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National Jewish Theatre Records

Identifier: spe-t00012

Scope and Contents

This collection focuses on the productions put on by the National Jewish Theatre (NJT), with some general administrative files included. Board of Director files include packets of information prepared for the board meetings, including reports, theater reviews, minutes, agendas and other materials discussed during the meeting. Records related to the productions include contracts with lighting, costume, and stage crew; casting information; newsletters; fundraising mailers; newspaper clippings; play bills and programs; promotional pieces; photographs; stage directions; scripts; budgets and other financial information regarding ticket sales and play production; artistic, design, and technical files; and information on securing production rights from the authors.


  • Creation: 1986 - 1996


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

The National Jewish Theatre (NJT) was founded in 1986 as a professional company devoted to producing plays that, according to one of its artistic directors, “explore and illuminate contemporary Jewish life.” NJT’s home was the Frank Theater in the Meyer Kaplan Jewish Community Center at 5050 W. Church Street in Skokie, a suburb north of Chicago home to a large Jewish population.

NJT quickly established itself on the Chicago theater scene, producing four plays per season and hosting several other performance events. At one time, the company explored developing a children’s theater. Its productions, cast and crew were widely recognized for their work throughout NJT’s ten years.

In 1995, after a season wherein NJT lost $100,000, the Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Chicago decided to withdraw its funding from the theater. It was presumed that NJT would close. After much lobbying and negotiation, NJT came to an agreement with the JCC that allowed it to continue using the theater space for a low fee—it had been rent-free—and to keep the NJT name, becoming a nonprofit organization that could raise its own money. It was able to raise enough money to produce another season, but in 1996, the NJT closed its doors for good. The company was absorbed by Northlight Theatre, another north suburban group.

During its history, the following people served as leaders of NJT:

President of Board:

  • Joan Krengel, 1986-1996

Chairman of Board:
  • Allen Turner, 1986-1989
  • Charlotte Newberger, 1989-1993
  • Joyce Sloane, 1993-1996

Artistic Director:
  • Stanley Brechner, 1986-1987
  • Sheldon Patinkin, 1987-1991
  • Arnold Aprill, 1991-1992
  • Jeff Ginsberg and Susan Padveen, 1992-1996


6 Linear Feet (in 12 boxes, including 1 audio tape reel, 18 folders of photographs)

Language of Materials



The National Jewish Theatre was founded in 1986 as a professional company devoted to producing plays that, according to one of its artistic directors, “explore and illuminate contemporary Jewish life.” This collection includes newsletters, board minutes, scripts, production contracts, programs, press clippings and photographs. The theater closed in 1996.


Arranged in two series: Series 1: Administrative Files, 1986-1995, and Series 2: Production Files, 1986-1996.

Physical Location

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated in two portions: First, in 1996 by the National Jewish Theatre (NJT). Second, in 2008 by Northlight Theatre, which absorbed the NJT company when it was no longer independently viable.



Guide to the National Jewish Theatre Records
Johanna Russ. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.
September 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875