Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leon Golubok

Born on 26 August 1865 [?] in Odessa, Ukraine. Father -- a tailor. In his early youth he became taken in with actors as a singer, and thus he carried on in Shomer's troupe, with whom he acted in Odessa and in the province.

A fine comic, he already could sing and dance, and G. at that time was one of those known for the role of "Bobe yachne" and "Hotzmach", and he especially excelled as "Shtifmame" in Shomer's "Di shtifmame", oder, ""Di tsvey yeshoymim".

After the ban on Yiddish theatre in Russia, G. migrated to London. From there he sent [according to Boris Thomashefsky] to New York to his brother Avraham a poster, in which it was said: "The great comic Leon Golobok, who received a gold medal from the Russian Kaiser, acts [in the play "Bobe yachne"] in the two great roles of "Bobe yachne" and "Hotzmach", and in the third act he does an extra dance like Komarinski."

On the basis of that poster, G.'s brother brought Leon to New York, together with his second brother Myron, and all three together with Boris Thomashefsky, Mr. and Mrs. Spector, Mister Simon and Sara Krantzfeld, arranged one [around July 1882, not in 1880 as Thomashefsky said], the first Yiddish production in America, in which it was under the direction of Leon and Myron Golobok, staged in New York's Turn Hall (4th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues) Goldfaden's "Bobe yachne".


According to Boris Thomashefsky, the first production aroused such a huge audience, that the police in no way could enter to keep order. The production had triggered a huge resistance from the contemporary Jews, who maintained that the production was a stain on Yiddishkeyt, and had therefore exhibited in some large ekspres-vogensa a special speaker, who gefodert from the Jews to boycott the production and to lynch the actors who had allowed such mockery to be made of Jews.

Seeing that their offering had no success, the Jews tried to have an affect on Madame Krantzfeld, that the production might almost make him sick, and would not come. Thomashefsky, however, had brought the sickness into the theatre, and the production began fifteen minutes after ten at night.

Due to the late hour, almost the entire audience frih went apart, also the actors did the same, and when Madame Krantzfeld did not want to sing without an orchestra, she recited, and then brought about through that an ugly scandal and a scuffle.

According to other actors who had participated in this production [according to B. Gorin] it was not so oyskhapenish on the tickets, they didn't absolutely have the need to call for the police. Madame Krantzfeld hadn't made herself ill, but she actually was hoarse. Also they didn't remember about the interference from the Jews (the so-called Emigrant Committee).

This shows that the first Yiddish production in America paid worse than was expected, can serve the fact that the activity son became dependent and so quickly to a second undertaking.

According to Thomashefsky in his "In a few days time, after the first production in New York, the great tragic (actor) [Myron], and the great comic [Leon], and the entire troupe of Yiddish actors, sat at Jacobin [a well-to-do of a cigarete factory on Chatham Square] and worked at "Samopolne" cigarettes.

Several months later he arrived from London with the group "Es eulm", after several "amateurs", and under the direction of the prior director Frank Wolf, and after two partners, they had in the week of Sukkos 1882 staged in New York (Leon and Myron Golobok, Spector and his wife, Israel Barski, Rosenblum, Rafael Boyarski-Bogart, B. Bernstein, Simon, Zhupnik and Boris Thomashefsky) Goldfaden's "Bobe yachne", "Kaprizne tokhter" and "Bobe mitn eynikl", but the revenue was very much a weakness. The directors lost money, withdrew, and the actors were found in a bad state.

In the end, G. was forced to able to interest the owners of the "Old Bowery Garden", and closed a deal with him for three years to perform twice a week: Friday evening and the Sabbath afternoon. The performances began around the end of 1882.

Besides the aforementioned plays, the repertoire consisted of Shomer's "Bel tsuvah", "Di tsvey yeshoymim" and "Der yidisher prits", and Israel Brski's play "Di vanzinike" and "Der pogrom".

Due to internal conflicts within the troupe, it fell apart, and thus as in that time (1883), there arrived a new troupe with actors from Europe, who had a name among the immigrants, G. will no longer remain in that place in New York, and he will move to Chicago. G. organized there the first Yiddish theatre productions in the province, not performing on its own this week, but most of the time for colleagues, Talmud Torahs, synagogues, etc.

G.'s troupe consisted of him, his wife, their children, and also several "amateurs"; part-time he also acted together with Thomashefsky.

Then G. returned to New York, where he was at the Grand Music Hall (184 McKibbin Street, Brooklyn) on a two-year lease, in which he staged (together with Jennie Atlas, Weintraub and wife, Morgenbeser and Avraham Yitzhak Tanzman), vaudeville in Yiddish, then he opened in Harlem (on 99th Street and 2nd Avenue), a moving-picture and vaudeville house (where Louis Kremer and Rabinowitz also performed), then toured again with his own small troupe across the province, performing for a short time in English vaudeville, was an owner of a moving-picture house in the Bronx, didn't act for a long time and then managed a hotel in Rakovy for six years. It steered him again to the stage, and he left to go out to the province. Here, however, he became ill, and his last performance was in Louisville, Kentucky. A hospital brought him to New York, where he passed away on 3 March 1918 and came to his eternal rest in Washington Cemetery (Brooklyn, New York).

G.'s children, Sam Kitty and Morris Deymont -- were performers. The other two children acted in children's roles in their very early youth.

M. E. from Anna Golobok.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. II, pp. 12-30.

  • Thomashefsky's Theatre-Shriftn, New York, 1908, pp. 5-22.

  • Boris Thomashefsky -- Amolige idishe aktyoren vos hoben geshpilt mit erflog un zaynen avek fun teater, "Forward", 18 August 1923.

  • B. Weinstein -- Di ershte yidishe teater-forshtelung in amerike ("Teater zikhrunus", editor Z. Zylbercweig, Vilna, 1928, p. 69-72).






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 386.

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