Yiddish Drama Queen: Jennie Goldstein in Pictures

By Dorot Jewish Division Staff
February 8, 2019
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
Jennie Goldstein

Jennie Goldstein; NYPL Billy Rose Theatre Division. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: TH-16553

Child star, singer, melodrama queen, comedienne, lyricist, composer, recording artist, theater proprietor, and world traveler—Jennie Goldstein had a long and varied career on the Yiddish stage and beyond.
On the 59th anniversary of her death, here is our illustrated tribute to Goldstein (1896-1960).

"I want to die! I can’t live!" screamed Goldstein in one of her melodramatic roles, a Yiddish theatergoer recalls, but Goldstein  had a long and varied career beyond just melodrama, with much of it on the Yiddish stage.

Early Life

Born and raised on the Lower East Side, young Jennie debuted on stage at age 6 at the Windsor Theatre, 45-47 Bowery.

Young Jennie Goldstein

photo: The Library of Congress

She quickly became a crowd favorite, and soon had a steady job paying $9 a week.

In the 1904 song On the other side, or Oyf yener zayt, written by Sigmund Mogulesco, she sang ,"Because of money, you rob poor people… you’ll be punished in the grave, on the other side."

Program for the play The Jewish Heart, in Hebrew and English

"Dos Idishe Harts," NYPL Dorot Jewish Division; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 5844234 

Program for Concert and Literary Evening at New Clinton Hall

 "Kontsert und literarisher abend," NYPL Dorot Jewish Division. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 56779082

At age 13, Jennie had her first grown-up role as Lidia in Joseph Latayner’s popular melodrama Dos Idishe harts (The Jewish Heart).

As a teenager, she became a successful vaudeville performer, advertised as "the small but great artist, Miss Jennie Goldstein, who will sing her success songs" at a Concert and Literary Evening,  August 23, 1910. 
Through vaudeville, she met and married the actor, playwright and producer Max Gabel (L. Gebel) (1877-1952).

Playbill for Gabel's Theatre, for the show Holy Love

"Heylige liebe," NYPL Dorot Jewish Division. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 56706292

Gabel wrote melodramas and Jennie starred in them, including A meydels holem (A girl’s dream) (1914), Heylige libe (Holy Love) (1919), and Vos veln menshen zogen? (What Will People Say?) (c.a. 1925).

Sheet music for the play What will People Say?, in Hebrew

Sheet music for What Will People Say? Clockwise from top: Max Gabel, Louis Gilrod, Jennie Goldstein, Herman Wohl. Museum of the City of New York.

A Trailblazer in Yiddish Theatre

The sheet music from What Will People Say? includes the song "Meydel, vest nokh gliklekh zayn"—or "Girl, You’ll Be Lucky Yet"—with words and music by Jennie Goldstein. 
Goldstein became one of the few women in Yiddish Theater to write lyrics and music for songs that she performed on stage and recorded commercially. Many of her audio recordings are now available online, as is her published sheet music.

Dos hupeh kleyd sheet music

Sheet music for "The Wedding Dress (Dos hupeh kleyd)," 1916. Library of Congress.

Ver vet kadish zugen sheet music

Max Gabel and Jennie Goldstein on the sheet music for "Who Will Say Kaddish?", words by Goldstein, music by Arnold Perlmutter, 1919. Library of Congress.


During her long career, Goldstein traveled throughout the U.S., Europe, and South America. In 1927, she celebrated 25 years on the stage with a banquet at the Pennsylvania Hotel and a diamond tiara. Teater un Kunst was one of many periodicals to mark her jubilee, creating a visual montage of some of her roles.

Montage of Jennie Goldstein roles in the publication Teater un Kunst

Page from Teater un Kunst. Upper right: "Victory" and "Her Great Moment”; Upper left: "American children"; Lower right: "Hasye the orphan"; Lower left: "A woman of the world." Dorot Jewish Division

Entering Theatre Ownership and Feature Film

After divorcing Gabel in 1930, Goldstein operated her own theaters, an uncommon practice for Yiddish actresses at the time, in a business dominated by male-owned venues. Her ventures included the Prospect Theater in the Bronx, and the National Theatre in Manhattan.

Program for Jennie Goldstein's Prospect Theatre

NYPL Dorot Jewish Division; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 5849010

Calendar for Jennie Goldstein's Prospect Theater, 1933-1934

NYPL Dorot Jewish Division; NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 5849122

Goldstein adapted and starred in the 1938 film, Two Sisters, about a self-sacrificing older sister who is betrayed by her younger sibling.

Tsvey shvester

From the film "Tsvey Shvester (Two Sisters)"; Jennie Goldstein (left) and Sylvia Dell. National Center for Jewish Film.

During World War II, Goldstein successfully reinvented herself as a comic actress.

Jennie Goldstein Sings album cover
Recorded Sound Archive,

Florida Atlantic University

She played in nightclubs and the Catskills, and was a guest in Mickey Katz’s humorous revue Borscht Capades , which also featured Mickey’s young son, Joel Grey.

Goldstein also recorded successful comedy albums, incorporating a more modern sound and plenty of knowing, bilingual humor.

Yiddisha Comedy Songs album covder
Recorded Sound Archive,

Florida Atlantic University

 As Long As You're Health album cover
Recorded Sound Archive,

Florida Atlantic University

Jennie Goldstein gravestone


Goldstein also performed on television, and on Broadway in The Number by Arthur Carter and Camino Real by Tennesee Williams. While working on a television program for CBS, Goldstein fell ill and died on February 9, 1960.

She is buried in Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Queens, New York, in the plot of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance. Her star adorns the Yiddish Theater Walk of Fame on Second Avenue.
Jennie Goldstein’s nearly-six-decades-long career spanned tragedy, comedy, and continents, and her legacy lives on through a multitude of research resources.

Further research 

Search the NYPL catalog for Jennie Goldsetin sheet music, photographs and recordings.


NYPL Digital CollectionsMuseum of the City of New York


Recorded Sound Archive, Florida Atlantic University


Tsvey Shvester (National Center for Jewish Film)

Sheet music

New York Public LibraryLibrary of Congress


by Max Gabel by Jacob Gordin