The History of the Yiddish Theatre


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Maurice Schwartz

The Yiddish theatre that once, at its zenith, was rich and vibrant and flourished throughout Europe, the United States, Argentina and in other parts of the world, is no more. The devastation of the Second World War and Holocaust brought the Yiddish theatre in Europe ,as we once knew it, to a crashing halt.

Though Yiddish theatre existed in the United States well after the war, attendance gradually declined. The reasons are multifold. The number of Yiddish-speaking immigrants that was necessary to subsidize the production of a steady stream of Yiddish plays had decreasing dramatically, as did the number of immigrants themselves, starting as far back as the mid 1920s.

 It is also true that many immigrant children whose parents spoke Yiddish at home, as well as first-generation Jews, preferred speaking English and seeing English language shows and films, often shunning Yiddish language productions. This decline in attendance at the Yiddish theatre sadly mirrored a diminishing interest in the Yiddish language itself, as it too struggles to this day for its own survival. The Yiddish theatre has often struggled in the post-war years to find its own audience.

photo: Maurice Schwartz, esteemed Yiddish actor and director of the Yiddish Art Theatre.

It is the hope of the Museum of Family History, whose aim it is to honor and preserve the memory of the Jewish family and its way of life, to aid in a possible resurgence of interest in the Yiddish language and the Yiddish theatre itself. Keeping both the Yiddish language and history of the theatre alive in our mind's eye nourishes the Jewish soul. Its sounds and scenes stimulate the senses and may evoke precious memories. They may also provoke us and encourage discussion and debate. The knowledge we gain from a greater exposure to Yiddish language and culture may strengthen one's Jewish roots and allows for each of us to connect spiritually with our collective past. By learning about the Yiddish theatre , its history and its cast of characters, we have the unique opportunity to learn about and more greatly appreciate the creative mind and expressiveness of the Jewish actor, the writer, and the poet.... next ►►








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