Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Sani Shapiro
(Natanel Dovid)

Born on 25 March 1861 in Iasi, Romania. His father was a tailor, while at the same time a preacher. He was raised very religiously. For a short time he worked with his father, but after a while he went away to Foltshen [Falticeni], and there he entered into the restaurant of David Kishke, where he, a youth of thirteen years, and having a beautiful voice, sang and got paid for it.

At age seventeen he began to work as an employee-seller for merchants across Romania, with one Avraham Kofke. In 1881 he traveled to Bucharest to the crowning of the king, and there was connected with Brodersinger Shimele der Heyzeriker, then with singer Pinchas Shapiro, and the violin player Filopesco and his wife Janet, and together they wandered around [playing] in inns, where they used to perform and hardly had a piece of bread [to eat.]

In his autobiography (stylistically and grammatically improved and in our orthography), S. writes:

“I saw that this wouldn’t lead to anything so I named myself ‘Shapiro the Blessing Maker,’ not as a drunkard, but because my making of [poetic, rhyming] blessings was exceptional (Sh. later printed the poems on leaflets), but that did not earn me a living. All the actors knew me well, but I was always a bit standoffish with them, because I know to this very day that when an actor in those times was a little better off, he’d forget to wish you ‘good day,’ but when he wasn’t doing well he was your best brother.”


He is the owner of tea and coffee houses, that they should bring into their places Yiddish singers, and therefore 5 ban  (Romanian coin) for every drink, so he brings to them the singers Yakov-Yona Tsimbler, Moshe der Blinder, Yankele with his harmonica, Asher Feierstein, Sholom Podzamce, Chone Strudler, Leon Shpatser [see "Brodersinger" in the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," pp. 215-25.)

S. stopped just to sing songs, but only went to "make Kiddush" and sing the appropriate repertoire of of certain undertakings.

In the beginning of this century he immigrated to America. Here S. continued his fortune in the streets of New York with a wagon (pushcart peddler) with old things, including stories from the bible and songs that he used to publish to two to four sites [zaytlekh].

[In our presence we find ourselves two song collections, which contain the songs: "Der komisher kidh," "Der ployderzak," "Der yom tovdiger kidush," "Brikhu," "Fraytag oyf der nakht," "Der kidish fun purim," "Der fermisher kidish fun shavuous," "Uitn lkh," "Hmbdil," Di hbdlh").

On 11 February 1931 S. passed away in New York and was brought to his eternal rest at Mt. Hebron Cemetery on the grounds of B Berkowitz and Louis Zeltener Lodge.

Zalmen Zylbercweig, who knew S. in New York for several years before his death, writes:

"He was of an unusual type. In a certain respect, he might have been considered to be one of the Broderzinger group [minstrels], but that was only for a short time in Romania. After arriving in America he completely gave up singing and devoted himself to his ‘little wagon’ [i.e., pushcart] on which he had laid out various items for sale. Sometimes he would place himself near a theatre where, before the performance and during intermissions, he would sell the song collections that he constantly reprinted, as well as the brochure How To Become a Citizen, which was then very significant for the immigrants. He was a quiet, kind person with a warm interest in Yiddish theatre and the fate of Yiddish actors. He would often provide support for his former colleagues in Europe. S. maintained an archive of photos of the Broderzinger and the first actors in Romania. Among the songs there were some that he had himself composed, but since he did not print the authors’ names on any of the songs, it is difficult to determine which were his.”

Sh.E. and Sh.E. from his wife, and from Zalmen Zylbercweig.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5914.

English translation courtesy of Hershl Hartman and Steven Lasky.

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