described himself both in his name and in any written
correspondence, both in books and songs.
In 1904, Sonie came to America, where he was warmly
welcomed by his countrymen already living in America.
Over a few years, he brought to America his entire
family. Kessler, the American, producer, begged him to
play in his theatre, but he insisted on being the "star"
of the performance. Nevertheless, Sonie grabbed the
invitation, not willing to make a living only as a
badkhan. He opened in a New York restaurant theatre.
But he yearned for Bialystok, and after the world war,
almost every year he traveled to Bialystok to see his
old friend, Alter Badkhan, and then return to New York.
In 1928, he traveled from Bialystok to Warsaw to see the
American Consul to receive his papers and to return to
America and see his children. He became ill; and within
a few days he was hospitalized and died shortly
Sonie Badkhan was a director after the style of Aliechem
Sunsor. His song compositions have a bit of a poetic
sense. His satirical characters were a lot weaker than
those of Sunsor, Zabarzer and Goldfaden; but he was a
very intense performer. It was his style that each
character he played, and of whom he sang had a specific
and identifiable costume..
A.Litvin submits, based upon a biography in a Bialystok
journal, that when he used to sing his songs: "The
Father and Son," "The Son-in-Law, the Father-in-Law and
the Grandfather," "The Two In-Laws with the Foolish
Groom," in which he played all the roles.
He had rapid costume changes on the stage or in the hall
behind a curtain, a scandalous behavior. As soon as he
finished the costume change, he was already acting as
the next character with new facial expressions and
language. He used a group of pictures to add personal
touches to his performances of the song, "The Young and
the Old From Crib to Eighty Years Old."
Speaking about "Sonie Badkhan," the Vilna Badkhan, Y.
Zizmer, opined that when "Sonie Badkhan" sang, "Badkhans
is in the Shoemaker's Street, perfectly impersonating
boorish people," ( "From My Memories about Badkhans," in
the Annals of the History of Vilna in the Years of War
and Occupation, Vilna:1922):
"Interspersed with these badkhans mimicking of boorish
people were other acts, focusing on such things as rope
tricks, swallowing fire and many other such skills,
which they learned from magicians.
Some of this group of badkhans, knew him as 'Sonie the
Bialystoker.' He had a lot of talent, both as a mime and
comedian. If he would have only concentrated on those
arts, he would have been a famous artist. But in his
youth he was a womanís shoemaker with no formal
education, either in Yiddish or in secular education. As
all badkhans, he learned the tricks of the trade, and
only what he needed to know in his personal life, to
marry and have a family. He was self- taught and had the
creativity to write his own performance plays, for
example, "The Frugal Young Man," ""The Small Town
Cantor," "The Widow Visited Her Husband," "From Cradle
to Grave" (the different periods of a person's life).
For this production, he appeared bearded with a suitcase
and in a variety of costumes, including womenís clothes,
to play the different ages of life. He was a skilled
mimic and comedian, a true artist. Commonly the words of
the couplets were set to music, his own compositions. He
wore creative masks and his makeup was artfully applied.
Basically, his creations had a very small connection to
badkhans and were much more creative than the usual
badkhanís plays, but still he was called, "Sonie the
A. Litvin -- "Sonie"was the Last
Badkhan, "Tog," New York,4 May,1929.
B. Slutsky Ė Yiddish
Badkhanim-Actors, "Periodicals," Vol. I, Minsk,