Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Moshe Marechovski,
the Boslever Marshelik

Moshe Marechovski lived until he was seventy or eighty years old, in the nineteenth century, and he was known in the Kiev region as the Boslever Marshelik. He came from the town Drobov, Zolotonosha Oyzer, Poltover Gubernia, where his mother lived into her late nineties. From Drobov his family was able to travel to Boslev.

Yitskhok Perkov, who had personally known M., reports that M. was born in Konotop, Chernigov Gubernia and married in Boslev to where he had moved.

According to B. Slutsky, M. was a badkhan and a marshelik (jester) with the Boslever Klezmer. He was also a bit of a Talmudic scholar. In Boslev he most likely had a brother who was a carter. However, this was disputed by Perkoff.

M’s relative, the old man Hersh Slipokov, reports that M. was childish and a bit crazy. As a child he studied in Zolotonosha in a Talmud Torah. He used to skip classes and run around the neighborhood singing songs such as "Avinu Malkeinu" and "My Heart is Happy," receiving as much as three kopeks for his entertainment. He also used to distribute matzos from a matzo factory while singing " A Song of a Matzo Peddler."

M. left Zolotonosha after three or four years, and when he returned he sang other songs, such as "A Blind Poor Man," "A Grave Digger," ”Summer with Winter." He wasn’t a bad singer; and when he was invited into a house, he was fed and given a few kopeks. Once again he disappeared for a few years and again showed up with altogether new songs, with a different type of beard and sidelocks, now an accomplished theatre actor with such songs as "The Old Father” and "Two Kuni Lemels." He explained that he had spent his time with the Goldfaden troupe in Odessa. He used to go to weddings and recite rhymes and satires and would smoothly fit in with the klezmer band.

B. Slutsky wrote about him, that M. was a tall, slender Jew, a shadow, with a pointed beard and indistinguishable from any other Jew, aside from his healthy, fresh humor.

Outside of his traveling with the klezmer band, he used to, at times, be invited to entertain in rich private homes with his "performance pieces." With these same "pieces” he would travel to towns, singing his own compositions, as well as those by others.

His most popular ‘shtick’ was stand up comedy about "Resurrection of the Dead," a story about a resurrected Jew who returns to new things and a new order that he does not recognize. 

M. used to play an old father with a grey beard and humpback. M. would lament about his bad luck and finish with a song,

His jokes and humor were a bit vulgar, but his popularity and vitality were validated by his loving audiences.

According to Yitskhok Perkov's parents, who had lived as his neighbor, remembered that he used to be referred to as Moshe the Jester, recalling that he used to sleep all day. He was known as a wonderful mimic, with a beautiful voice. He had one piece he called "The Recruit,” (not Goldfaden’s routine) in which his ‘shtick’ was "How many soldiers can I shoot, twenty?  Bring them to me here, and I will shoot them."

During his military forced conscription, M. composed a satirical little song on this theme: the death of two rich men in the town, among them Sholem Aleichem’s father-in-law, Melech Loyev, who are now welcomed into the "other world."

Marechovski has with him two helpers, one of whom had a squeaky voice and used to dress as a woman.

M. was a big competitor of the klezmer bands, who were compensated by payment for each dance number they played, but when M. performed his rhymes and songs the listeners so enjoyed them that the audience preferred M’s entertainment over the klezmer band, that they lost payment. This angered the bands. Shortly after this time, M. died in 1884 in Boslev.

He had published a novel, "The Angry Step Mother." Also published were a few song books, "Contemporary Songs, Beautiful to the Singers and to the Listeners," Warsaw 1884, 22 pages, 12°, and "The Lonely Orphan, Yiddish, Beautiful Songs," Odessa 1872, 32 pages, 16°, (Both in Harvard Library), as well as "Yom Tov Songs."

Sholom Aleichem (in the first volume of his "Folks Library") strongly discredits M’s "Yom Tov Rhymes."

M.E. from Yitskhok Perkov.

  • Z. Reisen -- Lexicon of Yiddish Literature, Vol. II, p. 325.

  • B. Slutsky –Yiddish badkhans - Actors. "Magazine." Minsk, 1926, Vol. I, p.260-1.

  • Dr. Jacob Shatsky – Criticisms "Annals," New York, 1928, Vol. 4, P.394.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 137.

Translation courtesy of Earl Halsband.

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