Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Elias Rothstein


Born on 16 February 1873 in Warsaw, Poland, to poor parents. His father was a baker, was not trained in music, but he played  several instruments. R. was descended from a family of cantor and singers: his mother's father, Golub, was a famous cantor in Preisen, the uncle's son, Jacobzon, later was the main cantor in London, and a cousin-- the singer Sadie Pomerantz.

He studied in a cheder until age eleven, then in a real-school. From age eight he sang, together with the future actor Berl Bernstein in a chorus of the "Warsaw Synagogue" with Cantor Gritzhendler and conductor Schnitzer, and was known as "Elikl Mngn."

As a child he had an inclination for the theatre and participated as a dancer in "amateur" productions. In 1887 he performed as a dancer with the well-known quartet of the time, the "Schwartz Brothers," and toured with them across Russian and Poland for a year.

Kurarzhirt in shavel in 1888 through Shomer-Shaikewitz, he joined him in his troupe and debuted as "Moses" in Bal teshuvah."

In 1889 he traveled to London and there performed together with the Adlers in the "Amber Club" as "Edmund" in Shomer's play, "Kean." Experiencing a bad economic situation, 


he returned to Poland, where he put together his own quartet under the name, "Schwartz Brothers," with whom he toured across Russia and Poland.

In 1891 he arrived in America, and through the Adlers was taken in by "Poole's Theatre" for two dollars a week, but already four weeks later he went over on "market" to the "Roumanian Opera House," where he debuted as "Yirmeyahu" in Lateiner's "The Destruction of Jerusalem" and had such a success that he deeply received his first "mark."

In 1893 he became familiar with Jacob Gordin and lost the desire to play in the "history" plays. On 4 November 1893 R. was the first to create the type of "Simon" in Gordin's play, "The Wild Man," which Adler performed in the "Windsor Theatre." In the same year, to his ernavnt, R. performed in Gorin's one-acter, "The Deceased Artist," which remained in his repertoire. R. then went over to the "Thalia," where on 15 September 1894 he created the role of "Tuvia Lurie" in Gordin's "Brothers Lurie," a role that later was counted as one of this best roles. In 1905 R. was the first to represent the role of "Khatzkel" in Gordin's "The Worthless (Der meturef)," and in 1906 he was the first to play the role of "Rabbi Meyer" in Gordin's "Elisha ben Abuyah."

In the span of fifteen years R. acted with the greats of those times, such as Adler, Thomashefsky, Lipzin, and used to dublirt in the Gordin repertoire with Adler and Kessler and act as a partner with Morris Morrison in the role of "Franz Moore" in Schiller's "The Robbers," and "Iago" in Shakespeare's "Othello."

In 1905 he was the director of the "Orpheum Theatre" in New York on 125th Street.

In the necrology of the "Morning Journal" it is said:

"Here he had many radiant years and held a prominent place in the theatre. He became the star of the weekdays. Later he went away to the province, where he became the main actor and regisseur. By himself, he put on plays by Moshe Richter, Z. Kornblith and Z. Libin. Several years back he, together with other actors, took a theatre in Harlem and there staged Richter's drama 'Mendel the Martyr,' then 'Too Late,' 'The Last Jew' by Z. Kornblith and other plays."

Between 1911 and 1913 R. toured across America, together with Keni Lipzin with his own troupe.

Maurice Schwartz, who at the beginning of his career looked with great Derekh Eretz and admiration for R. as an actor, who greatly changed his mind when he saw him years later acting in Chicago:

"I had looked on Rothstein who I had admired from the gallery in the play, 'Perele Lost in New York.' With so much joy and enthusiasm I had applauded him. After I lost my faith in him, because he was only an actor. He had played theatre in his real life, as he did on stage. He was the same person in Marcus' Cafe, as he was on the stage of the Grand Theatre. Now when I have seen him as he carried forward, with the gekestlter kamzel (vest), with the diamond on his finger, with the continuous shaking, and singing every word, which he spoke out, I was even more disappointed in him, an aktorshtshik ...
a kunst-maker. I myself have wondered how the audience had patience to see such tshutshela, an ongeshroyfte machine, from which es treyslen ikh aroys mshunhdike tener."

In 1914 R. went to guest-star in Europe, acted in London, Warsaw, Lodz, Odessa and in Lemberg, where he became caught up in the First World War and beset with great hardship, he turned around and returned home to America.

In the necrology of the "Morning Journal," there is further written that:

"In 1914 he traveled to Warsaw and played with great success, "Uriel Acosta" by Gutzkow and, "Too Late," by Moshe Richter, and when the war broke out, he returned and since then had the luck of it, to opgevendet, and he withdrew from the theatre. During the last years he has not acted, unless there was a benefit production for him. In theatre circles Rothstein was known as an elegant "gentleman." He used to continually dress in an English style and sought to make a good impression both with his clothing, as with his manners."

The information about his non-play voice is not exactly known, because in the 1916-17 season R. played with Max Gabel. In 1918 he had tried to get away from theatre acting and entered into business, but soon he became nostalgic for the boards of the stage, and in 1925 he began to act in the "Irving Place Theatre" (with Ludwig Satz). In 1926 he acted with the Hollander troupe in Toronto, Canada.

In the summer of 1932 he played in his benefit in Gordin's one-acter, "The Deceased Actor," which was his last performance on the stage.

On 14 February 1932 R. passed away in New York and was brought to his eternal rest in Washington Cemetery [Brooklyn, New York.]

About R., he handled very many courses, especially about his huge guzmaus. The characteristics about his fur, which he used to wear during wintertime, it was always said that the fur pelt served him in summer and winter. In the summer krikh oys the hair, and it became a light jacket, and in the winter the hair grew back on the pelt. Also no less were his hyperbole about his successes, although they were numerous and significant. With his external constantly nice attitude and his exceptional breeder's dress, he had evoked for himself a great Derekh Eretz.

Sh. E.

  • B. Gorin-- "History of Yiddish Theatre," Vol. II, pp. 126, 150.

  • Necrology in the "Morning Journal," New York, 15 February 1932.

  • Maurice Schwartz-- Morris shvartz dertselt, "Forward," L. A., 28 Feb., 24 June 1941.







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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2952.

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