Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Elihu (Alex) Tenenholtz


T. was born on 17 February 1890 in Oziran (Ozeryany), Voliner region. His parents were wool merchants. He learned in a cheder with a Yiddish writer, and Russian, Hebrew, accounting, and a little German with a private teacher.

In 1901 he came with his family to his father in New York. Here he learned in a public school, then in an evening school, working during the day as a cigar maker.

In his early youth he took to reading Yiddish literature and also on the recommendation of Joel Entin fhe became a member in the "Progressive Dramatic Club", where he performed with declamations and monologues of Sholem Aleichem.

On 23 February 1906 he performed in Manhattan's Lyceum in a benefit performance in an intriguing role in Z. Libin's play "David and his Daughter" (Director: Abe Rose), and after obtaining a degree in scenic preparation in the private dramatic school of Madame Morgenrot, he began to participate in the productions of the "Progressive Dramatic Club" ("Chaim" in Sholem Aleichem's "Tsezeyt un tseshpreyt"; "Hindes" in Pinski's "Gliksfargesene"; "David" in Arnstein's "Doe eybike lid"; "Sholem Aleichem" in Sholem Aleichem's "Di etsh", "Brown" in Hauptmann's "Eynzame mentshn", "Mlitski" or "Dzharski" in Pshibishevski's "Tsulib glik"; "Robert" in Hauptmann's "Dos fridensfest", et al.)

In 1908 he became a manager of "Kunds" and at the same time was an insurance agent. In the span of this time (until 1912), he participated together with the "Progressive Dramatic Club",and  then founded, together with Louis Weisberg, Yudl Dubinsky and Meleka Kornstein, the "Progressive Yiddish Folks-biene", where most of the time there were performed literary one-acters. After [eeking out] a scarce existence, the "Progressive Yiddish Folks-biene" united with the "Progressive Dramatic Club".

Around 1914 he acted at the Second Avenue Roof Garden with Sam Schneier and Jennie Goldstein.

In 1916 he was accepted as a member of the Actors Union (Local 1), and he [subsequently] traveled with Kessler across the province.

In 1916-17 he acted in New York's People's Theatre with Bessie Thomashefsky.

In 1917-18 he was in the Grand Theatre.

In 1920-21 he acted for twelve weeks in English with Louie Manne in New York's Astor Theatre in Sam Shiffman's "The Unwritten Chapter", and during the same season he acted at the Yiddish Lyric Theatre, where he also directed Peretz Hirshbein's plays.

In 1921-22 he was with Satz in the Irving Place Theatre (manager Max R. Wilner).

From 1922-25 he was in Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theatre.

In 1925-26 he acted at the Amphion Theatre in Brooklyn with Celia Adler.

In 1926 he was in Hollywood, where he was known as "Tenen-holtz".

T. acted for three years in film and then in talkies with the "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Company". In the course of time, T. once performed there in Yiddish in Gordin's "Der umbakanter" and organized for the "Los Angeles Yiddish Club" a dramatic section, in which he had American-born Jewish children learn declamations and recite them for Yiddish writers.

In 1931 T. was co-founder of an intimate Yiddish art theatre in Los Angeles, where he staged Gottesfeld's "Parnusah" and Hirshbein's "A farvorfen vinkl".

In 1932 he came to New York and here became the organizer and co-founder of the Yiddish Ensemble Art Theatre, which existed only for a short time. Soon thereafter, T. returned to Los Angeles.

T. was twice the Vice-President of the Yiddish Actors' Union, and during the four years was the Executive Protocol Secretary and helped found the Yiddish library for the Actors' Union.

In 1925-26 T. became co-founder and President of the theatre museum in New York.

In 1911 T. debuted in "Kunds" under the name "Ulrik Bregdel" with kibets critiques across the Yiddish theatre, and afterwards there often published theatre critiques and feuilletons under the name "Moyshe Mekarty", later going over to "Kibetser", and there publishing biographies of Yiddish theatrical personalities, written in a humorous form.

T. published under the name "Shpigelberg" several novels in the "Morning Journal".

In 1916, T. became a collaborator in "Di varhayt" and there collaborated for several years.

In the number? of 6 November 1918 T. published there "Dos fraye rusland (The Free Russia)", a bloody shpas in one act, fray after William Prosser, from E. Tenenholtz.

In the span from 1915-16 he published the memoirs of Bessie Thomashefsky, of whom they would later publish in a separate issue known as "Mayn lebens geshikhte", the leyden (sorrow) and frayden of a Yiddish star actress, from Bessie Thomashefsky, portrayed from here alone and issued by E. Tenenholtz. Issued for the Varhayt Publishing Company, New York, 1916". [p. 304, 16].

In 1923 T. edited the collection "Yiddish Theatre", issued for the Yiddish Actors' Union for the fifty-year anniversary of the Yiddish theatre", New York, 21 April 1923 [p. 80, 16].

M. E. 

  • Jacob Mestel -- Ver zeynen di kinstler fun dem noy-yorker idishen kunst-teater?, "Di tsayt", London, April 1924.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 885.

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