Yiddish Theatre Makes a Comeback in Milwaukee

Oct 22, 2015

For almost a half century, Yiddish theater was the predominant cultural expression of Jews in America. But with the demise of Yiddish as a commonly spoken language, many of the plays and songs have also faded into obscurity.

But this Saturday evening at the Helen Bader Concert Hall in UWM’s Zelazo Center, Yiddish theater will be very much alive and well. Song of Second Avenue: Yiddish Theater’s Enduring Musical Legacy will feature one of the leading scholars and modern-day performers of klezmer music - Hankus Netsky.

"Klezmer is one of the main strands of music that developed in the world of Eastern-European Jews, a large number of whom came to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries," Netsky says. He is the founder and director of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, based at the New England Conservatory of Music.

Hasidic music, which was religiously inspired; cantorial music and Yiddish folk songs all came together to form the Yiddish theatre.

Yiddish theatre had a large influence, especially in New York where jazz and song out of Tin Pan Alley were erupting in the 1920s. One key tune was Bei Mir Bist Du Shein , when it became the number one song in American in 1938.