1) The funeral of the famous prima
donna Sophie Karp (the mother of the prima donna Rose Karp).
[Sophie*1 passed away in New York on March 31, 1904.]
2) The actor Finkel who shot his
wife Emma Finkel, a sister of Boris Thomashefsky.
3) The death of Dr. Herzl.
The end of Sophie Karp's life was
very tragic. She had not left the theatre for many days and
nights before her death. She slept, ate and drank in the
theatre. The cause of this was the following story:
They then had built the first
modern Yiddish theatre on Grand Street. This theatre indeed was
called the Grand Theatre. The theatre was built by several
important actors, such as the comic Berl Bernstein, the composer
Louis Friedsell, and still others, but the largest shareholder
was Sophie Karp.
The company of the Grand Theatre
played only one season, and due to certain reasons it was
associated with bits of gossip, love interests, theatre politics, and the
partners of the Grand Street theatre received a disposition.
They were made to move. The blow became great for all the
partners of the Grand Theatre, but it most strongly affected
Sophie Karp. She expressed [her feeling] that she would be taken out of the
Grand Theatre dead, not alive. In her days and nights she would lay in
the theatre, and she did not go out even for a minute, until she had
a severe cold, and out of anger she ran out.
Her death had a strong effect on
the entirety of Jewish New York. Her funeral was one of the
first large Jewish funerals in New York.
This cry and wailing from the
public, young and old, was heard from afar. One could say
that the walls were shaking from the noise, and there was crying
from the same, from those who came to her funeral. People were hanging on the walls
and on the roofs of the houses.
* * *
The shooting by the actor Finkel
of his wife was a tragedy that had long been anticipated. It was
expected that something unusual would happen to them, because it
combined summer and winter, death and life, evil and goodness
itself. He was very old. She was young, fresh and dizzying. He
-- worn out, eyes closed. She -- with fiery, burning eyes.
At the same time they said that
Finkel was the first, serious stage director of the Yiddish
stage. Until Finkel became lawless, they [i.e. the actors] came to rehearsals when
they wanted, and each left when they wanted. So it was with
learning and playing the roles. Finkel took the theatre
seriously, and with an iron hand. The actors, both small and big,
trembled before him. At that time he was strongly in love
with the younger soubrette, who had virtually burned up the
stage with her temperamental singing and dancing. As none of the
actors dared to say "no" to the strong stage director Finkel,
none of the actors dared say "no" to the young superstar
soubrette, that he wanted that she be his wife. People told her,
and also her brother Boris Thomashefsky, that he was too old for
her. But was one able to say no to the strong Finkel? A life in
prison had begun for the young Miss Finkel, immediately after
playing at home! She did not even dare laugh out loud at a
peppery joke. She wasn't able to meet together with actors in
their kibetsarnyes. He provided her in a short time with
three children, two girls and a boy (who were later Lucy Finkel,
the prima donna, and Bella Finkel, the wife of Paul Muni).
The Finkel woman quietly suffered
and remained silent until Finkel became very cautious about a
young lover-actor Levenson.
The next season Adler wanted to
engage Mr. and Mrs. Finkel in his Grand Theatre, where he then
was the only boss, but Mrs. Finkel had answered Adler that she
would agree to be engaged, but without Mr. Finkel.
Finkel's greatness as a stage
director and actor lessened; his wife did not want to be
with him in the same theatre; the jealousy of the young actor Levenson gathered in the heart of the strict Finkel, and when in
the summer he was with his family in the mountains on a
beautiful, early morning, Mister Finkel cried out: "Children,
flee! I am shooting!" He shot and hit the young Mrs. Finkel, and
immediately after that shot himself, and he fell instantly on
the spot dead, and his young wife he crippled for life.
She performed on the stage in
individual productions, but she did so sitting in a chair, and
until the end of her life she had to get by on crutches.
* * * *
The death of Dr. Herzl also made a
very harsh impression on me, because I saw him a year before his
death in London. Theodor Herzl then came to England "incognito,"
to negotiate with the English government. Zionist friends
realized that Herzl was here, and as there had already been a
split in the Zionist movement, he agreed to come to them, but
privately, unofficially, to hear their arguments. The King's
Hall was packed with all sorts of Jews: Jews with beards, Jews
without beards, tall Jews and tiny Jews; plain Jews and
aristocratic Jews. It was a tumult. They argued, which
manifested itself in all kinds of languages, but with time it
became quiet. Two people appeared, them being Francis Montefiore
and Theodor Herzl.
Theodor Herzl's majestic figure
stood out above all.
A Jew at the meeting asked Herzl
how things would be in Eretz Yisrael on Shabbat.
-- Saturday will be Shabbat. --
Herzl said -- People will rest.
His majestic figure has not left
my memory. In my ears his words resound: Saturday will be
Shabbat. I could not forget him, and here's how I arrived in
America, I heard that Herzl is dead. I did not want to believe