THE GOLDEN CHAIN1,
by I. L. Peretz
(Yiddish: Di goldene keyt)
Playwright I. L. Peretz.
Golden Chain" (1907) by I. L.
Peretz is considered to be the
crest of his dramatic writing. The
play portrays three generations of a
Hasidic court that are on the verge
of inhalation. The play opens with
the last generation, Rabbi Moishe,
who is desperately trying to invoke
his ancestors to come to his rescue
and help him lead the congregation,
but he turns out to be a weak leader
and he is incapable of saving his
court. As this happens in flashback
scenes, the play takes us back to
his grandfather's home, Rabbi Shlomo
and his father, Rabbi Pinchas.
now at the eve of the Sabbath in the
home of Rabbi Shlomo. The people are
waiting for the Rabbi to come out of
his room and make Havdalah – the
ceremony that releases one from the
Sabbath and enables him to return to
his daily routine. Rabbi Shlomo
refuses to make Havdalah, because he
wants to keep them in the spiritual
level of the Sabbath, an eternal
Sabbath. The meaning of his decision
is a life of pure spiritual,
religious being with no hierarchy,
judgment (God does not judge on the
Sabbath), and by thus saving his
Pinchas, Rabbi Shlomo's son, revolts
against this decision and makes the
Havdalah on his own. He does so not
meaning to protect the people but to
force them to be judged and
condemned for their sins.
believes that if only one Jew is
found pure and just, then the entire
Jewish community will be saved.
Rabbi Pinchas demands from the
congregation that they atone for
their crimes, and when he realizes
that his people can not fulfill his
demands and especially his daughter
who marries the secular doctor, he
deserts them and steps down.
The people turn to his son and the
last generation of the Golden Chain
but they know, as Rabbi Moishe does,
that he is unfit, he does not have
the stature of his grandfather or
his father. When Rabbi Moishe
hears the news that his lost daughter has given
birth to a blind baby boy, he breaks down and
understands that the Chain has finally been
broken and the decedents of the great Rabbi –
the Baal Shem have no generation to continue his
In this play Peretz predicts the Holocaust in
Germany and Europe. He writes about such a
destruction for the Jewish people and about the
social and religious reasons underlying it. The
play revolves around such questions as: Who is
the right leader? What gives a leader his
authority? What is the power of the people over
the leader, etc….
Berta Gerstin and Maurice Schwartz
in "The Golden Chain."
This play was the
first staged production by Maurice Schwartz's
Yiddish Art Theatre's at the start of
third season, which took place at the Irving
Place Theatre, on East 15th Street in Manhattan.
"The Golden Chain" starred Maurice Schwartz,
Berta Gerstin, Elihu Tenenholtz, Pincus Sherman,
Anna Appel et al.
You can hear a
seven-minute scene from this production (with
music), introduced by Risa (Frances) Schwartz,
Maurice Schwartz's daughter and played by
Maurice Schwartz himself, by clicking
Please give it a minute or two to load....
1 -- Adapted synopsis courtesy of the
All About Jewish Theatre site, perhaps taken
from the program of a production at the Tair
Theatre in Tel Aviv, Israel.
I. L. Peretz photo
from Zylbercweig's "Lexicon of the Yiddish
photograph courtesy of the Museum of the City of
Audio scene from "The Golden Chain," courtesy of
Risa Schwartz, from the album "Maurice
Schwartz," Remembrance Record Co., Inc., date