reviews

“Beth Kaplan makes [an] invaluable contribution with her full-length biography of Gordin, who happened to have been her great-grandfather. Her book admirably combines scholarly research, critical analysis, loving tribute and personal memoir.

Among Kaplan’s sources are the playwright’s many descendants (remember those 11 children) and, interestingly, among her discoveries is that few of her relatives knew much or for that matter cared much about Jacob Gordin. Many, by dint of intermarriage and inclination, had simply left Jewishness far behind them. Many apparently believed there was something mildly embarrassing about being connected to what they viewed as the monarch of a shabby domain like the Yiddish theater.

Such a dismissive attitude recalls nothing so much as the cruelty visited upon King Lear by his heartless daughters Goneril and Regan. Fortunately, Jacob Gordin has a faithful and loving Cordelia in the person of Beth Kaplan.”

Matt Nesvisky, Jerusalem Report, December 10, 2007

The book was featured in the Nov. 18th "New York Times Book Review," in an ad for the fascinating website secularculture.com that runs a precis of the book.

… A remarkably thorough and insightful biography… With
this wonderful and meticulously researched book, Kaplan has done much
to revitalize Gordin’s memory.
Part of the book’s
charm is her own vital link with its subject as a mysterious ancestor
whose reputation had fallen into curious disdain, even among family members … Finding
the Jewish Shakespeare easily demonstrates that [Gordin] has found the
biographer he deserves, and shall certainly find no better.”

Bill Gladstone, Canadian Jewish News, September 2007

 “It reads most smoothly and tells a fascinating story.”
Ruth Wisse, Yiddish scholar and author, Harvard University

"A terrific book, and not in the slightest degree a niche book.  It’s
Yiddish history, Jewish history, theatre history, socialist history,
U.S. immigrant history and more, as well as a great biography.  And
it is SO well written."
Eleanor Duckworth, Professor of Education,
Harvard University

"Beth Kaplan spent a good part of her lifetime trying to assemble
and understand the life of her illustrious and controversial great
grandfather. It’s good to be able to report that she succeeded in doing
so, and that it was well worth the wait.  Her evocation of this
unique era of theatre, culture and debate is sensational."
Gerry Caplan, author, Rwanda: the Preventable
Genocide. 

“What a great history!  A terrific read.”
Robin Phillips, former Artistic Director of the Stratford Shakespeare
Festival, Ontario

“Beth is a wonderful story teller. What a treat it’s going to
be for academics to come across something so readable.”
Dr.
L. Blin, professor of linguistics and translation, University of Montpellier

Review on Amazon.com

Review by Midwest Book Review

Written by actress, writer, and teacher Beth Kaplan, Finding
the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin
is the biography of
her great-grandfather, playwright extraordinaire Jacob Gordin. Chapters
recount Gordin’s emigration from Russia to America, the Golden Age
and the colorful characters of Yiddish theater from 1891 to 1910, the
birth of Gordin’s outstanding masterworks such as "Mirele Efros" and "The
Jewish King Lear", and much more. An especial treat for theater
history buffs, Finding the Jewish Shakespeare is rich with nuanced
detail. A bibliography, index, and partial list of Gordin’s plays with
original titles round out this enduring tribute to a gifted playwright.

“In Yiddish we say ‘yeder eyner trogt zayn eygen pekl…” – everyone
carries personal baggage.  Yankev Gordin was Kaplan’s baggage
and instead of running away from it, she took it out of the closet
and revealed the man who not only shaped her family’s dynamics
but the dynamics of a robust, fractious Yiddish culture.  It was
and is a fascinating story.  I thank her for adding it to the
colour of life – for a Jewish community that wants to forget its Yiddish
past, and for anyone who wants to understand the evolution of American
stage culture and the assimilation of the immigrant streams into the
development of the American stage tradition.” 
Gerry Kane, Yiddish scholar.

Dear Beth,
Thank you for sending me your book. I look forward to reading it, but
be patient, as I am leaving town in a short time, and, having just
opened a new show, I have much catching up to do before I go. So,
you’ll be first on my agenda when I get to France.
Best, sincerely,
Hal Prince

“Beautifully written and so interesting. Aside from all I learned
about Jacob Gordin, it brought the historical context of Tsarist Russia,
the Jewish immigrant experience in New York and the Jewish artistic
and intellectual life of Europe and the United States to vivid life.
I was blown away by the amount of research and how meticulously it
must have been done. Above all, though, it was the quality of the writing,
which I found superb, that kept me reading.”
Tamara Moscoe, writer

“Your talk on Jacob Gordin was extremely interesting. Your discussion
of Abraham Cahan has prompted me to do some further research into this man
who wielded such a tremendous influence on the Jewish world of yesteryear.”
Roslyn
Wollock, Adult Program Coordinator, Soloway Jewish Community Centre, Ottawa

 “Thank you for writing such a marvelous book.”
Richard
Goldbloom, Chancellor, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia

 “It was a most enjoyable and thoroughly captivating read.
I love show biz bios and I also love history and filling in the many
gaps in my knowledge … beautifully written and beautifully edited.”
Bruce
Kellett, Music Director, Arts Club Theatre, Vancouver

 “Gordin is an extraordinary person, but your research
in unearthing him and tracing his legacy from Russia to the present
day is even more extraordinary.  Your taking up this legacy and
giving it to us gives Gordin a whole new life.”
Laurel Speer, poet, Tucson, Arizona

 “Thanks for taking me down memory lane. You have a Jewish
neshumah (soul). You really captured the essence of those times and
people. I have been homebound and I found the book to be healing. So
thank you very much for your effort and insight.”
Ethel Sparaga,
Toronto