Yiddish Plays for Reading and Performance

Edited and translated by Nahma Sandrow

Subjects: Drama, Jewish Studies, Literary History
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9781438481906, 350 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438481890, 350 pages, February 2021

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Table of contents

Preface: Yiddish Theater in Theatrical Context


Mirele Efros; or, The Jewish Queen Lear by Jacob Gordin

Yankl the Blacksmith by David Pinski

Yoshke the Musician (The Hired Bridegroom, The Rented Bridegroom, The Singer of His Sorrow) by Osip Dimov, reworked by Joseph Buloff


From Uncle Moses by Sholem Asch

From Homeless by Jacob Gordin

From Safo by Jacob Gordin

From Carcass by Peretz Hirschbein

From Between Day and Night by Peretz Hirschbein

From Mishke and Moshke; or, Europeans in America (Mishke and Moshke; or, The Greenhorns) by Joseph Lateiner

From Khantshe in America by Nahum Rakov

From Riverside Drive by Leon Kobrin

From The 2,000 (The Big Prize, The Big Lottery, The Jackpot) by Sholem Aleichem

Appendix: How to Pronounce Yiddish Words and Names

Three stageworthy plays and nine individual scenes that offer an introduction to Yiddish theater at its liveliest.


Yiddish theater was first and foremost fine theater, with varied repertory and actors of high quality. The three stage-ready plays and nine individual scenes collected here, most of them well-known in Yiddish repertory but never before translated, offer an introduction to the full range of Yiddish theater. Fresh, lively, and accurate, these translations have been prepared for reading or performance by award-winning playwright and scholar Nahma Sandrow. They come with useful stage directions, notes, and playing histories, as well as comments by directors who have worked in both English and Yiddish theater. In the three full-length plays, a matriarch battles for control of her business and her family (Mirele Efros; or, The Jewish Queen Lear); two desperate women struggle over a man, who himself is struggling to change his life (Yankl the Blacksmith); and, in a charming fantasy village, a poetic village fiddler gambles on romance (Yoshke the Musician). The nine scenes from selected other plays are shaped to stand alone and range in genre from symbolist to naturalist, operetta to vaudeville, domestic to romantic to avant-garde. In her preface, Sandrow contextualizes the plays in modern Western theater history from the nineteenth century to the present. Yiddish Plays for Reading and Performance is not nostalgia—just a collection of good plays that also serves as an informed introduction to Yiddish theater at its liveliest.

Nahma Sandrow, a playwright and librettist, is Professor Emerita at City University of New York. Her books include Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater and God, Man, and Devil: Yiddish Plays in Translation. Many of her translations have been produced professionally, and the award-winning shows she developed out of Yiddish material (Kuni-Leml, Vagabond Stars) enjoyed long off-Broadway runs before touring, receiving rave reviews in the New York Times and other major New York newspapers, as well as Variety and the Associated Press.


"Nahma Sandrow is one of the foremost translators of Yiddish drama into English. These translations achieve the elusive goal of adhering closely enough to the originals to give English readers a clear sense of the texts, while being bold enough to serve as lively, readable, and stageworthy works in their own right." — Joel Berkowitz, coeditor and cotranslator of Landmark Yiddish Plays: A Critical Anthology