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I am calling today Talented Tuesday so I can highlight people in my family who were artistically talented. Today’s spotlight is on a distant cousin by marriage, Joseph Cutler, known as Yosl Cutler.

Tracing out how Yosl is connected to my family is complex. My great-grandmother, Eugenia Gumenik, had a brother, Chuna, whose daughter Bertha married one Hyman Cutler. Yosl was Hyman’s brother.  He was probably born in Troianovo (now in Ukraine), based on Hyman’s World War I draft registration. Hyman was in the US by 1910, but Yosl apparently did not arrive until 1911.

Yosl Cutler was an artist of some distinction. He designed posters for Yiddish theater, inked cartoons for the Communist newspaper Morning Freiheit, and constructed puppets. In partnership with Zuni Maud, another artist, he wrote and produced satiric puppet shows that were wildly popular at the Yiddish Art Theater on the lower East Side of New York. He and Zuni traveled the U.S. and abroad presenting their puppet shows in the 1920s and early 1930s, including a trip to the USSR in 1932.

Yosl Cutler died in car accident in June of 1935 near Iowa Falls, Iowa. He was on his way to Hollywood to make a film. He was so beloved, that 10,000 persons attended the funeral. Yosl was buried at the cemetery of the International Workers Order, now known as New Montefiore Cemetery.

Fortunately, a short film of his puppetry survives at the Yiddish Book Center and a few other locations. Unfortunately, the nearest one to me is 400 miles away, so I am unlikely to get to see it any time soon.

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