Guide to the Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation Records,


Processed by Stefanie Halpern

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161



© 2015, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD 2002 by Alyssa Carver in January 2014. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, Inc.
Title: Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, Inc. Records
Abstract: 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.
Languages: The collection is in English, with a few items in Yiddish.
Quantity: 1 linear foot (2 manuscript boxes)
Identification: I-122
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Historical Note
Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation promotional brochure, circa 1969

Promotional brochure, circa 1969

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.

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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.

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The collection is arranged in a single series. Folders are arranged alphabetically. Contents within each folder are arranged chronologically.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Related Material

More information regarding Ida Kaminska’s life and theatrical activities after coming to America can be found in the Ida Kaminska and Meir Melman collection (RG 994) at the YIVO Archives, available at the Center for Jewish History.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, Inc. Records; I-122; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Processing Information

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.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Friends of Ida Kaminska Theatre Foundation, Inc., Records, 1968-1975

1 1 Advertising and Promotional Materials 1969-1972 request_box
1 2 Bank Documents 1970-1974 request_box
1 3 Bills 1970-1972 request_box
1 4 Board of Directors--Membership 1970 request_box
1 5 Board of Directors--Meetings 1970 request_box
1 6 Certificate of Incorporation 1970 request_box
1 7 Clippings 1969-1972 request_box
1 8 Concerned Citizens for the Arts 1972 request_box
1 9 Contracts 1972 request_box
1 10 Correspondence--Board of Directors 1970-1974 request_box
1 11 Correspondence--Film 1969-1971 request_box
1 12 Correspondence--Financial 1970-1973 request_box
1 13 Correspondence--Fundraising and Donations 1969-1974 request_box
1 14 Correspondence--General 1970-1972 request_box
1 15 Correspondence--Ida Kaminska and Marian Melman--Personal 1971-1974 request_box
1 16 Correspondence--Ida Kaminska--Performances 1968-1974 request_box
1 17 Correspondence--Ida Kaminska Theatre--Performances 1971-1972 request_box
1 18 Correspondence--Memos 1969-1974 request_box
1 19 Correspondence--My Life, My Theater 1973 request_box
1 20 Correspondence--New York State Council on the Arts 1971-1972 request_box
2 1 Correspondence--Planning and Development 1968-1972 request_box
2 2 Correspondence--Press 1970-1971 request_box
2 3 Correspondence--Public Interest and Inquiry 1969-1974 request_box
2 4 Correspondence--Queens College 1971 request_box
2 5 Correspondence--Tax 1970-1975 request_box
2 6 Correspondence--Theodore Bikel 1971 request_box
2 7 Donor Records 1970-1974 request_box
2 8 Employment 1972-1974 request_box
2 9 Fundraising--Speeches 1969-1971 request_box
2 10 Grant Materials 1969-1970 request_box
2 11 Income and Expenses, Budgets 1969-1972 request_box
2 12 Mailing Lists undated request_box
2 13 My Life, My Theater--Macmillan Invoices 1973-1974 request_box
2 14 My Life, My Theater--Orders 1973-1974 request_box
2 15 New York State Council on the Arts--Application 1971-1972 request_box
2 16 New York Theaters 1971 request_box
2 17 Playbills 1969-1972 request_box
2 18 Planning and Development Meeting 1969 request_box
2 19 Press Releases 1971-1972 request_box
2 21 Tax Documents 1971-1974 request_box
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