YIVO Library Yiddish Theater Collection

The Library of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is proud to possess one of the world’s largest collections of Yiddish theater works from 1850 to 1950, the period that coincided with the flourishing of Jewish theater in Europe and the United States.

Yiddish theater works have been carefully selected by the YIVO Library staff, preserved, re-housed and microfilmed in 2002-2005. YIVO Library has produced 57 reels of microfilms that contain over 1,100 theater masterpieces, including many exclusively rare editions of Yiddish plays, operettas and comedy skits published in the United States, Canada, Poland, Lithuania, England, Germany, France, Italy, Soviet Union, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, and Palestine.

Many playwrights whose works are represented on the reels lived and worked in New York. Among them were such distinguished authors and Yiddishists as Sholem Aleichem, Abraham Goldfaden, Jacob Gordin, David Pinski, Leon Kobrin, Peretz Hirschtein, Moris Winchevsky, Boris Tomashevsky, Mendl Elkin, to name a few. It is important to note that the collection also includes works by numerous little-known, now forgotten authors whose contribution to the development of Yiddish theater was profound. Plays listed in the collection were featured prominently on the stages of popular Yiddish theaters on the 2nd Avenue in New York in 1910s-1940s. In addition, Yiddish drama collection also includes Yiddish translations and adaptations of famous classical plays by William Shakespeare, Alexandre Dumas, Henrik Ibsen, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol, Anton Chekhov, Emile Zola etc. which help to bring classic masterpieces to the larger Yiddish-speaking audience.