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Klezmer on the Corner

Jewish Rialto - Cinema Village East

If our look back at the Jewish Rialto made you long for the days of Yiddish music on Second Avenue, rest assured that on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. Metropolitan Klezmer will play a free concert at Abe Lebewohl Park, in front of St. Mark’s Church (right across from the Yiddish Walk of Fame at East 10th Street and Second Avenue). Consider the hour-long rain-or-shine event, co-sponsored by Third Street Music School Settlement, a tribute to the city’s booming Jewish population: The Times reported Monday that it has grown to nearly 1.1 million after decades of decline.

Strolling Back Into the Golden Age of Yiddish Theater

Jewish Rialto - Cinema Village EastKevin McLaughlin

This past weekend, the Lower East Side Preservation Initiative hosted a walking tour of the long-gone Jewish Rialto, formerly one of the preeminent theater districts outside of Broadway. The marquees touting lively music, comedy, and burlesque acts are no longer aglow, but during the three-hour stroll, theater historian Cezar Del Valle noted architectural remnants of the Yiddish theater era’s early-1900s heyday.

The district was ample, stretching from Second Avenue to Avenue B, and from Houston Street to 14th Street. Smaller stages nestled on side streets also hosted Jewish, Shakespearean, and original plays, as well as vaudeville, burlesque and musical shows.

Beginning at 143 Houston Street, Del Valle opened the tour with the story of the Houston Hippodrome, which was “a wooden ‘worm eaten building'” and a German evangelical church in the late 1800s until the General Slocum steamboat disaster in 1904. The Minksy family of real estate investors funded a reconstruction and in 1909 the space reopened, “presenting movies and vaudeville. Short plays were added circa 1912,” said Mr. Del Valle. It’s now the home of the Landmark Sunshine Cinema. Read more…