Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Willy Pasternak

Born on 11 April 1885 in Kortshin (Korczyna), near Rimanov (Rymanów), Galicia. His father was a spice merchant. He learned in a cheder, and for three years he attended a school.

Due to the very bad economic conditions that existed, P. immigrated with his family to America when he was thirteen years of age, and soon he became a frequent visitor of the Yiddish theatre.

He made himself known to Joseph Edelstein, who was then the manager of the "People's Theatre," and he became a doorman [ticket-taker] for him for $1.50 a week, then he became an assistant to the house supervisor of the theatre, and then by himself was a supervisor, until he won the job of an assistant cashier, then a cashier and unofficial manager of the theatre.

From the 1926-27 season until the 1929-30 season he was, together with Jacob Kalich, Joseph Rumshinsky, Max Sager and Nathan Parnes -- an owner and manager of "Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre." From 1930-31 he was with them in the "Folks Theatre," and since that season of 1931-31 (together with Nathan Parnes --and until 1936 also with Max Sager and William Rolland) -- manager of the "Public Theatre." From 1937-38 he was manager of the "Folks Theatre"; 1938-39 manager in the "Prospect Theatre," then business manager in the "National Theatre," cashier in the "Public Theatre," later manager in the "Folks Theatre" and cashier in the "National Theatre."


During his last years P. suffered from a heart illness and was brought to the hospital quite often, interrupting his work. For the 1941-42 season he was engaged as the business manager in the "Jolson Theatre," but he did not appear to be postn. On 10 August 1942 [at age fifty-eight] he passed away from a heart attack and was brought to his gravesite at the cemetery of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance in New York.

P. was very popular in all circles, especially in the Yiddish theatre and newspaper world. He also had helped many, various theatres with information about Yiddish theatre in New York.

J. Kirschenbaum writes:

"Willy Pasternak loves people, and more than anything he has love for the Yiddish theatre. He became the darling of the Yiddish theatre showmen, and of the leaders of the Jewish organizations that buy benefit productions in the theatres. Pasternak became a 'star' in the field of selling benefits. ...Each time when Willy used to be taken into a hospital, the news soon spread on the avenue, and The hospital used to be simply not only stored for actors and theatre people, but also from simple theatre visitors. So beloved was Willy Pasternak."

And Elisha (B. Botwinick) characterizes him as such:

"Willy was not an actor, not a playwright, not a director, not a rich man, who can keep up the stage art with his money, A people person, he was a simple people person. Nevertheless, his place and his importance in the Yiddish theatre world remains a decent one.... There is no one in the world from the (Yiddish) theatre, from the Yiddish newspapers and generally among artists and public figures who has not been affected by Pasternak's noble and righteous personality, and who did not despise the good, dear Willy. He remains the simple, good people person, a serious, intellectual, architecturalist, and it was said that he was filled with grace and virtue. ...Willy was the perfect gentleman and good brother of the Yiddish theatre world... He constantly did well for someone else, everyone wanted to do something good for him. ...He was a good brother and a cleaner in all his actions."

Sholem Perlmutter noted on quite a special page:

"Everyone had known that Willy always told the people and he is not looking for anyone to leave, and therefore... many foreigners attracted to Yiddish theatre, and they moved to large undertakings in the Yiddish theatre profession. On his word people have given money, and many converted large sums to which there are insurances, but that's why Willy guaranteed it, that people will pay. In the difficult moments, in the greatest crises in the Yiddish theatre, when they were desperate and did not know how to give advice, they turned to him and even when he was not connected with this theatre that needed help, he gave his rational and friendly advice and very often saved the situation at the moment, and this provided a possibility for those affected to come out and can continue with their businesses."

M.E.  and M.E. from Nathan Parnes.

  • [--] -- Di naye beli btim fun dem sekond evenyu theater, "Forward," N. Y., 30 October 1925.

  • Y. Kirschenbaum -- Pasternak in oysgevaksen un zikh oysgelebt mit dem teaer, "Morning Journal," N. Y., 12 August 1942.

  • Elisha -- Willy pasternak, "Forward," N. Y., 13 August 1942.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Tsum ondenk fun dem balibtn vili pasternak, "Der tog," N. Y., 9 September 1942.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 1643.

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