Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Michael Mintz

Born in 1858 in Brest-Litovsk, Polish Lita, into an illustrious family. His father was a scholar and a meshkhil, and he was the manager of a tobacco factory. His mother was a daughter of Moshe-Yitzkhok Harkany [sp], who maintained a business of wine and delicatessen. Under pressure from the pogroms in Russia, M. together with his brother Moshe, went away in 1884 to Eretz Yisroel as a member in Bil'u, and from there he, in August 1885, together with his brother, came to America, where in 1887 he founded in Chicago the daily Yiddish newspaper, "Der teglikher yidisher kurier (The Daily Yiddish Courier)."

In 1888 M. settled in New York, and together with Brody and Tselimer, he began by issuing on 27 July 1888 the weekly, "Der folks advokat" (at first under the direction of G. Zelikovitsh, then from his brother Moshe), who quickly became one of the popular and sharper Yiddish newspapers in America.

In 1991 M. issued "Der meglikher herold" with the "Folks advokat" as a weekly supplement. At the end of 1905 the newspaper with its supplement was taken over by Louis Miller and reorganized as "Di varhayt."

M. was the husband of the actress Keni Lipzin, and his entire ambition was dedicated to putting his wife at the top of the Yiddish theatre [profession] in America, exploiting first of all his connection with the "Folks advokat," M. staged all of the plays by Gordin for his wife, arranged her productions, and since 1905, when he had resigned as a newspaper man totally dedicated


himself to the Yiddish theatre as a manager of his wife's productions. In 1908-9 he managed a London theatre, to which he gave the name "Lipzin Theatre."

In the summer of 1904 he -- according to Ab. Cahan -- was the issuer of "Di dramatishe velt," which Jacob Gordin had edited.

Due to bad business from his theatre, M. on 14 April 1912 committed suicide in New York, and was buried in Washington Cemetery [in Brooklyn.]

Ab. Cahan characterized him this way: "When they speak about Madame Lipzin, they often mention her husband Michael (Mikhail) Mintz. An actor he was not; as his wife's manager and "publicity man," he had however played a role not only in the development of her career, but also in the development of Gordin's career. ...  He met Madame Lipzin in New York. He was very violent, but good-hearted. With an open hand, and with a mass of energy, he was devoid of a passion, a zealot for his wife and her theatre interests, and with this devotion, with his great fire he helped to make a name for her as well as the plays in which she excelled. And that was central to Gordin's plays."

His life ambition -- writes Z. Kornblith -- was to have a theatre where they would play transparent literary works. He was the most upright and most passionate follower of Jacob Gordin, and had laid out many thousands of dollars staging Gordin's plays one after the other, for half-empty houses till he had accustomed theatre goers to the best and highest sort of pleasure that Gordin's plays offer. Apart from Gordin, he did not recognize any Yiddish author, and when Gordin passed away, he decided to present in his theatre the best work of Ibsen, Andreyev and others, and he hoped that the press would support him and help him to win over the Yiddish public to the modern, European drama. However, in this hope he was bitterly disappointed. Then he threw the press down and began to shake his hand and not worry anymore about what they wrote about his theatre. ...A huge, active spirit and a wonderful power carried the activities and overcame all of the difficulties. However his But his wildness, and to a certain degree his eccentric ambitions, had always undermined everything that he had built with wonderful energy. ...He hadn't any religion and no God, but he had a goddess, who was his wife. He shunned her as an artist. ..In all the twenty years that he had lived with her, he never for one minute not doubted that she is the greatest stage artist who the world has possessed."

The actor Morris Moskovitch has a similar account, which plays under his direction: "But her husband has Mrs. Lipzin had to make a living for the success of her career. ...Due to her he used to read and borrow money and used to maintain a Yiddish newspaper, and if she could have the unabashed "publicist." Because of her he also neglected his business, and the newspapers, which he controlled, like "Di tsayt," "Yidisher herald." Except for her, nothing existed for him, and for that reason he later shot himself."

Leon Kobrin writes: "When he (Mintz) was director of the Thalia Theatre, and he had brought over Madame Kaminska from Russia, so she should play in his company, he often was desperate when she took off in a play. It turned out that she failed, and he rejoiced for a moment. Because of this, he lost money, his business was completely gone -- but it didn't matter to him, though Keni Lipzin would remain the greatest actress, and not Ester Rokhl Kaminska. ...His high ideals was in her talent. Under the extreme gravity and former indignity there lived in him a prestigious artistic soul. He always yearned for a more beautiful, even better stage. How he understood it; [He] hired the best actors, and he was the first to take the highest-paid Gordin for his plays. But one thing, he kept it up: his Keni should always stand out among the actors and in the play. A nit have the short plays. After Gordin's death, for a certain time, he had staged in the Lipzin Theatre Solotorefsky's plays, they had brought in a lot of money. However, he was unhappy, shot himself, Solotorefsky, the actors and the entire world. He was simply ashamed to show up to people. ... he has made better plays again in his theatre. He had put on Andreyev's plays and more like that. They did not have any success. But he did not submit. He didn't want to put on any shund (trashy) plays. And so he brought his business almost to bankruptcy."

After M.'s death, Keni Lipzin expressed herself:

"Mintz shot himself out of fear, due to bankruptcy. Every cent of the ten thousand dollars of debt, which Mintz had, I will pay. ...With the death of my husband, Michael Mintz, until I remained lonesome and lonely. "

  • Z. Reisen -- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. 2, pp. 420-21.

  • Necrology in the New York Yiddish Press, 15 April 1912.

  • Z. Kornblith -- Michael Mintz, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y., 20 April 1912.

  • Keni Lipzin -- The Theatre Public Here and in the Country," "Di varhayt," N.Y., 5 Dec. 1915.

  • Bessie Thomashefsky -- "My Life Story," N.Y., 1916, p. 237.

  • J. Entin -- Madame Lipzin and the Golden Epoch of Yiddish Theatre in America, "Di varhayt," N.Y., 13 Oct. 1918.

  • A.M. Rubin --  A gutmutiger, naiver un tsorndiger ferleger, "Der tog," N.Y., 23 Nov. 1924.

  • Leon Blank -- "Erinerungen fun a yidishn dramaturg," N.Y., 1925, pp. 145-162.

  • B. Kalich -- [Memoirs], "Der tog," N.Y., 24 Oct. 21925.

  • Ab. Cahan -- "In di mitele yorn," N.Y., 1928, pp. 289, 353.

  • Y.L. Fein -- Di lebensgeshikhte fun dem yidish-englishn shoyshpiler morris moshkovitsh, "Forward," N.Y., 26 Dec. 1929.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1325.

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