Zemach, Nahum

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ZEMACH, NAHUM (1887–1939), theatrical director, founder of *Habimah. Born in Volkovysk, he grew up in Poland and was a successful businessman in Moscow before devoting himself to literature and the theater. In 1912 in Bialystok (with Menahem *Gnessin), he assembled a group of Hebrew-speaking actors who performed *Dymov'sThe Eternal Wanderer, and in the following year he presented the play in Vienna to the members of the 11th Zionist Congress. The company was short-lived; but it was the forerunner of the company called "Habimah" which Zemach founded in Moscow in 1917 and which drew some of its actors from the Bialystok group. Zemach stayed with Habimah until 1926 when he took the company to the U.S. and decided to remain there. His pioneering work with Hebrew theater drew attention to Hebrew as a living language, and when Habimah performed The Dybbuk it also demonstrated the vitality of the modern Jewish literary movement. Zemach went to Palestine after Habimah had become established there and for a time directed the Beth-Am Theater. But he returned to the U.S. and in 1937 became manager of the Jewish Theater unit of the Federal Theater Project.


M. Kohansky, Hebrew Theater (1969), index.