Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Isaac Rothblum
[Itzhak Rotblum (Roitblum)]


Born in 1907 in Lodz, Poland, to religious parents. His father was a small merchant. He received a traditional Jewish education, learned in a cheder, Gemora with a religious teacher and in the governmental school, where he also participated in the school productions. At the age of fourteen he acted with youths of the same age in the role of "Lavan" in Mushḳaṭ's play "Yaʻaḳov bay Lavan in Ḥaran" (Direction: the Stark Brothers), then, for the first time as a professional, as "Pitse shemash" in Zolotorefsky's "Yeshiva bukher" in the "Sirena" Theatre with Jacob Rechtzeit, Mendl Bozhikovsky (now Max Bozyk), and he became a member in a dramatic group with a Jewish school and public education association, which was under the influence of Israel Lichtenstein, then a member in the youth Poalei-Zon, where he used to perform with recitations of the Yiddish classical and modern poets.

At the end of 1923 he arrived in America and enrolled in the courses of the Jewish Teachers' Seminary under the direction of Pinchas Gingold. By day he worked in a shop, and in the evening he also learned in the dramatic school of the Yiddish theatre society under the auspices of Mendl Elkin, and for the artist Richard Boleslovsky, Lazarev from the Moscow Art Theatre. Niger, Dr. Mukdoni and Dr. Shatzky and Prof. Judah Jaffe. At the end of the semester he participated in the productions of Wispiansky's "Richter" and Segalowitz's "Di vant."

In 1925-26 he acted in the "Unzer Theatre" in the production of Anski's "Day and Night," Pinski's "Der letser sakh-hkhol" and Rabo's "Shtekhik drot," In 1926 he acted with Rudolph Schildkraut

in his Bronx theatre in Peretz's "Vos iz fidele shtekt (Joel the Fiddler)." In 1927 he acted in the Yiddish Art Theatre and also participated in the Irving Place Theatre in Moishe Nadir's "Di tragedye fun gornisht (The Tragedy of Nothing)" (role of "Apteyker"); acting through the "Kunst-ring," with Nachum Zemach and part of the Habimah Theatre acted in Philadelphia in Hebrew in one act from Anski's "Dybbuk," and in the Yiddish production of "Princess Turandot" (Direction -- Boris Glogolin), and in Fishl Bimko's one-acter "Der kuntsnmakher" (Direction: Benno Schneider), and with Miriam Elias in Hebrew in the Guild Theatre the role of "Henekh" in Anski's "Dybbuk," and in the "Tsu-lakh-es" productions.

In 1931 he participated in Egon Brecher's production of Leivick's "Golem" in the "Ensemble Art Theatre," and in 1932-34 acted in Maurice Schwartz's Art Theatre as "Krokever Rav" in Schwartz's production of I. J. Singer's "Yoshe Kalb," and traveled with the troupe across America. Later he acted in the Jewish Federal State Project in the role of "Smirle" in Dymow's "Eybiker vanderer (The Eternal Wanderer)" (Direction: Boris Thomashefsky), and in Upton Sinclair's "Do kon es nit pasirn" (Direction: Yehuda Bleich), acting in Gordin's plays "God, Man and Devil" and "Kreutzer Sonata" with the "Cooperative Troupe" (Ben-Ami, Mestel, Menachem Rubin, Bozyk, Misha German, Berta Gerstin, Celia and Francis Adler and Leon Haras), which the Hebrew Actors' Union had put together for New York, and later across the province and Canada.

In 1944 he was at the "Folks Theatre," where he participated in Leivick's "The Miracle of the Warsaw Ghetto," and David Bergelson's "Mir veln lebn (We Will Live)" (Direction -- Ben-Ami), and then he traveled across the province, staging "Yosele" (dramatized through Khaver-Paver, role of "Yosele" -- Sidney Lumet) for three-thousand people in New York's Carnegie Hall for the Dinenson ordn-school, and again staged the production in Philadelphia at the Workmen's Circle's convention.

For seven years R. was the drama director in the Workmen's Circle camp "Kinder-ring," where he had every Sunday staged Yiddish productions and pageants with the children and Sholem Secunda's orchestra, and every Tuesday literary evenings, and he also participated in the programs for adults. For six years R. was the drama director in the "Unzer Camp Kinder-Velt" of the Jewish National Worker's Union, where he staged spectacles and productions, such as "Kibbutz Gloyut(sp)" with the participation of three hundred children, oyfpaser and professional actors, and every Friday evening they used to read a chapter of Tenach under the accompanying authority of Joseph Rumshinsky. R. also collaborated in "Camp Bobruisk" with the Sholem Aleichem Folks Institute, in "Kinderland" with ordn, with the middle school of the Workmen's Circle, National Worker's Union, Sholem Aleichem schools, ordn-schools, in the Peterson "Frayhayt Dramatic Studio," and "Goldfaden Circle" with ordn.

On 20 July 1947, at the seventy-year jubilee of Avraham Reizen, R staged in the Workmen's Circle Camp "Kinder-ring," with 150 children, oyfpaser and the actor Leon Liebgold "A krantz fun avraham reizens shafungen" (put together by Kh. Bez and Itzhak Rothblum.)

R. also produced on the WEVD radio station in New York, with the youthful of the Workmen's Circle middle school, performing for Kh. Bez and adapted by him.

In 1949 R. settled in Los Angeles, California, and he has since then until 1955 staged every year, on "Third Street," a Haggadah (for the Education Department of the Workmen's Circle) with children, youths from the Workmen's Circle School, together with a group of singers and Zahava with her dance group.

On 2 April 1949 R. staged at the Embassy Auditorium, under the supervision of a fraternal order et al, a pageant about the Warsaw ghetto, and on 23 April 1949, in the same place, under the supervision of the American Federation for Polish Jews and the Katzetler Association a pageant "Der oyfshtand in der gheto un der oyfboy fun medina yisrael (The Uprising in the Ghetto and the Building of the Land of Israel)," built on creations from Yiddish literature.

On 9 May 1953 R. staged at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in L. A. Yiddish Children's Theatre, for the middle school, Chaver-Paver's "Zog nit keynmol."

In 1954-55 R. implemented for the Institute for Jewish Education in Los Angeles, a third Seder, based on the creation of the Tenach, traditional Haggadah, modern Yiddish literature, singing and dancing by Zahava with her dance group. The dramatic group, the actors Jacob Ben-Ami, Feigele Panitz and the Cantors Blekman and Katzman.

1954-56 -- was Cultural Director for the Institute for Jewish Education for the Zionist Workers' Movement.

R. is a member of the Hebrew Actors' Union and has participated in the film "Uncle Moses" (with Maurice Schwartz), and "Di kliatsche (The Light Ahead)" (with Izidor Casher, David Opatoshu, Helen Beverly et al.)

R. performs from time to time with word concerts of the modern Yiddish literature.

R.'s brother, Israel, was a Yiddish actor and was murdered by the Nazis.

R.'s wife, Zahava, is a dance artist and dance teacher. Their son Moshe-Yosl has participated in the Seders and in the productions of the Yiddish Art Theatre.

Sh. E.

  • Alf [A. Auerbach] -- Vort un shpil, "Yiddish," N. Y., N' 1, 1932.

  • A. H. Bialin -- "Moris shvartz un der idisher kunst-teater," N. Y., 1934, pp. 82, `1`.

  • Y. Tilles -- Der idisher kinder-teater in los angeles hot hayor ibergeshtigen ale dervartungen, "Forward," Los Angeles, 21 May 1953.

  • Shlomo Berkowitz -- Fun idishen gezelshaftlekhen leben in los angeles, "Day Morning Journal," N. Y., 4 June 1953.

  • H. Lang -- Fun atlantik biz pasifik, "Forward," N. Y., 18 April 1954.

  • Y. Tilles -- Sheyn un eyndruksful iz durkhgefirt gevorn der 3rd seder fun di arb. ring shuln in los angeles, "Forward," N. Y., 17 April 1955.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 2254.

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