Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Jacob Cone

He was born in March 1878 in Bialystok, Russia-Poland.

His parents, who were observant and not financially well-off, moved with their entire family to America in 1886. He studied in a cheder and at twelve years of age his father took him to work in his hat-making business. At fifteen years of age he began to perform in Gordin’s dramatic club and in other dramatic organizations. A year later he ran away from his father’s home together with Sam Kestin and Jacob Frank in order to perform in theatres throughout the region.

As a result, he played the title role in a hall in Yonkers, in Adler’s successful play “The Jewish Priest”. After wandering about for a while throughout the East Coast, as far as Cincinnati, he returned to New York. A handsome man and possessing excellent Yiddish diction, he was given the opportunity to play with the most prestigious Yiddish troupes and with the most famous stars of that time, such as Adler, Kessler, and Lipzin. Furthermore, he was given the first chance to play “Gordin type roles”.

In 1899, in the Thalia Theatre he played “Motele” in “Got, mentsh un tayvel (God, Man and Devil)”. In 1902, he played “Samuel” in “Di kreutzer sonata”. In 1903, he portrayed “Mark” in “Chasia di yesoyme (Chasia the Orphan)” in the same year he played the role of “Mike” in Gorky’s “Myetchtshyahanye” and in 1905, he played “Talya" in Gordin’s “Der umbakanter”.


In all of these roles he was highly praised by the press for his sincerity and for his excellent portrayal of the characters he portrayed. 

After Michael Mintz’s suicide, Cone became Kenny Lipzin (Mintz’s wife’s) personal business manager.

In 1929 and 1930, Cone was the stage director and general director of  Philadelphia’s Arch Street Theatre troupe (Manager Y. Gruber). He was also hired as Celia Adler’s business manager while she was appearing in Philadelphia as a guest performer. He married her in 1931, and they traveled together for a two-year tour throughout South America. Afterwards, they went to France, Romania and some other countries. Later he played for several years with his wife throughout America. In 1943, he organized a cooperative “star troupe” (Celia Adler, Bertha Gerstin, Misha and Lucy German, Menachem Rubin, Max Bozyk, and Itzik Roytblum). After that he devoted himself to managing his wife’s performances and concerts. At that time he permanently withdrew from acting.

In his final years, Cone became ill and had to be frequently hospitalized and under constant medical care. He died on May 26, 1956, in Beth Israel Hospital in New York City and was buried in the “Yiddish Theatrical Alliance”’ cemetery plot.

Cone was one of the founders of the Yiddish Actors Union and in his final years he became a member of its Executive Committee.

Cone had two sons from his first marriage. For many years, his son Irving was treasurer in various Yiddish theatres and later became a theatrical producer on Broadway.

In her memoirs, his wife, Celia Adler, said: “. . . Cone was almost never involved with what I call 'the second golden period of Yiddish theatre'.  But Cone had theatre in his blood. Cone lived and breathed Yiddish theatre. Cone believed that Yiddish theatre had to satisfy the great wide Jewish world because Yiddish theatre was an integral part of their lives. In his career on the stage, he played important leading roles with the finest Yiddish female stars such as Bertha Kalich, Kenny Lipzin, Sara Adler and others. He constantly exhibited integrity and possessed a great measure of graciousness as he served the women stars with whom he acted. He felt gratitude towards them because they brought to the theatre their special talents and their vast array of theatrical know-how. It was almost as though he felt that they had served and assisted in his theatre. Throughout his many years on the stage he received high praise. At times he was acclaimed for his highly ethical practices, for his leadership on the stage and for his business acumen”.   

Sh. E. from Celia Adler.

  • Obituary in “Forward”, N. Y.,  May 29, 1956.

  • Celia Adler: Celia Adler Tells”, March 21, May 4, 1958.






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Translated from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 2251.

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