Diasporic Space, Ethnic Space, National Space? Yiddish Theater in Buenos Aires, 1900–30

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 1:20 PM
Council Room (Omni Shoreham)
Mollie Lewis Nouwen, University of South Alabama
Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants in Buenos Aires were lucky – in addition to the local playwrights, companies, and actors, they were also able to attend productions brought from the United States and Europe featuring some of the most important Yiddish actors of the era. Yiddish theaters in Buenos Aires were important as entertainment and as a showcase for Jewish literary talent, yet scholars have seldom explored their significance as a linguistically-bounded space upon which to project different identities. Were they a place to act out diasporic identities, tying the Jews from around the world together, or did they bring together Argentine Jews in particular? Yiddish theater in Buenos Aires was also divisive because of its audience. Unlike other ethnic theater in Buenos Aires at the time, Yiddish theater had a reputation as a haven for Jews involved in prostitution, raising questions for women and middle-class Jews about the suitability of their attendance. Using the Yiddish theater as the center of an exploration of Jewish identity (diasporic, ethnic, and Argentine) while delving into its divisive nature as a possible site of prostitution illuminates the contested nature of ethnic leisure space in early twentieth-century Buenos Aires.