A Tale of Two Museums
Ester Rachel Kaminska Theater Museum Collection

1925, The Highpoint of Commercial Yiddish theater in America

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In the 1920s, as Yiddish-speaking immigrants moved from the Lower East Side to other New York neighborhoods, the Yiddish theater followed. Brooklyn's Lyric Theater regularly played host to Yiddish theater.
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1925, The Highpoint of Commercial Yiddish theater in America


1925 in American Yiddish Theater Life

While Second Avenue in Manhattan became synonymous with Yiddish theater, Yiddish theater spread into New York City’s five boroughs, following the migration of its mostly Jewish patrons. Four Yiddish theater houses opened in Brooklyn and another four opened in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. This brought the tally of the number of active Yiddish theater houses in New York City to its height at 14. In the late 1920s, Yiddish theater in New York City began to contract, and by the 1940s, the rate of this shrinking intensified. One important reason for this was language. As Jewish immigrants in the United States learned English and sought to assimilate they lost their mastery of Yiddish. Other reasons account for the theater's diminishing audiences.  Since the turn of the century, new boat loads of immigrants replenished the numbers of those audience members who went the way of linguistic assimilation, sustaining the level of New York's Yiddish speakers. The Immigration Act of 1924 stopped this process when it closed the gates to Jewish immigrants. Also, the rise of the moving-pictures--both English- and Yiddish-language movies-- served another blow to theater audiences. While the Yiddish theater itself contracted, it fed English-language entertainment and the budding Yiddish-langauge film business with stores of talent, actors and writers, many of whom began their careers in the Yiddish theater only to move into other areas of American entertainment industry.


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“1925, The Highpoint of Commercial Yiddish theater in America ,” YIVO Online Exhibitions, accessed March 1, 2024, https://ataleoftwomuseums.yivo.org/items/show/2976.
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