Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Moshe Heine-Chaimovich


Born on 15 February 1853 in Vasilkov, Kiev Gubernia, Ukraine. His father was a lender. At a very young age he began to sing with the local cantor. Poorly treated by his stepmother, H. at the age of fourteen left for Odessa. Here in the wine cellar of Meir Yenches, he heard Israel Grodner and other folksingers sing, and he learned by heart their songs and performed them with that repertory in other cellars and arranged for himself a concert in a hall on Richelevska street (in the concert there also participated with khli-singer Heine, Grodner, Moshe Finkel and Moshe Tudrus). From then on they went to Kishinev. Later H. united with badkhan Nachum Mordechai, and together they performed at weddings, simchas and in wine cellars. Then both went to Kiev, where they performed in hotels for businessmen and individuals. Here they united with Berl Grudberg and David Blumental, and they traveled in "concerts" to Berdichev and Alt-Konstantin, where they were engaged by Avraham Goldfaden for his brother Naftali's troupe in Kishinev. After performing for a short time in that troupe, H. returned to Odessa and together with Boris Altman, Aaron Tager and David Blumental, went with Goldfaden repertoire to Warsaw, where they performed in Wolf Litvak's garden. Here H. acted as "the grandson" in "Di bobe mitn eynikl", and as "Mirele" in "Di bobe yakhne". After acting for six months in Warsaw, H. acted in Yiddish theatre in Lodz and Bialystok, and after the ban on acting, he returned to Odessa, where he entered into Shomer's troupe. Soon however he was reprimanded, and he put together a troupe

(Joseph Wachtel, Kaufman, Zaks, Gelis and his wife, Zorakh Vinavitsh, Leon Berger), with whom he performed in Kherson. Here he took into the troupe Sarah Levitska, (the late Sara Adler), with whom he later married. The troupe performed in Russia, Lithuania and Poland, until Lublin (circa 1880, in the Pantheon Theatre), where they had to transfer the productions due to a new ban on Yiddish theatre.

Returning to Odessa, H. organized a troupe from the actors Moshe Zilberman, Berl Borodkin, Feivele Fridman and his wife, to travel from London to America. However, encountering in London a Yiddish troupe that was performing (with Jacob P. Adler) in a club, they also began there to perform in a club. Due to bad business, both troupes united as one. However, H. didn't enter into the unification, but organized on each Shabbat evening  "productions" in a theatre.

Concerned for the local Jews with ship cards, and with a certain monetary support, a group of actors traveled in May 1884 (with Heine) to America, where they began to act in new York on 23 May 1884 in Turin Hall (113 Bowery). Here several productions came (during Friday and Saturday evenings) with Shmr's "Di tsvey yesoymim", and soon H. leased with Mssrs. Meir and Keyzer the Folks Garden Hall, which he gave the name Oriental Theatre (due to the nearby Oriental Bank), and on Sukkos 1884 he began there to perform (on Friday, Shabbes and Tuesday in the evening) with a cooperative troupe (Heine, Zilberman, Borodkin and Fridman with their wives and Wachtel, Karp and Kurazh. Lateiner was the prompter). Later the troupe began to perform on Sunday with concerts and also acted on the weekdays -- until 1887. Then H. acted with Hurwitz in Poole's Theatre (gez. "Dovid's Harfe"), and traveled to London with Mogulesko to bring Adler over from there. However, Adler leased their theatre, and H. took over with Mogulesko the Thalia Theatre. Later they took over Poole's Theatre, then the Philing's Theatre (called: Roumanian Opera House), and again in the Thalia Theatre.

In 1892 H. went to Chicago, where he acted for six months in the Metropolitan Theatre. Returning to New York, he leased, together with Adolf Prints and Max Levy, the Thalia theatre and took over here  the troupe of the Roumanian Opera House. Here Thomashefsky for the first time performed as an amateur. after acting and directing with that theatre for three seasons (the third season together with Kessler), H. was in one week the manager of the Yiddish theatre in Chelsea. Again for a season (with Hurwitz), he was the manager of the Thalia Theatre in New York and directed the Windsor Theatre after five years, where he also performed as a comic.

In the period of the varieties, H. opened a music hall on Grand Street, directed (1908-09) for three months with Berl Bernstein a large troupe in the Star Theatre (Lexington Avenue and Tenth Street), toured around the province as an actor with Keni Lipzin, and became together with Michael Mintz the lessee of the London theatre, under the name "Lipzin Theatre", where he also (until 1910) was a co-partner and actor -- until he transformed it into an Italian theatre.

During the span of twenty years, he retired from Yiddish theatre, H. mostly directing movie houses, until 1929-30 when he again became the manager of the Yiddish Prospect Theatre in the Bronx.

M. E.

  • B. Gorin -- "History of Yiddish Theatre", Vol. I, pp. 34, 42, 213; Vol. II, pp. 30, 56-71.

  • Jacob P. Adler -- 40 yoyhr oyf der bine, "Di varhayt", N. Y., 29 February, 5 March 1917.

  • Sh. Shvartser -- Teater-notitsen, "Lubliner tegblat", 31 July 1928.

  • B. Veynshteyn -- Di ershte yorn fun yidishn teater in odes un in noy-york, "Archive", Vilna, 1930, pp. 252-3.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 608.

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