Sunday 28 July 2019


ANSHL SHOR (October 25, 1871-May 31, 1942)
            A playwright, he was born in Zlotshev (Zolochiv), Galicia, descended from a Hassidic family.  From age six he was living with his parents in Lemberg.  He attended religious elementary school and yeshiva, while covertly studying languages.  After his bar mitzvah he went to work in a leather business.  He later founded a youth socialist alliance “SYLO,” which staged his first play, Di shvue bay der royter fon (The oath at the red banner).  He then left his job and wandered about with an acting troupe through Bukovina, Bulgaria, Constantinople, Galicia, and Romania, where in 1894 he produced his play Kapitan dreyfus (Captain Dreyfus).  In 1900 M. Hurvits brought him to the United States as his assistant director and composer of the lyrics to the songs in his operettas—Ben hador (A contemporary), Tsvey tnoim (Two provisions), Yankev un eysev (Jacob and Esau), Yetsies mitsraim (Exodus from Egypt), and Shvartse un vayse yidn (Black and white Jews), among others.  Over time, Shor became one of the most popular directors and theatrical managers in America and the author of nearly fifty plays—originals, translations, and in partnership with others, mainly operettas and melodramas.  Several of them were quite popular and were performed on virtually every Yiddish stage.  Many of Shor’s plays were published without the author’s knowledge.  His plays include: A mensh zol men zayn (Be a man!) with Moyshe Shor, an operetta (Warsaw: Elizeum, 1910), 92 pp.; Di amerikanerin, oder di meydl fun vest (The American woman, or the gal from the West), operetta (Warsaw, 1913), 64 pp.; Shir hashirim (The song of songs), operetta (Warsaw, 1913), 59 pp.; Borg mir dayn vayb, oder der onkel fun pitsburg (Lend me your wife, or the uncle from Pittsburgh), farcical operetta (Warsaw: Goldfarb, 1926), 48 pp.; Dos zise meydel, muzikalishe komedye in fir akten (The sweet girl, musical comedy in four acts), a comic operetta (Warsaw: T. Yakubson and M. Goldfarb, 1926), 45 pp.  Plays that were staged but not published include: Ir ershte libe (Her first love), with Moyshe Shor; Dos lebn fun a froy (The life of a woman); Vayber (Wives), also staged as Vos a froy ken (What a woman knows) and Dos yunge vaybl (The young wife); Di grine daytshke (The green German gal); Der distrikt atoyrni (The district attorney); Dos farloyrene glik (The lost joy); Mendel beylis (Mendel Beilis) (1913); Libe un laydnshaft (Love and passion); Der sof fun a gembler (The end of a gambler); Hit aykh, meydlekh (Beware girls!); Oy, vos meydlekh zaynen (Oh, what girls are)—according to B. Gorin, Oy, vos mener zaynen (Oh, what men are); Dos naye rusland (The new Russia) (1917); Nokh der milkhome (After the war) (1918); A shvester opfer (A sister’s sacrifice); A moyd fun yener velt (A girl from the other world); A shtime in der finster (A voice in the darkness); Di farshemte kale (The shamed bride), with N. Rakov; An oyg far an oyg (An eye for an eye); Tsvey shvester (Two sisters), with L. Freyman; A mames brokhe (A mother’s blessing); Vayb un gelibte (Wife and lover); Vayb, mame un gelibte (Wife, mother, and lover), with V. Sigel; Farvos meydlekh antloyfn fun der heym (Why girls run away from home), with V. Sigel; Di yidishe shikse (The Jewish shikse); Ver iz der tate (Who is the father); Zayn yidish meydl (His Jewish girl); Eyns un a rekhts (One in a million); Dos kleyne rebele (The little rebbe); A zilberne khasene (A silver wedding), also staged as A shlang in gan-eydn (A serpent in the Garden of Eden); Di krokover rebetsin (The Cracow rabbi’s wife); Farlangt a meydl (Desired, a girl); and Mazl-tov (Congratulations)—according to Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Dos kleyne rebele.

            Manuscripts from plays that were not staged: A vayb zol men hobn (One should have a wife); A meydl fun der ist-sayd (A girl from the East Side); Faybush darf a vayb (Faybush needs a wife); and A vayb af papir (A paper wife).  In addition, Shor translated Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s Migdal oz (Tower of strength), the comedy Sherlok holms (Sherlock Holmes), and dramatized Artsybashev’s novel Sanin (Sanin).  From time to time, he wrote on theatrical topics in: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Ilustrirte vokh (Illustrated week), and Teater-tsaytung (Theater newspaper) in Warsaw; Der morgn (The morning) in Lemberg; and a series of articles in Idishe velt (Jewish world) in Philadelphia (1933-1934); among others.  He died in New York.
            “Many of his plays,” wrote Mendl Osherovits, “had great success on the stage, and more than one theater was rescued by them….  Anshl Shor had no literary pretensions when writing works for the theater….  In an era when it was fashionable to write in a Germanized style, he wrote in a pure Yiddish, a folk Yiddish—one of the virtues that…he bore…in the better times for the Yiddish stage in Anmerica.”

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 4 (New York, 1963); B. Gorin, Di geshikhte fun idishn teater, tsvey toyzent yor teater bay idn (The history of Jewish theater: 2000 years of theater among the Jews), vol. 2 (New York, 1923), pp. 274, 275, 282; Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 38, 41 (1928); Yankev Mestel, Zibetsik yor teater-repertuar, tsu der geshikhte fun yidishn teater in amerike (Seventy year of theater repertoire, on the history of Yiddish theater in America) (New York: IKUF, 1954), see index; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Ruvn Goldberg

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