Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yasha Rosenthal


Born on 4 March 1885 in Odessa, Ukraine. His parents were owners of a leather factory, relatives of the late, world-famous Yiddish actor Jacob P. Adler. His father was a scholar, a cultured man. As the only son of eighteen [!] children, he received at first a strong Jewish education. At the age of six he went away to Krasno, where for a short time he was raised by an uncle, a Kazioner rabbi. He returned to Odessa, graduated from a Russian folk-shul and studied in a three-class gymnasium.

As a child he used to make "plays," which consisted of dance, kazshelkes and played the harmonica (before entrances-- price of buttons.)

Possessing a beautiful soprano voice he became a choir boy with Cantor Razumny, when he arrived in Odessa, and when the Yiddish theatre director Sabsey heard him sing, he puelt with his father to give his permission to sing a solo with him in Lateiner's "Khinke pinke." R. became "captured" by the theatre, became a frequent attendee of the Russian and Yiddish theatres, and decided to become an actor when he was untervaksn. Here he became acquainted with actor Moshe David Waxman, and through him he was taken to the Austrian frontier, where they played (R. in children's roles) with Gimpel, then they traveled to London to the Pavilion Theatre, and after playing there for six months, they went of the South Africa, where they met the

 Odessan Yiddish actor Jacob Katzman. There R. became engaged as "the youth with the golden voice." He became behongen with flowery medals, and it was said that he had sung "for the Russian Tsar, the Austrian mushl Franz Josef, and the English King George, and he performed as a soloist in specially put-together divertissements.

The outbreak of war with the burn shtert ober every theatre event, and R. "made a living" from this, [in] which he breaks out windows, which the unemployed actor Katzman put back in. R. did various jobs until in 1903, when through Adler, hd was called out to America, where he had the opportunity to sing a solo in the song, "God and his Judgment is Just" in Libin's play, "Broken Hearts," and then he played in small episodic roles.

R. was with Adler for nine years, who wanted to hand over to him the position of stage director. For that epoch there is known an entire range of episodes of "Gburh," [in] which R. and his friend, then a "beginner," and later the famous actor Izidore Casher, had appeared. However R. was not content with Adler's intentions, and as he described in his autobiography: "Myself and my friend, the late, great actor, at night used to stay after the productions in the theatre, and on the state we used to act, oysnveynik, for the empty seats, even making as if we were mimics, the scenes and the positions of the great artists Adler, Kessler, Mogulesco, Blank, Moskowitz, Feinman, Berta Kalich and Sarah Adler.

Not seeing any purpose in New York, R. decided (as other young actors also used to do then), he played in the province, and his first performance was in Buffalo as "Arentshe" in Gordin's "The Jewish Priest" (with Aba Schoengold.) In the same year, R. was engaged for Toronto (under the direction of Abraham Littman), where he played (for the span of nine dollars a week) important roles, and the second season, with the same director, with an additional four dollars a week. Then, in Toronto (director Morris Krohner), having the opportunity to play with every prominent guest-star from New York, and also with Morris Morrison in the province, later three seasons in Detroit, where he attracted the attention of the guest-starring Maurice Schwartz, who recommended him for Chicago to the director Paley and Hershel Zuckerberg, where he played for two seasons in Empire Theatre, having the opportunity to play with Sarah Adler in her repertoire. Then R. went over to the local theatre under the direction of Elias Glickman, where he was for four seasons, and he had an opportunity to play with David Kessler, Jennie Valiere, Rudolph Schildkraut, Jacob Ben Ami, Maurice Schwartz, Berta Kalich, Joseph Schoengold, and in 1920-- thirteen weeks with Boris Thomashefsky, with whom he also played with Greta Meyer and Bessie Thomashefsky, Jennie Goldstein and Max Gabel. In 1923 he had the opportunity twice to play (in Yiddish) the role of "Cardinal" in the opera, "The Jews," which the singer Dubow of London had brought over to Chicago ("Eliezer"-- Dubow, "Rukhl"-- Parker," "Leopold"-- Leon Gold, "Yevdokya"-- Mrs. Dubow.) In 1924 R. returned back to New York and became engaged to the Hopkinson Theatre (manager-- Oscar Green), where he played a part of the first season with the Silberts, and twelve weeks with Berta Kalich, and the other two seasons with Lucy and Misha German, became a member in the Yiddish Actors' Union, and traveled back to Chicago, where he joined Glickman's troupe (with Michalesko as the star), then several seasons (in the Lawndale Theatre with Nelson) with Lebedeff, Samuel Goldinburg and Julius Nathanson (in the Douglas Park Theatre, manager-- Ostroff) with Menasha Skulnik, and after he returned to New York in the Hopkinson Theatre (directors Misha Fiszon, Max Wilner and Isidore Hollander), and a few productions with Dr. Baratoff and Joseph Buloff in the play, "He, She and the Ox," and with Sarah Adler.

In 1929 he played in the province for twelve weeks with Molly Picon in "Circus Girl," and then in the McKinley Square Theatre with Leon Schechter.

In 1930 he participated as "Chn gdul" in Izik Vu Grass and Meyer Weisglass production of "The Romance of the People" in "The Armory."

During the 1932-33 season R. was engaged to the Yiddish Art Theatre (director Maurice Schwartz), where he participated in Singer's "Yoshe Kalb," in "Josephus Plavius" by Feuchtwanger, and Zeitlin's "The Wise Men of Chelm."

For a certain time R. also was the Jewish manager of the acrobat Benny Faks (sp), the "star" of the World's Fair in New York and in the provinces.

R. was recommended by Luther Adler to the famous American regisseur Stromberg, but on the way to him he became sick, was taken to a hospital, where he laid for two years and made it through a lung operation, and after his health returned he joined the "Fatherland Service," which for several years took him on dangerous missions across the country, and [it] took him abroad to Murmansk [Russia.]

In 1948 [1946-ed.] R. became engaged to play the role of "Gromiko" [a Russian statesman] in Ben Hecht's "pageant" "A Flag is Born," and he later became the "entrepreneur" across the province, but due to the conflict among the Zionists with the "Irgun," the production was boycotted, and R. lost all his accumulated wealth. In 1949 he became engaged to play the role of "Reporter" in Rivkin Broder's play, "Tey shuld stud in bet" (regisseur-- Luther Adler) in the 44th Street Theatre, Ne York, and then as "Father" in the English production of the play, "Anna Lucasta," then returned to Chicago, where colleagues, including Dr. A. Margolis and Dinah Halpern, organized for him a large, separate event, and he then went to Los Angeles, where he settled and there was a manager for eleven years for a large magazine, which sold army "supplies." In 1954-55 he participated in English with Rose Wallerstein, in the play, "A Letter to Mother," and preparing his memoirs about Yiddish theatre.

R. also has participated in a series of silent films, such as, "East and West" (regisseur-- Carl Laemmle), and "Othello" (with Morris Morrison) et al.

M. and Sh. E.

  • Julius Adler-- Meshus fun der yidisher teater-velt, "M"f," N.Y., 24 July, 28 August, 21 September, 18 December, 1949.






Home       |       Site Map       |      Exhibitions      |      About the Museum       |       Education      |      Contact Us       |       Links

Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3121.

Copyright   Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.