Bar Kokhba

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Bar Kokhba (or Bar-Kokhba) is a name given to a number of theatrical works based on the life of Simon bar Kokhba (Hebrew: בר כוכבא‎, Son of Kokhba - also found as Bar Kochba, Bar Kochva and Bar Cochva), who had been the leader of the Bar Kokhba revolt[1] during the second (sometimes counted as the third) of the Jewish–Roman wars.

The plays

Below we list all known versions, followed by entries on any that have been (or may have been) performed in South Africa.

For more on all the known versions, see for example "Bar Kokhba in popular culture", Wikipedia[2].

Bar Kokhba (1882), a Yiddish operetta in four acts by Abraham Goldfaden (music and libretto). The work was written in the wake of pogroms against Jews following the 1881 assassination of Czar Alexander II of Russia.

Bar Kokhba (1884), a Hebrew drama by Yehudah Loeb Landau (also found: Yehudah Lieb Landau)

Bar-Kochba (1905), a German opera by Stanislaus Suda (music) and Karl Jonas (libretto)

Bar-Kokhba (1929), a Hebrew drama by Shaul Tchernichovsky

Bar-Kokhba (1939), a Yiddish drama by Shmuel Halkin

Bar-Kokhba (1941), a Yiddish novel by Abraham Raphael Forsyth

Bar Kokhba by Yehudah Leib Landau (1884)

The author is also known as Yehudah Leib Landau (1866-1942)[3]

Interestingly Dr Landau was the chief rabbi in Johannesburg from 1903-1915 and later Chief Rabbi of the Federation of Synagogues, and wrote more plays while living in South Africa.

The original text

Written in the early 1880's and published in a Hebrew journal in Lemberg. In view of the young Landau's acquaintance with composer Abraham Goldfaden, the play may either have been a source for Goldfaden's 1882 operetta, or more likely, was inspired by and had been a response to the musician's work on the same subject.

Translations and adaptations

D.C. Boonzaier (1928, cited in Bosman, 1980) mentions a play he calls Bar Rochba (by an unnamed author) performed in Cape Town by a Hebrew company in 1901. This is most likely an English version of the play Bar Kokhba (1884) by Yehudah Loeb Landau, the title quite possibly misspelled by the Boonzaier, who - in 1923 - was relying on his memory of the performances in 1901 when writing his articles on his life in South African theatre.

Performance history in South Africa

1901: A play called Bar Rochba was performed in Cape Town by Mr Waxman and his company of Hebrew Artistes . This is most likely an English version of the Hebrew play Bar Kokhba and quite possibly a misspelling by the Boonzaier, who was relying on his memory.


"Lives in the Yiddish Theatre", Museum of Family History[4]

Catalogue of Public Auction #2 (2015) by Jerusalem of Gold (lot # 173 - books)[5]

Mark Avrum Ehrlich. 2009. Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences, and Culture[6]

D.C. Boonzaier. 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1923. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: p.408.

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