Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Al. Harris
(Eliyahu Hirsh)


Born on 15 February 1892 in a village near Lechovitz, White Russia. A year later his family moved to Mezbish, Podolia region, and from there to Odessa. As a child of nine, his parents sent him to his grandfather, a shemash (sexton), in Lita (Lithuania), intending to give him  his Jewish education Here he learned in various cheders, ongeshrakhene from Kishinev's pogrom, the family settling in Baranovitsh, where due material conditions, H. had to interrupt his studies and learn to be a shoemaker. H. became a member of the "Kleynem bund", then in S"s, tuliet zikh to the intelligentsia, becoming a member in "amateur" circles and acting in small roles in Yiddish and in Russian with guest-starring itinerant professional troupes. When Sholem Aleichem had visited Baranovitsh, where he became ill, H. was his guard, and was thus affected, that he dedicated his performances to Sholem Aleichem's works.

In 1909 he arrived in America, settling in Philadelphia, partly in the "Hebrew Literature Society" with reviews and declamations, and under the direction of writer Moshe Katz, he acted in an entire series of one-acters and plays "such as "Ger glkh" in Strindbrg's "Father", "Abrush" in Hirshbein's "Nblh"). In 1913 H. participated as Slavic, Mexican and Indian types in the silent "Lubin Film Company".

After his marriage in 1915, he went over to New York, where he worked in a shop of ladies' hats and lived oys geystik the once popular "Shnorer Association". In 1918, together with Berta Kalich, Samuel Goldenburg and Eiyahu Tenenholtz, he participated in a Sholem Aleichem yahrzeit innovation(?), which drew the attention of the critics as a Sholem Aleichem recitation. 1919 -- was assistant stage director in Schnitzer's "New Yiddish Theatre", and participated in the productions of "Shtumer moshiakh", "Bronx Expres" and "Samson and Delilah".

Since 1932 H. has dedicated himself to organizing and participating in tours across the entire American Jewish province, first with a concert tour (organized by the Jewish National Labor Union) for folksinger Chaim Katilanski, then through other Jewish fraternal organizations (Workmen's Circle, Jewish Welfare Board, and the National Labor Union), later with large and small theatre groups, which toured for fifteen to twenty weeks every year each year across cities and towns in the United States and Canada with short Yiddish plays and concert numbers.

H., also had in 1918, participated in the "Yiddish Art Theatre" in "Success" by Moishe Nadir, and in other one-acters. In 1939 he participated (as "Zazule") with Maurice Schwartz in the motion picture "Tuviya der Milkhiger" by Sholem Aleichem, in 1945 with Jacob Ben-Ami in Leivick's "Der poet iz blind". In 1955 H. settled in the land of Israel and there performed in thirty-two word concerts in Yiddish, personifying Sholem Aleichem's heroes, and in 1960 he participated, with Maurice Schwartz (in English), in Singer's "Yoshe Kalb", and (in Yiddish) in Leivick's "Shmates".

Sh. E.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2532.

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