I took this photo at Ellis Island this past Monday. It was just one of many posters about the Yiddish theater scene on New York’s Lower East Side during the early 1900’s, and if I didn’t have a whiny 7-year-old boy tugging on my hand, I might have stayed there all day.
“Yonkle the Cowboy Jew.” Do titles get any better than this? No one in my family had anything to do with Yonkle, but I learned through my grandmother that her father (my great grandfather) was an actor and a writer in the Yiddish theater whose accomplishments included translating Shakespeare’s plays into Yiddish. What I would have given to see one of those plays. Even just thinking about Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech in a thick Jewish accent is pretty darn entertaining.
Also, I like knowing that my interest in words and theater is something that’s been a part of my family for generations. It makes me feel connected to my ancestors and gives a new perspective to why I do what I do, like my work is part of a bigger family history that I am also taking part in.