Special to the JTA ‘time is Running out for the Jews of Poland’
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Special to the JTA ‘time is Running out for the Jews of Poland’

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“Time is running out for the Jews of Poland,” according to Szymon Szurmiej, manager and artistic director of the Yiddish State Theater in Warsaw. “With regard to the 10,000 to 12,000 Jews that remain in our country, the average age is 65, and we cannot expect the elderly generation to produce children. We have become, in a way, the last of the Mohigans.”

Szurmiej, who was born in the Ukraine,had, for weeks prior to the 40th anniversary celebration of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, been a leading Jewish spokesman on behalf of the event and had played a dominant role during the week-long observances.

Referring to some of the agitation preceeding the celebration, and apparently with reference to his fellow compatriot. Dr. Marek Edelman, a leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising who opposed the celebration because it was government-sponsored, Szurmiej told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency:

“Politics don’t interest me, and to inject political issues over the graves of six million is neither moral nor ethical. All we wanted was to mark the 40th anniversay of what had happened here in Warsaw and to demonstrate that we had not forgotten.”


Szurmiej has been the director of the prestigious Yiddish State Theater –which is subsidized by the government to the tune of 15 million Zlotys a year, approximately $176,470 — for the past 13 years, and began as an actor there 12 years earlier.

The troupe last played in New York City in 1976 at the Billy Rose Theater, with the unforgettable Ida Kaminska as its star. Just two years later they journeyed to Israel where they performed all over the country to enthusiastic audiences. In Tel Aviv, for example, the troupe played to sold-out houses during a two-week engagement.

Szurmiej said the government of Poland had built the 400-seat Yiddish State Theater in 1970, It employs 36 actors, in addition to a technical and administrative staff of 180. Seven of the actors are non-Jewish. The theater has 18 plays in its repertoire, produces three plays a year, and has an actors studio in part of which children are taught Yiddish and Yiddish literature and receive special training in acting.

The Yiddish State Theater troupe will tour the United States for four months, beginning in December, opening first in Miami, visiting several other cities with substantial Jewish populations, and concluding in New York City, before going on to Toronto and Montreal.

Twenty-five actors and a large group of technicians will be involved in the five plays to be presented: “The Dybbuk,” by S. Ansky; “The Comedians,” by Abraham Goldfaden; “Der Intergand, ” by Isaac Babel; “Goldele der Schmetterling,” by Simcha Bitterman; and “Bonjour M. Chagall,” a musical.

Szurmiej had invited the delegates from abroad for a dramatic Warsaw Ghetto presentation at his theater on the first evening of the Ghetto uprising celebration, which he dedicated, also, to the memory of Shmuel Tennenblatt, the late editor of the Yiddish journal, Folks-Sztyme, whom he described as his “closest friend and colleague.”

Szurmiej appealed to American Jews to come to Poland in greater numbers, and. of course, to visit his unique theater: “Your coming here is vital for us so that we develop our capacities and to ensure our future growth. Your support of our theater will be proof that we have not gone under, and that, in a very real sense, we are the heart of the community.”

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