The New York Public Library Digital Gallery has a small collection of 28 digitized images of posters advertising Yiddish theater performances in Buenos Aires during the 1930s and ’40s. NYPL places the items in a comparative perspective with a larger set of posters advertising Yiddish theater in New York during the early 20th century. The NYPL online guide says,
In Buenos Aires, by contrast, the story was quite the reverse. Yiddish theaters had existed there since the beginning of the 20th century, but, controlled by mobsters and patronized by the city’s rollicking Jewish underworld, they had taken on something of the character of the burlesque house and, accordingly, were given a wide berth by members of the official, respectable, larger Jewish community. It was not until the end of the 1920s that the genteel element, with its aspirations toward community and cultural advancement, prevailed. With encouragement from such figures on the New York scene as Thomashefsky, who would visit for the winter while their own companies were closed for the summer, a modest golden age ensued, through the 1930s and into the 1940s, that made Buenos Aires the second city of the world history of Yiddish theater.
The mobsters and “rollicking Jewish underworld” must be a reference to the Zwi Migdal, a bizarre and notorious Jewish criminal organization. I’ll be writing about the strangely fascinating history of Zwi Migdal in a future post.