“Knish Alley” is a name for the Jewish Lower East Side, specifically Second Avenue. It was also called the “Yiddish Rialto” because Yiddish actors performed there and ate at the local Jewish restaurants that served food (such as knishes). The term “Knish Alley” was recorded in the New York Times in 1953, but it has had greater use recently in nostalgia for the old times. A recent play has been titled Knish Alley.
Live and Be Well: A Celebration of Yiddish Culture in America
by Richard F. Shepard and Vicki Gold Levi
Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press
Perhaps somewhere in the world the cafe tradition lingers, but it can’t hold a candle to the style that prevailed from 1911 to 1953 at Second Avenue and East Twelfth Street at the Cafe Royal. The cafes of the area probably arrived with the Germans who preceded the Jews on Second Avenue and who used them as forums for debated on life, literature ,and ideology. With the coming of Yiddish to the avenue—soon to be known as “knish alley”—the Royal became both an intellectual haven and a Jewish Sardi’s.
New York Times
Going Out Guide
By RICHARD F. SHEPARD
MAN OF CLAY The Lower East Side has had a continuous history of theater for much more than a century, starting with the houses that flourished on the Bowery, up to Astor Place, and then playing to audiences that spoke Yiddish in a spate of stagings that gave Second Avenue the nickname of ‘‘knish alley.’’ Nowadays, it is the heartland of Off Off Broadway theater, such as the Jean Cocteau Repertory, which was one of the first on the scene when it was burgeoning. The Cocteau, which offers a wide va…
February 13, 1982 Arts News
New York Times: City Room
August 1, 2007, 2:12 pm
Something to Nosh On: Here’s the Skinny on Jewish Delis
By Sewell Chan
There was Ratner’s, part of what became known as the Yiddish Rialto (or Knish Alley), because of the concentration of 15 Yiddish theaters operating on and around Second Avenue.
The Future of the Jewish Deli
Posted by Lucy Baker, August 3, 2007 at 11:30 AM
In 1936, the WPA Survey estimated that there were 5,000 delis and 36 appetizing stores in New York City. Today, there are only a handful of each left. The audience at the discussion sighed collectively over the mentions of days-gone-by “Knish Alley” institutions like the Garden Cafeteria and Ratner’s, but the mood was lifted considerably when Lebewohl revealed that the 2nd Avenue Deli would reopen soon on 33rd Street between Lexington and Third avenues—and when Federman announced that Russ & Daughters would be providing refreshments after the discussion concluded.
Having won this year’s Palm Beach Dramawork’s Playwright’s Festival, Tony Finstrom’s Knish Alley - a heart-warming romantic comedy - is scheduled for a reading at PBD’s conveniently located theatre in downtown West Palm Beach.
Set in the early part of the last century, Knish Alley! follows a troupe of poor Yiddish actors as they travel to America on board a luxury liner (in steerage) - working menial jobs on the ship by day and performing operettas up on deck by night - uncertain of the fate that awaits them at their journey’s end: New York’s Second Avenue, otherwise known as Knish Alley. It’s a fond look back at the theatrical acting legends of the day: the Adlers, the Thomashevskys, the Kesslers, and at the way things were (and the way things might have been) on board such a ship bound for a new land, a new language, and the promise of a new beginning.