Ostropoler, Hershele

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OSTROPOLER, HERSHELE (late 18th century), Yiddish jester. Although biographical facts concerning him are based on oral tradition intermingled with folklore, he was probably born in Balta, Podolia, and lived and died at Medzibezh. He derived his name from the townlet of Ostropol, Poland, where he served as shoḥet ("ritual slaughterer"), until his satiric wit offended the communal leaders. He then wandered through Podolia townlets becoming a familiar figure in the inns of the district. His poverty was proverbial. According to a folk legend, he was called to the ḥasidic court of Medzibezh to cure the *Ba'al Shem Tov's grandson, Reb Baruch Tulchiner, of his fits of depression by serving as his jester. His satiric barbs shocked the rich and delighted the simple folk. Booklets recording his tales, anecdotes, and witticisms appeared posthumously and were widely disseminated until the mid-20th century. He was the subject of lyrics by Ephraim *Auerbach and Itzik *Manger, a novel by I.J. *Trunk, a comedy by M. Livshitz performed by the *Vilna Troupe in 1930, a comedy by Jacob Gershenson, and a folkplay by Jacob Zonshein.


D. Sfard, Shtudyes un Skitzen (1955), 176–9; A. Holdes, Mayses, Vitsn un Shpitslekh fun Hershele Ostropolier (1960); Several stories of Hershele Ostropoler in English appear in I. Howe and E. Greenberg, A Treasury of Yiddish Stories (1953), 614–20; E. Sherman, Hirshele Ostropoler (Heb., 1931) includes bibliography.

[Sol Liptzin]