Records of the Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, Inc.
Scope and Content Note
This collection documents the founding and subsequent activities of the Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, Inc. The collection includes correspondence, clippings, donor records, advertising and promotional brochures, mailing lists, board of director meeting minutes and attendance, as well as tax and financial documents. For the most part, the collection contains only photocopied materials. The collection includes a file which contains copies of personal checks documenting donations made to the foundation. Although most of these checks have been copied alongside donation cards, there is no formal record of all those who made a donation to the foundation. The same holds true for the personal checks and order forms for My Life, My Theater. The vast majority of the correspondence files, which make up nearly half of the collection, were written either to or from Julius Schatz, the foundation’s secretary. The correspondence files relate the day-to-day activities of the foundation, which seem concerned mostly with fundraising, building public awareness of the foundation’s goals, and booking performance and speaking engagements for Ida Kaminska. Files containing tax filings and correspondence as well as correspondence between Julius Schatz and Miriam Gittelson, the foundation’s treasurer, shed light on the foundation’s financial struggles.
- Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, Inc. (Organization)
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Ida Kaminska (1899-1980) was a Polish Yiddish actress. The daughter of Esther Rokhel Kaminska, also a world-renowned Yiddish actress, and Abraham Izhok Kaminski, a Yiddish actor, playwright, and director, Kaminska began her acting career as a young child. In 1922, Kaminska founded the Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater (1922) with her first husband, the Yiddish actor and director Zygmont Turkow, and during WWII, after escaping Warsaw to Russian-occupied Lvov, Kaminska became the director of the Soviet funded Yiddish theater. After the war, Kaminska returned to Poland and established what would become the State Yiddish Theater in Poland, which was in existence until 1968. Ida Kaminska and her second husband, Meir Melman, also a Yiddish actor, immigrated to America in 1968. Shortly thereafter, Kaminska began attempts at establishing a Yiddish Art Theater in New York.
The Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation was established in 1969. Housed in the American Jewish Congress and run out of the offices of Julius Schatz, director of the American Jewish Congress Commission on Jewish Affairs, the purpose of the foundation was to help Kaminska establish, organize, fund, and promote the Ida Kaminska Theatre. During the foundation’s early stages, a board of directors was organized that included rabbis, Jewish communal leaders, and several prominent American Yiddish theater artists such as the actress, Celia Adler, the set-designer, Sam Leve, and the composer, Sholem Secunda, among others. The Executive Board consisted of B.Z Goldberg (Chairman), Rabbi Shepherd Z. Baum (Vice-Chairman), Julius Schatz (Secretary), and Miriam Gittelson (Treasurer). Julius Schatz and Miriam Gittelson were responsible for the majority of the foundation’s activities including management, fundraising, and promotion. In 1970, the Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre was incorporated as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization.
Although there was public interest in a new functioning Yiddish art theater, the foundation faced difficulty in finding the funding needed for its permanent establishment. On March 18, 1971, a fundraising drive, news conference, and reception was held at the home of Thedore Bikel, the Yiddish actor and a member of the foundation’s board of directors. The hope was to raise $100,000. Though several prominent members of the theatrical world were in attendance including Joesph Papp, Jonathan Burrows, and Julie Garfield, the event failed to raise more than half of the hoped-for funds. In 1971, the Foundation received a $10,000 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts.
In 1972, the foundation was able to secure a three week engagement for Ida Kaminska and her theater troupe to perform Glickl Hameln Demands Justice, which ended on February 27, 1972. A second four-week engagement of the production began on April 2th, 1972, at the Community House of the Central Synagogue in New York. Though the production received favorable reviews, ticket sales were extremely low, leaving the foundation financially unstable. The foundation found itself in debt and in 1973, in the hopes of being able to raise some funds, began selling copies of an English translation of Kaminska’s memoir, Ida Kaminska: My Life, My Theater. This attempt proved unsuccessful and the foundation seems to have disbanded shortly thereafter, though Julius Schatz and Miriam Gittleson continued to be responsible for the foundation’s finances, including its outstanding taxes, until 1975.
1 Linear Feet (2 manuscript boxes)
Language of Materials
The Friends of Ida Kaminska Foundation, Inc. was formed in 1969, shortly after the world-renowned Yiddish actress, Ida Kaminska, immigrated to the United States. The purpose of the foundation was to establish, fund, and promote the Ida Kaminska Theatre in New York. Though the foundation managed to put together one theatrical production, financial difficulties forced the foundation to stop its activities in 1973.
The collection is arranged in a single series. Folders are arranged alphabetically. Contents within each folder are arranged chronologically.
Previous processing of this collection had arranged all correspondence chronologically. The decision was made to organize the correspondence files first based on content and then chronologically within each folder. The majority of the foundation’s bank statements were weeded.
- American Jewish Congress. Commission on Jewish Affairs
- Bank statements
- Bikel, Theodore
- Checks (bank checks)
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, Inc.
- Gittelson, Miriam
- Kaminska, Ida
- Mailing lists
- Melman, Meir, 1900-1978
- Minutes (administrative records)
- New York (N.Y.)
- Schatz, Julius
- Tax records
- Theater, Yiddish
- Guide to the Records of the Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, 1968-1975 I-122
- Processed by Stefanie Halpern
- © 2012
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- Processed as part of the Jewish Performing Arts Digital Archive Initiative
- February 2021: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.