Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Moshe Shemesh


Born on 29 January 1881 in Zbarav, Galicia, to poor parents, who brought sixteen children into the world. His father was a cantor, and his mother was a midwife, but at home filled with abundance, and in 1886 his father traveled to America, where he was a cantor for a year. He returned with a little money saved. However, he was no longer able to hold onto his old home, and he returned to America.

S. meanwhile learned with a barber and on Passover he used to help a baker by baking matzoh, so that when at the start of the twentieth century he arrived in New York with his mother and the other children, he soon began to work in a bakery, and then became a barber, and kept his own barber shop on East Houston Street until 1914.

Due to the Bakers' Union there was no way to have its meeting place, S.'s barber shop used to have many attendees from the baker-workers and the owner, and thus S. became strongly interested in the Jewish bakers' profession, until he was hired by the baker owner as a field organizer for his organization, and for this purpose he used to visit the Jewish bakeries across America and Canada, and he wrote about the conditions of this profession in their organ, "The Yiddish [Jewish] Bakers' Voice." In this professional journal, S. however also very often wrote about a field that was very near to his heart: about Yiddish theatre, and especially about certain Yiddish actor who he was especially intimate with. So S. was quite beloved by one side of the founder of Yiddish theatre in America Boris Thomashefsky, (the feelings

of a countrymen), Regina Zuckerberg, Peter Graf, to impresario Yankele Kirshenbaum, however no less to the founder and director of the Yiddish Art Theatre, Maurice Schwartz, who he had, through the bakers' organization, constantly showed the necessary assistance.

On 15 December 1939 the "Specialty Bakery Owners of America" celebrated with a large banquet the twenty-fifth year anniversary since S.'s association with them, and from this opportunity there was published a collection of articles by S., under the name, "My 25 Years with Jewish Bakers" (283 pp., journal format in Yiddish, and 76 pp. in English.)

On 17 November 1950 there was celebrated his seventieth birthday, with a banquet and a journal (this time there it was certainly mostly greetings, and most of them in English.)

On 31 December 1951 S. passed away in New York.

Zalmen Zylbercweig characterized him this way:

"Shemesh belonged to the true 'patriotn' [avid fans] of Yiddish theatre, but of the better sort. He was not impressed by any of them. he did not break anybody's bones, although he also had his "stars," who he had actually represented and could not take any criticism against them. However, although he was a very dynamic [person], even a Chasid, however, he loved his artistic expressions more in works than in words. On one hand, he used the pen for this purpose. Although the journal, which he had written, was a purely professional journal, and it was definitely for a profession, professional problems, that was near to Shemesh's heart, and generally it was out of love for the Yiddish theatre, writing reviews, in which he emphasized to a greater degree the good sides, as for the criticism, always primarily arousing, that one should go to the Yiddish theatre.

His relation to the Galician Jewish actors was actually brotherly, especially when that actor needed his assistance, chiefly with the elderly, or in the case of illness."

M.E. from Louis Markowitz.

  • Moshe Shemesh -- "Mayne 25 yor mit di yidishe beker, " New York, 1939.

  • [--] -- Moshe shemesh plutslung geshtorbn, "Di yidishe bekers shtime," N.Y., 4 January 1952.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3602.

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