Martha Wolfenstein has been declared by some to be the first Jewish female author to write for the secular press—winning national acclaim for writing stories touching, funny, insightful, and often poignant tales of her father’s experiences in the 19th
Century German ghetto where he grew up.
Boys playing baseball at the Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum in 1910.
Born in 1869 in Insterburg, Prussia, Wolfenstein came to the United States as an infant and settled in Cleveland with her family 1878. In Cleveland she began chronicling her father’s stories.
Wolfenstein’s poetry and fiction that earned national attention in the late 1800s is once again receiving recognition locally with the recent release of Radio on the Lake Theatre
’s “Out of the Past: The Stories of Martha Wolfenstein” recorded series.
The audio series features three of Wolfenstein’s short stories: “Loebele Schlemiel
,” “Dovid and Resel,” and “Babette.”
Wolfenstein’s three short stories first appeared in her 1905-published collection “A Renegade and Other Tales
,” and Radio on the Lake partnered with Interplay Jewish Theatre
, in conjunction with the Cleveland Arts Prize Past Masters
series to produce the recorded series.
Wolfenstein’s rediscovery as a Past Masters
has sparked a renewed interest in the writer’s work and contributions to the literary world, both in Cleveland and around the world.
The project is dedicated to award-winning Cleveland theater legend Dorothy Silver
, who had signed on to record the stories before her death in 2021. The artistic team decided to move the project forward in her memory. Rabbi Rosette Barron Haim and cantors read the three stories Sarah Sager and Kathryn Wolfe Sebo, under the direction of Interplay Jewish Theatre’s Faye Sholiton. Radio on the Lake artistic director John Watts designed sound effects.
“Out of the Past” was posted on Radio on the Lake
on Feb. 28, what would have been Silver’s 93rd
birthday, and will also be available through the Cleveland Public Library system.