One-act musical comedy in Yiddish written by Jac Weinstein in 1940
|AKA||In tsores un freyd|
A work researched by Simo Muir as part of Performing the Jewish Archive.
The one-act play A Comedy of Us Jews (A komedye vegn undz yidelekh) was written in Yiddish by Helsinki-born Jac Weinstein (1883–1976) in the autumn of 1940, during the period of ‘Interim Peace’. Finland had signed a peace agreement in Moscow after the so-called ‘Winter War’ against the Soviet Union, but the country was preparing for further conflict. Weinstein’s play satirizes the Jewish clothing trade, which had been struck severely by shortage of supply and heavy rationing.
The work was performed by the Jewish Dramatic Society under Weinstein’s own direction at the upmarket Balder Hall, a well-esteemed venue in the centre of Helsinki. It is likely that this one-act play was part of longer revue with several couplet songs and shorter sketches, all tied together by punchy lines from a Master of Ceremonies. At the time, most Helsinki Jews were engaged in the clothing business as merchants of readymade clothes. The streets of Helsinki contained dozens of small clothing shops of the type that Weinstein depicts in his play, often with the shop owner’s name on the facade. During the war, the shortage of supplies made it difficult to run a business; shops
were selling whatever they could lay their hands on, and rationing made the situation even worse. Even if there was something to sell, customers may have had insufficient points on their ration cards to buy it. The heavy concentration in one business sector placed the Jewish community in an very vulnerable economic situation.
Though on the surface a light-hearted comedy, the play reminds the viewer of the occupation of Paris by the Nazis in summer 1940. In June 1941, half a year after the performance of A Comedy of Us Jews, Finland joined Nazi Germany in the war against the Soviet Union. During this so-called Continuation War, which continued until autumn 1944, Finnish Jews found themselves in a highly peculiar situation: fighting as brothers-in-arms with their worst enemies, the Nazis.