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 YIDDISH THEATRE 101 > THE YIDDISH PLAYS > THE PLAY IN HISTORY  >  THE LAST MESSIAH           
                                      

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THE STORY OF "THE LAST MESSIAH"
An historical drama in four acts by Mark Arnstein

This production was produced at David Kessler's
Second Avenue Theatre in February 1914.

 


David Kessler,
who plays
Shabethai Zebi



Samuel S. Schneier,
who plays Nehemie "Kohan"


Ray Schneier,
 who plays
Sarah Melisada
 

 


 


In the 17th century, when the Inquisition still terrorized the world, and in almost every country the Jews were persecuted, tortured and burned at stake. In those dark ages the only hope the Jews had was the coming of their messiah to deliver them from their miseries.

The scholars and cabalists of that time often found signs that the time of the coming of Messiah was near. The fanatic and oppressed Jews believed in those signs in spite of the fact that they often proved untrue.

In those days many individuals arose who claimed to be Messiah, and everyone of them had more or les followers. But Shabethai Zebi (David Kessler) was the most prominent of all. He was born in the year 1826 of very learned parents who intended in the study of Kabala in which he found signs that he was Messiah. At a very early age he gained an immense mass of followers; in fact Jews from all over the world came to Cairo (where he lived) to see their Messiah, their Saviour. Among those was one Nehemie Cohen (Samuel S. Schneier) from Poland, who was sent there by his community to see and convince himself of the truth. Nehemie devoted ten days and ten nights for discussions with Shabethai, and at the end he decided that Shabethai was an imposter. But after Nehemie saw what Shabethai was doing and heard how he spoke to his people, his convictions weakened; he began to doubt, and in order to fully convince himself of the truth he denounced Shabethai to the governor of Cairo, saying that Shabethai intended to seize the crown of the Sultan (Mark Schweid). "If he really is Messiah," Nehemia thought, the Sultan will not be able to do him any harm, and if he is an impostor let the Sultan check him from going any further with his false pretenses.

Shabetai was arrested and imprisoned in an old castle, where although a strong guard watched him, yet he was allowed to go in and out, and everyone of his followers was free to visit him and leave at any time. the next day he was to appear before the Sultan.

At this stage many of his followers began to doubt in his power. His own wife, Sarah Malisada (Ray Schneier), who came to him from Spain and, as he claimed, brought to him the Heavenly inspiration and the courage to call himself Messiah and who was wont to encourage him, lost her faith in him now. Even the virgin Hadassah (Berta Gerstin), who worshipped him before, advised him now not to appear before the Sultan. That discouraged Shabethai greatly, and he decided to commit suicide by blowing up the powder magazine which was in the cellar of he castle, his present prison. Hadassah insisted to die together with him; she seized a lighted torch, went down into the cellar, set fire to the powder, but through some miraculous coincidence death escaped Shabethai. He again saw in this a sign of Haven that he is destined to live and fulfill his mission. He went to the Sultan. At first the Sultan was frightened by his appearance. But when he tested Shabethai's power by commanding a slaughter of all the Jews who were gathered in thousands around the palace. Shabethai weakened; the terrible cries of the slaughtered Jews pierced his heart. He fell to the Sultan's feet and yielded to his wishes.

 

Mark Schweid,
who plays
Sultan Mohamed
 

,
Morris Simonoff,
who plays
the Pasha of Cairo



Kalmen Juvelier,
who plays
Samuel Prima


Berl Bernstein,
who plays
Abraham Yachni

 

 

 

 




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