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Judah, Samuel Benjamin Helbert


JUDAH, SAMUEL BENJAMIN HELBERT (1799–1876?), U.S. playwright. A member of a prominent Sephardi mercantile family, Samuel Judah was born in New York City. One of the first Jews to contribute to American literature, he was successful with his earliest play, The Mountain Torrent (1820), which was followed by other melodramas such as The Rose of Arragon (1822). According to the author, it took him just four days to complete his historical drama of the American Revolutionary War, A Tale of Lexington which was received "with unbounded applause" when it was performed in New York on Independence Day 1822. His career as a dramatist ended, however, when he wrote Gotham and the Gothamites (1823), which satirized well-known New Yorkers, including his eminent fellow playwright Mordecai M. *Noah. He was sued for defamation and imprisoned but on his release took up law. Judah's later writings appeared under the pseudonym Terentius Phologombos. They included a biblical play, The Maid of Midian, which, probably because of its sacrilegious approach, was never performed.


W. Dunlap, History of the American Theatre (1832), 409; A.H. Quinn, History of the American Drama from the Beginning to the Civil War (1923), 155, 197; S. Liptzin, Jew in American Literature (1966), 27–28. add. bibliography: L. Harap, The Image of the Jew in American Literature (1974), 261–63.

[Sol Liptzin]

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