Stella Adler

Stella Adler was born on New York City’s Lower East Side on this date in 1902 to Sara Adler (Levitskaya) and Jacob Adler, who were luminaries of the Yiddish stage; actress Celia Adler was her half-sister. Stella Adler was a child actor by four and a star in her own right by the 1920s, before studying Stanislavsky’s […]

Read More

The Brothel-Owner and the Milkman

SHOLEM ASCH’S GOD OF VENGEANCE COMES TO LIFE by Susan Reimer-Torn ON MARCH 26, 1923, shortly before curtain time, the cast and producers of Sholem Asch’s play, God of Vengeance (pictured above) were arrested by a vice squad and thrown into jail to await trial on obscenity charges. The arrest took place fifteen days after […]

Read More

Celia Adler’s Advice to the Players

by Joel Schechter WHEN I DELIVER an introductory lecture on Yiddish theater at San Francisco State University, not all of the students in the class are Jewish, far from it; they come from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities. Once, after I finished discussing a few Yiddish actors and writers, a student asked me […]

Read More

May 15: The Yiddish Fred Astaire

Actor and dancer Leo Fuchs, lifelong star of the Yiddish theater, creator of the famous song “Trouble,” and a star in the original Broadway production of Cabaret, was born to a theatrical family in Warsaw on this date in 1911. “Fuchs’s specialty,” writes Bernard Mendelovitch in The Independent, “was comedy and when he commenced his […]

Read More

February 12: The Great Eagle

The pioneering actor of the Yiddish theater, Jacob Adler, known as “the Great Eagle” (Adler meaning “eagle” in German), was born in Odessa on this date in 1855. He was briefly a boxer, and was a popular dancer, a peddler, a hoodlum — and a student of classical theater. Once he took to the stage, […]

Read More

Dispatches from Yiddish New York

by Bennett Muraskin I CONFESS that I never made it to Klezkamp, which had its final hurrah a year ago. I was not willing to sacrifice the time and money to stay overnight at a hotel in the Catskills, and I had the impression that the program was mostly about klezmer music, which is only […]

Read More

October 28: Mendel Beilis’ Nightmare Ends

After two years of brutal imprisonment, Mendel Beilis was acquitted on this date in 1913 of charges of murder in a Kiev “blood libel” trial that drew the world’s attention. Beilis was an army veteran and the father of five children who worked as a superintendent at a brick factory. When a 13-year-old boy was […]

Read More

October 12: The Strongest Man in the World

Zishe Breitbart, a circus performer billed as “The Strongest Man in the World,” died at 32 from blood poisoning due to an infection incurred during his act on this date in 1925. Breitbart grew up in a blacksmith family in Poland and developed performances linked to the trade: bending iron bars, biting through iron chains, […]

Read More

August 11: Pinski the Playwright

Yiddish writer David Pinski, whose plays brought the lives of urban Jewish workers to the Yiddish stage, died at 87 on this date in 1959. Pinski was a Talmudic wonder-child but became a secular Jew and socialist Zionist in his early adulthood. He was encouraged as a writer by the great I.L. Peretz, with whom […]

Read More