According to Joseph
Rumshinsky, even in the beginning of this century there
existed a society "Di likhtike pnimer (The
Bright Faces[?])," a kind of
theatrical aid organization. Membership in this society
included Boris Thomashefsky, Charles Groll, Charlie
Weinblatt, Isidore Edelstein, Samuel Rosenstein, George
M. Cohan, Joseph Rumshinsky et al. The society had not
borne any serious character and did not last long.
In 1917, during a visit by
Morris Morrison to the dressing room of Rudolf Schildkraut in
the People's Theatre, both developed an intimate
conversation of memories of their Romanian homeland.
The conversation was conducted in Romanian, and many countrymen participated
with them. The wardrober S. H. (Solomon
-- ed.) Olivenbaum arrived quite a friendly
character, who was very interested in the stage worker
Moe Jacobs, and upon his question of why warmth was felt
between the three participants in the conversation. Olivenbaum answered
jokingly that all theatre
people from Romania were cousins. Here the actor Samuel
Rosenstein entered, [along] with Lazar Rosenstein and Leon
Blank, and Hendrick the Wit, [and] they said that since
they were all were descended from Romania, they were also
cousins. This brought Olivenbaum to the idea that
one would need to establish such an organization of
theatre people who would call themselves "The Cousins."
DIRECTORIAL BOARD AND OFFICERS OF THE
YIDDISH THEATRICAL ALLIANCE
|First row, from
top, from right: Charles Cohan (Executive
Secretary), Isaac Miller, David Kulok
(President), Louis Goldstein, Herman
Yablokoff. Second row: Irving
Jacobson, Irving Grossman, Sholom Secunda,
Menasha Skulnik, Louis Yaeger, Milton
Weintraub, Rose Pivar. Third row:
Nathan Goldberg, Louis Zauder, Morris Honig,
William Rolland, Benjamin Zuger, Frank
Rothenstreich, Isaac Aberman.
According to Sam Indin, the history was a little
"In the wardrobe or in the
dressing room of the Yiddish theatre, [various people] used to
wander in from time to time, among them
behind-the-curtain workers, such as actors, dressers (ontsier),
choristers, hairdressers, stagehands (bine arbeter),
the saying 'cousin.' They had called one another cousin as a
sign that all the employees, such as those listed above,
lived side-by-side in peace and satisfaction as one
family, and thus the word 'cousin' became a custom, until
one day when] the dresser Olivenbaum of the National
Theatre, and Sam Indin from the People's Theatre, when
the first bought two boxes (shekhtlen) of
sardines, and the second a box of candy (shekhtl
konfektn), and as then as it was fashionable with
the raffle tickets (plet-bilentn), they also had
the two boxes of sardines and the box of candy raffled
off, the first at the National Theatre, and the second
at the People's Theatre. As it left a profit of two
dollars, they had shared a treasurer (kasirer)
Lazar Freed, and the sum was transferred over to him. In
this connection, each who had purchased a ticket for ten
cents made for a member in "The Cousins" [?] After more
had been made, all of the 'cousins' had to sign, under a
fine [penalty] of one cent, to call each member (mitglid)
by the name 'cousin.' On 12 October 1917 in Beethoven
Hall, [there was held] the inaugural meeting of the organization that had
received the name 'Hebrew Theatrical Cousins.'"
In a souvenir journal
issued on 22 January 1929, it was said about the founders' meeting
that there came the following
twenty-eight: Jean Greenfield, Sam Kestin, Sam
Rosenstein, Kalman Juvelier, William Schwartz, Peter
Graf, Ike Schultz, Aaron Zouder, Shlomo (Samuel) Manne, Dave
Groll, Sam Greenberg, William Epstein, Avraham Fishkind,
William Pasternak, Max Zager, Joseph Brody, Jacob
Wexler, Harry Cooper, Frank Rothenstreich, Moe Jacobs,
Lazar Freed, Lazer Tsukerman, Julius Nathanson, M.
Samuiloff, Philip Jacobs, Sam Indin, S. Olivenbaum, A.
Ferkauf and M. Mench.
All of the offices for the
first six months were divided up [as such]: Sam Rosenstreich -- President, Sam Kestin -- Vice-President,
Harry Cooper -- Provisional Secretary, Lazar Freed --
Financial Secretary, Sam Indin -- Protocol Secretary,
Kalman Juvelier -- Treasurer, and Tsukerman, Graf and
Olivenbaum -- Trustees (Namnim).
It was decided that for ten
cents each theatre person could, with a good character, become
a member and the membership fee should be a dollar per
The duties of the
organization were given as follows:
Mutual assistance and a
home for the elderly.
To unite all workers who
make a life in the Yiddish theatre, indiscriminate of
age, union man or non-union man, if one is morally
pure and not a strike-breaker.
To support with money
and other possible assistance in hardship or in
In case of illness, old
or unable to work, get the member to a home, and for
others find a means of existence.
Provide free for the
member with ground [krke] and a suitable
Several years later the name
of the organization was changed to the "Yiddish
The new officers were:
Reuben Weissman -- President; Samuel Rosenstreich --
Vice-President; Lazar Freed -- Financial Secretary; Sam
Indin -- Protocol Secretary, and Kalman Juvelier, who
for many years was Treasurer.
The organization bought land
for 10,000 dollars in Mount Hebron Cemetery (Flushing,
Queens, New York -- ed.), which was founded thanks
to the assistance of Sigmund Schwartz, and the purchase
became [fully] disbursed in the span of two years.
Over the years the prestige
of the organization developed, and one of her first
large social functions [they held] was a banquet, together with the
Yiddish Actors Union, honoring the president Reuben Weissman, who had been
Honorary President for many years .
According to Mark Schweid:
"The active management of
the Alliance was taken over by other officers. It is
over this leadership [that] came a certain chaos in the
organization. The leaders were minimally observed
the organizational work. ...the members had for months long
neglected to pay their dues. ... It was already seldom
that such daring happened, and when such a meeting took
place, [there] were only a few members, faithful members
[who] came. The Alliance had completely fallen apart.
Several tens of true members remained on guard ... They
bravely took to the work. ...With new energy and
excitement they had they put together again the
semi-expired organization back on its feet. Without the
head of the launched organization stood the intolerable
Abe Sincoff. ...He became president and [dedicated] his
entire free time to the revival of the Alliance. He
increased it with a great number of new members, and he
expanded the aid that was given to those who needed
it. Year in and year out Sincoff remained as president
of the Alliance. ...Within the years in which he
lived, he gave away his activity for the Alliance, [and]
he brought back the organization to a high level. ...Sincoff,
in the last years of his life, made an alliance for his
life's work. With his activity, and with his friendly
nature, he aroused a number of the best and good-hearted
doctors, who had for the members of the Alliance
given their medical assistance entirely for free. The
doctors were declared to be honorary members of the
About this period in the
Alliance, and the role of Sincoff, Zalmen Zylbercweig
"...He became the powerful
force, the president, the officers, the correspondent,
the collector, the package carrier, the speaker, provided the members with matzos and wine
on Passover, brought by himself the hospital to the
doctors." Ten thousand dollars was doled out as
assistance to the members. Deceased members passed away
with great dignity, and[they] were brought to their
eternal rest in the cemetery, which together with the fence today
has appreciated to seventy-five thousand dollars.
After Abe Sincoff's death,
the management of the organization was taken over by
Charles Cohan, who had been for many years the
Executive Secretary of the organization, doing a world
In the collected writings of
the organization that were issued in 1949 under the editing of
Mark Schweid for its thirtieth-year anniversary, it is
noted that its membership consists of actors, musicians,
dramaturges, choristers, composers, treasurers,
managers, publicity agents, stage technicians, ushers,
doormen, dressers, wardrobe people and hairdressers.
Mark Schweid remarked in the
"...In the most largest and
smallest organizations it is established that a member
should be helped with a certain sum [of money], or until
a certain time, when the brotherly assistance would
automatically stop. Not that way with the Alliance. It
is not accepted that there is any kind of specific
amount for a needy person. It is never [the case] that
with so many, one cannot help. ...As long as the illness
or need and suffering exists, there should be
assistance, as long as the help can be given. ... The
Alliance property [has] also an endowment fund, which is
expected in cases of death. When a member leaves this
world ... the Alliance then pays out from the fund a
certain sum to the heirs."
Since 1944 David Kulok has
been President, and he has given off a lot of energy and
devotion for his office. The officers for 1959-60 are:
President -- David Kulok
Vice-Presidents -- Isaac
Miller and Louis Goldstein
Executive Secretary --
Recording Secretary --
Secretary -- Harry Kaufman (until his death)
The Board of Directors
David Kulok notes:
"The current modern and
'streamlined Alliance' actually became reorganized by
Jean Greenfield, my predecessor as chairman. Under my
administration we highly expanded the scope of our great
humane work among the needy and sick members of the
Yiddish theatrical profession. ...The members of our
large and honorable family are becoming older, and the
demands for assistance are ever more frequent and
greater. ...We have a staff (the first initiative of
this view belongs to the head of the doctors' staff, Dr.
Elihu Katz ע"ה, for twenty-five years' time) of
twenty-six surgeons, doctors and dentists, who in 1958
alone were behind 921 visits. We also especially have
provided the sick and needy members with hospitals,
convalescent homes [places to relax] and nursing homes.
...We have our own cemetery grounds (bis oylem)
in Mount Hebron, which each year is visited by the
admirers of the deceased stars of Yiddish theatre."
The admission charge
nowadays is fifteen dollars, and the yearly membership
fee is twenty dollars.
The needed funds for the
Alliance were created through personal, larger
contributions by friends of Yiddish actors, and also
through large sums, thanks to the annual, large benefit
productions, without any expense to all the
The number of members is
Sh. E. from Sam
Indin and Charles Cohan.
"Souvenir Journal of
the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance", New York, 22
January 1939 [One page of the history in Yiddish,
one page of photography of the officers in 1929,
eight pages of advertisements in English, and
twenty-two in Yiddish).
[--] -- Yiddish
Theatrical Alliance, "Forward", N. Y., 25 October
B. Levitin -- Men
shtupt zikh tsu koyfen tikets tsu an unternemung in
a idishen teater, "Forward", N. Y., 19 January 1940.
Zalmen Zylbercweig --
"Theatre Mosaic", N. Y., 1941, pp. 29-34.
[of the] Yiddish Theatrical Alliance", N. Y., 1949
(edited by Mark Schweid, with articles in Yiddish by
Mark Schweid, Reuben Guskin, Joseph Rumshinsky,
Chaim Ehrenreich, Maurice Schwartz, Dr. H. N.
Swerdlin, Sholem Perlmutter, Charles Cohan and Dora
Weisman, and in English from President David Kulok,
and welcomes and advertisements in Yiddish and
Dr. N. Swerdlin --
Draytig yor helfen zey kranke idishe artisten,
"Tog", N. Y., 8 March 1949.
Herman Quinns [Chaim
Ehrenreich] -- Idishe teater velt iz gegangen oyf
kvr abus fun idishe teater-menshen, "Forward", N. Y,
15 September 1955.
David Kulok -- 42 yor
fun dinst far'n idishen aktior, "Daily Morning
Journal", N. Y., 4 December 1958.