The release date for the 295-page book is Oct. 26. The Yiddish Theatre thrived in New York City from the 1880s until shortly after World War II. Its locus was Second Avenue from Houston Street to 14th Street, a strip which once featured dozens of theatres, the powerful Hebrew Actors Union, and the Cafe Royal, a mecca of Yiddish theatre royalty. The scene vanished in the last decades of the 20th century, due to the rapid assimiliation of the theatres' Yiddish-speaking, immigrant audience, the tapering off of immigration to New York in general, and the flight of second generation Jews to the suburbs.
The book details the almost forgotten achievements of Yiddish Theatre giants such as Jacob Adler (father of Stella, Luther and Celia); Boris Thomashefsky, zaftig heartthrob to thousands of young women; vaunted naturalistic actor David Kessley; ambitious auteur Maurice Schwartz, who founded the Yiddish Art Theatre; Muni Weisenfreund, who became international film star Paul Muni; Abraham Goldfaden, the "Father of Yiddish Theatre"; and comedienne Molly Picon, who enjoyed a share of crossover success.
Kanfer also discusses the origins of enduring Yiddish works such as The Dybbuk, The Treasure, The Golem, Kuni-Leml, as well as Adler's famed Yiddish productions of King Lear and The Merchant of Venice.