Itzik Feld (יצחק פעלד)

Museum of the City of New York. 65.89.31.

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 is notably absent from 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. יצחק פעלד is the Yiddish spelling. איציק פלד occurs in some Hebrew media. Polish sources often call him Icek. 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 Victor/Wigdor and Golda). He is reported to have acted in Warsaw’s Kleinkunst 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.1

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—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.

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 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.


Sources

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 Museum of the City of New York has an extensive photograph collection of performers from the Yiddish stage, including Itzik and Lola.

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).


Credits

In Poland

Dybbuk

Day and Night

The Robbers

In the United States

A Village Wedding

An East Side Wedding

The Little Bandit

A Happy Family

Heaven on Earth

Women’s Business

Oh, You Girls!

The Rabbi’s Temptation

Love for Sale

A Beautiful Dream

Liovka Maladetz

Babbe Yakhne

Pini from Pinchev

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

Long Live America

The Rabbi is Coming

The Brownsville Rabbi

Shulamus

General Fishel Duvid

Who Needs a Mother?

Yosele Dem Rebbin’s

Kopel-Kive Becomes a Father

Itche Mayer from Kentucky

Children Without a Home


Notes

  1. Though never as co-stars, so far as I have seen.