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GORDIN, JACOB (JAKOV MIKHAILOVICH):

Yiddish playwright and reformer; born May 1, 1853, in Mirgorod, government of Poltava. He received a good education and acquired a thorough knowledge of Hebrew. In 1870 he began to contribute articles to various Russian periodicals. His first sketches appeared in "Zarya," the organ of the Liberals of South Russia. In 1880 he wrote for "Nedyelya" a series of short stories of Jewish life, and also a novel entitled "Liberal-Narodnik." For a time Gordin was unofficially the editor of "Yelisavetgradski Vyestnik" and "Odesskiya Novosti," to which he contributed weeky feuilletons under the pseudonym "Ivan Koliuchy."

In 1879 Gordin founded in Yelisavetgrad the rational sect of the Bibleitzy ("Bible Brotherhood"), which broke away from dogmatic Judaism. He remained the moving spirit of the fraternity throughout its short career. In 1890 he emigrated to New York.

In America Gordin entered a new field of literature, becoming a Yiddish playwright. In this capacity he has done much to improve the Jewish stage, which, largely through his efforts, has attained a reputable position. Gordin is a prolific writer, and, since his first play, "Siberia," was produced in 1891, has composed about sixty Jewish dramas and vaudevilles. While some of these belong to the poorest kind of literature, others have scarcely their equal on the Jewish stage, and may justly be ranked among the higher productions of dramatic art. Gordin's best plays are: "The Yiddish King Lear," "Mirele Effros," "Shechite," "Sappho," "Gott, Mensch un Taiwel," "Kreutzer Sonata," "Yetomoh."

Gordin has also written in Yiddish a number of sketches, some of which are pathetic, and some grotesquely humorous.

Bibliography:
  • H. Hapgood, The Spirit of the Ghetto, New York, 1902.
H. R. W. A. M.
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