Hebrew ‘Dybbuk’ Opens in Moscow
Actress Hanna Rovina in premiere of The Dybbuk—Moscow, January 1922. Photo: Public Domain

January 31, 1922

The Hebrew version of “The Dybbuk, or Between Two Worlds” begins its successful stage run at the Habimah Theater in Moscow.

Dybbuk is a Yiddish world for a malicious spirit that attaches itself to a living person, and the play tells the story of Leah, a bride-to-be who is possessed by the spirit of a man who loved her but died at the announcement of her betrothal to someone else. Leah ultimately turns to a mystical rabbi to perform an exorcism.

S. Ansky, who worked as an ethnologist traveling throughout Eastern Europe to document the culture, traditions and superstitions associated with the lives of shtetl-dwelling Jews, wrote the original, Russian-language version of the play from 1913 to 1916, then translated it into Yiddish, in which “The Dybbuk” premiered in Warsaw in 1920. Hayim Nachman Bialik created the Hebrew translation. The play gains international recognition and additional translations for its profound exploration of the relationship between the corporeal and spiritual worlds.

The 1922 staging of the play in Moscow, directed by Yevgeny Vakhtangov, is recognized as one of the most successful versions, and a world tour follows the Soviet production.