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 YIDDISH THEATRE 101 > THE YIDDISH PLAYS > THE PLAY IN HISTORY  >  FATHER HOLDS COURT                                                 

FATHER HOLDS COURT1
(Yiddish: Mayn taten's bit-din shtub)

by Isaac Bashevis (Singer)

This play, staged by the Folksbiene Theatre group, was first staged on
December 11,1957 at the Jewish Settlement House Auditorium in New York City.

The Folksbiene troupe members involved in this production were (in order of their appearance):

Burton Pinchuk, Anton Goldberg, Morris Adler, Joshua Zeldis, Ben Feivelowitz, Zypora Spaisman, Sarah Stabin, Louis Fishberg, Michal Karlan, Ely Arnou, Anna Faust, Jacob Belagorsky, Mina Kern, Harry Friefeld, Jacob Silberberg and Michael Neiditch.

Here is the synopsis, as taken from the program for said show:
 

SCENE I:

IT IS SATURDAY EVENING.  The teller of the story presents his home, the "Beth-Din" chamber, (a local Jewish courthouse) on Krochmalna Street in Warsaw. He introduces his father (Leo Pshepurka), the "Moreh Horoeh" (a designated neighborhood authority on Jewish law); his mother (Bronia Newman), the frequent visitors to the home (Morris Adler, Joshua Zeldis, Ben Feivelowitz), and himself, still a child at the time. Mirele (Zypora Spaisman) comes to inform the neighborhood's opposition to the divorce that the old man Zishele (Louis Fishberg), and his wife Rivka (Sarah Stabin), had applied for. Father sends for the couple. Mother joins Father in talking them out of the divorce. They leave disappointed.
 

SCENE II:

THE OLDER BROTHER (Michael Karlan) is a reader of worldly literature and has a sophisticated view of life.

It is obvious that the father and the older son have entirely divergent views of life, which often results in conflict between them.

Mendele (Ely Arnou), a bridegroom, comes in to apply for a release from his engagement with Raitche (Anna Faust). The Moreh Horoeh proposes a peace settlement between the bride and the groom.
 

SCENE III:

MOSHE THE TINSMITH (Morris Adler) is leaving for the Holy Land. The neighbors gather to wish him a proper farewell. Moshe departs for the land "where up-to-date young people build colonies while they speak loshn-kodesh (the holy tongue)," even on weekdays.
 

SCENE IV:

A SATURDAY EVENING on the Krochmalna Street is disrupted by tragedy-- a shoemaker's apprentice poisons himself. The unfortunate mother (Mina Kern) comes to the Moreh Horoeh to beg him not to allow the kehilla (the Jewish community body) to bury her son in disgrace.

Later that night our young storyteller is deeply disturbed by the cries of the bereaved mother ringing in his ears. He wants to know what God will do to the suicide in the other world. "Wouldn't He forgive him even for such a sin as taking his own life?"


SCENE V:

AN UNHAPPY LETTER arrives from the sister who lives with her husband in Belgium. Her husband is not working, and she can hardly feed her child. Father comes in with latest street gossip--a new group is being organized; anarchists, who want to abolish money and forthwith make people happy. Mother breaks into tears over the distress of her daughter and shows the letter to father, who seems only to be occupied with foolish dreams and the world beyond.
 

SCENE VI:

THREE PURVEYORS (Harry Friefield, Louis Fishberg and Joseph Silberberg) of some illegal goods have come in to ask father to pass judgment on something among them. Father doesn't even know what they are talking about. From the street there is heard noise and excitement. It seems that a Crown Prince has been assassinated somewhere, and war is about the break out. Mother and Father lift their heads in prayer to God to spare the world from bloodletting and destruction.


SCENE VII:

THE OLDER SON is away at war, and Mother prays for him nightly. Father pleads with her to take food and try to sleep. At night she is haunted by a vision of her son running through fire and devastation and returning to her. Shortly after, her vision becomes a reality.
 

SCENE VIII:

IT IS FRIDAY EVENING. Mother is getting ready for a visit to her father in Bilgorray [Bilgoraj]. But she fears that he may no longer be alive. Mirele, the baker's daughter, has brought a challah, so that the Moreh Horoeh will have something over which to say the Sabbath prayer. Mates [The Chasid] (Michael Neiditch) cannot go home because he has no challah over which to say the prayer. Mother gives him the challah. Raitche hurries in with some wine for the kiddush. Father makes kiddush and the Holy Sabbath enters into the home court. It enters in a spirit of hope and faith, in justice and peace.

 

1 -- Synopsis taken from the program for this 1957 production. Courtesy of the New York Public Library.

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