GNESSIN, MENAHEM (1882–1952), Israeli actor and pioneer of the Hebrew theater. Menahem Gnessin, a brother of Uri Nissan *Gnessin, went to Palestine from the Ukraine in 1903 and for some years was a laborer and teacher in the villages. In 1907 he founded the Amateur Dramatic Arts Company for the presentation of plays in Hebrew. He staged Chirikov's The Jews, Gutzkow's Uriel Acosta, and other plays in Jaffa, Jerusalem, and the Judean settlements. Returning to Moscow in 1912, Gnessin and N. *Zemach established a Hebrew group which formed the nucleus of *Habimah. By 1923 Gnessin was in Berlin, organizing the Te'atron Ereẓ Yisraeli, which performed a one-act play, Belshazzar by H. Roche, with great success. In 1924 he took the group to Palestine and worked as an actor, teacher, and director. When Habimah reached Palestine in 1928, he joined the company. Gnessin wrote articles on the theater and published his memoirs Darki im ha-Te'atron ha-Ivri, 1905–26 ("My Career in the Hebrew Theater," 1946).
M. Kohansky, The Hebrew Theatre in Its First Fifty Years (1969), index.
[Gershon K. Gershony]