- We Will Not Be Silent: I. L. Peretz’s “Bontshe the Silent” vs. 1950s Mccarthyism in America and the Story of the Staging of The World of Sholom Aleichem
- Studies in American Jewish Literature
- Penn State University Press
- Volume 34, Number 2, 2015
- pp. 204-230
- View Citation
- Additional Information
On May Day 1953, a group of actors and a production crew staged the premiere of an Off-Broadway play called The World of Sholom Aleichem. What made this production unique was that all of the people involved in it were blacklisted. They were all victims of McCarthy’s assault on the entertainment industry, part of his campaign to defeat “the red enemies from within.” But this group of people refused to be silent victims, and they—the vast majority of whom were Jewish—produced this play in defiance of the authorities, proving the vitality of their artistic talents. The play was based on the English dramatic adaptations by Arnold Perl of three classic Yiddish short stories: two by Sholem Aleichem (“The High School” and “The Enchanted Tailor”) separated by one famous short story by I. L. Peretz entitled “Bontshe Shvayg” (Bontshe the Silent). In this paper, I discuss the social, political, and historical significance of this play with a special emphasis on the story by Peretz, which I believe stands out between the three acts.