The National Yiddish Theatre, built for Boris Thomashefsky, opened in 1912. Yiddish Theatres along Manhattan’s Lower East Side on 2nd Avenue brought cultural heritage and entertainment to the 1.5 million Eastern-European Jewish Immigrants at the turn of the century. The legacy of the Yiddish Theatre in music, motion pictures and American life reaches through the decades, even today.
My project about the Yiddish Theatre had it’s beginnings over a year ago but did not take hold until badly timed with our pandemic. However I continue to research and just acquired these actual theatre tickets from 1956.
Continuing research into my new project about the Yiddish Theater. The man who in my family was called Uncle Izzy and his wife Jenny in the credits for the motion picture “The Light Ahead” from 1939. Izidore and Jenny Cashier. The names are sometimes also found as Isidore and Casher. From the Facebook page of Yiddish Cinematheque, the movie can be watched here… https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1991278897858413
“Uncle Izzy” on the left. Started because of my own family connection, continued research into my project about the Yiddish Theater.
That is what he was called in my family although I did not know him of course. Isidore Casher (1887-1948) was among the significant founders of the Yiddish Theater. He went on to star in a number of Yiddish motion pictures. The is not him on the poster photograph, that is co-star David Opatoshu. “The Light Ahead” 1939.
One of my discoveries for my new project about the Yiddish Theater. The Yiddish Theater along 2nd Avenue in New York City in the early 20th Century gave birth to much of the modern theater, motion pictures, music and entertainment cherished still today.
As I continue research into my Yiddish Theater project, I expected to just see the steady parade of individuals all looking like Tevye from “Fiddler On The Roof”. Not so! Stella Adler was one good looking woman. The daughter of Jacob and Sarah Adler, who along with other family members were the foundation of the Yiddish Theater District in New York City. An acting dynasty that started in the late 19th Century and continued through the 1950’s
Stella Adler taught acting to Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Elaine Stritch, Lena Horne, Harvey Keitel, Melanie Griffith, Peter Bogdonovich and so many more. Among her most famous students, Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen. Interesting to think without Stella Adler there would not have been the motion picture “Apocalypse Now”.
The Stella Adler Studio of Acting still exists. And this quote from her is perhaps very appropriate today.
Continuing my research into my new project about the Yiddish Theater; I have come into possession of this stamp honoring Abraham Goldfaden. From Wikipedia…
Abraham Goldfaden (born Avrum Goldnfoden; 24 July 1840 – 9 January 1908) was a Russian-born Jewish poet, playwright, stage director and actor in the languages Yiddish and Hebrew, author of some 40 plays. Goldfaden is considered the father of modern Jewish theatre.
In 1876 he founded in Romania what is generally credited as the world’s first professional Yiddish-language theater troupe. He was also responsible for the first Hebrew-language play performed in the United States. The Avram Goldfaden Festival of Iaşi, Romania, is named and held in his honour.
Jacob Sternberg called him “the Prince Charming who woke up the lethargic Romanian Jewish culture.” Israil Bercovici wrote of his works: “we find points in common with what we now call ‘total theater’. In many of his plays he alternates prose and verse, pantomime and dance, moments of acrobatics and some of jonglerie, and even of spiritualism…”
Actually born in what is now the Ukraine and coming to the Yiddish Theater in New York City, Goldfaden is only a few degrees of separation from my own distant family in the Yiddish Theater in New York City in the early 1900’s.
Something I discovered in my research for a project on the Yiddish Theater; something I did not know existed, “Ghetto Tango”. From a description from the collection “Ghetto Tango: Wartime Yiddish Theater”…
“The Jews torn from their homes and crammed into the ghettoes of Lithuania and Poland included young and old, laborers and college students, teachers, doctors, lawyers — and musicians. In the Warsaw ghetto, in Lodz, Vilna and the rest of the unofficial cabarets sprang up. Orchestras and choruses pieced themselves together as well. Musicians, both professional and amateur, began writing and performing as well as adapting popular music of the time. Much of their music reflected or satirized their bleak circumstances and bolstered the spirits of the audiences. Incredibly, not only were these ghetto night clubs visited by Nazi authorities and German soldiers, but they were photographed by Nazi propaganda units.”
A wonderful PBS short documentary; when Broadway was featuring the “Wizard of Oz” or the “Ziegflield Follies”, the Yiddish Theaters along 2nd Avenue were bringing in two million people per year. My own family has it’s roots in the Yiddish Theater with then famous Yiddish actors Izidore and Jennie Casher co-founders with Maurice Schwartz of the Yiddish Art Theatre started in 1918.
The great creators of American iconic music and so many Christmas songs, George and Ira Gershwin, and Irving Berlin lived in this theater district. Many of the Hollywood stars and luminaries got their start in Yiddish Theater, even including Edward G. Robinson.
Indeed drawing a direct line, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first movie “Hercules In New York” traces back to the early Yiddish Theater.