Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Chanan Yaakov Minikes


Born in 1867 in Vilna, Polish Lithuania, into a prominent family. He learned Tenach and Gemora in a cheder, and later with his father R' Hirsh Nachum Ab'd in Lupts, also at the same time learning Russian.

At age fourteen he went away to a yeshiva, where he was a mashkhil, traveled to Germany and there on the recommendation of R' Yisrael Salanter, Dr. Y. Rilf and the mlbim, became a member of the household of Dr. Ezriel Hildesheimer in Berlin.

Together with Shlomo-Zalman Fuchs and Itzhak Kaminer, he founded the Hebrew union "Ahavat Zion". He debuted with his first article in Peretz Smolenski's "Hshkhr" (Trm'h), and took an active part in Asia for those escaping from the Russian pogroms.

1888 -- went away to America, where he was for the first time a teacher of Yiddish actors, and then a ticket controller in the Yiddish theatres.

M. was one of the first delegates in the "United Yiddish Workshops" and took an active part in organizing the Jewish unions, was active in various philanthropic and cultural institutions. Maintained in the I. L. Peretz Union, where he year-long was a member in the management, he also was very active in the "Peoples Relief", and afterwards in the "Folks getseygkompayn".

M. became especially popular with his edition of "Minikes' Yom Tov Bleter", which he had issued since 1897 in the Yiddish "good days".

In 1895 there was published in New York "Tsvishn indianer, or, Der kontri pedler, comical vaudeville in one act, with singing and dance, adapted for the Yiddish stage by Ch. Y. Minikes "Ish vilna" [17 pp., an exemplary find in the Yiddish section of the New York Public Library", which on 17 April 1895 staged for M.'s benefit in the Windsor Theatre.

In 1897 under M.'s editing, there was published in New York the first book in America about Yiddish theatre under the name "Di idishe bihne", [not paginirt], which included articles, one-acters, songs, treatises and a history of Yiddish theatre from Shomer, Y. Katzenelson, Chanan Y. Minikes, Elchasnador Harkavy, M. Zeifert, A. M. Sharkansky, Morris Rosenfeld, Jacob Gordin, Tshr'k, B. Feigenbaum, Dr. T. Sigel, Philip Krantz, V. Keyzer, Zkf Gdol, Sambatyon, Reuben Weissman, Yohan Paley, D. M. Hermalin, B. Gorin, A. Shomer, Y. Terr et al.

In the same book it was also announced that there would be quickly published "Geilah, oder, Der vilna'er gaon und di chasidim, a large Yiddish historical opera by Chanan Y. Minikes (Ish vilna), folk songs, couplets and patriotic songs from William Kayzer". In the announcement, it was said: "It is very rare -- the plays that were created for the Yiddish stage that may have also been published in book form as a literary work. These zkhih can only have the work that had genuine literary words. Jews (geilh) are a shtik that wasn't written to order, and the roles were taken by the virklekhkeyt, not only ongepast after certain actors. As a literary work Jews had very big words. It had to do with an important and an interesting epoch. It discusses the battle among Chasids and Mitnagdim in the time of the Vilna Gaon, great kinds that had these works seen in manuscript were not immediately praised. One Yiddish-English writer in one article in the "Sol" had created one extra notice about these works, but umreglmesike theatre circumstances and the too often great distances of the actors from one company [troupe] to a second, had us not able to find a company with a suitable number and suitable craft for the staging of these master works. We quickly issue it in a printed book, and we insure that the work is read out loud, just as interesting when it is seen on the stage. Each layer, we hope, that when quickly we find a suitable company, and this work is produced on the stage".

The play was never published and never performed.

M. was a member of the council of the theatre employees, and very often participated in oysgleykhen conflicts between the various employees in the Yiddish theatres.

On 27 March 1932 M. after a short illness, passed away in New York, and was brought to his gravesite at Mt. Hebron Cemetery in (Flushing -- ed.) New York.

The entire Yiddish press in America dedicated very warm articles about his death.

Sholem Asch characterized him as such:

"When we could at the same time with this type of a shemash his entire life(?). For he maintained himself as such, and that it was his work. He had with the perseverance and ibergebnheyt of a religious shemash who had done his work. .... Chanan Y. Minikes hasn't had any private life (certainly it was not seen), he had completely gifted [his time] away to the community".

  • Z. Reyzen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature", Vol. II, pp. 418-420.

  • Dr. A. Koralnik -- Khanan minikes, "Tog", N. Y., 29 March 1932.

  • H. Lang -- Khanan minikes, a merkvirdiger mensh iz avek, "Forward", N. Y., 29 March 1932.

  • B. L. Meckler -- Der eygenartiger khanan y. minikes, "Morning Journal", N Y., 31 March 1932.

  • L. Kusman -- Der eybiger hmshkh, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 31 March 1932.

  • Anshel Schorr -- A blum oyf'n frishen kbr fun khanan y. minikes, "Di idishe velt", Philadelphia, 1 April 1932.

  • A. Mirson -- Khanan y. minikes, "Tsukunft", N. Y., May 1932.

  • A. Almi -- Der amerikaner dinezon, "Literarishe bleter", Warsaw, 17, 1932.

  • Sholem Asch -- Tsvay amerikaner iden, "Forward", N. Y., 11 May 1932.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1323.

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