A Tale of Two Museums
Ester Rachel Kaminska Theater Museum Collection

Habimah's The Dybbuk in Hebrew

Hebrew Dybbuk.jpg


A program of Habimah's performance of The Dybbuk (1922) RG8


Habimah's The Dybbuk in Hebrew


The Habimah theater troupe mounted their version of The Dybbuk in their resident city of Moscow in 1922, two years after its Yiddish-language premiere. The Hebrew poet Hayim Nachman Bialik translated it.

When first approached to do the translation, Bialik was reluctanct. On reading The Dybbuk, he found that it was not in keeping with the spirit of building a new highbrow text-based culture that believed and sought himself to pursue. Instead, he told An-ski, the play made him out to be a garbage collector "who collects scraps of folklore and peices them together." Perhaps out of a sense of regret for his harsh public criticism of An-ski, Bialik agreed to to do the translation in 1916. He drew from Yiddish and Russian versions of the play and so it diverges, although minimally, from the Yiddish version. An-ski loved the translation. When Bialik observed rehearsal of the play by Habimah, he changed his mind about it, finding it to be wonderful. Meanwhile, the Moscow Art Theater delate the staging of The Dybbuk because they found it too sad fo an audience that sought out entertainment and distraction during the instability brought on by the Revolution. The Russian Revolution would force Stanislavsky to abandon the project entirely. 

The preeminent Russian director Yevgeny Vakhtangov (1883-1922) directed the production (even though he did not speak Hebrew) with the assistance of the Polish-Yiddish theater director Marek Arnshteyn. The Russian-Jewish composer Yoel Engel composed the music.


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“Habimah's The Dybbuk in Hebrew,” YIVO Online Exhibitions, accessed February 29, 2024, https://ataleoftwomuseums.yivo.org/items/show/2346.
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