Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Moshe Weinberg


Born on 5 October 1872 in Lemberg, Eastern Galicia. He was the brother of Herman W. From age six to sixteen he sang in a chorus of a Lemberg temple, and then he entered into the troupe of Gimpel, where Goldfaden staged then, "Doctor Yozelman," and gave him the three small roles of "Birgermeister (Mayor)," "Pfaltz" and "Kenig (King)."

After acting for four years in this theatre, W. received a concession on a German shunt [?], with which he traveled across Galicia. In 1896 W. received a concession for Yiddish theatre traveled over the province with a troupe of twenty-eight people (including Jacob and Liza Silbert, Frieda Ziebel, Joseph Weinstock and his wife). In 1902 W. opened a Yiddish theatre in Vienna. In 1904 he did the same in Budapest, and in 1906 in Berlin ("Thalia" Theatre), where he played for a year and founded the "Orientalia" Union. Then W. settled in Vienna, where he played for a long time stably, but since the twentieth year, from time to time, mostly devoting himself to providing theatre costumes from his own wardrobe.

W. also participated in the film, "Di shtot on yidn (The City Without Jews)" by Hugo Bettauer.

For a certain time FW. traveled with a phonograph with which he used to (for a small charge) play cantorial compositions and Yiddish theatre songs.

About this, S.J. Harendorf in his book 'Theatre Caravans," recalls: "The story about the great theatrical and artistic successes of Salcia Weinberg in the Budapest nightclubs and cabarets,

"digging and first falling to her feet," and "the greatest Hungarian authorities drinking champagne from her shoes," also reached Galicia, where Moshe Weinberg, the former husband of Salcia, had traveled around with a Yiddish theatre troupe. Moshe Weinberg also found out about the promiscuous life that his older brother Herman had led in Budapest, who had so to say, "from under the wedding canopy," took his bride and married her. ... Moshe Weinberg did not take any revenge on his own brother. However, he had one big desire: to earn a lot of money so he could marry an even greater Yiddish actress than there was in those years, his sister-in-law, Salcia, and to make his wife the greatest 'star' on the Yiddish stage. This would be the greatest revenge against his brother Herman, who ripped away from him his beloved Salcia....

Moshe Weinberg left the Yiddish Gimpel Theatre in Lemberg, where he took a non-prominent role in the ensemble there. He now had a shining new livelihood. He bargained for an old phonograph, which in those days was a big find. With this very same phonograph he went out to the most remote Galician towns and villages. He played all kinds of military marches on his phonograph; mazorskas, polkas, oydidanes, different kinds of dances and other primitive compositions from those days including cantorial "Hashkveynus, Vayehi B'noseya, El orech apayim etc.

 I strolled (walking) -- Moishe Weinberg told the writer of these lines -- from village to village and saved a gratzer (an olden days Austrian coin), or a krone. I didn't allow myself a single bite more in order to reach my highest ambition -- to marry one of the most beautiful Yiddish actresses who were active in the Yiddish theatre.

That luck filled Moshe Weinberg, and he made a lot of money. His evidence at the fairs with the phonograph evoked a strong astonishment from the nave peasants, who used to flock when they heard singing from the phonograph box, believing that there was some kind of magic in the box. The congregation paid for the 'spell' and Moshe Weinberg's wealth increased like with yeast."

Harendorf relates that W., with the phonograph, once came on a Shabbes to a market in a Galician Yiddish shtetl Monastritsh, and there played, as a revenge against the religious Jews, who had fought the wandering Yiddish troupes, played just cantorial pieces, but suddenly the phonograph stopped playing. Saturday night, the sexton came to him with an order, so that he would immediately come to the rabbi, and bring his box with him. Instead of strongly rejecting him, the rabbi decided that he should shake his hand, that he would no longer desecrate the Sabbath with his box, and then instructed him to fill something of a kind of honor to King Malka, and ... This is a miracle: the phonograph again began to play. From that time on, Weinberg stopped desecrating the Sabbath and dragged himself around with his phonograph.

"Even with the wealth that Weinberg had accumulated at the time, when he was wandering around the country of Galicia, an attic was left behind. Even the idea of marring a famous Yiddish actress, who may overpower his beautiful, famous sister-in-law Salcia, was nothing. And due to that remarkable reason, Moshe Weinberg used to buy the little coins that were given to him to play the phonograph, exchange them for larger banknotes, earlier on hundreds, later on thousands. These large banknotes, five single thousands, he put in his boots -- Weinberg thought -- is still the 'safest place.' When he returned to Lemberg, he took off his boots to take out the great treasure, his five hundred krone. But to his great surprise, it turned out that the paper money in his Swiss boots was torn to pieces, and bank wanted to exchange it, because the paper money had faces of pre-filled dust ...

So ended Moshe Weinberg's big dream. ... Moshe Weinberg was an extremely weak actor, and he gave up the actorial profession completely. He was a wardrober and used to rent costumes for the Yiddish theatre in Vienna, and from this he used to have a poor livelihood."

According to Harendorf, W.,  before the Hitler invasion, he became blind. He was old, ill and broken, but this had not disrupted  the Hitler beasts, that they should deport him to Auschwitz, where they killed him.

Sh.E from S.J. Harendorf.

  • "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," New York, 1931, Vol. 1, pp. 682.

  • Benzion Palepade -- "Zikhrones fun a halbn yorhundert yidish teater," Buenos Aires, 1946, pp. 250-251, 262-263.

  • S.J. Harendorf -- "Theatre Caravans," London, 1955, pp. 35-38.





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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 4034.

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