Actors of the Romanian State Yiddish Theater in Jacob Gordin’s Hershele Dubrovner, Bucharest, 1960. (YIVO)

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Romanian State Yiddish Theater

Established in Bucharest on 1 August 1948, the first Romanian State Yiddish Theater was located on the premises of the Baraşeum Theater in the Jewish quarter of Bucharest, where Jewish actors had given Romanian-language performances during World War II. Between 1944 and 1948, Yiddish actors performed for private groups or were subsidized by various cultural associations.

The State Yiddish Theater continues the tradition established in the nineteenth century by traveling performers like the Broder Singers; this tradition reached its peak in 1876 when Avrom Goldfadn established the first permanent Yiddish company in Iaşi in the wine garden of Pomul Verde (Green Tree). The continuity of the Yiddish theatrical tradition in Romania owes much, on one hand, to the enthusiasm of particular individuals, such as the director and poet Yankev Shternberg, and, on the other hand, to the moral role of this theater in difficult times. During World War II, Yiddish actors kept the flame of spiritual resistance alive, performing in the Transnistrian concentration camps.

The State Yiddish Theater in Bucharest promoted an ambitious artistic program. From 1948 to 1954 the theater was directed by Bernard Lebli (d. 1966), with Ury Benador (1895–1971) as dramaturg; from 1955 to 1987 it was directed by Franz Auerbach (1915–2002) with Israil Bercovici (Yisroel Berkovitsh; 1921–1988) serving as dramaturg until 1982; Harry Eliad (1927– ) became director in 1989. In its large repertoire, classical Yiddish plays coexist with masterpieces of world theater as well as modern works with Jewish themes (during the Stalinist period, some anti-Zionist plays were also staged). A wide range of genres has been represented, from tragedy to revue and vaudeville. The core repertoire has included Sholem Aleichem’s Dos groyse gevins (The Winning Lottery Ticket) and Tevye der milkhiker (Tevye the Dairyman); Avrom Goldfadn’s Di kishef-makerin (The Witch); Jacob Gordin’s Got, mentsh, un tayvl (God, Man, and Devil); S. An-ski’s Der dibek (The Dybbuk); H. Leyvik’s Der goylem (The Golem); Dos togbukh fun Anna Frank (The Diary of Anne Frank) by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, and Otto Frank; and Di yudn fun Toledo (The Jewess of Toledo), adapted by Alexandru Mirodan from a work of Lion Feuchtwanger. These plays have been staged frequently in various versions, both in Bucharest and abroad. The first generation of artists included the actors and directors Beno Popliker (1903–1984) and Mauriciu Sekler (1901–1981); and the actors Sevilla Pastor (1906–1982), Samuel Fischler (1912–1982), Dina Koenig (1906–1964), Isac Havis (1910–1991), Mano Rippel (1919–1980), Seidy Gluck (1922–1997), Lia Koenig (1932– ; in recent years the grande dame of Habimah, the national theater company of Israel), Iancu Alperin (1921– ), and Leonie Waldman-Eliad (1932– ). A younger generation of actors has included Carol Feldman (1937– ), Bebe Bercovici (1937– ), Carol Marcovici (1938–2006), Rudi Rosenfeld (1941– ), Tricy Abramovici (1945– ), and Maia Morgenstern (1962– ). The composer and conductor Haim Schwartzmann (1897–1982), the stage director George Teodorescu (1919–2000), and the set designers Moise Rubingher (1911–2004), Jules Perahim (1914–2008), Adina Reich (1928– ), and Dan Nemțeanu (1930– ) have made important contributions. Beginning in 1993, the theater also began to stage plays in Romanian.

From 1949 to 1963, a similar theater functioned in Iaşi. It was directed by Iso Schapira (1903–1981), with Iţic Şvarţ-Kara (1906–2001) as dramaturg; leading actors included Solomon Friedman (1889–1980), Abram Naimark (1920– ), Ruhele Heller-Schapira (1920– ), Nuşa Grupp-Stoian (1922–2001), and Marcel Finkelescu (1923–1997).

Suggested Reading

Yisroel Berkovitsh (Israil Bercovici), Hundert yor yidish teater in Rumenye, 1876–1976 (Bucharest, 1976), also published in a Romanian version (Bucharest, 1982).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea