MOYSHE SHOR (April 11, 1872-September 28, 1949)
He was a playwright, born in Galats (Galați), Romania, into a rabbinical family. He attended religious elementary school and an Odessa yeshiva. In 1891 he arrived in Lemberg. On the advice of Avrom Goldfaden, he became a prompter and later an actor in Gimpel’s theater. He organized his own acting troupe and traveled around Galicia, Bukovina, Romania, and a short time in Moravia and Berlin. In 1905 he arrived in the United States, where he was active as an actor and theatrical director in Baltimore, Detroit, and Philadelphia. He was one of the founders and contributors to the first Yiddish daily newspaper in Galicia, Lemberger tageblat (Lemberg daily newspaper) (1908), and in it he published a series of poems. Later, from time to time, he published sketches and humorous pieces in Chicago’s Idisher kuryer (Jewish courier) and Idisher rekord (Jewish record). He mainly became popular as a translator and writer of a great number of plays which excelled in their pure Yiddish, vivid dialogue, and fine couplets. The best actors of that era appeared in his plays. Shor’s operetta Di rumenishe khasene (The Romanian wedding), with music by Perets Sandler (1915), became a masterpiece on every Yiddish stage. It played 500 times in Warsaw with Boaz Young in 1925-1926. In 1960 and 1974, the operetta was staged in Israel.
Only three of his plays appeared in published form: A mensh zol men zayn (Be a man!), with Anshl Shor (Warsaw: Elizeum, 1910), 92 pp.; Di rumenishe khasene (Warsaw: Sh. Goldfarb, 1925), 65 pp.; Der groyser moment, oder toyt shtrof (The great moment, or death penalty), a melodrama (Warsaw: Sh. Goldfarb, 1926), 32 pp., published anonymously. Plays staged but not published: Koyheles, oder idisher faust, oder der tayfel als regent (Ecclesiastes, or Jewish Faust, or the devil as regent), Shor’s first play; Emek habokho (The Vale of Tears); In tol fun trern (In the valley of tears), also known as Der shtoltser kaptsn (The proud pauper); Di meraglim, oder di vent fun yerikhe (The spies, or the walls of Jericho); Der yakhsn (The man of privilege); Ir ershte libe (Her first love, with Anshl Shor; Di fremde feygl, oder di tseshterte nest (The strange bird, or the nest destroyed), also known as Di fremde tsurik a heym (The strange one returns home); Mendl beylis (Mendel Beilis) (1913); Af shlekhte vegn (Along bad roads); Milkhome mames (War mothers) (1917); Der farbrekher un zayn tokhter (The criminal and his daughter); Di libe fun humoresk (The love of humor); Di nakht fun der khasene (The night of the wedding); A khasene af tsu lehakhes (A wedding in spite); Ir ershter man (Her first husband); Froy kegn froy (Woman vs. woman); Shklafn fun opium (Slaves of opium); Di gefalene (The fallen); and Di tsebrokhene heym (The destroyed home). In the YIVO archives in New York, there are another thirty plays that assume Shor to be their author: Geules Yisroel (The salvation of Israel); Shtile libe (Silent love); Hotel soydes (Hotel of secrets); Der veg tsum gehenem (The road to hell); Libe un laydenshaft (Love and passion); Khayim-khaykl fun khirovke (Khayim-Khaykl from Khirovke); Tsvey mames (Two mothers); In a beser sho (At a better time); Tsvishn derner (Amid thorns); Der edelman, oder der melankholiker (The nobleman, or the melancholic); Moyshe goy (Moses, the gentile); Ervakht (Awakened); General gershelman (General Gershelman); Di getsvingene khasene (The forced wedding); Nayer dor (New generation); Zelig itsik (Zelig Itsik); Pilegesh begive, oder mikhemet akhim (The concubine of Givah, or the war of brothers), also known as Shevet benyomen (The staff of Benjamin); Der mord in beysamigdesh (The murder in the Temple in Jerusalem); Malke shvo (Queen of Sheba); Der geler pasport (The yellow passport); Muters klole (Mother’s curse); Tsvey velten (Two worlds); Boris martin (Boris Martin); Khayim grober (Khayim Grober); Moris verner (Morris Verner); Mames brokhe (Mother’s blessing); and Yulyus shifman (Julis Shifman). And two one-act plays: Shuldig (Guilty) and Der kodesh (The martyr). His translations include: Richard Foss, Numer 37 (Number 37); Georges Ohnet, Libe un shtolts (Love and pride [original: Liebe und Stoltz]); Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust; Osip Dimov, Shma-yisroel (Hear, O Israel); Molière, Geld-gayts (The miser [original: L’Avare]); Semyon Yushkevich, Der hunger (Hunger [original: Golod]); Fildo (?), Der blinder kenig (The blind king); and others.
Sholem Perlmuter characterized Shor as follows: “For about sixty years, Moyshe Shor stood in the whirl of Yiddish theater. As a writer he possessed a clear, sharp pen, with an innovative style full of temperament, concentrated and pungent…. He was the ‘uncrowned leader in the Yiddish theatrical world.’” He died in Park Ridge, New Jersey.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 4 (New York, 1963); Mikhl Vaykhert, Teater un drame (Theater and drama), vol. 2 (Vilna, 1926), p. 133; Meyer Balaban, in Hundert yor goldfadn (Centenary of [Avrom] Goldfaden) (New York: YIVO, 1940), p. 18; Yankev Mestel, Undzer teater (Our theater) (New York, 1943), see index; 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; Yonas Turkov, Farloshene shtern (Extinguished stars) (Buenos Aires, 1953), p. 293.