Jacob Ben-Ami (1890-1977), né Shtchirin, was born in Minsk, Russia. He acted for Yiddish companies in such major cities as Odessa (where he helped Peretz Hirsbein form his acting troupe in which Ben-Ami performed and directed) and Vilna (where he directed the "Yiddish Theatre-Lovers Circle," which was thought of as the forerunner of the Vilna Troupe), as well as London, England before deciding to immigrate. He came to the United States in 1912 with the Sarah Adler troupe.

He first acted in New York City in the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City.  In 1918, he was engaged by star Yiddish actor Maurice Schwartz to act with his troupe at the Irving Place Theatre. After a time, dissatisfied with Schwartz's methods, he formed his own Jewish Art Theatre.

According to Lifson's "The Yiddish Theatre in America,
"The actor and director Jacob Ben-Ami with his dedication to art in the Yiddish Art Theatre which Ludwig Lewisohn called: 'the noblest theatrical enterprise existing among us." Ben Ami was one of the important torchbearers of art in the Yiddish theatre, and his "Jewish Art Theatre... [provided] delight and [did] deeply instruct all to whom the state is the home of an intenser, a clearer, and heightened vision of life."
 

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Jacob Ben-Ami

 
 
   


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Text adapted from "The Yiddish Theatre in America," by David S. Lifson, 1965. Photo from the New York Public Library.
 





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