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Yiddish Theatre

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The Sidney Krum Jewish Music and Yiddish Theater Memorial Collections at YIVO NY

The Sidney Krum Jewish Music and Yiddish Theater Memorial Collections comprise a large portion of the YIVO Archives’ holdings, and are vast in both number of documents and linear feet. Every issue of Yedies/YIVO News reports new donations in this field.

Mr. Krum, a lawyer and teacher in the New York City schools, came to the United States as a child from the Polish town of Antipolia. He learned Yiddish folk songs from his mother, and throughout his life remained dedicated to his Jewish heritage, particularly its music.

The Krum Collections include the Max and Frieda Weinstein Archives of (Jewish) Recorded Sound, which hold well over 15,000 78-rpm and LP recordings, piano rolls, CDs, and tapes of cantorial, folk, theater, and popular music in Yiddish and Hebrew, some unpublished. There are also humor recordings and recordings of recitations. Much of this material is in the holdings of the Library of Congress.

The collections of printed sheet music and scores as well as unpublished manuscripts of scores and songs comprise at least 10,000 individual pieces of badkhn (wedding entertainer) repertory, folk songs, operettas, oratorios, popular songs, art songs, liturgical music, and instrumental music, much of it klezmer. Mr. Krum sang in Yiddish-oriented choirs, and would have certainly been familiar with some of the oratorios and songs.

Theater collections include plays—in manuscript or in print with hand annotations—skits, programs, reviews, photographs, posters, and costumes. This material, along with the recordings, was produced in Europe, the Americas, and Israel; its chronological span is from the 1890s through the present. Some of it was even created under the shadow of Nazi rule.

Examples of recently received collections are the papers of the Hebrew Actors Union, Leon Liebgold, May Simon, Leah Carey, Nellie Cassman, Marina Gordon (Soviet Yiddish songs), Yetta Zwerling, Tillie Rabinowitz, Cantor Gedalie Bargad, Thomas Sokoloff, Anatol Winogradoff, Gary Wagner (“The Jewish Entainment Hour” television program), Betty Perlov, Cantor Raful Kaner, Gustav Berger and Fania Rubina, Miriam Walowit (Gilbert and Sullivan in Yiddish), and many others.

These materials can be found in the mixed-provenance Music Collection (RG 112), in the personal papers of individual composers and conductors, and in other YIVO Archives collections. Collections of published music are also available in the YIVO Library.

For inquiries about music holdings in the YIVO Archives or for a music research appointment, contact the Music Archivist, Chana Mlotek cmlotek@yivo.cjh.org  (212) 246-6080, ext. 6119.

Highlights of the Music Collections


Music (RG 112)
This collection consists of published and unpublished works of Yiddish and Hebrew; art, folk, popular, and theater music; Holocaust songs; liturgical and Hasidic music; choral music; and instrumental compositions. It includes several thousand pieces of published sheet music by composers and arrangers such as Abraham Ellstein, Abraham Goldfaden, Pinchas Jassinowski, Alexander Olshanetzky, Joseph Rumshinsky, and Sholem Secunda. It also includes published and unpublished choral, folk, classical, popular, liturgical, Hasidic, and Holocaust-related music by many different composers; as well as programs, clippings, photographs, and other documents about Jewish music.

Liturgical Music

Outstanding collections of cantorial and choral synagogue music can be found in the personal papers of:

  • Abraham Moshe Bernstein (1866-1932). Cantor, choir master, composer of Jewish liturgical and popular music, music teacher, musicologist, and writer. Lived in Vilna. (RG 36)
  • Leo Low (1876-1960). Jewish composer, arranger, choral conductor, teacher, lecturer. One of the first to collect, arrange, and popularize Yiddish and Hebrew folk and art songs. Choir conductor at the Great Synagogue in Vilna, Bucharest Reform Temple, Tlomackie Synagogue in Warsaw, Hazomir and Grosser Club choruses in Warsaw, choruses of the Jewish National Workers' Alliance and Workmen’s Circle in New York. (RG 1140)
  • Mordechai Moniak (1895-1938). Cantor, composer. Born in Kishinev. (RG 412)
  • Meyer Posner (1890-1931). Composer and compiler of liturgical music for cantor and choir. (RG 217)
  • Lazar Weiner (1897-1982). Jewish composer, music teacher, conductor, choral director, pianist. Music director of the Central Synagogue in Manhattan. Director of the Workmen’s Circle Choral Society. Active in a number of musical organizations. (RG 711)
  • Elias Zaludkowski (1888-1943). Cantor. Wrote on Jewish liturgical and folk music. Lived in Byelorussia, Poland, and the United States. (RG 212)
    Folk & Art Music

The following collections are among the Archives’ most important resources for the study of Jewish art and folk music:

  • Sidor Belarsky (1900-1975). Singer of classical and folk music. Known for his performances, recordings, and arrangements of Russian and Yiddish folk songs as well as for his appearances as a bass baritone soloist with orchestras and opera companies. Professor of Music at the Jewish Teachers' Seminary-Herzliah Institute in New York City. (RG 721)
  • Samuel Bugatch (1898-1984). Jewish composer, conductor of choral groups and synagogue choirs, lecturer, writer. Music director, Beth Tefiloh Synagogue, Baltimore, and Temple Adath Israel, Bronx. Composed and arranged liturgical and secular works. Compiled an anthology of Yiddish and Hebrew songs. (RG 712)
  • Mordechai Gebirtig (1877-1942). Yiddish folk poet and carpenter whose songs are among the best known in Yiddish folk literature. His most famous song, "Undzer shtetl brent" (Our Town Is On Fire), was composed after a pogrom in Przytyk, Poland, in 1938. Gebirtig was killed by the Nazis during a deportation from the Krakow Ghetto. (RG 740)
  • Michl Gelbart (1889-1962). Jewish composer, music critic, music teacher in the Workmen’s Circle schools. Wrote music to Yiddish poems and to six children's operettas. Compiled songbooks for Yiddish secular schools. (RG 467)
  • Vladimir Heifetz (1900-1970). Composer, conductor, choral director and pianist. Served as musical director of the Rudolf Schildkraut Theatre, the chorus of the Poale Zion (Farband), the Yiddish Culture Chorus, the Patterson Singing Society in New Jersey, Temple Anshe Chesed, the Jamaica Jewish Center. Heifetz wrote over 80 compositions and about 200 arrangements and orchestrations. He wrote music for the Yiddish Art Theater, Folksbiene Theater, and for several motion pictures. He also composed a symphony, an opera, an oratorio, and a number of cantatas. (RG 1259)
  • Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett Collection, ca. 1900-1970s. The collection of folklorist and anthropologist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is a rich resource for published folk and popular Jewish and Yiddish sheet music.
  • Solomon Shmulewitz-Small (1868-1943) Yiddish poet, playwright, composer, and folk singer born in Pinsk, Byelorussia. Came to the U.S. in 1891. (RG 214)
  • Lazar Weiner (1897-1982). Jewish composer, music teacher, conductor, choral director, pianist. Music director of the Central Synagogue in Manhattan. Director of the Workmen’s Circle Choral Society. Active in a number of musical organizations. (RG 711)

Theater Music

  • Music (Vilna Archives) (1882-1940). Materials that were originally part of the Esther Rachel Kaminska Theater Museum established by YIVO in Vilna in 1927 out of an initial donation of the papers of Esther-Rachel Kaminska, who was known as the "mother" of Yiddish theater. The collection includes manuscripts of musical works for the Yiddish theater, including music for about 300 operas, operettas, and vaudeville skits. There are also manuscripts and printed sheets of art, popular, dance, and liturgical music. (RG 7)
  • Abraham Goldfaden (1879-1930s). Playwright, poet, composer, producer, and director. Founder of the Yiddish theater. Staged the first Yiddish theater production in Jassy, Rumania, 1876. The collection includes manuscripts of Goldfaden's operettas. See Music (Vilna Archives) RG 7, for sheet music for the operettas. (RG 219)
  • David Hirsch (b. 1890). Composer of Yiddish theater music. One of the earliest composers for the Yiddish theater in Rumania, he provided musical notation for the melodies of Abraham Goldfaden. (RG 1225)
  • Sholem Perlmutter (1884-1954). Writer, playwright, professional prompter in the Yiddish theater. Founder and secretary of the League of Yiddish Playwrights. Founder of the Society of Jewish Composers, Lyricists and Publishers. Served on the Executive Committee of the Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Lexicon of the Yiddish Theater). (RG 289)
  • Herman Yablokoff (1902-1981). Actor, composer, lyricist. Composed musicals and songs for the Yiddish stage, including the hit song Papirosn (Cigarettes). Head of the Hebrew Actors Union in New York. (RG 1188)
  • Gabriel Zarzhevsky (b. 1888). Yiddish theater producer. Managed theater companies in the Ukraine (Ekaterinoslav), Russia, Poland, Turkey (Constantinople), the United States. Changed his name to Harry Zar after emigration to U.S. in 1920. (RG 407)


    For inquiries about music holdings in the YIVO Archives, or for a music research appointment, contact the Music Archivist, Chana Mlotek   cmlotek@yivo.cjh.org    (212) 246-6080, ext. 6119.

    Web: http://www.yivoinstitute.org/

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