Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Yiddish Theater

I don't know much about the Yiddish Theater, since I do not understand Yiddish beyond a few well-known expressions. Of course I'm aware that the Yiddish Theater played a big role in secular Jewish New York for many years, and that only a few survivors remain from its famous actors. In today's New York Times I read the obituary of one of these -- Shifra Lerer, "who was discovered at age 5 in Argentina by the great Yiddish actor Boris Thomashefsky and went on to become a winsome and wide-ranging trouper of the Yiddish theater for the next 90 years."

In the two articles (here and here) about her in today's times, I learned quite a few things about these actors and about Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens, where the theatrical alliance maintains a special section for those who worked in Yiddish theater in New York. Though I do know about the accomplishments of Thomashefsky, I knew almost none of the other names that were mentioned: Charles Malins, Chana Lipton, Isaak and Lola Feld, Mina Bern, Zypora Spaisman. It's sad that this is a lost artistic endeavor, but I fear that nothing can bring it to life it for me: not only the actors and the language are lost, but the conventions of that era and theatrical style no longer appeal to any but experts, I suspect.


  1. Why don't you try coming to a performance at one of the Yiddish theaters still operating in New York today: the Folksbiene or the New Yiddish Rep

    Performances are almost always given with English, and sometimes Russian, supertitles. The audience is not packed with "experts", just highly entertained individuals who enjoy great theater!

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    If I ever get to New York I'll have to try it!