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[Page 226]

Jewish Cultural Institutions in Przemysl

Y. A.

“Yuval,” Jewish Society of Music and Theatre Lovers in Przemysl

One of the institutions for the dissemination of culture, music and Jewish theatre arts, whose influence extended beyond the borders of the town, was the “Yuval” society. It attracted all the Jewish intelligenzia in town, as well as popular strata of all kinds – Zionists, Yiddishists and even assimilated Jews who were affiliated with the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S). The purpose of the society was to impart to the youth a culture of music, with an emphasis on Jewish music, as well as to distribute the art of Jewish and general theatre by means of presenting Jewish plays and poetry evenings where Jewish poets' works were read.

The society also acted as impresario, and coordinated visiting theatre troupes, such as “Habima” and “Ohel” from Eretz Yisrael, and “HaWilner Truppe[27], which performed their famous plays for the Jewish audience.

The society was formed in 1919, the first general meeting was held on September 13, 1919, and the first chairman to be elected was the attorney Dr. Joseph Axer (who died in Tel Aviv in 1957). The society operated until 1937, at which point most of the activists left the town and some immigrated to Israel. The activists of “Yuval” included Dr. Benjamin Weintraub (now an attorney in Haifa), Leon Goldfarb – the secretary and moving spirit of the society, poet Rachel Korn, Dr. Maurycy Eisner, Dr. Leib Landau, Joseph Strudler, Jack Spiegel, Dr. Ekiert, Genia Bien. The society had two sections: the music section, led by musician Joseph Neger, and the theatrical arts section, led by Dr. Joseph Axer.


The “Yuval” – assembly after the Goldfaden show

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The music section operated a music school, where the youth acquired musical knowledge. The orchestra and choir belonging to the society performed at public concerts and recitals of a very high standard. Among the outstanding performers in the section were pianists Johanna Axer and Rina Axer, female singers Mildorf and Berger, male singers Felsen and Orenstein, violinists Eng. Schlisselberg (now at Mekorot, Tel Aviv), Rosenberg and Goldberg.

The section gave a very successful performance, by its own means, of the musical play “Druciarz, Der Rastelbinder”, conducted by Dr. Joseph Axer. The concert was performed several times in the town and beyond it, in nearby Jaroslaw and Rzeszow. In December of 1924, “Yuval” hosted a conference of Jewish societies for singing and music, and the representative of “Yuval” was chosen as assistant chairman for the League of Societies for Singing in Galicia. In honor of the conference, an evening of Jewish song was held, conducted by Joseph Neger, and lectures were delivered on Jewish song and music.

Alfred Plon, the music critic of the newspaper “Chwila” and chairman of the league of societies, wrote in his report on the conference: “The 'Yuval' Society performs its duties excellently and occupies a respectable position among the Jewish musical societies which operate in Malopolska[28] (Galicia)” (“Chwila”, December 19, 1924).


The “Yuval” music school
Sitting from left: Ekiert, Dr. Eisner, Spiegel, Goldfarb


The theatrical arts section reached valuable accomplishments. Among the more notable plays they performed was S. Anski's “The Dybbuk,” directed by the head of the community, Dr. Leib Landau, who also played the part of the Rabbi from
Miropol[29]. In order to lend originality to the play, the director incorporated young men who were former residents of the klois, and were not members of the Society. The play went beyond the limits of amateurism, and was exceptionally successful, and was performed in the surrounding townships and admired by all.

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Among the plays preformed in Yiddish, the following are worthy of mention: “Der Stiemer”, by Pinski, directed by Dr. Leib Landau; Gogol's “The Inspector General”; and a number of plays by A. Goldfadden. The section also performed plays in Polish. The most well-known among them was “Dr. Stieglitz”, directed by Dr. Axer, which had the longest run of any play in Przemysl and the surrounding area.

The plays sometimes included guest professional actors, such as Ignacy Berski from the theatre in Krakow. Among the amateur actors we find the ladies: Johanna Axer, Roberta Schutzman, Anda Weintraub, Olga Grossfeld, Ida Stegman, Genia Pillersdorf, Tosia Cohen, Blanka Pillersdorf, Klara Aleksandrowicz-Gottfried, and the gentlemen: Julian Goldfarb, Paltiel Brannka[30], Joseph Strudler, Dr. A. Margalit[31], Eliyahu Pillersdorf, Norbert Briefer, Wilhelm Tuchman, Joseph Weissman, Fabian Bienenstock (now in the Israeli Police), Beno Freifeld, Shlomo Nussbaum.

The plays performed included H. Berger's “The Deluge,” Schnitzler's “The Lovers,” and Hennequin's “Florette and Patapon.”


Playbill for “Florette and Patapon”


Translated by Barbara U. Yeager

Jew[ish] Society of Music and Theatre Lovers “Juwal”
in Przemysl

Saturday, December 12, 1925

The Dom Robotniczy [The Workers' House] Hall



a farse in 3 acts by M. Hennequin, more than 60 performances in the Krakow “Bagatela”


Florette Julian Goldfarb
Patapon Ignacy Berski
Riquette, Florette's wife Anda Weintraubowa
Blanka, Patapon's wife Olga Taubenfeldowa
Juliusz Barbet Paltiel Bernanke
Pontay Sal. Nussbaum
Ms. Mazanbran Ida Stegmanowa

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The Esther Rachel Kaminska Society for Theatrical Arts

The grand tradition of “Yuval” which fell apart, was renewed by the establishment of a new society in 1937, directed by Dr. B. Ekiert and later by Dr. Adolf Krys. This society was in existence until the destruction, and managed to do its part in rejuvenating the Jewish theatrical culture in the town. Its activists included Klemens Silber, a music teacher who composed a musical play, “Shadchenes Manover”, which was performed successfully by an amateur group, directed and conducted by him. The well-known actor Joseph Kamen participated in one of the plays as a guest actor.

From among the activists, we should mention Metzger and Member.


The “Canzonetta” Music Club


“Canzonetta” Music Club

A group of youth, initiated by Klemens Cohen[32] (later a doctor at the Jewish hospital) organized and operated a music club, during the period following World War One. Over the course of time, a mandolin orchestra was established, which reached great acclaim and was very successful due to its perseverance and efforts. After a short time they even dared to give public concerts, and were positively reviewed. The club contributed significantly to disseminating music among the gimnazjum students and graduates.

The “Canzonetta” also toured in the towns of Drohobycz, Stary[33], Truskawiec, and Skole, and the concerts, directed by Klemens Cohen, were extremely successful. Among the young activists we should mention Yitzhak Licht, the club chairman, A. Brodner (now a doctor in Tel Aviv), Joseph Reben[34], Bronek Torba.

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Social Institutes in the Town

  1. The Jewish Social Club, “Zydowski klub towarzyski
    After an anti-Semitic incident in a café where the Jewish intelligenzia used to meet, in 1919 a number of members initiated an intimate Jewish meeting place, where it would be possible to develop a social life with no disturbances. The club was first located at 6 Dworskiego St., in the former Austrian officers' club, “Schlaraffia[35].” At first it was an exclusive club for the Jewish intelligenzia and a number of affluent guests. Fine social and cultural life were nurtured there. Among the cultural activities were lectures on literary and scientific topics, and music evenings. Outside guests found a stage for their performances in the club. Over time, the club opened up to the wide ranks of the Jewish public in town, and the number of members reached 400, at which time welfare activities were also added to the social and cultural activities.

    In 1934 the club moved to its new residence in Mickiewicza Street, to an apartment which was the “Court” of the Admor from Sedigura[36]. The club was grandly outfitted. It included a library, halls for lectures and banquets, and more. The club left its stamp on the Jewish social life in town. Dr. Michael Schwartz and Dr. Joseph Axer were the club presidents. A prominent activist in the club was Mr. Shmuel Rebhan.

  2. The “HumanitasBnei-Brith Chamber.
    Among the social institutions, special mention must be given to the Bnei-Brith chamber, “Humanitas,” which was a respectable center of social and welfare activity in the town, for a long time. The chamber president for many years was the respectable attorney, Dr. Daniel Hass.

    The sisterhood which operated in “Humanist” engaged in social work, collecting clothing for the needy, helping the Noar Halomed. Among the activists were Ms. Lidia Teich and Ms. Johanna Axer. The chamber was dramatically closed in 1939 by the Polish authorities. At midnight, a song evening was still going on in the chamber, “the Swan Song,” and at three AM the police showed up with the closing order.

  3. The youth had its own club, the Jewish Youth Club – Zydowski klub mlodziezy, which was established in 1924, to nurture the cultural and social life among the youth. Its president for many years was Dr. Malber.


The chess club


Translator's and Editor's Footnotes:

  1. HaWilner Truppe – seems like this name is a combination of Yiddish and Hebrew (ed.) Back
  2. Generally speaking, South-Eastern Poland (ed.). Back
  3. Spelled “mem, yod, resh, vav, pe, yod, lamed”. According to Waclaw Wierzbieniec's book, Spolecznosc zydowska Przemysla w latach 1918-1939, p. 248, the town in the play was called Mirofin (ed.). Back
  4. Brannka. Spelled: “bet, resh, nun, nun, qof, hey”. Possible alternative: Branek (ed.). Back
  5. Margalit or Margolit (ed.). Back
  6. According to Waclaw Wierzbieniec's book, p. 250, the name was spelled Klemens Kohn (ed.). Back
  7. Stary – spelled “samekh, tet, resh, yod”. This probably refers to the town of Stary Sacz (ed.) Back
  8. Reben. Spelled: “resh, bet/vet, nun”. (ed.) Back
  9. Spelled “shin/sin, lamed, resh, pe /phe, yod, hey”. This word is unclear. It word may have been a derivative of “Schlaraffenland” which, according to the Webster's New World Dictionary, means “Land of milk and honey”. Another possibility is that the word may have been “szliferia”, for “szlify oficerskie”, the officer's epaulettes. Thank you to George Rosenfeld and Dorota Leviner for these suggestions. (ed.) Back
  10. Thank you to Rivka Schiller for providing the following comment: “ADMO”R from Sadegora means 'Our Lord and Teacher' (ADMO”R is an acronym for 'Adoneinu Moreinu v'Rabbein') from Sadegora. Sadegora, according to the Columbia-Lippincot Gazeteer and the Encyclopaedia Judaica, is a town in Chernovtsy oblast, [former] Ukrainian S.S.R. within Moldavia. The town had quite a few Chasidim who followed the rabbi of Ruzhin – so the ADMO”R mentioned here, may very well have been a Chasidic rabbi.” (ed.) Back


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