Lena Itzkowitz Firester was born on April 18, 1886 in Iasi, Romania. Lena was known in Iasi by her Yiddish name Leah Feiga, named for her maternal grandmother. Her parents were Charles (Chaskel) Itzkowitz and Gussie (Gittel) Schwartz Itzkowitz (see Itzkowitz Family Outline and Flo’s Family). Lena was their first-born child.
Iasi, where Lena spent her childhood, was a source of cultural innovation in the Jewish world. The first professional Yiddish theatre group was founded by Abraham Goldfaden in Iasi in 1876. Goldfaden’s Yiddish theatre spread from Iasi to Bucharest, Roumania, and became popular entertainment and a thriving industry in both Russia and New York City. Iasi is known for another cultural first: HaTikvah–the poem that has been sung as Israel’s national anthem since Israel’s independence day in 1948–was first written by Naftali Herz Imber while he was visiting Iasi in 1878. Continue reading