Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Victor (Avigdor) Pecker


Pecker was born in 1897 in Bialystok, Poland to well-to-do parents, into a rabbinical family. He received a modern Yiddish education. As a child he sang in the synagogue choir under the direction of Berman. At thirteen years of age he gave his first concert in which the famous folk-singer, Yankev Medvedyev, was appearing as a guest-star in Bialystok.

Highly praised by the critics, Pecker drew closer to the theatre. Together with several of this school chums, he appeared in familiar stage bits. The “”Children’s Troupe” became famous in Bialystok and appeared at various joyful occasions.

Later, Pecker, played in amateur circles in Sholem Aleichem’s ”Mazel tov” and “A Doctor”. After a short time under theatrical director Morgenstern, he joined the “Bialystok “Kunst-Vinkl”, (Bialystok Arts Corner) established by Pesach Kaplan and Yankev Pat.

In 1915, he joined the “Kompaneyets” troupe. Soon thereafter he appeared in the “Yiddish Dramatic Theatre” founded by L. Sokolov.  Here he played for one season together with Esther Rachel Kaminska and Avrom Marevsky. After that he was engaged by Lipovski as director for the Kovno "Folks Theatre”. Later he organized the “United Dramatic Troupe of Lita”. In 1923 he presented Leivick’s “Goylem” in Kovno (where he played a non-starring role). 

This play was performed throughout Lithuania. Pecker also founded a troupe of international vaudeville actors, which performed in Yiddish, Polish, Russian and Lithuanian. These were the ethnic languages spoken throughout Lithuania. To a certain degree this effort helped stem the anti-Semitism that was so prevalent in Lithuania at that time.

In 1924, he arrived in America and stepped onto the stage of the New York's Unzer Theatre. He then played at the “Schildkraut” Theatre and from there, in 1926, at the Irving Place Theatre (under the leadership of Jacob Ben-Ami). Here he took the role of theatre director in Yereynov’s “The Ship of Saints” and “The Second Operetta”  and in Leivick’s, “Shop”.

During the 1928-1929 season, he performed in Maurice Schwartz’s “Yiddish Art Theatre” and took part in presenting Sholem Asch’s “Kiddush hashem” (Martyrdom) and other plays during that season.

In November 1931, he played Alexander Granach in “Goylem”, Leivick’s drama, which was presented by Egan Brecher at the “Yiddish Ensemble Arts Theatre” (Civic Repertoire Theatre). 

Pecker was also occupied with directing various acting clubs and would travel around doing one-man shows touring for various Jewish national organizations, such as: “Arbeiter Ring” (the Workmen’s Circle), “The Yiddish National Worker’s Union”, the Yiddish section of “The International Workers Organizations” and “Ikar”. He also organized the “Yiddish Small Arts Traveling Theatre” (Misha Rappel, Chana Stramberg. Sholem Taggin, Moishe Roych, Wolff Barzel, Chana Specter), with whom he traveled to many Jewish communities throughout the United States (underwritten by the “Yiddish National Worker’s Union”).  

From 1924, when he first aired “Ikar” on radio, and for the next seven years, he busied himself with amateur talents on his “Yiddish Amateur Hour” (that gave exposure to many young talented Jewish entertainers). He also presented his “Street Broadcast”, which he produced on-site, in businesses, in out-of-door locations, in commercial enterprises and at meetings of various organizations. For three or four years he took part in a quiz program (questions and answers). At first it ran only in Yiddish but later it was broadcast both in Yiddish and English. For years he conducted a program for child prodigies in Yiddish. He also aired the first broadcast, in Yiddish, worldwide performances, presenting these on radio from New York. He broadcast a program (together with M. Yardeini) called “The Story of My Song”.

Pecker dramatized and presented Buckstein’s novel “General Gershelman,” and Moshe Duchovny’s novel “A Woman’s Revenge” on radio. His show included spy thrillers and murder mysteries. He featured sports events and created two radio series: “Coney Island” and” The Travelling Jew" (by Tunkel) which was broadcast in the evenings.

He visited Mexico on various occasions, during the summer months, where he appeared on stage and presented performances and concerts. He also staged Leivick’s play “Der goylem”.

From the end of 1944 till mid-summer 1945 he toured for the “Jewish National Workers’ Union” in the United States and Canada. 

Pecker’s wife Ida Epstein was a dance and a music teacher.

M. E.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum -- New Faces on our Stage, November 12, 1926.

  • The Brownsville Carpenter -- Victor Pecker, California Yiddish Voice, Los Angeles May 11, 1934.

  • Victor Pecker -- “A Contribution to the Yiddish Theatre”, The American, New York October 13, 1943.






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Translated from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 1831.

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