Yiddish Typewriter

Yiddish Typewriter • Jewish Museum London

This Yiddish typewriter, from the collection of the Jewish Museum, London, belonged to the playwright Abish Meisels.

Born in Galicia, Abish Meisels spent 12 years working in Vienna as a dramatist before emigrating to London in 1938. During World War II, Meisels was a central figure in the New Yiddish Theatre in Adler Street as a playwright and prompter.

Meier Tzelniker on stage in the New Yiddish Theatre Company’s performance of The Merchant of Venice. Abish Meisels can be seen in the prompt box.

Yiddish theatre was brought to Britain by immigrants from Eastern Europe from the late 19th century. Plays were performed in Yiddish, the language spoken by Central and Eastern European Jews. They ranged from comedy to tragedy, drawing on Yiddish folk tales, adaptations of Shakespeare and stories of immigrant life.For hardworking immigrants, a night out at the theatre was a rare opportunity for entertainment and relaxation.

Yiddish theatre had a unique atmosphere with enthusiastic audiences who joined in and sang along.The early 20th century was the heyday of Yiddish theatre, with long queues for tickets and packed theatres. A number of theatres were set up in the East End of London, most notably the Grand Palais and the Pavilion theatre. As the number of Yiddish speakers declined, so did Yiddish theatre. In 1970 the last remaining theatre, the Grand Palais, finally closed its doors.


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