Yiddish Theater

German Jews began appearing as actors, directors and stage managers at the end of the 18th century, but there was no real professional Yiddish theater until the middle of the 19th century. 1882 saw the first production of Yiddish theater in New York, where it achieved its greatest success among its Jewish audiences.

In early 1900's Jewish Milwaukee, the Abraham Lincoln Settlement House was a meeting place for immigrants and reflected the interests of its members. In addition to literary societies, literary circles, athletic clubs, and singing groups, the Settlement housed the Yiddish Dramatic Society. The group eventually evolved into a serious, amateur Yiddish theater group.

Yiddish theater wove into its dramatic tapestry the universal themes common to the American immigrant experience. Poverty, oppression, struggle, assimilation and homesickness all appeared in the Yiddish theater. It also embraced themes unique to the Jewish experience such as anti-Semitism and isolation. In this exhibition, we have incorporated these themes into "The Old Country" and the assimilation of the immigrant in "The New Country."

Materials in this exhibition are from the Howard Weinshel and Harry Perlstein collections.

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