This page is my (ongoing) effort to document what I have learned about Itzik Feld, an ancestor who was prominent in Yiddish theatre in the 1930s and 1940s. I found little comprehensive coverage of his career, although he co-starred alongside such luminaries as Aaron Lebedeff. He notably lacks a profile in Zalmen Zylbercweig’s Leksikon fun Yidishn Teater, despite headlining a performance put on to raise money for the work.
First off: names. Itzik Feld is most common in the American press and appears to have been his preferred stage name, although he sometimes went by Isidore or Izaak. יצחק פעלד is the Yiddish spelling. איציק פלד occurs in some Hebrew media. Polish sources often call him Icek or Icchok. In most other official documentation (visas, passenger lists, naturalization records) he is Izaak, Izaac, or Isaac. A few sources write Itzchok, Itschok, Yitzkhok, Yitskhok, or similar. I am sure I have missed some creative renderings.
Itzik was born in Lublin on May 5, 1897 to a theatrical family (parents Wigdor Judko Feld and Golda Bronberg). He is reported to have acted in Warsaw’s Kleinkunst as a member of the Sambatyon company and in a variety of productions in Łódź during the interwar period. He also performed with stock companies in London and in Paris, where an American producer in the audience encouraged him to come the United States. He arrived in 1929, already married to Lola Spielman. Lola was an actress in her own right and they shared the stage at points.
He died October 7, 1943 at his home (85 Bristol Street, Brooklyn) after several months of ill-health following an operation. At the time he was directing the play Children Without a Home at the Hopkinson Theater. He predeceased Lola and a brother, Ezra (who may once have gone by Lejb or Leon—TBD). I believe he had a sister, Rywka, who died in Poland in 1904. Itzik and Lola are buried side-by-side at Flushing’s Mount Hebron Cemetery in a section reserved for members of the Yiddish theatre. Their headstone epitaph reads “The play is done, the curtain drops slow, falling to the prompter’s bell.”
I will fill in more biographical details later (theaters, travels to South America). My current line of inquiry relates to his 1939 production of the play Long Live America and leadership of the Yiddish Theatrical Council for the Promotion of Americanism.
In the New York Times’ (unimpressed) eyes, the play aimed to drum up support for taking in Jewish refugees. A Gallup poll on that very question coincided with its launch. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the Council planned to “send theatrical troupes to every city and town in the United States and Canada in plays stressing the advantages of democracy.” His play would have been the first.
At this time it is unclear what became of the organization or its plans.
From the Syrena-Electro label:
Day and Night
A Village Wedding
An East Side Wedding
The Little Bandit
A Happy Family
Heaven on Earth
Oh, You Girls!
The Rabbi’s Temptation
Love for Sale
A Beautiful Dream
The Warsaw Wedding
His Jewish Girl
Let’s Get Married
The Polish Rabbi
Shloime Zalmen’s Wedding
Shaye Shmaye’s Luck
My Baby’s Wedding
A Happy Dream
The Rabbi is Coming
The Brownsville Rabbi
Who Needs a Mother?
Yosele Dem Rebbin’s
Itche Mayer from Kentucky
Children Without a Home
The Library of Congress provides on-premises access to over two dozen historical newspapers through ProQuest. Most valuable were The New York Times and The New York Tribune. I also found references in The Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe, The Jewish Exponent, and The Jewish Advocate.
Through The Internet Archive, I found several pieces in The Billboard, Variety, and Radio Daily.
The Brooklyn Public Library gives free access to The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, even for those who don’t live locally. This source contained more play announcements than any other.
The National Library of Israel and Tel-Aviv University maintain a repository of searchable digitized Jewish newspapers from around the world. These include The Forward, The Jewish Sentinel, and Al HaMishmar.
Newspapers.com has a one-week free trial through which I found many reviews of Itzik and his performances in The New York Daily News, principally written by Walter Hartman.
The New York Public Library’s digital collections include placards from the Yiddish stage in New York and Buenos Aires, Argentina (where he performed).
Jewish Records Indexing - Poland, hosted by JewishGen, provides birth, marriage, and death records for 19th and early 20th century Poland. There I found birth records for Izaak (born 1897, but not registered until 1914) and Lejb (born 1893), as well as a death record for Rywka (1904).
The Rachel Network (a consortium of French libraries of judaica and hebraica) lists a number of Itzik’s recordings. Some are available as MP3s.
Russian-Records.com is a hobbyist site for Russian and Eastern European records from the early 20th century with many thousands of uploaded recordings, metadata, and discussions.