Famous Long Ago

Yiddish in New York, 1967-72: Photographs by Arnold Chekow

In 1990, a middle-aged Long Island lawyer named Arnold Chekow walked into the Yiddish Book Center carrying a cardboard box filled with black-and-white photographs of dozens of Yiddish writers, actors, journalists, and performers. An amateur photographer who had learned Yiddish from his immigrant parents, Chekow took the photos at various locations in New York City between 1967 and 1972. Today the powerful images—published here for the first time—provide a deeply personal and revealing view of the later years of some of the best-known personalities of Yiddish culture in America.

Yiddish actor Jacob Ben-Ami as Bontshe Shvayg (being led by the Angel of Death, all in white). Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

Jacob Ben-Ami in the title role of Bontshe Shvayg (Bontshe the Silent), adapted from the I.L. Peretz story, at a small theater in the Bronx. He is led by an actor playing the Angel of Death, who wears a shtrayml above his all-white costume. Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

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A photo of the cash register at the Jewish Daily Forward reading "Se Habla Yiddish." Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

"Se Habla Yiddish": the cash register at the Jewish Daily Forward rings up a sale.

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Yiddish and Hebrew Poet Gabriel Preil reads at the 92nd Street. Photograph by Arnold Chekow. Y

Gabriel Preil reads at the 92nd Street Y.

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Yiddish Poet I.J. Schwartz reads from his collection "Yunge Yorn." Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

 I.L. Schwartz, author of the 1925 epic-length poem Kentucky, reading from his collection Yunge yorn (Young Years).

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Yiddish poet and essayist Jacob Glatstein stands at a podium. Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

Jacob Glatstein, a founder of the Inzikhistn (Introspectivists), a modernist movement that revolutionized Yiddish poetry in America.

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Yiddish actor Joseph Buloff performs in "The Brothers Ashkenazi." Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

Joseph Buloff as Simcha Meyer in The Brothers Ashkenazi, adapted from I.J. Singer's novel. Performed at the Folksbiene Playhouse, 1971.

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Yiddish poet Kadya Molodowsky smokes a cigarette while lounging in an arm chair. Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

Kadya Molodowsky recites one of her poems for Chekow in her Grand Street apartment during the winter of 1970.

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Yiddish poet Meyer Shtiker at his office at the Jewish Daily Forward. Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

Meyer Sticker, Yiddish poet, in his other job as managing editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, in the old Forward building on East Broadway.

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Yiddish actress Sara Stabin in "The Court." Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

Sara Stabin in The Court, based on I. B. Singer's memoirs and performed at the Folksbiene Playhouse in 1972..

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Zalmen Mlotek, Joshua Waletsky, Moyshe Rosenfeld, Khane Kliger and Betty Glasser. Photograph by Arnold Chekow.

"Youth Sings Yiddish," in a concert in Washington Square Park in 1971.

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