access for his idea, he
issued in Yiddish and English special brochures about
the subject: "How We Can Help Ourselves (1906), "A Plan
to Establish a Permanent International Jewish Congress"
(1907); "How We Can Help Ourselves (1907), "Primary Case
of Anti-Semitism (1909), "The Jewish Question in the
Light of Psychology (1912), and "The Jewish Question in
the Light of Jurisprudence" (1915).
These writings, which he
distributed in vain, attracted the attention of the
Jewish society in various countries and were translated
into various languages.
In 1917 Sh. finally realized
part of his idea: there was created the Jewish congress
in America (in Philadelphia, with a representation of
four hundred women and men), and in 1936 it was held in
Geneva, Switzerland, the first Jewish world-congress.
Due to the fact that the later congresses in America and
the world congress were not organized on true democratic
foundations, Sh. withdrew from the movement.
Sh.'s sister, Rose Shomer-Bachelis,
recalls in her book, "How I Knew Them":
"My brother inherited from
our father a part of his literary talent, and at various
times he had a need to bring it to expression in various
ways. When he was still a young boy, Abraham often tried
to write a play. I remember that he once tried for weeks
at a time to create a dramatization of Sienkiewicz's
famous book, "Quo Vadis."
Sh. began his career with
the Yiddish theatre as an "actor." As Sholem Perlmutter
tells it in his book, "The Yiddish Dramaturge," he found
in his archive a program from a dramatic union in New
York, "Silver's Dramatic Club," with Sh. as a member. In
1893 the club performed Shomer's play, "Der baal teshuva"
in Turn Hall, under the direction of the author, and the
author's son had played the role of "the butcher."
Further, Sholem Perlmutter
recalls that Sh. had once said:
"The Island of Tears, which
Ellis Island is called, has made a dramaturge out of me.
Visiting there often, the 'Island,' and seeing the troubles and the torments that the Jewish immigrants
had to endure, moved me to write my first play, that I
call, 'On the Sea and Ellis Island,' and it was later
played under the name, 'The Golden Passport.' When I
later began to look for the organizations of the
landsmanshaftn (mutual aid societies), I had for the
scenes what I heard about and seen, written for my 'alrightniks.'
"The Alrightniks" was
performed on 25 February 1910, in Kessler's Thalia
Theatre, as an "original satire-comedy of New York
Jewish life in four acts," stage director -- David
Boaz Young, who played in
this comedy, tells in his book, "My Life in Theatre,"
that when the author read for David Kessler and his
manager, Max R. Wilner, Kessler didn't like it, but
Wilner simply forced him to play it. After the premiere,
it looked like the play was a failure, because, "After
all, this is not a play for the general public because
it is a comedy, and the public loves a comedy mixed with
drama, such as 'The Jewish Heart.' True, the comedy,
'The Alrightniks' does not consist merely of jokes, but
also situations, but "it lacks drama and is a play full
of pure comedy, for which even the actors themselves
were not prepared (Goldfaden's comedies should not be
It had already been decided
to take down the play after a week.
"On the second week -- Boaz
Young further tells it -- the play received a completely
different face. The laughter from Mogulesco ('s playing)
in the scene of the meeting of the friend Anshi
Shmardova was incredibly great. They also laughed a lot
during Kessler's scenes, with my 'speech' at the
meeting, and during the scene of the actor Gershon
Rubin, who played the role of a glutton. Even myself and
the actors could not control ourselves and laughed with
the audience at Rubin's speech. The more we played the
play, the greater the success. The box office got more
and more crowded with each passing night, and we played
it for ten to twelve weeks. 'The Alrightniks,' I think,
was the first, pure Yiddish comedy of American Jewish
life that had success on the Yiddish stage, and thanks
to the author, who believed in his work."
Boaz Young later performed
in the comedy and played the main role in London (1911),
and in Chicago (1912-13).
"On the Sea and Ellis
Island" by Abraham Shomer (ben Shomer), was especially
written for Keni Lipzin and was played on 13 April 1911
in the Lipzin Theatre.
Some time later Sh. made a
film in English from the film, under the name, "The
Yellow Passport,," which was played by the actress Clara
Kimball Young in the main role.
Sh. now gave up his practice
as a lawyer and dedicated himself entirely to
Sh. Perlmutter wrote about
"His dramas had a tense,
heavy action, although in many of them he created
beautiful effects with only small means. His play was
never titled 'All Species,' like other plays from that
time. It has always had a unified action, was carried
out with the larger economy, did not offend the better
taste, and appealed to the wider masses. The success of
his plays comes from their theatricality, which gave an
opportunity for the greater "stars" of contemporary
Jewish performing arts to showcase their talent."
On 25 August 1911 in the
People's Theatre, under the direction of Boris
Thomashefsky, there appeared Sh.'s drama in four acts,
"Eykele mazik (The Reformed Convict)," with Rudolph
Schildkraut in the title role.
On 4 March 1921 the play, in
a new adaptation and staging by the author, was played
in Yiddish in "The New Yiddish Theatre" in New York.
The play was taken into the
Yiddish theatre repertoire in the world, and through
Joseph Kessler was played in London (England), and by
Paul Baratov in Warsaw, Poland, and in other countries
where he guest-starred.
The drama had such
success that Schildkraut later played it in
German in Germany. Then, in Sh.'s own English
translation, the drama was played under the
name, "The Inner Man," with Wilton Lackaye
[opened August 13, 1917 and ran for forty-eight
performances] in the main role, and in London
(England, Apollo Theatre) in 1922 under the
name, "Devil Dick," in English with Morris
Moshkovitch in the title role.
In October 1911,
also in Sh.'s adaptation, under the name, "Der
yunger dor (The Younger Generation)," there was
staged for Rudolph Schildkraut Herman
Sudermann's play, "Keytn-glider (Chain Links?)."
In 1911 there was
also staged, according to B. Gorin, Sh.'s
"Baruch Dayan Emes," a drama in four acts,
(adapted from the play, "Troymulus," by Arno
Holz and Oscar Yershke), and through David
Kessler the one-act comedy, "Klore meshugim
On 15 March 1912 in
Adler's Thalia Theatre there was staged Sh.'s
drama in four acts, "Der sud (The Secret)," with
Adler and Moshkovitch in the main roles.
All of the plays had
shortened days [awk].
During the 1913 season Max
Rosenthal appeared in Philadelphia's Arch Street Theatre
in Sh.'s drama, "Style" ("Di mode").
Rose Shomer recalls that her
brother had earlier read the play for Adler, Kessler and
for Thomashefsky. But it was not liked. But in
Philadelphia the play made such an impression that David
Kessler soon staged it in New York's Second Avenue
Theatre (with him and Malvina Lobel in the title roles),
where it was played for many weeks with great success.
Also Kessler also guest-starred with the play in Europe.
Kessler's partner and manager, Max Wilner, had several
Broadway managers interested in the play. The author had
the play translated into English, and the well-known
American dramatist George Broadhurst had the translation
adapted for the American stage, and in November 1913 the
play, under the name "Today," staged it on Broadway, new
York. Rose Shomer tells that her brother was very
dissatisfied with the Broadhurst adaptation, and
the premiere was a terrible failure. First when the
author had the play put back to its original form, it
was "an entire year ... 'ran' not quite on
Broadway, in New York, but also in many other cities
across the country, where in special companies were sent
out to. Several years later, in 1930, they made a motion
picture in Hollywood from 'Today'."
Sholem Perlmutter writes:
" 'Style' is a life story
portrayed with the fiery temperament of a romantic, and
captivating from the first scene until the final scene
of the last act."
When Sh. wrote the comedy,
"Der griner millioner (The Greenhorn Millionaire)," he
read it for Kessler and Adler, but they did not like it.
Thomashefsky bought the play for an unprecedented price:
six percent of the revenue, and it appeared in the
National Theatre during the 1914-1915 season [5 February
1915 -- ed.] with music by Perlmutter and Wohl.
Rose Shomer relates:
"Abraham was a very strong
stage director for his plays. How was that actor or
actress who dared, or allowed himself, to end a sentence
from his play, as was the custom of actors at that time
in the Yiddish theatre. ... With the exception of the
great Rudolph Schildkraut, who wanted and demanded more
direction, almost all the actors considered it an insult
when they were made aware of a very false pronunciation
of a word or phrase."
And so it is, due to a false
intonation during the general rehearsal of "The
Greenhorn Millionaire," there happened a scolding
between the author and the actor Leon Blank, who played
the role of "a shoemaker." But during the premiere Blank
played, as the author had pointed out to him, and the
success was very great.
Dr. S.M. Melamed writes:
"Abraham Shomer has made a
great contribution to the modern Yiddish theatre through
his numerous, magnificent and successful plays. ...
His comedy, 'The Greenhorn Millionaire,' with its
gentleness, good-hearted humor, kept the New York Jewish
masses in one laugh for several years."
Boris Thomashefsky tells in
" ... Shomer is a good
reader. He reads so well, like an actor. ... When he
reads he plays each character like a skilled actor. ...
For myself, I have taken the role of Zalmen Puterknop,
the coal man -- 'The Greenhorn Millionaire,' I gave the
role of the shoemaker to Leon Blank. ... The role of the
matchmaker was given to Sam Kestin. In the piece there
is a role for a stupid, small-town guy. The role I gave
to Lazar Freed. I staged the play entirely seriously,
although half of my company did not take the play
seriously. The play was soon taken off the stage. ...,
'The Greenhorn Millionaire' is one of the most famous
successes of the Yiddish stage. This comedy brought to
the Yiddish theatre an audience that rarely used to come
to it. Our relatives came, and the 'professionals':
doctors, lawyers, teachers, professors, musicians,
cantors, artists from the English stage. They simply ran
to see this successful comedy. Every actor excelled in
their roles. ... I was very scared of this difficult
role, which I had undertaken to play, the coal dealer.
This is the first time in my theatre career that I had
undertaken to play such a maddening character. ... I had
this comedy played across the entirety of Europe. Mainly
she excelled [precisely] in such countries, where the
English language is entirely foreign there. Also in
Argentina the play strongly excelled, the same in
Brazil, in Russia. ... I also played the second act in
English, in vaudeville. Mister Shomer himself translated
the act for me. Also on the English stage I excelled
strongly with the act. The 'Keith Circuit' engaged
me for ten weeks, but I played for twenty-two weeks."
About Thomashefsky's playing
the role of "Zalmen Puterknop," in Thomashefsky's book,
"MY Life's Story," p. 325, there was published a
spirited letter from the well-known Jewish-American
director, David Belasco.
Sam Kestin tells in his
"Abraham Shomer knew how to
direct a play. He understood theatre well and had a
healthy sense for realism, and for a natural tone in
acting. He was also able to stand firm on what he was
saying and had to follow the rehearsals, even when it
was remembered that he was not right. ... The great
success of ... , 'The Greenhorn Millionaire' was a
surprise for every actor in the troupe. ... The
truth however, is that it was not an accident. The play
was indeed good, the humor in it was a healthy one, a
popular one. The action was natural, the events were
there, as if chained to each other, and it played well.
Thomashefsky in the role of the coal man was splendid.
Blank in the role of the shoemaker played such that it
could not have been acted better. Also Gershon Rubin,
when in the same role, strongly excelled. And as for my
playing the matchmaker, the critics have already
expressed their opinion, which has given me a lot of
pleasure. The season ended with the comedy 'The
Greenhorn Millionaire,' and after many years, and he
playing it from time to time, whenever he played it, the
theater was packed. "Many people have seen the play not
only once, but also two or three times."
A synopsis (content) of the
comedy (sixteen pages with a song) was printed and
On 19 October 1918 there was
staged by Maurice Schwartz in his Irving Place Theatre
Sh.'s play, "Dos gayster-hoyz (The Ghost House)," with
music by J. Brody. The play was soon taken off the
On 3 October 1921 here in
the Fourteenth Street Theatre there was staged Sh.'s
"Hatikvah (The Jewish Hope)," a new drama in three acts
with a prologue, with Thomashefsky in the main role. The
play also was soon taken off.
The same fate was had by
Sh.'s four-act play, "Der kamf (The Struggle)," which
Max Rosenthal directed in the People's Theatre, with max
Rosenthal, Ludwig Satz, and Berta Gerstin in the main
In 1923, on the eighteenth
yahrzeit of Shm"r's death, through Samuel Goldinburg,
there appeared in the Irving Place Theatre Shm"r's
comedy, "Der farlibter shnorer," under the name, "Oy, di
libe," in Sh.'s adaptation.
On 5 November 1924 at the
National Theatre there appeared from the author, his
comedy, "Point of Order" (music by Peretz Sandler), with
Leon Blank as "Brother President," but it also was
In 1919 Sh., together with
Sidney Ross, organized a film society, "The Schomer-Ross
Motion Picture Company," and in the span of its two-year
existence, he wrote and directed four films: "The Sacred
Flame," "Ruling Passions, "The Hidden Light," and the comedy, "The Great Chamber
On the same themes he also
wrote plays in English.
For a long time Sh. was a
member of the American Zionist Executive Board, Gshia
of Order, "Ben Zion," actively participated in the
general liberal, political life of America, and in 1919
he was the chairman of the committee in America that
organized in Madison Square Garden the historical
protest meeting against the excesses of Jews in Poland.
Under the harsh effects of
the First World War, in 1926 Sh. issued in New York the
brochure, "The Primary Cause of War," and in 1928 in Los
Angeles, the book, "War and Peace in the Light of
Intellectology," which was strongly praised by the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The last twelve years of his
life, Sh. suffered from asthma and a weak heart. He
settled in Los Angeles, California, and there he passed
away on 16 August 1946.
His sister Rose
Shomer-Bachelis characterized him this way in her book:
"From his early youth
Abraham demonstrated a positive character, and a strong
willpower. ... Abraham had a great love for the stage
and was attracted to it with great respect and
seriousness. He considered the theatre to be an
institution, not only to entertain the audience, but
also in order for them to learn, for them to touch upon
and advance the social questions, etc. ... He was a
serious human being, but at the same time also filled
with a lust for life and a joy for life. At every
gathering he was at the center. ... He was able to tell
jokes, anecdotes and jokes that made his listeners
laugh. He loved people, and the people loved him."
Zalmen Reisen --
"Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," IV, pp. 449-53.
B. Gorin --
"History of Yiddish Theatre," II, pp. 214, 275,
Z. Kornblith --
"Di alraytniks" in Thalia, "The Yiddish Stage,"
N.Y., 4 March 1910.
D. B. (Sh.
Yanovski] -- In theatre, "Fraye arbayter shtime,"
N.Y., 12 March 1910.
D. B. -- In
theatre, dort, 22 April 1911.
A.K. (Ab. Cahan)
-- Schildkraut as a Yiddish Actor, "Forward,"
N.Y., 26 August 1911.
D.B. -- In
theatre, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N.Y., 9 Sept.
M. Katz -- Unzer
bine, "The New Life," N.Y., 1911, pp. 426-30.
D.B. -- In
theatre, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N.Y.,
Y.S. (Slonim) --
Today from george broadhurst and abraham shomer,
"Theatre and Moving Pictures," N.Y., 14 Nov.
Hillel Rogoff --
Yiddish Plays and the English Stage, "Di
tsukunft," N.Y., February 1914.
D.B. -- In
theatre, "Fraye arbayter shtime," N.Y, 13
-- Why Aren't There Any Good Plays?, "Der tog,"
N.Y., 20 Oct. 1916.
Blum-Abraham Schomer -- An Interview, "East and
West," N.Y., Nov. 10, 1916.
A.K. -- Shomer's
"Eykele mazk" in English, "Forward," N.Y., 29
L. (MIller) -- A
kurtser hspd nokh a nit gelungener piese, "Di
varhayt," N. Y., 26 Oct. 1918.
M. Grimm --
Rudolph Schildkraut in "Eykele Mazik," "Di
tsukunft," N.Y., 19 March 1921.
J. Entin -- The
Last Yiddish Theatre Season, "Di tsunkunft,"
N.Y., May 1921.
L.S. Bieli --
"Hatikvah" in the New 14th Street Theatre, "Yidishe
tageblat," N.Y., 7 October 1921.
Ab. Cahan --
Boris Thomashefsky in Shomer's New Play,
"Forward," N.Y., 8 October 1921.
Aaron Rosen --
The Premature Death of Shomer's "Struggle," "Yidishe
tageblat," N.Y., 3 March 1922.
L. Kesner -- "A
Point of Order," dort, N.Y., 14 November 1924.
-- "Eykele mazik," "Unzer ekspres," Warsaw, 31
Sh. Pan --
"Eykele mazik" by a. shomer, staged by Joseph
Kessler, "The Post," London, 24 May 1928.
Thomashefsky -- Boris Thomashefsky -- His Life
Book, "Forward," 4, 5 May 1936.
Tina Rivkes --
Hollywood, "Der veg," Mexico, 31 October 1936.
Morris Meyer --
(--), "MOrgentsaytung," Buenos Aires, 8
Shomer-Bachelis -- "Our Father Shomer," N.Y.,
1950, p. 180.
-- "My Life in Theatre," New York, 1950, pp.
Jacob Mestel -- "OUr
Father Shomer," "Yiddish Culture," N.Y., October
-- "Yiddish dramaturges and thatre composers,"
New York, 1952, pp. 264-71.
Jacob Mestel --
"70 Years of Theatre Repertoire," New York,
1954, pp. 35-7, 44, 55, 99, 104, 111.
Shomer-Bachelis -- "As I Have Known Them," Los
Angeles, 1955, pp. 13-34.
Ber Green -- A
shtik kalirfule fargangenhayt fun der yidisher
amerike, "Morgn frayhayt," 12 June 1955.
Jacob Mestel -- A
tsushteyer tsu yidisher teater-geshichte,
"Yiddish Cultre," N.Y., October 1955.