Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Harry Weinberg


Born on 1 July 1891 in Warsaw, Poland. His father was an employee in Rosenberg's parve mill. He learned in a cheder, and in the community Talmud Torah. The students, were seen there day in, day out. Y.L, Peretz, who was the secretary there, held him with great esteem, and through him received a strong love for Yiddish literature and other thing published in Yiddish cultural life.

Singing as a choirboy in Nozyk's synagogue, and visiting the Yiddish theatre he became so excited that he joined in as a stand-in in the troupes of Kaminski and Kompaneyets. A short time later the same stand-ins had organized as an amateur troupe, and randomly played across the cities and towns of the neighborhoods around Warsaw. Later on there came from the group the actors Menasha Skulnik, Moshe Lipman, Avrham Kurtz, Avraham Gertsog, Yitskhok Latowitz and Harry Weinberg. Among the cities visited were Biala, Siedlce, Likeve, Chelm and Lovitz. The repertoire consisted of the Goldfaden and Latayner operettas, up to the dramas of Gordin, Pinski and Libin. The several years during which the group had gone around, it had withstood difficult times, but in the meantime he actors studied the theatre profession, and felt that they already developed to become professional actors and play in established troupes, where they had expected to be released from their poverty--Moshe Lipman, Menasha Skulnik and his first wife, Salke Kutner, were from the first to go over to the professional theatre.

W. very quickly thereafter joined Bakers troupe and traveled around with it all over Russia. Eventually he joined up with the troupe of Sam Adler and Mark Meyerson.

With this troupe he played in all the biggest cities of Bessarabia. While playing with them in Kishinev the local director of theatres, Zhitomirski, secretly showed up and allowed him to play in "In nadan" (In the Dowry) after (the Yiddish theatre) having being forbidden to do so, for the previous twenty years. Finally he was allowed to perform in the Yiddish theatre in Rostov. What's more, he was showered with many gifts. He signed up to perform, but after only playing there for four weeks to packed audiences, the play was shut down. This was due to someone from the local Russian theatre accusing the Yiddish theatre of stealing their audiences. They had to cease their productions, and after a short while the troupe was forced to leave Rostov. They moved on to Nikolayev. There W. received a telegram from his father that W. had to present himself for military service. But instead he became provided with a ship's card to America, sent from his sister, who had already been living there.

In 1910 W. came to New York and joined Agid's Music Hall, then in a regular theatre across the province. In 1911 he joined the Actors' Union Local 5, where he then became an executive member. In 1913 he played for a season in legitimate Yiddish theatre with Isidore Lillian, in 1914 Yiddish vaudeville in Detroit, and the summer in Cleveland. From 1916 until 1918 W. had, together with Esther and Saul Wallerstein, took over the direction of the local Royal Theatre, and in the beginning of 1918 the "Globe" Theatre , but due to his marriage to Jennie Gross, W. went on the stage, settling in Detroit, as in the span of about forty-five years he and his wife were active in the national and local social institutions and were the founders of the Sholem Aleichem Institute. W. for many years was the local chairman of he "Federation of Polish Jews in America," helping to raise tens of thousands for the needy Jews in Poland. For many years W ordered yearly bazaars for the Sholem Aleichem Institute, which had helped strongly the existence of the institute.

In the summer of 1936 W. brought to Detroit the Israeli Maccabi soccer players.

From 1932 until 1955 W., together with his wife, with the assistance of their children, managed in Detroit with a Yiddish radio program, which consisted of an appropriate cultural level.

W. also founded the daily newspaper, "Der veg" in Detroit.

Although he went away from the stage and radio, W. remained strongly given over to the Yiddish arts, and with his heart and soul, everything, and he slowed down with Yiddish theatre. From the first moment when the committee was formed to publish the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" (1931), day after day he served in the committee with this and that, organized and directed through its creation the material means through which donors and subscribers [could participate] in Detroit. His home was always open to the Yiddish artist, and was considered to be the "ambassador" in Detroit.

For his social activity W. received remuneration for the Jewish Welfare Federation, for the Federation of Polish Jews in America, for the Sholem Aleichem Institute, for which he gave away a lot of money, and quite especially for the American Finance Department, for buying a million dollars of bonds in 1945.

W. was instrumental in the publication of the memoirs of his young friend Menasha Skulnik, who devoted much space in it to him.

Sh. E.

  • "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," Vol. 1, New York, 1931, pp. 680-81.

  • Menasha Skulnik -- Menasha skulnik  dertseylt, "Forward," N.Y., 31 March, 23 June 1963.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 6048.

You can read Harry Weinberg's first "Lexicon" biography from Volume 1 by clicking here.

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