Badchen

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A badchen or badkhn (a Hebrew word meaning jester that has been Yiddishized as badchen) is a Jewish comedian with scholarly overtones who entertained guests at weddings among the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe. Today they are found in all countries with Chassidic populations, including the United States, performing their shtick at weddings.

The badchen was considered a standard part of the wedding party, as de rigueur as the officiating rabbi. An elaborate traditional wedding might also involve a letz (lit. a clown, here a jongleur or musician) and a marshalik (a master of ceremonies).[1]

The badchen has to be able both to provide the energy for a party before and after the ceremony itself and also to make the transition to a more serious tone immediately before the ceremony.[1] To this end his comedy was not of a slapstick variety but rather verbal with many intricate Talmudic references and in-jokes.

Following the Council of Vilna on July 3, 1661, a decree was issued banning merry-making, including the setting of limitations on wedding celebrations, public drinking, fire dances, masquerades, and Jewish comic entertainers. The badchen was exempted from the decree.[2]

Some famous badchonim include Chaim Menachem (Mendel) Mermelstien (born March 2, 1920 in Munkacz, died November 7, 1985 in New York), considered the father of modern day badchonus,[citation needed] and the present-day performers Yankel Miller and Yoel Lebowits.

The 19th-century Broder singers began as badchonim, but soon started to perform outside of the context of weddings. They, in turn, are usually seen as the forerunners of Yiddish theater.

On the Jewish holiday of Purim many young men undertake to be badchonim during Purim spiels.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Liptzin, Sol, A History of Yiddish Literature, Jonathan David Publishers, Middle Village, NY, 1972, ISBN 0-8246-0124-6, 22-23.
  2. ^ Gordon, Mel (Spring 2011), "Catatrophe in Ukraine, Comedy Today", Reform Judaism: 50–51 

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