Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yitzhak Libresko

translation in progress....

Born on 19 November [according to his memoirs -- 30 November. A. S.] 1850 in Iasi, Romania. His father was a chief sexton. He learned in a cheder, Beit Hamedrash, and in a yeshiva. At first after his marriage (in 1869) he learned to sign [his name] in Latin. A pious man, he was called out by Linetski's "Polish Lad" doubts/misgivings.

L. became sexton in the synagogue of the enlightened and money overseer across the synagogues of the chevra. Under the influence of Hebrew and Yiddish Haskalah books, L. became an "epicurus". In 1873 he became sexton in the temple of Neishats, who changed L.'s family name to Libresko.

In 1877, during the Berlin conference about the Jews in Romania, L. became the mail contact among the Romanian delegates and the local "Zion" association. Gradually L. became at home the city "leyen-zal", where he turned to thelocal mashkilim, and L. also became the non-0honorific agent for the Hebrew periodical press, and for Goldfadxen's "Bukovina Israelite Family Page".

After a correspondence with Goldfaden, G. brought L. to Iasi in 1876, and he helped co-found a union "Huti hzhv" (Goldenfodim), which proclaimed Goldfaden as the honorary president. The union placed itself soon thereafter with the union "Lvnon (Lebanon [?])".

Through the initiative of L., Goldfaden performed with Simeon Marks in a garden, and L. was active with the first preparations


for the founding of a stable Yiddish theatre, helping put together troupes and arrange the first productions of Yiddish Theatre.

When in Iasi there was organized (in 1878) a troupe in Pomul Verde, under the name of Joseph Lateiner, L. dramatized Izik Meir Dik's story "Di tsvey kleine katerintshikes", as a play in four acts under the name of "Di derfilte libe", which was staged there.

Due to the Russian-Turkish  War a newspaper began to be published, from which L. became the main agent. He threw the names -- and -- on the stage of Goldfaden -- he became for him manager of the troupe. Soon after he became a peddler in Bucharest, and then he again joined Goldfaden and arranged one of the first Yiddish theatre productions in Odessa.

During the first ban on Yiddish theatre in Russia, L. directed with Goldfaden's troupe in Romania, then he again managed with the troupe in Russia. After an unsuccessful attempt to manage with Naftali Goldfaden, L. put together (with Lateiner, Mogulesko and Spivakovski) a troupe for Odessa, but he soon went back., founding again a troupe of Goldfaden's former actors from Romania.

In 1879 L. issued in Odessa Goldfaden's play "Di bobe mit'n eynikel, in three acts with singing", and (together with E. M. Werbel) Goldfaden's "Shmendrik".

Through the printed texts, there was facilitated the founding of new troupes, which earlier was difficult due to a lack of repertoire.

In 1880 L. went on tour with a troupe to Galicia, and for the first time Yiddish theatre was performed in Lemberg. Remaining with the repertoire, L. went to Odessa, in order to from there bring new plays, returning with prompter Leon Berger to Galicia, and they founded in Bordy a new troupe (with Broder Singer Chaim-Shmuel Lukatsher at the head), with whom L. studied one Goldfaden's "Di shtume kale".

The troupe under the name "Romanian-Yiddish Theatre under the direction of Izak Libresko and Leon Berger" staged there their entire repertory, which consisted of Goldfaden's six plays, and then again they had to wander.

At the end of December 1880 L. arrived in Berlin and soon there brought the troupe, which began to perform in a variety on Aleksander Platz, under the name "German-Yiddish Theatre"., but during the first production of Goldfaden's "Recruits", a scandal broke out (by German anti-Semites), and the production was not completed.

Thereby L.'s completed mitvirkung in Yiddish theatre. L. later wandered around across Europe, ghettos, various trades, and took up with various businesses, until in 1901 when he arrived in New York and also here remained to expand Yiddish theatre.

Avraham Goldfaden mentioned very often in his autobiography of L.'s service as his assistant and secretary.

In November 1926 L. told Zalmen Zylbercweig in his memoirs of the Yiddish theatre, which Zylbercweig wrote up and published in his book "Hinter forhang" (Vilna, 1928), under the name "The Memoirs of Yitzhak Libresko, the Initiator of Goldfaden's Theatre"" (117 pp.).

In his introduction to the memoirs Zalmen Zylbercweig writes:

"..As was entirely often with the old people, he remembered this is with the smallest details ever, which he recounts, and on how much I have compared some things in later conversations with older actors and with the well-known operetta writer Joseph Lateiner, who also lived in that epoch, that had matched exactly, so that I knew with a quiet conscience that Libresko's memoirs were true history, as to how much were subjective memories, although it can generally be considered as subjective (?) -- and later -- "...the number of times that he had attended the Yiddish theatre within the span of twenty-five years was three times. The entire new generation of Yiddish actors knew him...more to translate..."

Dr. A. Mukdoni writes about Libresko's memoirs:

"The first time.... more to translate..."

L. also wrote his autobiography, which he left to his son, the writer Dr. Bentsion Berkovitsh.

On 11 June 1930, L. passed away in New York, and, according to his wish, was cremated.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. I, pp. 203, 208, 209, 221, 238, 239.

  • "Goldfaden-bukh", N. Y., 1926, p. 80.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- "Hinter forhang", Vilna, 1928 (the memoirs of Yitzhak Libresko, the initiator of Goldfaden's theatre), pp. 1-117.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Ufelikeytn beym yidishn teater, vos zenen gevorn vikhtike faktorn "Arbeter-tsaytung", Czernowitz, 19 October 1928.

  • Jacob Botoshansky -- Tsvishn bikher un mkhbrim, "Prese", Buenos Aires, 13 February 1929.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- A bintel bikher, "Morning Journal", 13 October 1929.

  • Elkhanan Zeitlin -- Interesante goldfaden-un gordin-meterialn, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 41, 1929.

  • A. Almi -- Teater-zikhrunus un anekdotn "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 17 March 1930.

  • M. Osherowitz -- Geshtorbn yitzhak libresko, einer fun di ershte grinder fun dem idishen teater, "Forward", N. Y., 13 June 1930.

  • N. B. Linder -- Bay dem ofenem kbr fun yitzhak libresko, dem faktishen grinder fun idishen teater, "Tog", N. Y., 13 June 1930.

  • [--] -- Yitzhak libresko, pioner fun idishen theater, geshtorben, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 13 June 1930.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Der letster fun an epokhe, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 32, 1930, "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 8 August 1930.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1042.

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