of the data is stunningly correct; there
are times when his explanation is only partially correct.  But even when the
explanation is somewhat lacking, we know how to proceed to amend or revise
because the data is there.

An example of data for which we are given a completely satisfying
explanation is that on stress placement in noun compounds If we look at the
following chart we will see why the rule for stress placement is initially

[To make certain readers see these columns despite the problems of
formatting in ascii, I give the columnar data in linear form: --ed.]

1. ADJ + NOUN: zup lefl, zikher nodl, shtum loshn
2. NOUN + ADJ: oder sheni, oylem ho'emes, kise hakoved
3. NOUN + NOUN: yeshiva bokher, tahare breyt, tog bukh
4. NOUN + NOUN: goles shpanye, eys tsore, beys medresh
A. tate-mame, dovid hameylekh
B. oreman, guterfraynd
C. eser makes, nayn teg, taryeg mitsves BUT drayfus, drayek

>From a look at column 1 we might think that the first element of a compound
takes stress.  When we compare this with column 2, we revise our notion.  It
is the second element (in this case, the adjective) which is stressed, we
say.  But this formulation does not help us in deciding where the stress is
placed in N+N compound . As we see, sometimes the initial element of a N+N
compound is stressed (as in column 3) , and sometimes the second element of
the compound is stressed (as in column 4).  Before we give Zaretski's
explanation, we might note that it will not help to suggest that the entries
of column 3 behave differently form those of column 4 because the column 3
entries are _Germanic_, whereas the column 4 entries are _Hebraic_. True,
the pattern that is exemplified by column 3 is _Germanic_, whereas the
pattern exemplified by column 4 is _Hebraic_, but both patterns are so
wholly Yiddishized that Hebrew elements can be found in the Germanic type
(witness _yeshive bokher_), and Germanic elements can be found in the
Hebraic type (witness _goles shpanye_).  The explanation, Zaretski says,
lies in the head/modifier relationship. Wherever the head/modifier
relationship obtains within a compound, then the modifier is stressed.  This
explains the stress movements from initial stress in column 3 (where there
is a prenominal modifier), to final stress in column 4 (where there is a
post-nominal modifier).

The entries under headings A, B, and C are given to show that the general
rule does have modifications.  The entries of A have no obvious
head/modifier relationship.  In these cases (the semantics of which Zaretski
discusses in some detail ), the rule is simply that the second element is
stressed.  The entries of B are not true compounds, as we can see from the
possibility of inflecting them internally for number and gender:
_oreman_/_oremelayt_, _guterfraynd_/_gutefrayndine_.  Thus, if there is no
true compound (as in B), or if there is no head/modifier relationship (as in
A), then the second element is stressed.  What of column C, where we have
true compounds, and a head/modifier relationship?  The answer, it would seem
, is that compounds with numbers behave erratically; sometimes the stress is
on the modifier; sometimes it is on the head.

What is particularly nice about this explanation is that it holds true for
adjectival compounds also.  Though I will not go into details, the basic
rules remain the same:  where there is no head / modifier relationship, the
second element is stressed, wher e there is such a relationship, the
modifier is stressed, and compounds with numbers behave erratically.

Another interesting analysis is the analysis of word order.  This is one of
those cases in which the explanation is neither totally explicated nor
totally correct, but, because we are presented with so much data and the
right direction, we can take Zaretski's explanation further and obtain a
clearer picture than the one he presents.

The most interesting facts to emerge from Zaretski's data on word order are
those that surface when the topic of the sentence does not coincide with the
subject of the sentence.  Zaretki does not mention the notion of topic here;
he simply presents the data.  But there is no doubt that the data point to
this analysis.  Consider the following sentence:

_Bay di kinder, ober_, _iz_ di natur nit zi shtarbt, nit zi shteyt tkhiyes
ha-mesim oyf.

Why is there an _iz_ in this sentence?  Zaretski says that it is a _fictive_
verb inserted so that the second place should be occupied by the inflected
verb.  But that is only part of the picture.  The subject of this sentence
is _di natur_, its predicates are _shtarbt nit_ and _shteyt nit oyf tkhiyes
hamesim_.  What , then, is the function of the phrase _bay di kinder_?  It,
I submit, is the topic of the sentence. And when the topic _place_,
typically the sentence-initial place, has been filled by something which is
neither a subject, nor a predication setting, then this topic position is
followed by the _fictive_ verb _iz_.  After this, the sentence proceeds
along its normal course, with the sentence subject in [the new] first place
and the _true_ inflected verb of the sentence in [the new] second place.
Thus a careful analysis of Zaretski's data leads us to the realization that
Yiddish has a formal way of distinguishing topics of a sentence that are not
subjects of that sentence.  (A more detailed discussi on of this question
can be found in my dissertation "An annotation of Zaretski's _Praktishe
yidishe gramatik_" and in my paper "The Discoursal _iz_ of Yiddish".)

There are many other questions touched upon lightly by Zaretski which merit
further investigation The questions are there and the data is there.  What
remains is for serious students of Yiddish to read _Praktishe yidishe
gramatik_ carefully and pursue answers to the questions it poses.

Zelda Newman
Lehman College, CUNY
End of The Mendele Review Vol. 08.007
Editor, Leonard Prager
Associate Editor, Joseph Sherman

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