Warsaw as a Center of Yiddish Culture


economic aspect was more serious than its linguistic one . This crisis was expressed in a drop in book purchases , both by individuals and by educational institutions and libraries . In consequence , fewer books were published , in fewer copies , and there was a movement by readers ( whose interest in reading had not diminished ) toward reading in Polish . There were no less than 52 Jewish public libraries ( not including school libraries ) in Warsaw in the mid-1930 s . The major Jewish libraries were those of the Institute for Jewish Studies associated with the Great Synagogue ( in which most of the books were in Hebrew , and most of the readers were from Jewish intellectual circles ) and the large Bundist library named for Bronislaw Grosser , administered for many years by Dr . Herman Kruk . The increasing demand for books in Polish , at the expense of those in Yiddish or Hebrew , was evident in Warsaw’s many libraries throughout the decade preceding the Holocaust , even within the Bund libraries , many of which made a prolonged effort to maintain Yiddish exclusivity . The Yiddish book market recovered somewhat in the late 1930 s . Authors such as Shlomo Berlinski , Joshua Perle , Leib Olitzky , Michel Bursztyn , Kadia Molodowsky , and Itzik Manger , whose works reflected to a great degree various facets of the life of Polish Jewry in those years , enjoyed great popularity among the public , which even justified the printing of second editions of their works . Additionally , some new literary journals were published in this period , and it seemed for a fleeting moment that better times were again in store for Yiddish literature . The transition from speaking in Yiddish to Polish , on the one hand , and , on the other , the existence of an increasingly large Jewish population whose main language was Polish , created a fertile basis for a Polish-language Jewish press , as well as belletristic literature in this language . This literature had originated in Galicia , but the 1930 s saw Warsaw become its new center . This literature was produced by a small group of writers , the most prominent of whom were Roman Brandstaetter and Mauricy ( Moshe ) Szymel ( who was a bilingual author ) . This was a literature that addressed Jewish topics , and whose authors identified as Jews and viewed themselves as an integral part of the Jewish people and its culture ( in contrast with a considerable number of Polish authors of Jewish origin , who saw themselves as being part of Polish culture , into which they sought to assimilate ) . With the rise of Polish anti-Semitism , most of these writers found themselves spending more time engaged in publicist writing in the press , and less in writing belletristic literature . Warsaw was also a center of Yiddish theater , beginning in the early twentieth century . In 1905 Warsaw boasted five theaters that presented Yiddish plays . These performances , however , were known for their inferior level and orientation toward the unlettered masses , and accordingly many stayed away from them . As a result of Isaac Leib Peretz’s efforts to raise the level of the Yiddish theater , and the contribution of bilingual producer Mark Erenstein , Die Yiddishe Trupe theatrical company was founded in Warsaw in 1907 , with Esther Rachel Kaminska in a starring role . The company presented a number of literary plays by Shalom Aleichem , Jacob Gordin , David Pinski , and even Henrik Ibsen , and was very successful , both in Poland and abroad . The company soon broke up , but its successor , Die Vilner Trupe ( The Vilna Theater Company ) , also starring Kaminska , was no less successful . A few theater companies were active in Warsaw in the interwar period ; they maintained high standards and their members were more professionally trained than the actors who preceded them . In 1924 Zygmunt Turkow and Ida Kaminska founded The “ Viket” ( Varshever Yiddisher Kunst Teater - The Jewish Art Theater ) , whose actors had been trained at Michael Weichert ‘ s Yiddishe Dramatishe Shul ( Jewish Drama School ) . In 1929 Jonas Turkow founded “ Vint” ( Varshever Nayer Yiddisher Teater - The New Jewish Theater ) , and in 1932 Weichert founded the Yung-Teater ( Young Theater ) , an avant-garde theater that presented

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