Yiddish Theater

The Players and Their Work

Organized in 1921 by newly arrived young people from Europe, the Young Literary & Dramatic Society was an activity housed in the Abraham Lincoln House. It started as a reading group but soon began producing one-act Yiddish plays and changed its name to the Yiddish Drama League. Following World War II, the group called itself the Perhift Players, named after the playwright Peretz Hirschbein.

Staging both comic and serious Yiddish plays several times a year, the Perhift Players quickly became a fixture in the Milwaukee Jewish community. It continued to perform plays in Yiddish well into the 1970's, enjoying national notice and respect.

During the same period, elements of Yiddish culture were translated into English. The Jewish Community Center presented Jewish Folklore Reviews and produced Yiddish plays in English translations. Through the years, the Center Players performed many plays with general as well as Jewish themes. The Jewish Community Center continues to present productions through children's Temkin Family Theater Program.


Center Perhift Players
50th Anniversary - 1921-1971

Floor: Judy Stein, Beverly Lakritz, Esther Edwards, Glenna Shutkin, Caroline Emold

Chairs: Gertrude Kozak, June Kozak, Jan Wilner, Bea Devorkin, Jane Chiger, Paula Peltz, Gertrude Tepper, Isadore Tepper, David Licht, Ruth Stein, Bess Lerner, Becky Solochek, Fanny Haber

Standing: Robert Chiger, Jack Devorkin, Sam Lakritz, Jack Leviant, Howard Weinshel, Harry Emold, Henry Lerner, Mel Shikora, Sid Wilner, Harry Perlstein, Ronnie Singer, Norman Tugenberg, Joseph Shutkin, JCC Staff Sam Haber



Perhift Players Reading a Play, 1950

Maurice Mason, Isadore Tepper, Leon Goldberg, Ida Bursten, Howard Weinshel, Jack Leviant, Vera Stein, Harry Perlstein


  • 1921 - 1922
    • One acts and readings
  • 1923
    • "Smits Techter" - Peretz Hirshbein
  • 1924 - 1926
    • One acts and readings
  • 1927
    • "Der Gedungener Chosen" - Osip Dimov
  • 1928
    • "Shampanie" and readings - I. L. Peretz
  • 1929
    • "Mitn Shtrom" and readings - Sholom Asch
  • 1930
    • One acts
  • 1931
    • "Tevye der Milchiker" - Sholom Aleichem

      "Tevye der Milchiker" - Sholom Aleichem

      Set in Czarist Russia, a Jewish milkman attempts to find suitable husbands for his daughters. This story was the basis for the musical, "Fiddler on the Roof."

      Players include: Henry Lerner, Norman Tugenberg, Mel Shikora, Becky Solochek, Jack Joseph, Isadore Tepper

  • 1932
    • "Greene Felder" - Peretz Hirshbein
    • "Opgezugt" - David Pinski
    • "In a Newspaper Office" - Arie Pasi
  • 1933
    • "Der Zieger" - David Pinski
    • "Der Zeher Zet Zein Kaleh" - Harry Sackler
  • 1934
    • "Oif a Nayem Veg" - S. Dyksell
  • 1935
    • "Farvorfn Vinkel" - Peretz Hirshbein
  • 1936
    • One act plays
  • 1937
    • "Smits Techter" - Peretz Hirshbein
  • 1938
    • Literary Evening
  • 1939
    • "Der Zeher Zet Zein Kaleh" - Harry Sackler
  • 1940 - 1941
    • One acts and readings
  • 1942 - 1945
    • Work suspended because of war; several members in service
  • 1946
    • "Shver Zu Zeim A Yid" - Sholom Aleichem
  • 1947
    • "Riverside Drive" - Leon Kobrin

      "Riverside Drive" - Leon Kobrin

      Performed often in Milwaukee, this play depicts the differences between immigrant Eastern European Jews who lived through revolutions and pogroms and their affluent, assimilated American children.

      Players include: Joseph Bursten, Isadore Tepper, Ida Bursten

    • "The Treasure" - David Pinski
  • 1948
    • "Gold" - Joshua Alkon
  • 1949
    • "Smits Techter" - Peretz Hirshbein
    • "Bankrupt" - H. Leivick"

      "Bankrupt" - H. Leivick"

      This play was presented on June 11th and 12th, 1949, in honor of H. Leivick's 60th birthday. The great poet and dramatist was also present for the performances.

      Players include: Harry Perlstein, Bess Lerner, Vera Stein

  • 1950
    • "Puste Kretchme" - Peretz Hirshbein
    • "Docter Ratevet" - Joshua Alkon
  • 1951
    • "Rozinkes Mit Mandlen" - Peretz Hirshbein
    • A Hanukah Festival Program
  • 1952
    • "Kreutzer Sonata" - Jacob Gordon
    • A Peretz Evening - I. L. Peretz
    • "Hershele Ostropoler" - based on Gershenson
  • 1953
    • "Mein Man Der Minister" - Joshua Bar Joseph
  • 1954
    • Presentation for Opening of new JCC
  • 1955
    • "Riverside Drive" - Leon Kobrin

      "Riverside Drive" - Leon Kobrin

      Performed often in Milwaukee, this play depicts the differences between immigrant Eastern European Jews who lived through revolutions and pogroms and their affluent, assimilated American children.

      Players include: Joseph Bursten, Isadore Tepper, Ida Bursten

  • 1956
    • "Dos Groise Gevins" - Sholom Aleichem
    • "Menachem Mendel in Tel Aviv" - Itzchak Sela
  • 1957
    • "Sands of the Negev" - Yigal Mossensohn
    • "Kiddush Ha-Shem" - Sholom Asch
  • 1958
    • "Sands of the Negev" - In honor of Israel's 10th anniversary
    • "Ver is Ver" - H. Leivick
  • 1959
    • "Tevye der Milchiker" - Sholom Aleichem

      "Tevye der Milchiker" - Sholom Aleichem

      Set in Czarist Russia, a Jewish milkman attempts to find suitable husbands for his daughters. This story was the basis for the musical, "Fiddler on the Roof."

      Players include: Henry Lerner, Norman Tugenberg, Mel Shikora, Becky Solochek, Jack Joseph, Isadore Tepper

  • 1960
    • "Uncle Moses" - Sholom Asch

      "Uncle Moses" - Sholom Asch

      This is a story of a benevolent despot who brings his "landsmen" from Russia to work in his factories and stores. He starts them off as new Americans, being generous when he is so inclined.

      Players include: Mel Shikora, Becky Solochek

    • "Parnoseh" - Choneh Gottesfeld
  • 1961
    • "Brothers Ashkenazi" - I. J. Singer

      "Brothers Ashkenazi" - I. J. Singer

      Like the stories of famous Biblical twins and brothers, this Polish Jewish family saga shows how one twin brother leads a life of righteousness while the other strives for gold and power.

      Players include: Isadore Tepper, Harry Perlstein

  • 1962
    • "Goldgrebber" - Sholom Aleichem
  • 1963
    • An Evening with Perhift
    • "200.000" - Sholom Aleichem
  • 1964
    • "Der Thilim Yid" - Sholom Asch
  • 1965
    • "The Marriage Contract" - Ephraim Kishon
  • 1966
    • "Eleventh Heir" - M. Dluznowsky
    • "Dos Finfte Gebot" - Edmund Morris
  • 1967
    • "The Dybbuk" - S. Anski

      "The Dybbuk" - S. Anski

      Many Jews believed in the concept of a dybbuk, a transmigrating soul. The play's universe is of Eastern European Jews in which all people are responsible for each other.

      Players include: Harry Perlstein

  • 1968
    • Readings
  • 1969
    • "Orime Meluche" - H. Leivick
  • 1970
    • Literary evening
  • 1971
    • "Family Cahana"


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