Monday 16 November 2015


LEON DUSHMAN (April 12, 1886-1941)

            He was a playwright, folklorist, and theatrical figure, born in Vilna.  Over the years 1907-1917, he was working as a prompter, director, and scenarist for various Yiddish theatrical troupes in Paris, Belgium, and England.  In 1912 he was assistant director of a Yiddish theater in London.  In 1913 he emigrated to Argentina, later returning to London.  In 1917 he left for Russia and there worked as an assistant director in Kharkov in the troupe of Adolf Segal and Dimarski. In 1918 he moved to Moscow and from there to Vilna where he worked as director of Lipovski’s theater. In 1919 he was directing the same troupe, now calling itself the “Fareynikter yidisher folks-teater” (United Yiddish people’s theater). Later, this troupe joined forces in Kharkov with the theater “Undzer vinkl” (Our corner), and he worked there until 1921. When the troupe fell apart in Minsk, he joined the Yiddish State Theater under the leadership of Bertanov. In 1922 he acted in the troupe under the leadership of Rudolf Zaslavski. Over the course of the years 1923-1925, he managed in Minsk amateur dramatic circles and composed plays for it, among them: Etl geyt in zhenotdyel (Etl goes to the women’s department). In the Minsk journal Shtern (Star) 1-4 (1926), he published memoirs of the old Yiddish theater in Europe, and he worked on a volume Zikhroynes vegn yidishn teater in rusland (Memoirs of the Yiddish theater in Russia). In 1925 he began to work as secretary of the Yiddish section of the Byelorussian Academy of Sciences in Minsk, and later he devoted himself entirely to journalistic and scholarly activities, collecting Yiddish folklore, turning his attention to proofreading and technical editing for the Yiddish publishing house in Minsk, where he worked until the start of WWII. He collected, adapted, and published folksongs and folkloric materials. He died during the German occupation

Among his books and longer works: “A. goldfaden in minsk” (A. Goldfaden in Minsk), Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) (Warsaw) 95 (1926); “Iz dos yidishe teater gegrindet gevorn in varshe?” (Was the Yiddish theater founded in Warsaw?), Literarishe bleter 13 (1928); “Fun l. dushmans folks-lider-zamlung” (From L. Dushman’s folksong collections), Tsaytshrift (Periodical) (Minsk) 2-3 (1928); “Materyalen tsu der geshikhte fun yidishn teater in vaysrusland” (Materials toward the history of Yiddish theater in Byelorussia), Afn visnshaftlekhn front (On the scientific front) (Minsk) 7-8 (1935), pp. 162-94, with images; Stalin in der yidisher folks-shafung (Stalin in the Jewish people’s creative work), together with M. Grinblat (Minsk, 1939), 95 pp.

Sources: Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1, p. 548; M. Myodovnik, “Mayne teater-zikhroynes” (My theatrical memoirs), Arkhiv (Vilna) (1930), p. 509.

Aleksander Pomerants

[Additional information from Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), p. 100.]

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