- Shlomo Hofman
A master of ceremonies at Jewish weddings or social festivities. Badḥanim often improvised poems and composed and performed their own songs. In eastern Europe they were also known as marshaliks or leyzim (sing. leyz) and performed at the almost obligatory traditional Purim celebrations, singing, dancing and acting in Aḥashverosh plays. Thus they were the real forerunners of the Yiddish theatre. These merry-makers, wandering actors and musicians performed in all Jewish towns and congregations. Elyokum Zunser (1840–1913), a badḥan from Vilna (now Vilnius), wrote about 600 songs, many of which were very popular and of strong Jewish appeal. Another very popular badḥan was Mark Varshavsky (1845–1907), a scholar and lawyer from Kiev; he was much influenced by the Yiddish writer Shalom Aleichem, and notated and published some of his own songs. His Alefbet (‘Oyfn pripechok’) is still sung in Jewish schools and homes, and in Hebrew translation in Israeli schools....