Tuesday 26 July 2016


IZIDOR (YITSKHOK) ZOLOTAREVSKI (December 27, 1875[1]-November 28, 1945)
            He was born in Elizavetgrad, southern Russia, now in Ukraine.  In 1879 his father, a wool maker, died, and he was raised by an aunt on his mother’s side in Belaya Tserkov, Kiev district, in assimilated surroundings.  He knew nothing of Jewishness and studied only Russian and German.  In his youth he set out to roam through the bigger cities of Ukraine, worked in a library in Elizavetgrad, and was a newspaper seller along the Kharkov-Nikolaev train line.  In 1890 he emigrated to the United States and looked up an older brother in Fall River, Massachusetts, who from time to time would act in Yiddish theater with an amateur group.  He worked there as a laborer in a textile factory and at the same time acted in the amateur troupe with his brother.  He set himself to learning English and Yiddish, and he acquainted himself with the novels of Shomer and Tanenboym as well as with Yiddish theatrical works that were popular at the time.  He later worked as a peddler, a shoe-shiner, a newspaper seller, and an insurance agent, while all the time playing with the amateur troupe in Providence, Boston, and New Haven.  In 1893 he became a professional Yiddish actor and traveled through various cities in the United States.  For want of repertoire, he began to translate bit by bit theatrical poems and shorter pieces for the stage (many of these poems were published in a separate volume in Montreal in 1897).  He composed his first play in 1895: Der farfaser (The author), “a drama in four acts”; in 1897 he wrote the theatrical work, Der yudisher volentir (The Jewish volunteer), and in 1899 Der yudisher martirer, oder der yeshive bokher (The Jewish martyr, or the yeshiva lad).  After this, over the course of a half-century, he provided the Yiddish theater with more than one hundred plays of the well-known Lateiner-Hurwitz sort.  Many of his plays had great box office success, and such actors as the following played in them on stage: Yankev (Jacob) Adler, Dovid Kesler, Boris Tomashevsky, Ludvig Zats, Morris Moshkevits, Kenny Liptsin, and Berta Kalish.  In the Yiddish theatrical world, Zolotarevski was considered “king of the melodrama.”  His plays circulated among the Yiddish acting troupes in manuscript form, with only a few of them appearing in print: Di yudishe anna karenina (The Jewish Anna Karenina), a “drama in four acts” (Lemberg, 1909), 44 pp.; Reb abali Ashkenazi (Reb Abali Ashkenazi), “a life in four acts” (Lemberg, 1909), 52 pp.; Korten (Playing cards), one act (New York, 1910), 14 pp.; Di seyls goyrl (The salesgirl), “drama in four acts” (New York, 1913), 97 pp.; Der yeshive bokher, oder der yudisher hamlet (The yeshiva lad, or the Jewish Hamlet), “a play in four acts and six scenes” (Warsaw, 1914), 56 pp.; Geld, libe un shande (Money, love, and scandal), “a play in four acts” (Warsaw, 1923), 58 pp.; Di vayse shklafn (The white slaves), “drama in four acts” (Warsaw, 1926), 48 pp.; Libe un laydnshaft (Love and passion), “a life in four acts” (Warsaw, 1926), 64 pp.; Di shtifmuter (The stepmother), “a drama in three acts” (Warsaw, 1928), 52 pp.  He died in New York.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1 (with a bibliography); L. Kobrin, Erinerungen fun a yidishn dramaturg (Remembrances of a Jewish playwright) (New York, 1925), p. 160; Moyshe Nadir, Mayne hent hobn fargosn dos dozike blut (My hands are covered in this blood) (Vilna, 1927), pp. 150-53; Sh. Perlmuter, Yidishe dramaturgn un teater-kompozitorn (Yiddish playwrights and theatrical composers) (New York, 1952), pp. 175-84; Y. Mestl, 70 yor teater-repertuar (Seventy years of theater repertoire) (New York, 1954), pp. 33-36; “Tsili adler dertseylt” (“Celia Adler recounts”) (New York, 1959).
Borekh Tshubinski

[1] Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1, gives a birth date of “ca. 1873.”

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