The history of the Jewish people down through the ages, interwoven with religious tradition and synagogal and folk hymns that have been preserved through the centuries was told in the Jewish pageant, “The Romance of a People,” at the Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx on Sunday night to an audience of 20,000 including Governor Herbert H. Lehman, Mayor John P. O’Brien and Senator Robert F. Wagner.
The pageant opened with a prologue depicting the creation of man and symbolizing the emergence of all men from the same matter. The struggle of the Jews down through forty centuries of hopelessness and faith, enslavement and emancipation, degradation and grandeur, was portrayed in a series of tableaux illustrating the most dramatic incidents of Jewish history.
The first episode represented “Idol Worship and the Coming of Abraham”. The voice of the reader told the story of the flight from Eden, the progressive sinfulness of men as generations passed, Noah and the flood and continued delusion of man by false gods. Successive episodes told of slavery of the Jews under the Pharoahs, the glory of the Jews under Solomon when the great Temple was built, the destruction of the Temple by the Roman soldiers, the dispersion of the Jews from Spain, the false Messiah who betrayed the crushed Jews, the birth of joy in humility as illustrated in the life of the Chassidim, the liberation of the Jews in the United States, and the rebuilding of Palestine by a hopeful people.
The theme was sustained throughout by invisible singers and an invisible choir, while the tableaux were enacted by a dramatic, dancing and choral group of 6,200. Continuity was supplied by the voice of a reader who, during the interludes between the episodes, read from the scroll of Jewish history the background of the events depicted by the actors.
Among the singers were Regina Senz, Arthur Tracy, Devora Nadorney, Ruth Renee, Maurice Kostroff, Beatrice Lohre and Goldye Levine. Taken from sources whose origin is as ancient as that of the Hebrew race, the music used in the pageant, dates back, in largest part, at least 2,500 years The rendering of the “Kol Nidrei” marked one of the high spots of the evening’s performance.
Sunday evening’s performance was the first of thirteen which will be given in the next two weeks. The proceeds will be used for the settlement of German Jewish refugees in Palestine. The pageant was presented under the auspices of the American Palestine Committee. The pageant was conceived by Meyer W. Weisgal, executive director. Others prominent in the production staff include Isaac Van Grove, formerly director of the Chicago Civic Opera Company, Jacob Ben Ami, Leo Kopp, Louis Chalif, T. F. Bludworth and Edward Dolan.
OPENED BY NATHAN STRAUS, JR.
The pageant was opened by Nathan Straus, Jr., general chairman of the pageant committee, who welcomed the audience and told of the aims of the American Palestine Campaign. Senator Robert F. Wagner presented the greetings of President Roosevelt and expressed a fervent hope that the persecution of the Jews in Germany would soon come to an end. Governor Lehman said that the pageant was “a celebrabration of the ability of those of our faith to overcome, through the creation of spiritual resources, as did so frequently our fathers, the force of hostile and threatening circumstances”. He referred to the plight of the Jews in Germany and said that no matter the sacrifices of the Jews in the United States, help must be extended to their more unfortunate brethren.
Mayor O’Brien said that the cooperation extended by the Christians of the citly in making the pageant successful illustrated the spirit of understanding among the varied groups who make up our cosmopolitan population.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.