Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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Y I DD I S H L I T E R A T U R E IN R UMA N I A
By S o l
L
iptz in
R
u m a n i a
entered upon the Yiddish literary scene in 1876 when
folksinger and wedding bard Velvel Zbarzher Ehrenkranz
(1826-1883), who stemmed from Galicia, sang and acted out his
dramatic verses in Rumanian towns, and when Abraham Gold-
faden (1840-1908), who came from Russia, began in Jassy his
first experiments in Yiddish dramatic performances. The enthu­
siastic reception given to Goldfaden in Rumania prompted him
to expand his dialogues and scenarios into full length comedies,
and his two or three acting assistants into large troupes that wan­
dered through the length and breadth of Eastern Europe.
Of Yiddish folk poets indigenous to Rumania, the best known
was Yakov Psanter (1820-1900), who was born in Botoshani and
reared in Jassy. Self-educated and talented in music, he became
a wedding bard, adapting the verses of famed badhonim to his
Rumanian audiences. For years he roamed with a gypsy band
and performed on cymbals at non-Jewish festivities. Compelled to
listen in aristocratic homes to constant slurs against Jews as
foreigners and undesirable intruders, he wrote a two-volume his­
tory in their defense. This history purposed to prove that Jews
had lived in Rumania since the days of Nebuchadnezzar and
that a large contingent had arrived while the provinces that later
became Rumania were still under Roman rule. The first volume,
published in 1871, ended with the fall of the Byzantine Empire
in 1453. The second volume was published in 1873 and contin­
ued the narrative until his own generation. Psanter’s history is
no longer accepted as an authentic source, but it performed a
valuable service during the decades of the struggle for Jewish
rights in Rumania, from the Berlin Peace Conference of 1878
co the First World War. It was often quoted as evidence of the
antiquity of Rumania’s Jews.
The Czernovitz Language Conference of 1908 stimulated Yid­
dish cultural activities throughout Eastern Europe, and had re­
percussions in Rumania. Among the pioneers of Yiddish letters
on the eve of World War I were Jacob Groper (b. 1890) and
Jacob Botoshansky (1890-1966). They were the most talented
contributors to the first Rumanian Yiddish literary journal Licht,
published in Jassy during the two years preceding Rumania’s
entrance in the War in 1916.
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