Starting in the early 1950s, the Polish government began funding Jewish culture to preserve and promote what little Yiddish culture remained in the country. That includes the Ester Rachel and Ida Kaminska State Jewish Theater from Warsaw, which is on their first North American tour since the 1980s.
The troupe, also known as the Polish Yiddish Theater company, continues the tradition of great Jewish drama, with a repertoire featuring the best works by Abraham Goldfaden, Sholem Aleichem and Jacob Gordin. The group performed at the opening ceremony of the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.
Their current show, “Mazel Tov,” tells stories of love, war and immigration through popular pre-war songs and comedic sketches, with super-titled translations provided. At a recent performance, audience members sniffled and wiped away tears during “My Yiddishe Momme” and clapped along for “Bei Mir Bistu Shein.” Some performers wore suits, other shmattes, and danced and sang for a cheering crowd, who wanted a reminder of a lost world.
The State Jewish Theater brings their old tunes to performances in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Boston before heading back to the old country on November 20th.
Watch a (Polish!) news clip about Warsaw’s Yiddish Theater: