Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Caesar Greenberg


Born on 15 March 1855 in Iasi, Rumania, to parents who had a meat shop. He learned Yiddish, German and Rumanian, left at age fourteen the Beit HaMedrash and went in 1869 into the chorus in a German operetta. In advance of the years 1869-1873, he participated in German, Rumanian and Greek troupes, and in 1873 began to act and sing Yiddish in the Vienna cellars. In 1875 he found himself in Constantinople and -- according to him -- he directed there a biblical operetta "Joseph with his Brothers" , composed [?] by two Odessan young people. In the operetta, which played for four weeks, he participated  with a chorus and ballet of one hundred people. From Constantinople, G. toured with that act across Turkey and Rumania until he arrived in Iasi. After as Goldfaden came therein and staged his play "Di bobe mitn eynikel", G. left with the troupe across the province, finding thus the first Yiddish itinerant troupe.

Since then he further wandered across Rumania and Galicia, until he entered into the troupe of Hurwitz, who was later very difficult. The troupe performed in Rumania, and after that G. went over to Gradner's troupe in Galicia.

At that time G., together with his wife Charlotte, wandered with various Yiddish itinerant troupes across Rumania, Austria, Galicia, Hungary and France. In London he dramatized Lilienblum's "Zerubbabel", and it was later staged with his own songs and


music. Here he also staged his plays "Der ligner (The Liar)" and "Shibt tsion (Return to Zion)".

In 1888 G. arrived in America, and here he participated in his difficult troupe, and also in other troupes, as a theatrical director and actor.

In 1895 he founded the "United Hebrew Actors Fund", but the formal founding therefore came initially on 21 December 1899 when Joseph Barondess, as the delegate of the Yiddish Workers Movement, transformed the "fund" into the "Yiddish Actors Union".

In 1896 G. went to South Africa and directed in Johannesburg his translation of Zudermann's "Ere", under the name "Di naive zinderin". Wanting to found a permanent Yiddish theatre in Johannesburg, G. issued there a brochure in English under the name "Vi lang vet der yid in galut zayn?"

G. returned to America and staged in 1904 in St. Louis' exposition a biblical opera, "Shlomo hamelkh (Solomon the King)", attempting to found a special "biblical historical opera society", which had even issued stock for five dollars.

In 1904 G. gave out two large photographs that contained thirty-five images of the first actresses, actors and dramatists. [The photographs only had on them an English inscription: "The first and second generation of the famous Yiddish actors and authors of the Yiddish stage in Europe and America since its founding".]

In 1906 G. founded in New York a Yiddish theatrical school that existed for two years.

G. also wrote several plays and songs, one of them, "Israel tsvisn di felker" with his own music, and it was published .

G. also participated in the film "Der shmelts-tog" by Israel Zangvil.

The last time G. was on the stage was when he performed in December 1923 in B. Wierbnik's drama "Lomir makhn a pshore (Let's Make a Compromise)" in the Grand Theatre in New York.

In 1924 G. issued in English and Yiddish a brochure under the name "Folks teater untershtitsungs-fareyn", which propagated the idea of an insurance society in the form of a subscription in a theatre. "The project sought the possibility of founding his own folksbine". Nothing became of the plan.

In 1925 G. set an electric apparatus, which "must by fire, water, thunder and lightning illustrate the movement of Elijah the Prophet, as it is told in Tanakh".

G. had written by hand a book of memoirs about activity on the Yiddish stage, a drama "The Yiddish Daughter", an operetta "The Yiddish Caruso", a play "Der khokhem", and a musical comedy "Grand Street Tree".

For several years G., as an emeritus of the union, has withdrawn from the stage.

Sh. E.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre" -- Vol. I, pp. 198, 242; Vol. II, p. 197.

  • "Jewish Theatrical News", New York, No. 4, 1925.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Iz dos yidishe teater gegrindet in berditshev, iasi oder gor in konstantinopol, "Literarishe bleter", 8, 1928.

  • L. Dushman  -- Iz dos yidishe teater gegrindet gevorn in varshe? "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 13, 1928.




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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 534.

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