Yiddish Theatrical Alliance
יידיש טעאטריקל אלייענס
Founded on October 12, 1917
Ida Kaminska and
Zalmen Zylbercweig and a
row, left to right): Zalmen Zylbercweig (editor of the "Lexicon of
the Yiddish Theatre),"
STACY HARRIS POWERS
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
THE ORIGINS OF THE YIDDISH THEATRICAL ALLIANCE
In 1917, during a visit by Morris Morrison to the dressing room of Rudolf Schildkraut in the People's Theatre, both developed an intimate conversation of memories of their Romanian homeland. The conversation was conducted in Romanian, and many countrymen participated with them. The wardrober S. H. (Solomon -- ed.) Olivenbaum arrived, quite a friendly character, who was very interested in the stage worker Moe Jacobs, and upon his question of why warmth was felt between the three participants in the conversation, Olivenbaum answered jokingly that all theatre people from Romania were cousins. Here the actor Samuel Rosenstein entered, [along] with Lazar Rosenstein and Leon Blank, and Hendrick the Wit, all said that since they were all were descended from Romania, they were also cousins. This brought Olivenbaum to the idea that one would need to establish such an organization of theatre people who would call themselves "The Cousins."
"In the wardrobe or in the dressing room of the Yiddish theatre, [various people] used to wander in from time to time, among them behind-the-curtain workers, such as actors, dressers, choristers, hairdressers, stagehands, saying the word 'cousin.' They had called one another 'cousin' as a sign that all the employees, such as those listed above, should live side-by-side in peace and satisfaction as one family, and thus the word 'cousin' became a custom, until one day when the dresser Olivenbaum of the National Theatre and Sam Indin from the People's Theatre first bought two tins of sardines, and the second a box of candy, and as it was then fashionable brought raffle tickets with them, and they proceeded to raffle off the two boxes of sardines and the box of candy, the first at the National Theatre, and the second at the People's Theatre. As it left a profit of two dollars, they had shared it with the treasurer Lazar Freed, and the sum was transferred over to him. In this connection, each person who then had purchased a ticket for ten cents was made a member in the "The Cousins." After more of this had been done, all of the 'cousins' had to sign under a fine [penalty] of one cent, that they had to call each member by the name 'cousin.' On 12 October 1917 in Beethoven Hall, [there was held] the inaugural meeting of the organization that had received the name 'Hebrew Theatrical Cousins.'"
In a souvenir journal issued on 22 January 1929, it was said about the founders' meeting that the following twenty-eight came there: Jean Greenfield, Sam Kasten, Sam Rosenstein, Kalman Juvelier, William Schwartz, Peter Graf, Ike Schultz, Aaron Zouder, Shlomo (Samuel) Manne, Dave Groll, Sam Greenberg, William Epstein, Abraham Fishkind, William Pasternak, Max Zager, Joseph Brody, Jacob Wexler, Harry Cooper, Frank Rothenstreich, Moe Jacobs, Lazar Freed, Lazar Zuckerman, Julius Nathanson, M. Samuylow, Philip Jacobs, Sam Indin, S. Olivenbaum, A. Ferkauf and M. Mench.
All of the offices for the first six months were divided up [as such]: Sam Rosenstreich -- President, Sam Kasten -- Vice-President, Harry Cooper -- Provisional Secretary, Lazar Freed -- Financial Secretary, Sam Indin -- Protocol Secretary, Kalman Juvelier -- Treasurer, and Zuckerman, Graf and Olivenbaum -- Trustees.
It was decided that for ten cents each theatre person could, with a good character, become a member and the membership fee should be a dollar per year.
The duties of the organization were given as follows:
Several years later the name of the organization was changed to the "Yiddish Theatrical Alliance".
The new officers were: Reuben Weissman -- President; Samuel Rosenstreich -- Vice-President; Lazar Freed -- Financial Secretary; Sam Indin -- Protocol Secretary, and Kalman Juvelier, who for many years was Treasurer.
The organization bought land for 10,000 dollars in Mount Hebron Cemetery (Flushing, Queens, New York -- ed.), which was founded thanks to the assistance of Sigmund Schwartz, and the purchase became [fully] disbursed in the span of two years.
Over the years the prestige of the organization developed, and one of her first large social functions [they held] was a banquet, together with the Yiddish (Hebrew) Actors Union, honoring the president Reuben Weissman, who had been Honorary President for many years .
According to Mark Schweid:
"The active management of the Alliance was taken over by other officers. It is over this leadership [that] came a certain chaos in the organization. The leaders were minimally observed [doing] the organizational work. ... The members had for months long neglected to pay their dues. ... It was already seldom that such daring happened, and when such a meeting took place, [there] were only a few members, faithful members [who] came. The Alliance had completely fallen apart. Several tens of true members remained on guard ... They bravely took to the work. ...With new energy and excitement they they revived the semi-expired organization and put it back on its feet. Without the head of the launched organization stood the intolerable Abe Sincoff. ... He became president and [dedicated] his entire free time to the revival of the Alliance. He increased it with a great number of new members, and he expanded the aid that was given to those who needed it. Year in and year out Sincoff remained as president of the Alliance. ...Within the years in which he lived, he gave away his activity for the Alliance, [and] he brought back the organization to a high level. ...Sincoff, in the last years of his life, made the Alliance his life's work. With his activity, and with his friendly nature, he aroused a number of the best and good-hearted doctors, who gave their medical assistance entirely for free to members of the Alliance. The doctors were declared to be honorary members."
About this period in the Alliance, and the role of Sincoff, Zalmen Zylbercweig writes:
"... He became the powerful force, the president, the officers, the correspondent, the collector, the package carrier, the speaker, provided the members with matzos and wine on Passover, brought by himself the doctors to the hospital." Ten thousand dollars was doled out as assistance to its members. Deceased members passed away with great dignity and were brought to their eternal rest in the cemetery, which together with the fence today has appreciated to seventy-five thousand dollars.
After Abe Sincoff's death, the management of the organization was taken over by Charles Cohan, who has been the Executive Secretary of the organization for many years, doing a world of work.
In the collected writings of the organization that were issued in 1949 under the editing of Mark Schweid for its thirtieth-year anniversary, it is noted that its membership consists of actors, musicians, dramaturges, choristers, composers, treasurers, managers, publicity agents, stage technicians, ushers, doormen, dressers, wardrobe people and hairdressers.
Mark Schweid remarked in the journal that:
"... In the most largest and smallest organizations, it is generally established that a member should be helped with a certain sum [of money], or until a certain time, when the brotherly assistance would automatically stop. Not that way with the Alliance. It is not accepted that there is any kind of specific amount for a needy person. It is never [the case] that with so many, one cannot help. ... As long as the illness or need and suffering exists, there should be assistance, as long as the help can be given. ... The Alliance property [has] also an endowment fund, which is expected in cases of death. When a member leaves this world ... the Alliance then pays out from the fund a certain sum to their heirs."
Since 1944 David Kulok has been President, and he has given off a lot of energy and devotion for his office. The officers for 1959-60 are:
The Board of Directors consists of:
David Kulok notes:
"The current modern and 'streamlined Alliance' actually became reorganized by Jean Greenfield, my predecessor as chairman. Under my administration we highly expanded the scope of our great humane work among the needy and sick members of the Yiddish theatrical profession. ... The members of our large and honorable family are becoming older, and the demands for assistance are ever more frequent and greater. ...We have a staff (the first initiative of this view belongs to the head of the doctors' staff, Dr. Elihu Katz ע"ה, for twenty-five years' time) of twenty-six surgeons, doctors and dentists, who in 1958 alone were behind 921 visits. We also especially have provided the sick and needy members with hospitals, convalescent homes [places to relax] and nursing homes. ...We have our own cemetery grounds in Mount Hebron, which each year is visited by the admirers of the deceased stars of Yiddish theatre."
The admission charge nowadays is fifteen dollars, and the yearly membership fee is twenty dollars.
The needed funds for the Alliance were created through personal, larger contributions by friends of Yiddish actors, and also through large sums, thanks to the annual, large benefit productions, without any expense to all the participants.
The number of members is 270.
Copyright © Museum of the Yiddish Theatre. All rights reserved.