The Zionists Drama Circle
The Zionist drama circle was founded by the "Tarbut" (culture) activists, the Hahaloutz (pioneer) adult group and Hashomer Hazair instructors. Their repertoire was mostly in the Yiddish language as most of the audiences did not speak Hebrew. Nevertheless there were occasions when performances in Hebrew were part of the celebration. Hebrew speaking children were often in the audience.
The director and founder of the circle was Avraham Silber.
Silber was born in 1907 into a rich family of merchants. His father and his uncle Motyl Silber owned a large grocery shop as well as a wholesale building material business.
Silber was sent to study in the Lublin and Brest Litovsk Yeshiva. He was a gifted student and began to study general studies, especially mathematics and physics. In the early 1920’s he joined the Zionist movement and was among the first Zionists in Turisk.
When the "Tarbut" school opened he joined as a teacher of mathematics and physics, but he preferred the arts and especially the theater. As expected by everyone he suggested establishing a Zionist drama circle and he was chosen to act as director. His unique techniques as director included having the actors as active contributors in the circle. They choose the plays together after extensive and serious discussions which were always put to a vote. In time the circle became a cultural event and many people attended and joined. Silber totally devoted himself to the undertaking. He had no other livelihood, indulged upon by his family and after tragedy struck his family when drunken Polish students murdered his brother he was the only living son.
The drama circle under his direction performed at least 4-5
plays and dramas a year. Among them: Shalom Ash,Shalom Aleihem,Opatoshu, Mendely Mocher Sfarim
in Yiddish and partly in Hebrew.
He was very successful and they always performed with over crowded halls. The Nazi occupation ended their activities. Avraham Silver and his drama circle died together with all the
Jews of Turisk.
The "Baal Meloches" (The Professionals) Drama Circle
It was a well known fact in the region that “The tradesmen –professionals (Baal Meloches) of Turisk were experts at trade, cultural activities, well educated, religious and God fearing. It was said that in the early years they were the majority among the Jews living in Turisk, however not always able to make a living.
Always conscious of their rights they saw to it to have an elected representative act as their contact to the authorities ("soltis”).
The relations between the different parts of the Jewish population was not always harmonious and one Shabbat Reb Yehuda Leib, the carpenter, believing that the wealthy people in the Synagogue disrespected one of them, so he banged his fist on the table and called all the Baal Meloches together and they left the Synagogue. When Shabbat was over they rented a small hall at the home of the Honikman family for a small sum.
Since then they prayed separately and had their own services. Even one of the Rabbis started to pray with them and they had their own cantors. They had regained their pride.
But very soon they realized they could not cover the costs of their Synagogue. So Yehuda Leib proposed to erect a
drama circle in order to help cover the costs. When they told their Rabbi about it he was ready to approve the new idea with two conditions:
1. There will be no activities on Shabbat; 2. Women will not be
included in the circle. It was agreed and then they asked Shaya Samet to be director of the first performance. The piece they chose was:
"Yosef and his Brothers". Male actors performed as women and
with masses of young people in attendance and the premier evening was an absolute success. They managed to collect a sum to pay the expenses for their separate Synagogue. Their circle was in existence for several years and beside the profits the contribution to the cultural life of the community was the pride of all the Baal Meloches until the Holocaust began.
The Drama Circles in Turisk (amateur theaters)
Amateur theaters existed for decades in the Jewish shtetls of east Europe and west Ukraine.
The inspiration was based in the traditional texts such as the Bible, or those told by the "melamed" (teacher) on the Purim, Chanukah or just a daunting Bible story, performed by the yeshiva pupils. By the end of the 19th century the shtetls were had regular visits from the Goldfaden Yiddish Theater. Most of the population attended the shows which evoked the interest of the people and were fervently discussed for weeks afterward.
It was due to this example and because of a lack of funds to support the "Zisha" (Yiddish school), the activists
decided to erect the Yiddish drama circle (a private school with no government support). Most of the children came from working class families and on many occasions the activists paid for it out of their own pockets. One of the founders of the circle was Shaya Samet, the son of Shimon and Beila Samet born in Turisk in1901 to a wealthy family, and his sister Rachel. They were owners of a successful fabric business. Shaya graduated the Yeshiva in Brest Litovsk and joined the local cultural circles in secret. He studied Yiddish literature and general studies. After the sudden dead of his father, became the manager of the family business.
While on business trips he visited theatres and Yiddish shows, met with famous theatre people, and brought home
new ideas. When his sister Rachel married Aaron Shafel, he
became a partner in their restaurant, but never neglected his job as the Yiddish drama circle director. Every evening unitl late at night were devoted to training the amateur actors.
They performed many of the Goldfaden Theater pieces such as, Shalom Aleihem, Mendely, and even Shakespeare.
They admired him; he was loved by the Turiscians. Samet
fell in love with Leah, one of the talented actresses, and they were married. They had two children, Mordhai (Munia) and Reisele.
Three years before the German invasion due to economical problems the family moved to nearby Kowel. When the invasion began their son Munia was away at a youth camp in Russia. He survived his parents and sister Reisele who all perished in the Holocaust.
He was later sent to Moscow where he spent the war years studying Yiddish literature and drama. He was invited to participate in the Yiddish theater performances. When the war was over, Munia left for Poland and came to Israel where he joined the Habima National Theater and performed for several years. He was active in teaching drama in schools and performing in various drama circles. There he met and married Judith. They had three children: Shula ,Ofira and Shay. Munia died in ---- Judith died in-----, and their youngest daughter, Ofira died of a disease in ----- .