Avant-Garde Art and Yiddish Theater in Poland

July 19 2018

In the period between the two world wars, a number of Jewish avant-garde artists—most notably Marc Chagall—designed sets for the still-thriving Yiddish theater in Europe. Alyssa Quint describes the work of some of the most prominent. (For pictures, follow the link below.)

Before creating sets for the Yiddish theater, Zygmunt Balk (1873-1941) worked at the Lwów (now Lviv) Opera House, created set designs for productions of Richard Wagner (among others), and ranked among Poland’s most important 20th-century painters. [The artist] Yosef Shlivniak (born in 1899) collaborated with the actor Zygmunt Turkow on his Yiddish-language staging of Stefan Zweig’s adaptation of Ben Jonson’s Volpone. [Another], Dina Matus, a member of the artistic-literary group Young Yiddish, conceived the Jewish folk motifs and ambience of the pioneering avant-garde director Michał Weichert’s play Trupe Tanentsap (“The Tanentsap Troupe”). . . .

Born in 1891 in Lyuvitsh (Łowicz), Poland, to ḥasidic parents, Władysław Zew (a/k/a Chaim Volf) Wajntraub was drawn to sketching and painting from a young age. Polish artists and art critics recognized Wajntraub’s raw talent, and Poland’s Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts supported his studies in France. In Paris, he met the Russian artist and set designer Leon Bakst (1866-1924) whose influence is responsible for Wajntraub’s decisive commitment to the decorative arts and theater design.

In his book, The Murdered Jewish Artists of Poland, Joseph Sandel writes of Wajntraub:“He was a fantasist, an expressionist with mystic overtones.” Wajntraub worked closely with the modernist poet Moyshe Broderzon (1890-1956) and designed the set for his legendary opera Dovid un Basheva and I.L. Peretz’s Baynakht oyfn altn mark (“Nighttime in the Old Marketplace”). Wajntraub also worked with Weichert who directed a production of Shabse Tsvi (“Sabbatai Tsvi”) in Riga, where newspapers gave equal column space to both director and set designer.

Except for Matus, every one of these artists died during World War II.

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More about: Arts & Culture, I.L. Peretz, Jewish art, Polish Jewry, Yiddish theater

 

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship