Sign in or register
for additional privileges

Recovering Yiddish Culture in Los Angeles

Caroline Luce, Author

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Y. Fridland: Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club, Pt. 1

"Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club (on its 20-year anniversary and on the opening of the new culture building)" by Y. Fridland [Isaac Friedland, co-founder and longtime president] 
As appears in Khesbn (The Reckoning), vol. 1 (1946): 13-20.
Translated by Mark L. Smith.

Twenty years ago, when a deeply intense struggle between Jewish parties of the “left” and “right” had begun in Jewish society, a small group of nonpartisan people — not wanting to be ground between the millstones of the so-called party conflict — conceived of founding a supra-partisan Yiddish culture club, where the lover of Yiddish culture would be able to spend time in a Yiddish setting and find intellectual and cultural pleasure.
At that time, the L.A. Yiddish Culture Club interested a number of leading intellectual powers who were free from any party allegiance but with a serious devotion to the Yiddish word, Yiddish culture, and its creators. After that, the cultural program of the club gradually crystalized and took on a specific appearance or spiritual character: not being bound to any given party or organization, and not being under the supervision of any central cultural body, the culture club conducted its own original, independent cultural activity during all the years of its existence.
For these 20 years, year-in, year-out, and week-in, week-out, the culture club conducted a well-planned program of literary evenings, lectures of all sorts, Yiddish concerts, author evenings, Yiddish art and book exhibits, and celebrations of our Jewish holidays. At all of these evenings, the ordinary Jew had the opportunity to become acquainted with our diverse Yiddish literature and its creators and to take spiritual pleasure from hearing Yiddish folksongs; beautifully presented by our local Yiddish artists: Feygele Panits [Feigele Panitz], Marta Tsaytlin, Ben Bonus, Hazn Gladsman, Khayim Kotilyanski [Chaim Kotylansky], Professor Lemkov [Hazn Paul Lamkoff], Hazn Yosele Rosenblat [Yossele Rosenblatt] may he rest in peace, and various other guest artists.
For some years, a youth club functioned in connection with the culture club and also a youth drama studio, under the leadership of actor Eliyohu Tenenholts [Elia Tenenholtz], a founder and member of the culture club. A number of the young people learned and studied the works of our classical Yiddish authors, artists, and writers. A number of the very talented young people, like Esther Altsberg, Shifre Ditlov, Leah Targus, [—] Gurevitsh, Naftoli Landsberg, Leah Herman, and others, would appear from time to time with with readings and recitals of our Yiddish writers, from whom our audience truly derived spiritual pleasure.
In the course of these 20 years, nearly every writer, artist, and scholar of note who came to our Pacific Coast visited and appeared at the culture club — all, from various orientations in Jewish life, such personalities as Dr. Khayim Zshitlovski [Chaim Zhitlovsky], H. Leyvik [H. Leivick], Rudolf Roker [Rudolf Rocker], Y. Y. Shvarts [I. J. Schwartz], Dovid Pinski [David Pinski], M. Olgin, Sh. Yanovski, Meylekh Epshteyn [Melech Epstein], Viliam Natanzon [William Nathanson], Borukh Glazman [Baruch Glasman], Oskar Kartozshinski, Aba Gordon, Yoel Entin [Joel Entin], Mendl Elkin, Zalman Shneour, R. Mahler [Rafael Mahler], Mandlman [M. Mandelman], Solomon Kon, and tens of others, besides, naturally, our own respected resident writers: Kh. Royzenblat [H. Rosenblatt], Perets Hirshbeyn [Peretz Hirschbein], Ester Shumiatsher [Esther Shumiatsher], Sh. Miler [Shia Miller], Y. Osman [Israel Osman], H. Gold, Pinkhes Berman, Y. Naumov, B. Grinfeld [Ber Grinfeld], and others.
The L.A. Yiddish Culture Club’s program also included efforts to improve Yiddish theater in Los Angeles, and it took an active part in visits by the better theater troupes. In addition, the culture club became the home for every Yiddish stage artist, both when visiting here as guest stars and as residents. In this way, these recently deceased major artists appeared here at the culture club: Morris Moshkovitsh [Moscovitch], Rudolf Shildkraut, Gustav Shakht [Schacht], Lazar Frid [Fried], Aleksander Granakh [Alexander Granach] — and among the living, wishing them many years to come: Paul Muni, Bela Finkl [Bella Finkel], Morris Shvarts [Maurice Schwartz], [Jacob] Ben-Ami, [—] Vinogradov, [—] Baratov, [—]Goldfadn, [—] Nakhbush, [—] Vendrof, [—] Blayfer, Mali Pikon [Molly Picon], Yankev Kalikh [Jacob Kalich], Kurt Kotsh, [—] Ramalerer-Kotsh, and our very own Elia Tenenholtz, and others.
The L.A. Yiddish Culture Club became well known because of its nonpartisan cultural activity, not only in Los Angeles but across all of Yiddish America; because of its serious concern for all of our other Yiddish cultural problems and, to some extent, because of its moral and financial help for most of our cultural needs and organizations, the L.A. Yiddish Culture Club became the address of the Yiddish cultural movement in Los Angeles.
For the last several years, in addition to the annual financial undertakings that it arranged for the benefit of the Yiddish Scientific Institute [YIVO] and its annual contributions to the local Yiddish school systems of all political orientations, the Algemeyne entsiklopedye [General Encyclopedia in Yiddish], the Jewish Teachers’ Seminary [in New York], and the like, the culture club also conducted - in response to the enormous need - annual undertakings for the benefit of the Jewish Labor Committee and the Histadrut [Zionist Labor Organization].
A life of 20 years for an organization like the club is a great number of years, and even a milestone, when one considers that the culture club is not a group or section of a political organization or a branch of a fraternal order; for all the years of its existence, the culture club was and remains an independent group that lived and worked not for the sake of one or another social-political ideologue or theoretician; but rather, drawing our spiritual sustenance and the justification of our existence from our general Yiddish spiritual culture: a culture that is without lines, directions, or parties: our true general Yiddish cultural values and treasures that were created over the course of generations — and those that are currently being created by our best Yiddish writers, researchers, and thinkers; to date, no party has control or power over this culture: — the highest Yiddish culture cannot and must not be partisan or sectarian. Thus, because of our wonderful Yiddish culture, we have kept ourselves going and continued to exist, and this is also our guiding spirit and program.
It is, therefore, not at all easy for a nonpartisan organization like our culture club to live and work and be active in a Jewish community that is so strongly affected and governed by the various Jewish political orientations and parties. . . . Because of these parties, each of which seeks in its own way to achieve hegemony over the Jewish folk-masses, it has still not been possible here in America to develop and maintain a healthy, productive, creative Yiddish cultural movement on a national scale. With regard to the situation of our secular Yiddish school system, it is sufficient merely to mention that if the Yiddish secular schools were under one united and common school organization, there is no doubt that it would be possible here in America to have a better, stronger Yiddish secular school system, both in quality and in quantity. As it is now, each group goes its own way [“makht ‘shabes far zikh’”], each with separate little “whole” or “half” schools with a few tens of children in each. And although most of the school activists complain strongly about the present condition of the Yiddish secular school system, nothing has been done to alter the whole process of accepted forms and methods. As mentioned, the school system is in the hands, and under the leadership, of certain political orientations, and as is well known, in their eyes their party line is the one and only matter of importance; and the party programs are also a lot cheaper for them than culture and education; for this reason, we have such an anemic school system, such a neglected Yiddish cultural situation, and such meager results overall. If our entire Yiddish cultural apparatus were put entirely on a supra-partisan basis, the face of our Yiddish cultural movement in America would be altogether different: we could also have a more successful functioning Yiddish book publisher, a better Yiddish theater, and in general much, much greater and more substantial achievements in most areas of Yiddish culture.
There is no limit to what might have been possible!
Comment on this page

Discussion of "Y. Fridland: Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club, Pt. 1"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path Khesbn (Reckoning), page 3 of 31 Next page on path