American Jewish Historical Society
Inclusive Date: 1893-1992 (bulk 1920-1977)
This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Celia Adler and Lazar Freed, including theatrical materials such as scripts, programs and sheet music, correspondence, newspaper clippings, assorted publications, and photographs of many of the members of the Adler family and their friends from the Yiddish theater. These materials reflect the wide scope of the Adler acting family and their immense influence on Yiddish theater, Broadway and motion pictures.
The papers of Celia Adler and Lazar Freed were donated by their son Selwyn Freed in 2000. The photographs of Jacob, Sara, Stella, Luther, and Frances Adler were donated by Stella’s daughter Ellen Adler in 2000.
The collection relates to the theatrical careers of Celia Adler and Lazar Freed, as well as the greater Adler acting family, including Jacob P., Sara, Frances, Stella, and Luther. It consists of manuscripts and printed versions of plays in Yiddish, English and Hebrew, lectures, theater programs, clippings of reviews of various productions, poems and songs, press notices, flyers, correspondence, memorabilia, Russian theater books, drawings, and programs and posters for performances. There are also photographs and drawings of Lazar Freed and of many of the Adler family in performances and in publicity stills. There are manuscript pages of an English translation of Celia Adler’s autobiography, which was never published.
The collection is arranged by topic and document format. The Yiddish materials are arranged according to the Hebrew alphabet and the English materials are arranged according to the Latin alphabet. The collection has been divided into nine series, the first of which has been further divided into subseries.
The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Permission to quote from the collection must be obtained from the originating source.
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 E-mail:
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Adler Family Papers; P-890; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY.
Inclusive Date: 1977, undated
Series I is comprised of works primarily intended for performance by Celia Adler. All of the papers in Series I are undated, with the exception of Box 1 Folder 31, a 1977 excerpt from Jacob Gordin’s play, “Mirele Efros,” adapted as a monologue by Celia Adler and translated by Esther Zweig. The material is organized into four subseries, Subseries 1: Yiddish Monologues, Subseries 2: English Monologues, Subseries 3: Dramas (Yiddish, English, and Hebrew), and Subseries 4: Lectures, Interviews and Writings (Yiddish and English). Subseries 1 and 2 are ordered alphabetically. The titles of the Yiddish readings have been transliterated, and are ordered by these transliterated titles. Subseries 3 is ordered by languages and then arranged alphabetically. Subseries 4 is divided into Yiddish-language writings and English-language writings, and is then arranged by subject.
Inclusive Date: undated
Subseries 1 contains Yiddish-language monologues (both typed and handwritten) likely intended for performance by Celia Adler. Folders 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 lack formal authorial attribution, although Folders 4 and 8 are adapted from stories by Sholem Aleichem. Box 1 Folder 3 is adapted from “Khane,” by Zvee Scooler, Box 1 Folder 7 is adapted from Jacob Gordin’s “Di Shkhite” (“The Slaughter”), and Box 1 Folder 9 is adapted from the work of Der Tunkeler, the pseudonym of writer Yosef Tunkel. It is not known which of the texts were adapted and/or transcribed by Adler herself.
Inclusive Date: undated
Subseries 2 consists of typed and handwritten English-language monologues likely intended for performance by Celia Adler. This subseries contains original work by Celia Adler (Box 1 Folder 16), as well as work adapted and/or translated by Adler and others. With the exception of Box 1 Folder 15 (“Translated from Rosenfeld”), the aforementioned Box 1 Folder 16, Box 1 Folder 19 (“By Abraham Blum”), and Box 1 Folder 21 (“‘The Slaughter’ by Jacob Gordin, Supplemented by Celia Adler”), the names of authors, translators and transcribers are not provided. Folders 13 and 17 are adapted and translated from stories by Sholem Aleichem.
Inclusive Date: 1977, undated
Subseries 3 consists of copies, translations, adaptations and excerpted dialogue from multi-character dramas. The only Hebrew text is a photostat of a translation of two Sholem Aleichem stories, “Ashrei” and “Yatom Ani!” All of the Yiddish-language dramas contain authorial attribution. Of the English-language dramas, only Box 1 Folder 32, “Purim of a Bygone Age,” lacks attribution. Box 1 Folder 30, “Caution,” is written by I.L. Peretz and translated by Celia Adler; Box 1 Folder 31 is excerpted from “Mirele Efros,” by Jacob Gordin, adapted by Celia Adler, and translated by Esther Zweig.
Inclusive Date: undated
Subseries 4 contains Yiddish-language and English-language lectures, interviews and other writings on historical, biographical and autobiographical subjects. All of the texts may be presumed to have been written and/or performed by Celia Adler. However, only folders 34, 35 and 37 name Celia Adler explicitly. Box 1 Folder 34 contains a scripted outline for an interview with Adler and is written on stationary from the ship “S.S. Israel.” Box 1 Folder 35 contains autobiographical writings, including a script that introduces excerpts from Adler’s memoirs, “Tsili Adler Dertseylt,” for public readings.
Inclusive Date: 1920-1929, 1970-1975, undated
Series II consists primarily of correspondence to and from Celia Adler, as well as the professional correspondence of Lazar Freed, including several telegrams. The materials have been arranged alphabetically by correspondent and then by language. Box 1 Folder 40 contains general and professional English-language correspondence sent to Celia Adler, including notes from her sister Stella Adler and playwright Ben Hecht. Folder 41 contains Yiddish-language correspondence from Celia Adler mainly of a professional nature, including a letter to the writer Aaron Glanz-Leyeles, and letters to newspaper editors. It is not known whether the letters are drafts, copies, or whether they were ever sent. Folder 43 contains two letters from Leon Teifer, an admirer of Adler’s who proposed to translate her memoirs, “Tsili Adler Dertseylt,” into English. For fragments of Teifer’s translated manuscript see Box 2 Folder 1.
Inclusive Date: 1952, undated
Series III consists of an undated composition notebook of miscellaneous Yiddish-language poems, and English-language lectures and monologues (Box 1 Folder 44), as well as a diverse and mostly undated collection of poems (Box 1 Folder 45). These materials have been arranged by format. The poems in the notebook in Box 1 Folder 44 are assumed to be in Celia Adler’s hand; Box 1 Folder 45 contains handwritten and typed poetry copied from Yehoash, Hayyim Nahman Bialik and others, as well as a published volume from Kadya Molodowsky and a newspaper clipping by A. Zheleznikov. The song lyrics have been transliterated into Latin characters. Although all of the poetry is undated, it appears to have been copied over the course of a long period of time. Researchers may benefit from reading the copied texts in Series III alongside and in relation to the copied texts in Series I.
Inclusive Date: 1959, undated
Series IV consists of fragments of Celia Adler’s memoirs, “Tsili Adler Dertseylt,” published in 1959. Box 1 Folder 46 contains text from the original Yiddish, while Box 2 Folder 1 contains fragments from Leon Teifer’s English translation. There are no records of any publication of Teifer’s translation. See Joseph C. Landis’s “Memoirs of the Yiddish Stage” for the only extant translation of “Tsili Adler Dertseylt.” Folder 46 also includes an English fragment of the memoir’s introduction by Adler’s collaborator, Jacob Tikman.
Inclusive Date: 1924-1929, 1946-1992, undated
Series V consists of newspaper and periodical clippings from the Yiddish- and English-language press. Box 2 Folder 2 and Box 2 Folder 3 reference Celia Adler in reviews, tributes and listings, and include clippings from the Yiddish-languageand, as well as the English-language. Box 2 Folder 4 is devoted to Celia Adler’s sister, actress Stella Adler, and contains her December 22, 1992 obituary from the, and a photo spread of Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theatre from the. Box 2 Folder 5 contains clippings of Lazar Freed from the,, and the satirical magazine, as well as a listing from an unnamed English-language Philadelphia newspaper. Box 2 Folder 6 contains clippings mentioning or depicting Selwyn (Zelig) Freed, son of Celia Adler and Lazar Freed. The materials have been arranged alphabetically by subject name and then chronologically.
Inclusive Date: 1928-1929, 1958-1961, undated
Series VI consists of two folders: one dedicated to Celia Adler’s programs and announcements and the other dedicated to those of Lazar Freed. Box 2 Folder 7 contains a 1929 program for Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theatre, programs and promotional material for Celia Adler’s later solo programs and clippings from programs from Ben Hecht’s “A Flag Is Born.” Researchers may want to view these alongside the monologues and lectures from Series I. Box 2 Folder 8 contains English-language programs from Boston and Los Angeles. It also contains a sheaf of photocopied programs and clippings from Boston, Antwerp and Glasgow, given to Selwyn Freed by Ella Segal.
Inclusive Date: 1917-1936, 1970-1972, undated
Series VII contains miscellaneous writings and correspondence largely lacking attribution and an assortment of memorabilia from the lives of Celia Adler and Lazar Freed. Box 2 Folder 10 contains Adler’s lifetime membership card for the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance and her Social Security card from 1936. It also contains a Jewish National Fund Certificate given in Lazar Freed’s honor in 1924, and a 1919 play published in Leipzig by Karl Schonherr. Box 2 Folder 12 includes Adler’s honorary membership card for the Hebrew Actors’ Union. Box 3 contains collections of sheet music in Yiddish, English, Russian and German, and four elaborate volumes on the subject of the Russian theatre. It is not known to whom these oversized items originally belonged, but all were published between the years of 1893 and 1928.
Inclusive Date: 1924-1926, 1988, undated
This series consists of two boxes of photographs of the Adler family and some of their friends, which have been divided by size and organized by the person pictured, whenever possible. The photos of Celia Adler, Lazar Freed, Jay Adler, Celia’s parents, Dinah Feinman and Jacob Adler, Celia’s sister, Lillie Feinman Satz, and her husband, Ludwig Satz, and Maurice Schwartz were donated by Adler and Freed’s son, Selwyn Freed. There is also a folder of drawings of Lazar Freed and one that appears to have been given to him. In many of the photos of Celia Adler and Lazar Freed, they are in costumes for various performances, sometimes individually and sometimes with a group or on the stage. In addition, in several of the photos of either Adler or Freed when they are not clearly in a costume, they are in a group with others, some of whom have been identified but most of whom remain unidentified. Some of the photos contain unidentified individuals and members of the extended Adler family and friends.
Inclusive Date: 1916, undated
This series contains two museum items, a suitcase and a silver calling card holder that is engraved in Yiddish, “For Celia Adler from admirers 1916.” The card holder was donated to AJHS by Michael Steinhardt and the suitcase was donated by Selwyn Freed.