Voices of the Yiddish Theatre



Miriam was born on March 4, 1911 in Bialystok in what was then considered Polish Lithuania. Her father was a salesman. He could not earn enough to support his family, so he immigrated to America, bringing two of his daughters. Three years later, he returned to Poland. Miriam studied in a cheder and in a public school. Later she became a member of the “Small Bund,” where she was summarily arrested for smuggling banned literature. She immigrated with her entire family to America and settled in Boston, where she attended a summer school and afterwards high school. She sang in choral classes and attended singing classes given by her teacher, Miss Dalton. She won a contest of the best student-singers in the New England Conservatory in Boston and received a scholarship of five-thousand dollars to travel abroad to study music. While Yiddish actors Julius and Anna Nathanson were appearing in Boston in Freiman’s “Golden Bride,” they heard her sing quite by accident. He invited her to join the chorus in his theatre, where she sang a solo in “The Golden Soldier.” She stayed on as a member of the chorus. In forthcoming guest roles, she played a serial role (a nurse) with Max Gabel in “Bridal Gown,” and afterwards as a young boy in “The Bandit” with Ludwig Satz, and in “Three Brides” with Leon Blank. She had a walk-on in a children’s presentation of ”Shulamis”, but didn’t yet consider this to be her career since she was determined to become a lawyer and was preparing to study at Northeastern University.


In the evenings she continued to sing in the chorus for one season playing incidental roles. She then performed in the “Cabaret Symphony.” She was brought back to Yiddish theatre by Hymie Jacobson, who heard her sing and rehearsed with her, preparing for them to sing together in “Gypsy Duet”. She soon appeared in a more prominent role in Rumshinsky’s ”Get Married.” She traveled around appearing with Aaron Lebedeff and Hymie Jacobson in the Lawndale Theatre (Chicago), having equal billing with them. In 1930-31 she played in Philadelphia’s “Arch Street Theatre” (with Hymie Jacobson and Simon Wolff.) On 3 February 1931 she joined the Hebrew Actor’s Union and traveled as guest performer to Boston. In the summer of 1931 she was guest performer in Argentina with Hymie Jacobson (whom she married in 1933). She traveled with him as a guest performer throughout Europe (Belgium, England, France, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland). While she was in Warsaw she divided her time between appearing on stage in “Esther” and in the film “The Purimshpilers.”  She returned to America and played in the Williamsburg Cooperative Lyric Theatre. Afterwards she played in various other theatres until 1938, when she traveled once again with Hymie Jacobson to Poland. She then returned to America.... To read more about Miriam's life, please visit her biography in Zylbercweig's "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre."   Here you can listen to Miriam and Seymour Rechtzeit sing their famous "Vus geven iz geven."



Photo courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York Theatre Collection

Adapted from the translation of Miriam's bio in Zylbercweig's "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," Vol. 3, p.2371.

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