Abraham Goldfaden - Yiddish Book Center
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New Visual and Aural Technology: Yiddish Theater, Yiddish Film, and Eventually Yiddish Radio Which is the most important medium?
HEVRUTA: 2 Kuni Lemels • As long as I thought highly of you, you were honored guests of mine, but now you can take my new son-in-law who I’ve taken into my home as proof that I’ve split with you for good. Now I see clearly that they are the wise ones and that the only thing that you know is how to drink brandy. Go in good health! (Pikhesl to the Hasidism) • How is this the culmination of Goldfaden’s play? What plot line is being wrapped up here? • What does this tell us about Goldfaden’s early plays?
Early Modern Yiddish Theater • “Goldfaden played the (female) lead role in the student production of the maskilic play Serkele, written three decades earlier but never staged.” • Why is Goldfaden playing a female role? • He writes comedic plays, satires..drag is about satire; (1860s) • It’s a student production, so there were not women in the school. • It’s not “Jewish” for women to be “out in public” or “performing”. • Traditional Jewish ban on female performance. (Kol isha—the voice of a woman) Like in Shakespeare’s time. • How does the fact that he did maskilic theater show up in Two KuniLemels? • Enlightenment play. Mix of science and religion, addition of popular culture, people engaging the outside world. Lack a religious moral (musar); in its place, there may be a moral about modernity; satire.
Abraham Goldfaden • Born 1840 in Volyhnia, Ukraine. Russian empire. • Went to state rabbinical school in Zhitomir, the training ground of enlightened rabbis, who would go on to become the leading lights of Jewish culture. • Trained with maskilim
Goldfaden the Writer • Started writing in Hebrew in 1865 • Went to a modern rabbinic seminary in Zhitomir (learning modern, European culture) • Import modern ideas into religious communities AND • Create a modern religious Jewish community. • Yiddish in 1866 • Doing both simultaneously. • Lived in Odessa • Gave private performances of plays
Iasi, Romania, 1876 First “Modern” Yiddish Theater • Why in Romania? RussoTurkish War and it’s on the other side of the border. • First Yiddish Theater Actors: • Ch. Sh. Lukatcher • Abraham Axelrod, • Edward Margolis, and • Israel Grodner • From the Broderzinger tradition • Musical theater
Two Kuni-Lemels, 1880 •
The storyline is based on a popular German comedy Nathan Schlemiel by J. Rosenzweig. The play follows the story of Carolina, a daughter of a wealthy Hasid, who falls in love with Max, a maskil medical student. Her father insists that she marry an observant Jew, and with the help of a self-interested matchmaker, finds Kuni Lemel (Max's cousin), a shortsighted, stuttering, limping boy of respected Rabbinical lineage. Max takes advantage of his physical resemblance and dresses up as Kuni Lemel to furl the match, and marry his beloved Carolina. In the end, Max wins Carolina, which Goldfaden portrays as a triumph of maskilic values over religious hegemony
• Carolina—breaks out of the traditional world • Max—germanic name (not Yiddish). University student (not yeshiva) • Kuni-Lemel—”lame ass” ugly little person. • Students beat up the Hasids. • Matchmaker and daughter are morons. • Modernity triumphing over tradition framed in a love story. • Is this a classic maskilic play? 1880.
Echoes in Kuni-Lemel • • • •
Biblical echoes of Leah and Rachel; Masquerade Clothes are not just performance but are identity Purim shpils: people dress up, act like they’re other people, men dress up as women. • Why is Kuni-Lemel so “lame”? Metaphor for unenlightened, “hindered”. Clown like, buffoon. • Tevye’s Daughters—modernity vs. tradition as reflected in romance.
Goldfaden in Warsaw, 1880s • Semi-ban on Yiddish performance in Russian empire enacted in 1883 (pushes Yiddish theater development to New York in 1880s) • New York and Warsaw as the great capital for Yiddish culture
• Pretend its German • Begin staging Jewish plays in Polish (Sulamita) • Perets’ significance in development of Yiddish theater • 1905 Revolution: lifts ban on Yiddish print and culture
Other Goldfaden Plays • Shulamit • Bar Kochba • Kishefmakherin
Hevruta: Ansky Why, oh why did the soul plunge From the upmost heights To the lowest depths? The seed of redemption Is contained within the fall. --opening to The Dybbuk 1. How does this quote help frame the story? 2. What does it echo of? 3. What can we learn about Ansky from this opening?
The Dybbuk • First draft in Russian, 1913 • Attended the Beilis Trial (1913) • 1915, Hopes that Moscow Art Theater (Stanislavsky) would produce the show • Russian censor approves the show • 1917: MKhT accepts the show, but never produces it.
• 1918: Hebrew translation by Bialik is published in Moscow (in Hatekufah) • 1919: Yiddish Dybbuk is published in Vilna (perhaps revised after Bialik’s translation); Ansky becomes more Zionist. Published regularly in Yiddish Moment • 1920: Yiddish performance of Vilna Troupe • 1922: Habimah in Moscow performs Hebrew version; moves to Tel Aviv in 1926
Solomon Mikhoels, “In Our Studio,” 1919 • Outside, the revolutionary wave raged, and human eyes and too-human thoughts, scared and scattered, were blinking in the chaos of destruction and becoming…At a time when worlds sank, cracked and changed into new worlds, a miracle occurred, perhaps still small, but very big and meaningful for us, Jews—the Yiddish theater was born. • Theater is moving from popular culture to high culture • Taking license aesthetically by using new aesthetics, new techniques • End of WWI, Russian Revolutions • Modernism
Ansky, The Dybbuk, Ethnography, New Technologies and Ideologies
• Nationalism • To be more European, one has to be more Jewish. • Is this about the ‘development’ of Judaism? Show educated, assimilated urbanized Jews what their ‘roots’ were. • Staving off the ‘death’ of culture • Why are urbanized, acculturated Jews interested in folk Jewish culture? • Invention of Tradition • Documentation and Preservation • HEVRUTA: Should an ethnographer take artifacts out of their cultural surroundings?
Sound Technologies • First, circulation of sheet music for people to perform at home (Tin Pan Alley in US) • Then, recordings of cantors make them into celebrities • Ethnographic records capture sounds presumed lost • Radio allows a group of people in a certain geography to participate in a listening culture • WEVD, the ‘national’ radio of Yiddish, but not successful. No unified sound. • Radio as the most successful transmitter of Yiddish culture in the United States from the 1930s to 1970s.
Julius Engel and His Recording Technology • Phonograph technology invented in 1877-8, T.A. Edison • 1900: Wax cylinders used to record Native Americans • 1912: Wax Cylinders used to record native Jews • Note that Engel barely spoke Yiddish
S. An-sky (Shloyme Rappaport) • Born 1863 • Russian and Hebrew • Organized the peasants as Russian populist • Takes the pen name S. Ansky in the 1890s. • Lived in Paris, Switzerland, London • Who do we think turned him on to Yiddish culture?
• Followed by tsarist police • Worked on the 1912-1914 ethnographic expedition • Wrote the Dybbuk in Russian, then translated in Hebrew, and Yiddish. • Writes Bundist poem “Di Shvue (the oath)” • 1917: Serves as a representative of the Socialist Revolutionary party (peasant populists) in the Constituent Assembly • Flees Bolshevik Petrograd for Polish Vilna in late 1917 • Becomes more Zionist • Dies in Warsaw in 1920 (reminder of grave)
The Expedition (1912-1914) •
• • • • • • • • • •
Funded by St. Petersburg Jewish tychoon Baron Naftali Gintsburg Ansky’s belief in the importance of Hasidism for understanding Jewish folk culture 2,000 photographs 1,800 folktales and legends 1,500 folk songs and mysteries (i.e. biblical Purim plays) 500 cylinders of Jewish folk music 1,000 melodies to songs and niggunim without words Countless proverbs and folk beliefs 100 historical documents 500 manuscripts and books 700 sacred objects acquired for the sum of six thousand rubles
At a cigarette factory, Starokonstantinov.
From left to right: Solomon Iudovin, Iulii Engel’, S. An-sky.
Torah ark in a synagogue, Starokonstantinov, 1912 (An-sky, bottom left, assists the photographer by holding the chandelier with his cane)
20 Year Old Yudovin (and Ansky’s nephew) and His Camera • Photography invented in 1839 • Very popular in Russia • Russian Jewish emerging bourgeoisie in St. Petersburg very influential in establishing photography as central new technology
• Camera used to document empire’s diversity • Yudovin joins the team as photographer • 2000 photographs • Many lost • Natan Altman preserves some. • Others in Kiev Archives
Five Stages of Yiddish Film Production of Yiddish Film: New York, Warsaw (biggest Yiddish film industry)
• 1910-1917, budding film in tsarist empire. WWI (The Great War). Not a great time for film in general, Yiddish film in particular. But people are looking for entertainment. Propaganda photography, cartoons. • 1917-1927, silent era: Peak, climax, pinnacle, of Soviet Yiddish film. Modernism on the rise. Exaggeration, weird camera angles, light/dark, making the everyday different. Ostranenie (estranging) “Make a stone stony”. Gothic/Dark. Nighttime filming. MOSCOW AS PRODUCTION CENTER. • 1927-1934, New York sound films. First sound film: Jazz Singer (Al Jolson) Cantor’s son. • 1935-1939, Pinnacle/Zenith of Polish cinema (Dybbuk), narrative/realist, love stories (real love stories) Molly Picon. • 1940-1950, New York, Postwar Yiddish cinema. New York, Poland, Israel.
Jewish Luck, 1925 • Based on Sholem Aleichem • Screenplay by Isaac Babel • Design by Natan Altman • Directed by Aleksandr Granovsky Doesn’t get more heavy hitter than this in the Jewish/Yiddish cultural world What “language” is a silent film in?
Yiddish Theater and then Film… • Always in conversation with other European theatrical traditions • Booms in the US, 2nd Avenue before Russian Empire • Perhaps one of the most popular and impactful forms of Yiddish culture from about 1880 through 1930. • Served as both a cultural and social venue for Jewish community.