Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Moshe Harr


Born in 1898 in Dzhikev (Dzikow Stary), Galicia. His father was a diamond polisher, who lived in Antwerp. He learned in a folksshul, where Yehuda Kaufman was the principal. When his mother with the other children, after his father's death, went to Antwerp, he remained in Dzhikev and was raised by his grandfather, and also by a special teacher.

In order to avoid military service, H. went to Germany, where he studied for awhile in Frankfurt am Main with Franz Rosenzweig, and then the Prebl school system, preparing himself to become a teacher in this regard.

Then he went off to Berlin, joining Max Reinhardt's dramatic school, and earned his living by being a translator for a shtibl publishing house.

In 1921 H. came to his mother, who had by then married and settled in St. Louis, America. here he joined the Poale Zion movement and managed with the Yiddish dramatic group, writing about theatre and studying in the St. Louis university, most of the time law. For a short time there, H. was a principal of a Talmud Torah, vert aber derklert als tsu madern aun git oyf di shtel.

In 1923 H., with his entire family, went over to Detroit as a teacher for the Farband school. He organized a children's theatre school in which he stage directed a series of children's productions, on his own being an excellent makeup artist, and producing with his own original set designs "Baym gust tsu kopns," and "A din toyre mitn vint" by Peretz, and scenes from Sholem Aleichem.

Due to the repression the production was blocked. After being a teacher in the Farband, H. became the director of the summer camp and often performed as a lecturer in Yiddish and English.

On 26 February 1932 H. performed with the "Cleveland Theatre Studio" in Pinski's "Izik Sheftl."

In 1940 H. withdrew from the Farband, and together with pedagogue Shlomo Berkowitz, went over to the Sholem Aleichem Institute. In 1941 H. for half-a-year served in the American Army, and then for a short time studied in the Vienna university in Detroit, and after Berkowitz's death he became the director of the Sholem Aleichem Institute.

Here H. organized a group of young English speakers and helped build the new building for the Institute on Greenfeld Road. H. had on a Friday afternoon, after the Shabbaton, which bore a popular, traditional character of song, reading from the Yiddish-Hebrew literature, and from Tanakh, with declarations that most of the time were held by H. alone.

H. put together and edited a special cycle of Yiddish holiday events, such as for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, Simchas Torah, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot, in Yiddish, Hebrew and English, which used to be performed in a ceremonial holiday fashion, in the Institute. H. also held the bar- and bat-mitzvah celebrations in the school of the Institute.

H. also organized the bringing of lecturers, Yiddish writers and poets to the Institute. His own lectures about Yiddish writers, especially the classical [writers], had always generated a great audience, both in interest as well as with other organizations, and in the neighboring cities of Detroit, and had astounded with both the contents, as with the form of his lectures.

Continuing his great interest in the theatre, H. used to every year arrange with the dramatic group of the institute to put on theatre productions, which were strongly attended, and the audience used the productions with great joy.

H. in the span of his extensive activity sometime became very sick, but he always turned from the hands of the angel of death until 17 September 1966, when he passed away from a heart attack.

His wife, Molly, is the cultural secretary of the Institute, where she is also a teacher.

To announce his story there was created a "Moshe Harr Foundation," which set the goal to advance Yiddish culture, first of all through various programs and activities in the field of the arts, to strengthen the Yiddish cultural spirit in Detroit and develop new fields that barely strengthen Yiddish.

In the prospectus of the foundation, it was said:

"Everyone who comes in contact with Moshe Harr was touched with his enthusiasm, knowledge and worldliness. He was in turn able to maintain a dialogue with every generation of descendants. He has created new conceptions and forms how to express the significance of Jewish holiday events, Sabbath and bar-mitzvah pleasures, with a secular humanism. He was an intellect, a constantly wise person, and he is in the culture of the Western World.

He believed that is there, a golden chain, which binds together Jewish life. Secular cultural [shtaycht] under the humanistic, universal words, which goes through the Jewish thought and philosophy. Studying, learning is a creative experience and should go on one's entire life, both as an adult, as children should assess Jewish traditions, the historic events, and the lore of the Talmud wise men. Children and adults learn much from the scholars by their participation in theatre productions and getting acquainted with other creative arts. The Jews in America will be able to stay there in a creative Jewish life."

M.E. from his wife, Molly.

Sh.E. from Harry Weinberg.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 6050.

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