Shver Tzu Zein A Yid (It's Hard To Be A Jew)


Writer: Sholem Aleichem
Prod.: and Dir.: Maurice Schwartz

Ivan Ivanowitch Ivanov: Leonard Nimoy
Shneourson: Robert Roark

 Betty Shapiro: Lisa Daniels
Siomka Shapiro: Marvin Schwartz
Sarah Shapiro: Laiola Wendorff

Before World War One. Central Russia during the time of persecution and restrictions on Jews.

Act 1
Scene 1
 Shneourson is the only graduate of the Gymnazia to graduate with high honors and who received a gold medal. He is teased by the son of high Russian general, Ivan Ivanovtch Ivanov. But Shneourson is unhappy. Because he is a Jew he won’t be able to make any use of his graduation. Not even the gold medal would give him a chance to study in a university. Shneourson will not even be allowed to live in a town because of his origin. Ivan Ivanov never had experienced any hardship or racial discrimination and does not believe him. He is sure Shneourson is exaggerating and suggests a change: He will take Shneourson's place for a year and Shneourson takes his. Shneourson agrees. They exchange passports, all papers and Shneourson gives Ivan Ivanov the gold medal.

Scene 2
The Shapiro family lives in a town. Because they frequently pay high officials for that the once well off Jewish family gets poorer and poorer. To get some extra income they rent out a room. They are glad that Shneourson (Ivan Ivanov) applies for it. Since "Shneourson" is a proud family name, Sarah Shapiro hopes that the young man will be a good catch for her daughter. But Shneourson (Ivan Ivanov) does not succeed in getting registered in the university. David Shapiro, who is no threat to the Russian Citizen because he is registered as a "Shamos", a Sexton in a synagogue, tries to help him. In vain he registers him as a dentist's assistant. A registration as a carpenter does not help either. To be registered as a caretaker in a bath house, too, does not open the way to get into university. Nor does the last attempt help – a registration as a grave digger. By the time Shneourson (Ivan Ivanov) becomes enaoured with Betty Shapiro. She in turn likes the son of the Russian general, but because he is not Jewish she does not dare to think of him. Ivan Ivanov is by now ready to convert to become a Jew because of his love for the beautiful Betty – though he has experienced that it is hard to be a Jew.

Act 2
When David Shapiro learns about Ivan’s intentions from the Rabbi, he vows: “No man who's ancestors burned my ancestors at the stake will ever lay hand on the daughter of a Shapiro.”

Act 3
At Passover a friend of the family brings news of a Blut-Bibul (a blood libal; Supposedly a christian child has been murdered by Jews for the Passover ritual). And Shneourson (Ivan Ivanov) is the suspect. During the Kiddush the police brakes in in order to arrest Shneourson (Ivan Ivanov). Now Ivan Ivanov (Shneourson) declares that he is Shneourson. The police s confused and arrest both men. David Shapiro is convinced that the Blutbibul will be dismantled as a lie pleads: "Fellow Jews do not despair, no matter when, no matter where ... no matter how hard it is to be a Jew. As children of Israel we shall live on ... till the end of time!"


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