Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Henryk (Chaim) Ryba

Born on 17 July 1889 in Warsaw, Poland. His father was a contractor. A head of the kehilah in Warsaw. He learned in a cheder, for a short time in a shul, then he became an auto-didact. For a profession a contractor. Had an interest in Jewish culture, and a sentiment for Yiddish theatre. In 1916, together with Avraham Bren, build the "Central" Theatre in Warsaw on Leshne 1, and became a theatre director, maintaining a troupe of shchirus (Leah Naomi, Polia Keyzer, Sonia Vaynberg, Matilda St. Claire, Michal Michalesko,  Shoshana, Moshe and Tseshie Zandberg, Leon Charaz, David Lederman, Philip Laskowsky, Herman Fisher and Liza Fisher-Barska, Y. Lipinski, A. Guthartz and Shmuel Vaynberg), and opened the theatre with Dymow's "Yoshke muzikant." The troupe there, with a certain changes, played for five years. Then the repertoire of the theatre changed to a dramatic one, beginning 'with the power of a dybbuk': later the drama-comedy theatre with Ester Rokhl Kaminska, Zygmunt Turkow, Ida Kaminska, I. Samberg, Sh. Landau, Until the government bought the bar from the Jewish owner, and had to close.

About R., in a conversation with a co-worker at the "Literarishe bleter," he denied the idea that he and his partner had rushed to the burial of the theatre. They had two choices for themselves: to abandon the theatre in May and fight a certain compensation, or in August, when their right to the theatre ended, and there was nothing to fight. They turned to Jewish social leaders for advice, but no one was interested in the matter. At first after an ultimatum


they met again with society leaders, and they preferred not to wait until the last moment. The compensation and the promised credits may make it possible to build another Yiddish theatre. R. explained further:

"Finally, I would like to touch on another accusation that has been thrown at us, that we want to exploit the maximum scent of Jewish theatre and thereby suffer the artistic side of our undertakings. I must state for the truth: For the past nine years, we've had better businesses (in the sense of smell), like playing drama. We wiped out all the tempting quotes because for us the question of a Yiddish theatre is not only a community undertaking. Otherwise, nothing would have forced us to start building a new Yiddish theatre. ... The first difficulty with this plan is the place for a building. ... We already had an owner of a place: the (Polish) education ministry. It has a wonderful place in the Jewish area. ...The proposal (for a Yiddish theatre) was rejected. Money to buy the theatre is here. We, the former owners of the 'Central,' (Bren and Riba) united with the theatre entrepreneur Tselmeister and stepped along to get work. Plans have already been worked out (through the architect Moshkovski). ...A large stage with a large behind-the-scenes, a large auditorium (1150 seats), a large corridor ... It will be an excellent acoustic, from all places you will see excellently. We will respond and get a place, a proper place, Then we immediately step in to build. (Here he points out the difficult conditions) First of all, the press is absolutely brilliant to us ... The press is silent, and now we need a warm atmosphere around us. We do not currently request a cash venture. However, we want the world to give us courage to work so that the necessary spirits of creation will be created around us, we only want our councilor in the state, and especially the community, to help us ...We also want that the society should take the word for it, and that it should be a reminder to us."

R. let go of the 'Skala' theatre on Jelne 1, which he had opened on 19 May 1926 with the following troupe: Barska-Fisher, Chana Grosbard, H. Fenigsztein, Sh. Landau, Chaim Sandler, Herman Fisher, Sh. Weinberg, Tsila Rappel, Weintraub, Sam Bronetsky, Fishman and Sh. Karnteyer, in the middle of 1926 joined the 'Sambatyon' troupe (with the actors Nozyk, Itzik Feld, Lola Shpilman, Gazel), in 1928 in the theatre there guest-starred Rudolph Zaslavsky, and until the outbreak of the Second World War, the theatre had continuously changed the repertoire of physiognomy, as well as the social character of remunerated --by directors -- troupes, until member troupes, which included not only the actors, but all the skilled at the theatre.

About R.'s tragic end, according to Jonas Turkow, when the Germans gave permission to open the Yiddish theatre "Eldorado" in the Warsaw Ghetto (originally the "Skala"), R. and Meir Vinder were the leaders of the theatre. He (most of the time Turkow calls him Simkha) worked  in the "shop" on Lesno 27. During the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto, he, together with his family, the family of Y. Baum, and the family of Sandler held up in a bunker. When they were thrown out of hiding and led to death, the Germans turned to them with an Aryan smile: "And you, filthy Jews, wanted to defeat us, Germans?!".


  • B.T. -- Vegn a bnin far a yidish teater in varshe, "Literarishe bleter," Warsaw, No. 58, 1925.

  • Jonas Turkow -- "Extinguished Stars," Vol. 2, p. 60.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 3958.

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