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A History of The Folksbiene

“Free Yiddish People’s Stage", “The Jewish People’s Stage”

Its Productions and its Players ...


From 1915 to 1998 the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene existed as the "Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine," which operated under the auspices of the Arbeter Ring as its Branch 555, a semi-professional company.

In 1998 the Folksbiene's board of directors decided to replace the management of the Folksbiene and began to modernize itself. It wanted to not only maintain but to foster the rich cultural heritage of Yiddish literature and theatre, while at the same time choosing to play new works that would be of interest to a wider audience, including those found within the non-Yiddish-speaking audience.

The Folksbiene hired Zalmen Mlotek, a respected conductor, pianist and composer, whose family has had a very strong connection to Jewish culture and the Yiddish language and theatre, to lead the new team. Zalmen Mlotek, to this day, has worked tirelessly and with great dedication to maintaining and growing the Folksbiene, which remarkably is the longest continuously producing Yiddish theatre company in the world.

In this exhibition you will learn about the history of the Folksbiene from its inception in 1915 to the present. A great emphasis will be placed on a chronological presentation of the many plays that found its way onto the planks of the Folksbiene stage, as well as listings of the many of those actors and actresses who participated in its many productions.

You will see advertisements from the many editions of the Forverts (Jewish Forward) newspaper, which detail a description of its early productions, hoping to entice the Yiddish-speaking readers to support and attend the Folksbiene productions.

As you continue to follow this exhibition, which will discuss the Folksbiene productions that were staged from the mid-1940s until the 1990s, you will often be able to see a series of photographs taken of many of the productions and read newspaper reviews of the plays. You will also be able to read the very interesting synopses included in many of the play programs, as well as the names of the cast members (and more).

A history of the Folksbiene (until the early 1950s) appeared in Yiddish in Volume 3 (1959) of Zalmen Zylbercweig's "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," and within this exhibition you will find an adaptation of this history, translated into English, which describes the founding and evolution of the Folksbiene organization, up until the time of the volume's publication.

My deep thanks and gratitude go to Sabina Brukner of the Folksbiene staff who assisted in the Yiddish to English translation, as well as all those from the Folksbiene who approved and contributed in some way to the development of this exhibition.

Enjoy the show!

 -- Steven Lasky, Founder and Director, Museum of the Yiddish Theatre,

And now we begin ...


Jacob Fishman, one of the main founders of the company, writes about its establishment:

            “The Folksbiene did not come to life and expression as a newborn child, but was first formed by members of a pair of other dramatic unions, and later took in (or was taken in by) another pair of such unions … This was in those years that the large Jewish worker’s organization, the “Arbeter Ring” [Workers Circle], began a fight for culture … In 1915, an Arbeter Ring leader and, at that time, a member of the National Education Committee, David Abrams, came to a meeting of the “Hebrew Dramatic League” and suggested that it associate itself as a branch of the Arbeter Ring and become the Arbeter Ring’s dramatic institution.

It was not easy to convince the members of the “Hebrew Dramatic League” to become a branch of the Arbeter Ring.  The greater majority feared that it would be swallowed up by the larger organization; it was even argued that it would lose its independence; that the national office would censor the plays and undertake to remove individual writers from our repertoire.

In January 1915, the match was made.  The “Hebrew Dramatic League” became Branch 555 of the Arbeter Ring and freely took on the name Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene (Free Yiddish People’s Stage), [not to be confused with the organization “Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine” which was founding in 1896-1897 in New York, with the goal of working for a better Yiddish theatre, fighting “shund” on the Yiddish stage.  [About that organization, see “Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine”.]  This was done so that members of the various actors' unions, which were blended together in the "Hebrew Dramatic League" would not feel aggrieved, and also because, with its entrance into the Arbeter Ring, a new chapter in the history of dramatic unions in America was begun.”

Another person involved, Louis Mann, recounts:

            “... after that, when the Fire Department also closed our “Progressive Dramatic Club” on Orchard Street, we combined the remaining members of all three dramatic clubs and, under the leadership of Fishman, reorganized ourselves anew, and in order for it not to be said that they wanted the steal the name of the prior “progressives,” they decided to call themselves by another name, that is: Di Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene (The Free Yiddish Folksbiene)”.

            Member Shloime Edelheit recounts:

            "... in a basement room, somewhere on East Broadway, we organized the “Free Yiddish Folksbiene”, with the same ideal and same goal as the “Progressive Dramatic Club.”  We modestly continued our literary work, and in order to strengthen that work, in order to make its existence stronger, we, the leadership group of members, decided to affiliate ourselves with the large Jewish worker’s union, Arbeter Ring, and we became Branch 555.  Under its auspices and with its help, the Free Yiddish Folksbiene was much more successful, because the large membership of the Arbeter Ring listened to us and helped strengthen the ideal of the Free Yiddish Folksbiene."

            On February 5, 1915, according to Jacob Fishman, the Free Yiddish Folksbiene was officially installed as a branch of the Arbeter Ring with a beautiful concert and program at Arlington Hall.  The speakers were: M. Yonas, the president at the time, and Ben-Yakir (Dr. Rozenblat), General Secretary.  Participants in the concert were the “Halevy” choir, and the “Bine” (Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene) performed Bagnadinung (The Good Hope?) by Herman Heijermans, Kalkhos, by Anton Chekhov, and one act from Gayster (Ghosts) by Henrik Ibsen.

            “... Three challenging dramatic pieces had been chosen in order to show the large audience of over one-thousand people who filled up the hall, representing all the New York branches, the National Executive and State committees of the Arbeter Ring, that they could be proud of their institution – and on that evening the Arbeter Ring officially proclaimed the Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene as its dramatic institution.

            “The writer of this article was then elected to be the director … it was then the Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene decided to take a different turn.  Until then, it had avoided staging social dramas that had a viewpoint.  We had thought that when the writer sought to preach a belief or an idea from the stage, the literary worth of the work suffered.  Now we felt that ideas could now be preached from the stage by actors.  … There must, naturally, be criteria by which a “propaganda play” could be assessed so as to see that the literary side, the hardiness and truth in the actions and the characters not be lost in the politics of the play.”   


Have you ever been -- to a shund and to true art? To a mess and to rich art?

Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine
formerly the Hebrew Dramatic League, Branch 555, Arbeter Ring
Friday Evening, February 5 [1915], in the Manhattan Lyceum, 66 East 4th Street. There will be appear the greatest social art work of Henrik Ibsen, Der folks-faynd (An Enemy of the People).
Translated by S. Yanovsky and performed by the following personnel:

Dr. Stockman
Katerina, his wife
Walter, his child
Frederick, his child
Peter Stockman, a mayor
Havstar, an editor
Aslaksen, a printer
Billing, a reporter
Martin Kiul, Katerina's father
Harster, a captain


Jacob Fishman
Fannie Gunn
Sam Rubin
Lazar Fridberg
Chaim Gross
Izidor Buzet
Samuel Grossberg
Max Shtrahl
Morris Derevenski
M. Harbanov
J. Yanef
Meyer Arkin
Ben Feivelowitz

Tickets 15, 25 and 50 cents can be purchased in Levin's Restaurant, 183 East Broadway; at the Art Pastel Card Company, 22 Second Avenue, 23o East Broadway.


            On April 5, 1915, Ibsen’s Folks-faynd (An Enemy of the People),  translated by Sh. Yanovsky, was presented. “... We chose – adds  J. Fishman – Henrik Ibsen’s Folks-Faynt (An Enemy of the People) as our first project.  We prepared for many months, rehearsed and took lessons to try to bring to life the atmosphere of the small Norwegian town and the experiences and ideas of its people … and on April 5, 1915*, the play was performed in Sh. Yanovsky’s translation …   

            The play, Folks-faynd, was very well-received and was held over several times in New York, in Brooklyn and in the Bronx.  Those who wrote the history of the dramatic unions in America felt it was very irresponsible for a new amateur dramatic organization to make its first effort such a difficult five-act drama as Folks-faynt (An Enemy of the People).  It will now become clear that in this regard, the actors of the Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene already possessed a lot of experience and education from the previous dramatic unions in which they acted.”

             Known formerly as the Hebrew Dramatic League, Branch 555 of the Arbeter Ring, this production of the "Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene" was staged in the Manhattan Lyceum, which was located at 66 East 4th Street, in Lower Manhattan, NYC.

            [*Above, to the right, is an advertisement for Folks-faynt that appeared the Jewish Forward (Forverts) newspaper the day before its opening, which, according to the advertisement, was on February 9, 1915, not on April 15, as is indicated in the history of the Lexicon that appears in the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre."]

            On March 30, 1915, at Arlington Hall (on 19 St. Marks Place (and 8th Street), Shney (Snow) by Stanisław Przybyszewski, translated by Shachna Epstein was staged, as well as the play Gest (Guests) by Stanisław Przybyszewski, which was translated by A. Frumkin. Both plays had previously been presented by the Progresiv Dramatik Klub (Progressive Dramatic Club).

Today! Today!

Fraye Yidishe Folks bine
Branch 555 Arbeter Ring
Invite lovers of truly beautiful drama

Tuesday, March 30 [1915] (Second Seder night), in Arlington Hall, 19 St. Marks Place (and 8th Street), where there will appear two famous art works from the Polish playwright Stanisław Przybyszewski.


Shney (Snow), a drama in four acts, translated by Shachna Epstein

Personnel: Madeus -- Izidor Buzet; Branga -- Sonia Berman; Yella -- Miss Lubin; Kazimir -- Jacob Fishman, Lakadina -- Mrs. Silverman; Diener -- Mr. Rosenzweig

Gest (Guests), a dramatic epilogue, translated by Abraham Frumkin

Personnel: Adam -- Jacob Fishman; Bella -- Mrs. Finfer; Pola -- Sonia Birman; Guest -- Max Shtrahl; Unknown -- Mr. Harbanov; First old man -- Morris Derevenski; Second old man -- Mr. Yanov.

Begins exactly at 8:15 p.m.

Tickets 25 cents

Tickets in advance can be purchased every evening at 289 East Broadway.

Jacob Fishman writes of that presentation at Neighborhood Playhouse:

            "The truly artistic achievements of the Folksbiene were demonstrated one year (one season) later, when it began to give a series of performances in the small, but pretty, artistic theatre Neighborhood Playhouse on Grand Street.  The small theatre was built by two Jewish-American girls, the sisters Irene and Ellen Lewisohn.  With their rich and strong love of theatre arts, they built the theatre not as a business, but with a rich cultural goal: to give the Jewish residents of the East Side good literary dramas (in English), concerts and ballet performances. 

             On October 24, 1915, at Neighborhood Playhouse, Di fayern fun yohanes nakht (Fires of St. John), a by play by Hermann Sudermann, translated by L. Balleyzen, was performed.  It had been previously performed by the “Hebrew Actors League.”

             On October 31, 1915, at the Neighborhood Playhouse, the Folksbiene presented Fayntlekhe veltn (Menashe) (Enemy Worlds (Menashe), a drama in four acts by Ranet Roman, translated from the Romanian by A. Horowitz, which was previously performed by the Hebrew Dramatic League.

            The Educational Committee of the Arbeter Ring

            Every ticket is sold out for

            Di fayern fun yohanes nakht (Fires of St. John)

            Reserved seats are available for

            Fayntlekhe veltn (Menashe)

             A drama in four acts by Ranet Roman.

             Translated from the Romanian by A. Horowitz.

             Previously performed by the Hebrew Dramatic League.

             This coming Sunday, October 31st [1915].

              At the Neighborhood Playhouse.




             In those days, Philip Geliebter, a’h, was the Executive-Secretary of the Arbeter Ring … Geliebter tried to recruit the Neighborhood Playhouse for a series of presentations. There, however, he came up against an iron wall – the wall of assimilation by the American Jewish sisters."

             They and their close relative, the Jewish-American writer Ludwig Lewisohn, complained that Jews in America needed to assimilate and they should carry on their activity in English. 

             In the end, they welcomed the Fraye Folksbiene on condition that it justified its artistic merit.  So it added Geliebter’s English translation of Peretz Hirschbein’s Yoel (Joel) and they liked the play.

              Since Yoel had previously been performed by almost the same group (The Hebrew Dramatic League), it rehearsed it anew, changed a few roles, and performed the play twice exclusively for the Lewisohn sisters and their friends.  The performances were well received and the “FYFB” [Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene] got permission to play there for four weeks, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The permission was then extended.

The advertisement reads:

Neighborhood Playhouse, 466 Grand St., near Pitt Street

A series of productions under the supervision of the Educational Committee of the Arbeter Ring.

This Saturday evening, January 8, [1916], Yoel (Joel), a drama in three acts by Peretz Hirschbein.

Shvester un bruder (Brother and Sister), a tragi-comedy in one act by Mark Arnstein.

On Sunday evening, January 9, [1916], Tsulib glik (Because of Happiness [?]), a drama in three acts.

Gest (Guests), a dramatic epilogue in one act.

Staged under the direction of Jacob Fishman of the Fraye Yidishe Folks Bine, Branch 555 Arbeter Ring.

Reserved seats in box office.

Saturday evening, 25 cents; Sunday 25 and 30 cents; next Saturday evening, 15th (January), Der folks-faynd.



Advertisement (left)
Neighborhood Playhouse, 466 Grand Street
This Saturday evening, January 15 [1916]
The fifth art production under the supervision of the Educational Committee of the Arbeter Ring, which will present Der folks faynd (The Enemy of the People), by Henrik Ibsen, translated by Sh. Yanovsky. A social drama in five acts. Staged by the Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine, Branch 555 of the Arbeter Ring.

Under the direction of Jacob Fishman.

Begins at 8:15 p.m. Tickets 25 cents.
Next Saturday evening (January 22): Di gayster (Ghosts), by Henrik Ibsen.
[a drama in three acts; translated by Joel Entin]

Advertisement (right)
Arlington Hall,
19-23 St. Marks Place (and 8th Street)
This Sunday afternoon, January 16th [1916]
The first yaresfest of the Fraye Yidishe Folks Bine, as Branch 555 of the Arbeter Ring, which will perform:

Di zelbe simonim (The Same Signs [?]), a comedy by Z. Libin.

Gevisn (Conscience), an etude by David Pinski.

Shvester un Bruder (Brother and Sister), a tragi-comedy by Mark Arnstein

Kalkhos, an etude by Anton Chekhov.

The chairman of the general management of the Arbeter Ring as the guest speaker. Popular admission, 10 cents. Begins at 2 p.m.

On March 19, 1916, Di mishpokhe (The Family) by H.D. Nomberg [see ad], which had previously been performed by the Progressive Dramatic Club, was performed at the Manhattan Lyceum.

In the same year – according to Jacob Fishman – the Folksbiene had a nice venue at 155 Clinton Street, where it held concerts and literary evenings and – according to Boris Levin – Fridays readings took place.

On February 13, 1917, at the Gabel's Theatre, Jacob Fishman’s dramatization (Yiddish translation by Zalmen Reyzen) in four acts and three scenes, of  F. Dostoyevsky’s Farbrekhn un shtrof (Crime and Punishment) was performed. [see ad]

Writes J. Fishman:

“The play was very long and lasted until 1 a.m.  This was too long and difficult, so in later performances it was redacted so that it could be performed in three hours.”


Manhattan Lyceum, 66 East 4th Street. In honor of Purim! A holiday play!

On this Sunday evening, March 19 [1916], there will be performed by the Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine, Branch 555 Arbeter Ring, Di mishpokhe (The Family), a drama in four acts by H.D. Nomberg.

With the participation of these women: Birman, Silverman, Field, Rubinstein, Finfer et al. Men: Predmest, Balski and Ginzburg.

Tickets may be purchased every evening in our club rooms, 135  Henry Street, and Sunday an entire day at the box office of the Manhattan Lyceum. Tickets are 25 cents. The production begins at 8:15 in the evening. Notice: All Arbeter Ring branches and professional organizations of the country who want to have our strong, one-act plays or productions, should turn to the following address: Frie Yiddishe Volks Binnhe, 135 Henry St., New York City.


Today! The great evening. Today!
The anniversary production of the Fraye Yidishe Folks Bine, Branch 555 Arbeter Ring.

There will be performed the great master work of the great Russian playwright, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Ferbrekhen un shtrof (Crime and Punishment), the tragedy of human souls, in four acts and three scenes, dramatized and staged by Mr. Jacob Fishman.

Performed by the following women: Birman, Kashinsky, rubin, Rinfer, Levin, Rubinstein, Marks and Greenspan. Men: Fishman, Harbanov, Balski, Grossberg, Oringer, Brand, Arkin, Fridberg, Rosen and Lonshein.

Due to the great length of the play, we will begin at 8:15 sharp. Tickets: 25, 35, 50, 75 cents and $1.00. -- Tickets can be purchased at the box office.


            On September 29, 1917, again at the Neighborhood Playhouse, the Folksbiene performed  Eynzame mentshn (Lonely People) by Gerhart Hauptmann, translated by Abraham Frumkin, which had previously performed by the Progressive Dramatic Club.

Neighborhood Playhouse, 466 Grand Street

Today and Tomorrow Evening
Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30.
There will be given the first of a series of productions under the supervision of the Educational Committee of the Arbeter Ring.
With the performance of the great, psychological master work of the genial playwright Gerhart Hauptman.

Eynzame mentshn (Lonely People)
A drama in five acts, translated by G. Frumkin and staged by the
Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine, Branch 555 Arbeter Ring

With the participation of the women: Birman, Levin and Roskovski; and the men: Fishman, Rosberg, Katz, Predmest, Lonshein and Reznik. Singing performed by the Arbeter Ring Chorus.

Dr. B. Hoffman, chairman of the Executive Committee, A.R.
Ab. Epstein, chairman of the National Executive Committee, A.R. will speak between the acts.

Tickets 25 and 50 cents. Begins at 8:15 sharp.

Tickets can be purchased at the box office of the theatre.




On October 6, 1917, in the same place, Kameradn (Comrades), a drama in four acts by August Strindberg, translated by
L. Balleyzer, was performed.

466 Grand Street

This Saturday and Sunday evening, October 6 and 7 and the coming Saturday, October 13.

There will be given two productions under the supervision Educational Committee of the Arbeter Ring.

There will appear for the first time in Yiddish

Kameradn (Comrades), a drama in four acts by August Strindberg, translated by L. Balleyzer.

From his famous series, Der kampf tsvishn geshlekhter (The Battle Between the Sexes).

Staged by the Fraye Yidishe Folks Bine

Branch 555 Arbeter Ring

Begins at 8:15 sharp.

Tickets 25 and 50 cents.

Tickets may be purchased every evening in the box office of the Neighborhood Playhouse, 466 Grand Street


In the same month, at the Neighborhood Playhouse, it performed, under the direction of Jacob Fishman, Balleyzer’s translation of Gerhart Hauptmann’s drama in four acts Mikhail Kramer (An Eynzam Lebn), Mikhail Kramer (Lonely People).

            Writes J. Fishman about these offerings:

“All the plays were a financial and artistic success.  The plays by the Folksbiene began to get the attention of the press and discussions and criticism appeared in which the Arbeter Ring’s dramatic institution was praised for its performance.  The successes greatly encouraged the members of the Folksbiene and they threw themselves into their work with greater impetus … a strong criticism was that it performed too many plays from world-literature and not enough Yiddish.  The truth, however, was that as soon as the Folksbiene received a true literary Yiddish play, it put it on.  There was, however, a big dearth of such plays and it had to use writers from world-literature.”

That same year, the Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene joined the “Association of the Literary-Dramatic Unions” but left it, however, in 1918 after the association – according to Jacob Fishman – dismissed the claims of representatives of the FYFB against the founding of a profession theatre troupe, which would begin to perform in New York.

At that time B. Levin joined the Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene, became the business manager and organized a whole range of performances in the Royal, McKinley Square, Gold and Thalia theatres as well many performances in the provinces.

At Levin’s initiative – according to J. Fishman – the Yidishe Folksbiene Corporation was organized to raise twenty-five thousand dollars with the goal of establishing its own small theatre.  Much effort was exerted but they could only raise several thousand dollars.  In order to expand the fund, the Davenport Theatre (New York, 27th Street) was used but the repertory performances, instead of increasing the fund, swallowed it entirely.

Levin himself writes about this:

“We founded a cooperative and took action to raise money for a people’s theatre.  Our own members raised several thousand dollars and we hoped to raise enough money that our dream would come true, but, unfortunately, this did not work out … One important detail is this:  we did not have the aid of the large Jewish organizations.  Under only our own power, such an undertaking was impossible and nothing became of the plan.”

On February 16, 1918, at the Verdi Theatre, it put on Alexander Seldin’s drama in four acts Man un vayb (Husband and Wife).  

Verdi Theatre
31-35 East 4th Street, across the Bowery

The young have the word!

This Saturday and Sunday evening, February 16 and 17 a second series of productions begins under the supervision of the Educational Committee of the Arbeter ring, with the offering of a modern, realistic play of Jewish-American life, written by a modern, Yiddish playwright, Alexander Seldin, Man un vayb (Man and Wife), played in four acts and produced by the Fraye Yidishe Folks Bine, Branch 55, Arbeter Ring.

With the participation of the women: Birman, Green, Silverman, Rashkovski, Rubinstein and Winchevsky.

Men: Jacob Fishman, Louis Predmest, Brand, Reznik, Rubin et al.

Tickets 25, 35, 50 and 75 cents.

Tickets will be on sale every evening in our club room, 155 Clinton Street, and on the day of the production at the box office.



On October 5, 1918, it put on Peretz Hirschbein’s Grine Felder (Green Fields) at the Neighborhood Playhouse, directed by Jacob Fishman.

The play was a big success.  The company became popular and began to plan to perform more often.

The advertisement reads:

466 Grand Street

A series of art productions under the supervision of the Educational Committee of the Arbeter Ring
will present on Saturday and Sunday, October 5th and 6th, with the production of Grine felder (Green Fields), a romantic popular drama by Peretz Hirschbein.

Staged by the Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine, under the direction of Jacob Fishman.

With Sonia Birman, Sara Rubin, Ethel Rosenzweig, Julia Green.

Men: Jacob Fishman, Samuel Sherman, Jacob Rosenbloom, Michael Predmest, and Meyer Arkin.

Tickets 30 and 50 cents (no taxes).


Tickets are reserved for those who are unable to obtain tickets in advance and will be on sale the evening of the performance until 8 p.m.

Starts exactly at 8:15.



On September 26, 1919, Fuhrmann Henschel by Gerhart Hauptmann was performed.

“During that summer [1919] – describes Boris Levin – we worked on plans so that at the beginning of the winter we would be able to perform at least once a week, and we rented the Thalia Theatre, and on September 26, 1919, we began Fuhrmann Henschel.  I remember, that on that day the weather was very bad and we were all scared of a failure, but to our great amazement, the box office took in more than three hundred dollars and we were able to perform the next week.  In the same week, we also played in Brownsville and a week later, in the Bronx, always playing to a large audience which enthusiastically enjoyed both the play and the actors.  That is how we performed several weeks with success. 

Branch 555 Arbeter Ring

Downtown! Brownsville! [Brooklyn]

Two art productions to raise twenty-five thousand dollars fund for a Yiddish folks theatre.

Friday evening, September 26, [1919] (second day of Rosh Hashanah)

The first production in the Thalia Theatre, Bowery and Canal, with the play by Gerhart Hauptman, a five-act, social folk drama, Fuhrmann Henschel. Yiddish by H.D. Nomberg, directed by Jacob Fishman.

Also: in Brownsville's Liberty Theatre, Eugene Brie's Di beshedigte (Damaged Goods), Yiddish by Dr. Liber, directed by Jacob Fishman.

With the participation of the women: Zaner, Rubinstein, Gerber, Silverman and Lipetz.
Men: Fishman, Balski, Predmest, Rosenbloom, Oringer, Reznik, Zamost, Wolf, Kriss and Rubin.

Tickets: 35, 50, 75 cents and 1 dollar. Tickets can be purchased every evening in our club rooms, 155 Clinton Street; from Yankowitz at the bookstore at 179 E. Broadway, and on the day of the performance at the box office.

-- B. Levin, business manager.

… At that time, Schnitzer’s “Garden Theatre” already existed [New Yiddish Theatre, directed by Jacob Ben-Ami], and Maurice Schwartz had founded the Art Theatre.  We performed good literary plays at the Garden Theatre and performed them well.  Schwartz did not yet have a specific style.  One could notice that Maurice Schwartz was seeking something, – seeking a path.  And Schwartz at that time surely thought about better dramas  (Schwartz already had, in season 1918-1919, produced a better repertoire), because the Garden Theatre had a good reputation, and we presented literary plays, the audience came.”

Bowery and Canal Street
Di Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine
Branch 555 of the Arbeter Ring
Saturday afternoon.
May 22 (1920), at 2:30 p.m.
Presenting for the first time
Dos kol fun di shtume (Voice of the Mute)
in four acts by Isac Horowitz
Directed by Jacob Fishman

Participants --

Birman, Bromberg, Zaner, Kindman, Silverman, Kaplan, Erdman and the little Miss Silverfarb.

Fishman, Rosenbloom, Rubin, Kriss, Oringer, Predmest, Zayner, Reznik, Shapiro, Burland, Wiener, Schneiderman and Stabinowitz.

Prices of tickets: 59 cents, 75 cents, $1.00 and $1.50.

Tickets can be purchased in the club rooms, 1943 East 3rd Street; from Yanowitz in his bookstore; 179 East Broadway , and on the day of the performance in the Thalia Theatre.


138 East 27th Street, near Lexington Ave.
A series of art productions, given by the
Yidishe Folks Bine
This Saturday evening and
Sunday afternoon and evening.
April 3 and 4 (1920)

On the first day of Passover, there will be performed Mikhal kramer (Michael Kramer), An eynzam lebn (A Lonely Life).
A drama in four acts by Gerhard Hauptman. Directed by Jacob Fishman

The Actors --

Sonia Berman, Sarah Rubin, Sonia Rotkowski, Frances Rubinstein, Nettie Zaner.

Jacob Fishman, Harold Rubin, Samuel Grossberg, Michael Predmest, Philip Reznik, Jacob Rosenbloom, Samuel Kriss and William Venz.

The play starts in the evening at 8:30 sharp, Sunday at 2:15 in the afternoon. Tickets are 1 dollar, which can be purchased every day in the box office of the theatre.

 -- B. Levin, business manager

On May 19, 1920, the Yiddish Folksbiene was supposed to open a month of guest performances at the Irving Place Theatre and in connection, on April 15, 1920, an article appeared in “Tog” which said:

“... it should not be forgotten that this repertoire – Hirschbein’s Grine felder (Green Fields), Sudermann’s Fayern fun Yohanesnakht (Fires of St. John), Dostoyevsky’s Farbrekhn un shtrof (Crime and Punishment), Hauptmann’s Mikhail Kramer (Michael Kramer), Strindberg’s Komeradn (Comrades), and a list of other plays – was presented by the Folksbiene a lot earlier than when the Irving Place Theatre opened with its literary “shtik”.  In the history of the literary repertoire in Yiddish theatre, the Folksbiene belongs in first place. Furthermore, what the Irving Place Theatre presented, such as both of Hirschbein’s comedies, were first done by the Folksbiene.  The aim of the Folksbiene is: to build its own people’s theatre in the style of the Neighborhood Playhouse, in order to present there the newest and nicest pieces  from Yiddish and world literatures.  It is very important for the professional theatre that such a small artistic people’s theatre exist.  Just as the work of the Folksbiene contributed to the existence of the Irving Place Theatre and the Garden Theatre, which is opening this coming season with a season with clean, artistic purpose, so can a permanent people's theatre, maintained by its admirers, further create a repertoire and put on such works that the professional theatre can not and is scared to take on.  It is therefore in the interest of both the audience as well as the professional theatre, that the short season of the Folksbiene at the Irving Place Theatre have great material success in its mission to build its own little theatre.”

The plan to do guest performances was, however, not to bear fruit, because of difficulties with the theatre management.

But the Folksbiene was not demoralized:  at the Thalia Theatre it performed Brie’s Bashedikte (Damaged Goods), Shma Yisroel (Hear, O Israel) by Osip Dymow, Hunger by Semion Yushkevich and Dos kol fun di shtume (Voice of the Mute) by Isac Horowitz.

            On September 21, 1921, at the Lipzin Theatre, directed by Jacob Fishman, Karikaturn (Caricatures) by Itzhak Katzenelson was performed, and in February 1922, at the Greenwich Village Theatre, the Folksbiene presented F. Bimko’s Farzunkene veltn (Sunken Worlds)”.



At the Lipzin Theatre, Bowery, near Rivington Street.

On Wednesday evening, September 21, for the first time, the Fraye Yidishe Folks-bine will perform on the Yiddish stage,
Karikaturen (Caricatures), a drama by the modern Yiddish playwright, Itzhak Katzenelson.

Under the direction of Mr. Jacob Fishman.

With the participation of the actors:

Sonia Berman, Sara Rubin, Leah Shlessel, Ana Bromberg, Jacob Fishman, Max Balski, Max Shtrahl, Samuel Wiener, Jacob Lesser, Max Rosen and Samuel Kriss.

Tickets can be purchased in the club rooms at 134 East 7th Street, and on the day of the performance at the box office.

-- B. Levin, business manager.

“In 1922-1923, the Folksbiene was busy – writes J. Fishman – preparing one-acters and stagings for the big Arbeter Ring Campaign-Concerts, which were, at the time, organized in five parts of New York City in big halls.  The concerts were free to members of the Arbeter Ring and were attended by a thousand to two thousand people.  The presentations were very successful and took place for five years”.


Arbeter Ring Concert in the Bronx
This Sunday afternoon, 28 January (1923)
There will come the delayed Arbeter Ring Concert
in the Hunts Point Palace, Southern Boulevard and 163rd Street
Organized for the Campaign for 100,000 Members
In the program will be the participants:

Fraye Yidishe Folks Bine, Jacob Fishman, director.
For the first time on the stage in a mimo-declamation,
Buddha by Merezhgovsky, and a humorous comedy, Der surprayz (The Suprise) by Ludwig Fulda,
with the participation of Mrs. Berman and Lurie, Shtrahl and Predmest, Ser-lifshitz, soloist to the mimo-declamation.

Irving Korentman, famous pianist from Europe
The Arbeter Ring Chorus, M. Pozner, conductor
Arbeter Ring Mandolin Orchestra, Edward Wilson, conductor
Anna Stromberg, soprano -- in solos
M. Rappoport and Hentin, in a duet
Somger piano -- needed

Philip Geliebter, Executive Secretary of the Arbeter Ring, speaker; A. Dinnerstein, Chairman of the New York City Committee -- Chairman of Concert

Begins at 2 p.m. sharp. small children under ten years of age.
Organized by the New York Organization and
Educational Committee of the Arbeter Ring
Tickets 20 cents. All tickets [that were purchased] for January 14 are good for the concert.

On March 10, 1923, at the Royal Union Theatre, Di farloyrene hofnung (The Good Hope) by Herman Heijermans, directed by Jacob Fishman, was performed.  All the members of the Folksbiene took part in the play, assisted by the Arbeter Ring Chorus which sang the Fisher-lider (Fishermen songs), which were specially written and taught ably by its composer and the chorus director, Meyer Pozner.

Abraham Reyzen writes about the performance:

“The piece was very well-performed, and, perhaps, more than good, taking into consideration that the Yiddish Folksbiene is an amateur troupe, though some of them, Sonia Birman, Jacob Fishman, Etl Rosenzweig and Harold Rubin, fully and surely could have (and should) perform as professional actors on the Yiddish stage … In general, the Folksbiene showed in its performance of Heijermans’ Di farloyrene hofnung that it not only has the right to exist, but that it deserves to be supported by all lovers of Yiddish theatre in general and and from the professional theatre world in particular."

             “At the same time that the Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene prepared plays and one-acters for New York – writes Jacob Fishman – it also took on the task of hosting performances in provincial towns in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut.  The performances were arranged by organizations in the various towns, Arbeter Ring branches, A.R. schools, labor lyceums, Socialist Farband branches, and other workers’ organizations.

 A great many plays in the Folksbiene’s repertoire could not be staged in the provinces, once due to technical difficulties – such as the large number of personnel, difficult sets, and some of the plays were generally too difficult for the provinces.  However, the demand for performances in the provincial towns was great and in certain towns we gave six to eight performances of plays we learned every winter – Jacob Gordin’s Kreutzer sonata, Di emese kraft (The True Power) and  Di shkhite (The Slaughter).  There was a great demand for Gordin’s plays and we had to satisfy the townspeople. All in all, there were fifty-eight performances in the provincial towns in which we performed sixteen plays.”

“In 1925” – writes again J. Fishman – “a new epoch began for the Folksbiene. I will call this the epoch of “professional directors.” More than ten years had already passed since the founding of the Folksbiene.  There were successes of note as well as failures.  Not every show and presentation succeeded. Of the significant number of plays that were put on, there were a few failures … while our theatre critics were stingy with love songs to us when a play was done well, they weren’t frugal in words to take us down when there was a bad performance … They did not do this to professional theatre performances, with big financial exposure, and they were more careful with them.  With amateurs there is no standing on ceremony.  It is understandable that this impacted the members and it was then decided to hire a professional director, one who could give the members more as a teacher and director, and perhaps really someone whose name could have an effect on the public and the theatre world”.

At that time, the actor Leonid Snegoff was hired as the director. This was encouraging to the members and quite a few new members joined.  The costs became greater, and every member had to pay dues of a dollar a week.  Also, the Education Committee of the A.R. granted a special subsidy.  Snegoff worked up a shortened form the comedy Shmeterlingen  [Shmeterlinger shlakht] (Butterflies [Battle of the Butterflies]), by Hermann Sudermann, which was performed at the Arbeter Ring Campaign-Concerts, and on March 25, 1925, under his direction at the Yiddish Art Theatre, Semion Yushkevich’s Misere, a drama in six scenes, was performed.  The critics’ reaction was good.

In December 1925, Mendl Elkin was hired as director and presented the one-act Der klaun (The Clown) by Kuprin and Leivick's’ drama Bankrot (Bankrupt), which was performed only in the provinces.

In 1926, the veteran member of the Folksbiene, Samuel Grossberg, took over the direction who presented the one-acters Hercules by Bell, Dos misfarshtendenish (The Misunderstanding) by L.V. and A retsept kegn shvigers (A Recipe Against Mothers-in-Law) by Manuel John Diana [All three translated by Z. Zylbercweig].

In 1928, Jacob Fishman once again became the director in order to take on the “Arbeter Ring Evenings”, which for ten years had become an important part of the work of the Education Committee of the Arbeter Ring.  The plan was worked out by the writer Y. Krepliak, who had for a long time led the “evenings” and was their chairman.

 During that first winter, seven writers' evenings were presented at the Rand School: Mendele, from which scenes from Fishke der krumer (Fishke the Lame) were performed; I.L. Peretz – S’Brent (It’s Burning) and Nokh kvure (After Burial), Sholem Aleichem – Mentshn (People), Sholem Asch – Mitn shtrom (Midstream), Avrom Reyzen – In a kabaret (In a Cabaret), and Dem shadkhn’s tokhter (The Matchmaker’s Daughter), David Pinski – Dos meydl baym Orn Koydesh (The Girl by the Holy Ark) and Gliksfargesene (Forgotten Luck), and Z. Libin – Kolegn (Friends) and Marta.

The first series was very successful; the hall was overcrowded.

In 1929-1930, under the direction of Benno Schneider, writers' evenings were presented: Morris Winchevsky  – Der letster nabor (The Last Recruitment), Abraham Liessin – (Rebe Akiva, Rabbi Avika), H.D. Nomberg (an act from Di mishpokhe, (The Family), David Einhorn – Aliles Dam (Blood Libel), Peretz Hirschbein – Eynzame veltn (Lonely Worlds), and Morris Rosenfeld – In shop (In the Factory).

In 1931-1933, under the direction of Leib Kadison, writers' evenings were presented:  A. Waiter – Far tog (Dawn), Z. Segalowitch – Di vant (The Wall), Leon Kobrin – scenes from Di sonim (The Enemies), An-Ski – Foter un zun (Father and Son), Jean Rose – Hinter kulisn (Behind the Scenes), Z. Levin – Dem tatns tokhter (The Father’s Daughter), Upton Sinclair – Der farbrekher (The Criminal?), Peretz Hirschbein – Eliohu Hanovi (Elijah the Prophet), Maxim Gorky – an act from In opgrunt (The Lower Depths), Arthur Schnitzler – a scene from A shpil in libe (The Comedy of Seduction), Jacob Gordin – Voylteter  fun der east side (Philanthropists of the East Side), Eugene O’Neill – a scene from Di horike malpe (The Hairy Ape), and from Sinclair Lewis – En vikers (Ann Vickers).   Dramatizations by Sh. Frug (Shmoynevker geshtaltn (Foolish Figures?), Ch.N. Bialik – Fun tsar un tsorn (Of Worry and Wrath). and J. Opatoshu (In a tey-hoyz (In a Teahouse). 


FRAYE YIDISHE FOLKS-BINE, Branch 555, Arbeter Ring

Sunday, February 28, 1932



1) Meyners, staged worker songs, acc0rding to Rozenfeld and Winchevsky. Participants: Zaner, Zeldis, Tanin, Mann, Neiditch, Predmest, Rosen, Shtrahl.

2) Hemerl, staged song by Abraham Reisen
The cobbler ...... Sholom Tanin
The tailor .......... Leon Kolker
The carpenter ... Mordechai Shtrahl

3) Neyterns, songs from I.L. Peretz
First neytern ...... Lillian Blum
Second neytern .. Ida Garber
Thirt neytern ...... Sarah Stabinowitz

4) Recitation ....... Leon Kolker

5) May ka mshme ln, song by Abraham Reisen
Solo ...... Sholom Tanin; Batlonim ...... Aurnou, Zeldis, Zaner

6) Short speech ...... Leo Leow
7) Singing ............... Abe Hershkowitz
8) Songs ................. Rose Podolsky
9) Reading .............. Noach Nachbush
10) Singing .............. Cantor Heyman
11) 6 Brothers, staged folk song

Noach Nachbush, Sholom Tanin, Predmest, Zaner, Neititch
The music to all of the numbers are by Pozner.

Direction -- Leib Kadison
Lighting -- H. Elbaum

In rehearsal: A new comedy in three acts by Chone Gottesfeld, "In tatn arayn."

Courtesy of YIVO.


Saturday, March 19, 1932, 8:30 p.m.

In the auditorium of the Sholem Aleichem Collective, Sedgwick Avenue and 238 Street.


1. PARTIES, a  comedy in one act by Chone Gottesfeld, with Michael Predmest, Anna Bromberg, Joshua Zeldis, Jacob Teplitzky, Ethel Rosenzweig, Sylvia Gatti, Hyman Zaner, Sarah Stabinowitz and Max Shtrahl.

2. TWO NEIGHBORS, by Abraham Goldfaden, with Anna Bromberg, Ida Garber, Benjamin Shtrahl and Itzhak Rosen.

3. BEHIND THE SCENES, by Jean Rose, with Michael Predmest, Reuben Aurnou, Sarah Stabinowitz, Joshua Zeldis, Harry Rubin, Jacob Rosenblum, Anna Bromberg.

4. A NEW YORK CONCERT, by Chone Gottesfeld. Reader: Harry Rubin.

Director: Leib Kadison
Arranged by the "Amshal" group.

Admission is only fifty cents.

Courtesy of YIVO.

Also, under the direction of L. Kadison, Chone Gottesfeld’s comedy Punkt farkert (Just the Opposite) was presented as well as, in the same season, Sholem Aleichem’s Shver tsu zayn a Yid (Hard to Be a Jew).

On December 28, 1933, at the Second Avenue Theatre and under the direction of Nokhem Tsamakh, H. Leivick's Heldishe yorn (Heroic Years) (aka Hirsch Leckert) was presented.

Dr. Mukdoni writes of that production:

“Nokhem Tsamakh had amateurs to work with and he reached the maximum.  I have never heard amateurs speak so clearly, so bitingly, that not one word was lost.  A second assignment of his was to bring out the characters as much as possible … Nokhem Tsamakh … also managed to put on a show.  He, in truth, neglected, because of lack of time, to present an entire show … He did what he could do with said drama … I saw the Folksbiene several times, and what I saw in Hirsch Leckert astonishing.

On January 11, 1934, at the Second Avenue Theatre, an evening-of-honor was held for H. Leivick, the author of the play presented that evening, Heldish yorn (Heroic Years) (aka Hirsch Leckert).

The advertisement reads:

David Kessler Second Avenue Theatre
Second Avenue and Second Street
Telephone: Orchard 2461-2462

Great evening-of-honor for the beloved poet, H. Leivick.

The Fraye Yidishe Folks-Bine, announces the premiere production of H. Leivick's poetic drama.

Today, Thursday evening, January 11th

The evening is organized by the best organizations from New York, and it is expected that all of those who know the poet Leivick, who love and cherish good theatre, should be at the Second Avenue Theatre this evening.

Director: Nokhem Tsamakh. Sets by Chaim Gross and Leib Kadison.
Tickets can be already be bought at the box office of the theatre.


In 1934, the well-known director David Herman came to America and was promptly engaged by the Folksbiene, with which he, in January 1935 at Washington Irving High School and a half-year later at the Second Avenue Theatre, presented a fragment of I.L. Peretz’s Baynakht oyfn altn mark (A Night in the Old Marketplace).

[For reviews and comments about the performances of Lazar Fogelman, Jacob Kirschenbaum and Jacob Fishman, see “Lexicon of Yiddish Theatre, Volume 3, 1967-1968.]

Under the direction of David Herman, writers' evenings were also presented:  Jacob Prager – scenes from Der nisoyen (Give Us Light?), Theodore Dreiser – Dos lebn geyt vayter (Life Goes On??), Dovid Bergelson – scenes from Der toyber (The Deaf One), Lion Feuchtwanger – Di brider hoferman (Di geschwister Oppeheim?), and Sherwood Anderson – Der gshvartser gelekhter (Dark Laughter).

            A revival of Hirsch Leckert /Heroic Years was also done, which renewed interest in it by Yiddish theatre critics.

            In a longer review, Ab. Cahan remarked:

            “I attended the performance at the Second Avenue Theatre and from the beginning to the end I was in a fever of dramatic interest ... in retrospect, one cannot help but give the performance compliments.”

            And William Edlin wrote:

            “The members of the Folksbiene, with their care for their roles, showed a great deal of intelligence and understanding.  They all appeared to know how they were supposed to perform … At the performance one didn’t realize that they were amateurs who in life were workers.  Their acting was natural and moving, and for that, perhaps, the credit goes to the two directors the piece had [Nokhem Tsamakh] ... and then David Herman … In any case, the play Heldishe Yorn, presented by the Folksbiene, is an interesting and pleasing experiment.”

            In 1935 the Folksbiene began a campaign for a Yiddish Folk Theatre, which would be maintained and run by cultural leaders and cultural organizations.  First, it met with individuals and then with delegates from branches of the Arbeter Ring, Socialist Farband, Jewish National Workers Farband, trade unions and cultural organizations.  An administrative committee was voted in, in which, separately, Yosef Vaynberg and Louis Mann were active.  A tidy sum was raised but because of various difficulties, the plan did not come to pass.

            On April 4, 1936, under the direction of Mikhail Rasumny, the drama Provints (Provinces) by Leo Robbins was performed at the Folks Theatre.

Second Avenue and 12th Street, Tel.: Stuyvesant 9-7195



The premiere of Leon Robbin's social drama, Province (Provints).
Stage direction: Michail Rasumny, sets by Eugene Dunkel.

With the participation of:

Hyman Zaner
Sonia Birman (guest actress)
Lillian Blum
Ch. Froshtein
Jacob Rosenbloom
Frida Himmelstein
Sarah Stabin
Sholom Rosen
Morris Dervin
Joshua Zeldis
Michael Predmest
Ch. Traub
A. Becker
M. Gulkes
Mordechai Shtrahl
Morris Adler
M. Pollack
Reuben Aurnou
Ana Beck
M. Malinovski
Sidney Zeidner
Aaron Holtz
Max Neiditch
Ely Aurnou
Max Balski
G. Mark
Dr. Brown
Ida Brown
Tillie, their child
Marvin, their child
Bitrim, his daughter
Sonia Goodman
Sam Triger
Ben, his son
Shop girl
Piters, union leader
Brighton, union leader
Mayor Bredl
Kosher butcher
Junk peddler
Arbeter Ring member
U.A.F. Member

Tickets 50, 75 cents and 1 dollar.


            Hillel Rogoff wrote about the presentation:

            “The players who take part are not professionals.  If that was not perceived during the presentation, that was thanks mostly to the director, Mikhail Rasumny.  It is due to him that the amateurs performed like veteran, seasoned actors.”

            The play was performed three times with a big deficit.

            During the winter, M. Rasumny directed these dramatizations for the Writers’ Evenings:  Tsigayner (The Gypsies) by Pushkin, In di shturemdike teg (In the Stormy Days) by I.J. Singer, A yidishe tokhter (A Jewish Daughter) by David Einhorn, and Kentucky by I.J. Schwartz (dramatized by M. Osherowitch).


On March 13 [1938], in the Nora Bayes Theatre, under the direction of J. Shigorin, the three-act comedy Komediantn (The Jesters) by Der Tunkeler was performed.

            The "Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene" leader, Jacob Fishman, wrote about the play:

            “This is a very unsuccessful presentation.  The play was not funny, which one usually expects from a Folksbiene production.  The result was very meager and this was the Folksbiene’s only season not to be proud of, though both the director and the cast did everything in their power to derive something out of Komediantn. It wasn’t possible – there was simply not material with which to work.”

The advertisement reads:

220 W. 44th Street, West of Broadway, Lackawana 4-3528

The Folksbiene announced the production of Komediantn (The Jesters), by Joseph Tunkel,
a comedy in three acts.

Premiere today, Sunday evening, March 13, [1938] and every Sunday afternoon and evening.

Direction: Jacob Shigorin

Music: Pola Kadison

Dance: Pauline Kaner

Tickets: 50 and 75 cents, $1 and $1.50.

Tickets can be purchased at the theatre or at the Folks-bine at 150 West 46th Street, Studio 303, Tel. Longacre 3-0939.

            Mendl Elkin was hired for the 1938-1939 season and gave himself the task of organizing a dramatic studio at the Folksbiene.  There was little interest from students.  The studio was nevertheless continued for a time with Mendl Elkin, Jacob Mestel, M. Osherowitch, Jacob Fishman and Julia Levin as instructors.

            During 1938, Elkin also directed Liessin’s Levi yitskhok berditshever (dramatized by M. Osherowitch), the one-act Prost blumen (Ordinary Flowers) by Peretz Hirschbein, and the dramatizations, Kantonistn (Conscripts) by Sh. Ginzburg and Sheyne balebatim (Petty Bourgeois?) by Sholem Aleichem.

            0n May 19, 1939, at the Master Institute, under the direction of Jacob Fishman, Di kretshme (The Tavern), a drama by M. Ghitzis was presented, along with the previously mentioned one-act Prost blumen (Ordinary Flowers) by Peretz Hirschbein.

103rd Street and Riverside Drive, N.Y.C.


THE FOLKSBIENE will hold an arts evening of two original dramas.

Prost blumen (Ordinary Flowers), a popular drama by Peretz Hirschbein.

Directed by Mendl Elkin.

S. Predmest in Kretshme (The Tavern), a dramatic study in two scenes by M. Ghitzis.

Directed by Jacob Fishman.

The entire personnel of the Folksbiene will participate in the production.

Tickets 50, 75 cents and 1 dollar.

Tickets may be purchased at the studio, located at 150 West 46th Street, N.Y.C.

The event begins at 8:30 in the evening.


            On April 7, 1940, the Folksbiene celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary at the the Barbizon Plaza Theatre with Jacob Fishman’s production of Eybike martirer (Eternal Martyrs), a ghetto tragedy in two acts and eleven scenes, dramatized by Yikir Nemirow.

The scenes consisted of: In keynems land (In Noone’s Land) by Hirsh Bril and Yikir Nemirow,  A yidishe tokhter (A Jewish Daughter) and Dray loite lilies (Three Red Lilies) by Dovid Einhorn, Der eybiker vanderer (The Eternal Wanderer), adapted from Abraham Goldfaden’s Doktor Almasada (Doctor Almasado); Goles shpanie (Spanish Exile), Der troymer fun der geto (The Dreamer of the Ghetto) by Israel Zangwill (in four scenes), and Der eybiker Yid (The Eternal Jew) by Abraham Liessin.  The storyline between the various scenes was tied together through two symbolic images: Ezra – der eybiker Yid (Ezra – the Eternal Jew) and Di fremde Maria – Der gevisn fun der velt (?) which also functioned as prologue and epilogue.

B. Levitin wrote of the performance:

“A show, which both with its character and its combination of actors, is a rarity in the Jewish world.”

            To the credit of the Folksbiene, it must be said straight from the beginning that, regarding the acting side of the presentation, as well as that of the direction, it is comparable to our best professional theatres.  Certain actors played their parts magnificently. Only in a few places were there any signs of amateurism. In general, however, the various scenes were staged fluently. … The impression left by the various ghetto episodes was not entirely successful … All these episodes had a unique character.  The presentation was directed by Jacob Fishman, who is one of the founders of the Folksbiene.  He truly deserves a compliment for the taste and the finesse that he put into the direction and the effect of the entire production.”

            In honor of the twenty-fifth anniversary in May 1940, a book, “Twenty-Five Years Folksbiene” was published under the direction of Jacob Fishman, B. Levin and B. Stabinovitsh, which included a series of articles (from members of the Folksbiene, directors and writers) about the activities of the organization and biographies of the members. Jacob Fishman wrote the history of the Folksbiene.

            In her greeting, the General-Executive of the Arbeter Ring wrote about the role of the Folksbiene during its twenty-five years:

            “Your involvement in the writers' evenings, the campaign concerts in and around New York, your shows in the provinces and your bigger shows in New York –  all this is a beautiful chain of rings which shine with the characteristics of the chain of rings of the Arbeter Ring in general.

            Your presentation, from the start, of Hirsch Leckert and the experience of the Arbeter Ring members on those evenings still touches the hearts and thoughts of the Arbeter Ring membership, and that is just an example of you, of your good works.”

            The then president of the Arbeter Ring and Chairman of the Yiddish Actors’ Union, Reuben Guskin, expressed: 

            “The Folksbiene, during its twenty-five years, has developed a good, warm taste for  better Yiddish theatre in a large number of members of the Arbeter Ring.  The Folksbiene has developed singular artists who appear at various events at branches of our organization.” 

            Similarly, the Culture Director of the Arbeter Ring, N. Chanin, writes:

            “... The Folksbiene has, during its twenty-five years become a good example for many cities  in America, that dramatic organizations of the Arbeter Ring should be founded. … During its twenty-five years, the Folksbiene has directly and indirectly influenced the better Yiddish theatre.  A whole host of Yiddish artists have been brought to the Yiddish stage through the Folksbiene.  Every appearance by the Folksbiene was an artistic contribution to Yiddish drama.

… The great number of the members of the Folksbiene exhibited a formidable love and commitment to their work.  After days of hard work, they rehearsed until late at night.  They often donated the last of their earnings in order that the Folksbiene could go on with its work.  The best Yiddish directors were associated with the Folksbiene”.

A member of the Folksbiene, Sam Rosen, writes of the Folksbiene’s activities:

In those years [during the founding of the Fraye Yidishe Folksbiene], very few branches knew how to organize concerts for their members, and when concerts were indeed offered, they were of a character that did not have cultural value … When the Folksbiene became a branch, our primary goal was to make the performances more pleasing.  We began to prepare people for the performances.  First, we were meticulous that the performers have talent and understand what they were reading aloud or reciting, and second, that the content of the readings should have literary and artistic value.

In the twenty-five years of our existence, our members have performed hundreds of concerts at the branches, and have thereby become very popular at their meetings.”

L. Kadison writes of her colleagues at the Folksbiene:

“... We were busy rehearsing three nights a week, and on the other nights we used to learn our lines or do whatever else was necessary for the production.  … At the Folksbiene, I found “veterans”, middle-aged or elderly people.  Each one had their share of worries, whether from unemployment or from family sorrows, but still they each came to rehearsals with happiness and cheer, knowing their lines like young beginners, like true amateurs.  … I had a different pleasure when the shows took place.  Though we performed in bad conditions, on small stages with little scenery and bad lighting, the dedication of the members had much to do with our success.  They brought what was necessary for the performances from their own homes.  One brought tablecloths, another curtains, and so on, until the stage was decorated and had the proper appearance.”

On April 20, 1941, at the Rand School Auditorium, under the direction of Jacob Fishman, Sambatyon, a comedy in four acts and six scenes, by Abraham Goldfaden, was performed, adapted for the stage by Y. Niemirower.

The show was performed just once and did not live to see even one review in the Yiddish press.




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Translation of the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" Folksbiene history by Sabina Brukner and Steven Lasky.


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