Original Photographs from London's New Yiddish Theatre (1946)
[Meisels, Abish (1893 – 1959)] A suite of fifteen original photographs of the New Yiddish Theater in London, each about 6 x 8 in. Each photograph with typed caption affixed to verso, and stamped "Bertha Klausner / Artists' and Literary Agency." With original envelope. Corner-mounted and housed in a three-ring binder.
Born in Galicia and raised by his grandfather, a cantor, Abish Meisels entered the world of the Yiddish theater as a youth. When he was 14 he co-founded a club in Tarnapol devoted to the work of the influential playwright Jacob Gordin, and staged the latter's Der yidisher kenig lir. He soon moved to Vienna, where he performed, produced revues, and translated plays into Yiddish, including works by Shaw, Shakespeare, and Wederkind. He was in the cast of H. K. Breslauer's Expressionist film, Die Stadt ohne Juden (1924). His novel set partially in London was serialized in Di tsayt.
"Meisels, fugitive playwright, watches the rehearsal from the stalls"
In 1938 Meisels emigrated to London, and in 1943 he founded the New Yiddish Theatre on Adler Street in the East End. Aptly, the theater stood intact in a region that was largely destroyed by the Blitz. Many of the company of the theater were, like Meisels, refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe; one sketch was performed by children who had survived the concentration camps, identified in the photo caption as "the Branded Boys from Buchenwald."
"The Branded Boys from Buchenwald take a rest between appearances"
These photographs offer a rare glimpse of the company and its audience during the heyday of the New Yiddish Theater. The images include photographs of rehearsals, performances, and players in what we think is likely an updated production of Meisel's revue, Oyf keyn tel-aviv. including portraits of Meisels and the celebrated actor Meyer Tzelniker, along with Anna Baum, Leo Blumenson, Miriam Karlova, Nathan Shwartz, and Anna Tzelniker. Six of these photographs were published in the Forward on 16 June 1946:
The New Yiddish Theater was short-lived. Wartime damage to the bulding's structure rendered it uninhabitable, and the urgent need for repairs to the roof forced it to close in 1947. The troupe relocated to the Alexandria Theatre in Stoke Newington, where it survived until the early 1950s.
Although Meisels died young, his family carried on the tradition; his daughter Ruth and his grandson is the actor David Schneider. These photographs, brokered by the dynamic agent Bertha Klausner (1901-1998), whose father was a columnist for the Forward, offer a unique record of a vibrant artistic community.
- Blumesberger, Susanne, et al. Handbuch österreichischer Autorinnen und Autoren jüdischer Herkunft 18. bis 20. Jahrhundert. Band 2: J–R. Hrsg. von der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Saur, München 2002)
- Dalinger, Brigitte. “Popular Jewish drama in Vienna in the 1920s,” in Edna Nahshon, ed., Jewish Theatre: A Global View (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 175-196.=
- Halpern, Stephanie. “The Yiddishists: London’s Yiddish Theatre,” Jewish Renaissance, January 2019, p. 46.
- Meisels, Abish. Von Sechistow bis Amerika: Eine Revue in 15 Bildern, ed Brigitte Dalinger and Thomas Soxberger (Vienna: Picus, 2000)
- Zylbercweig, Zalmen. Leḳsiḳon fun Yidishn ṭeaṭer (New York: Elisheva, 1931)
- Walker, Philip. "The New Yiddish Theatre, corner of Adler Street and Commercial Road." http://jewisheastend.com/yiddishtheatre.html