Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Rudolph Schildkraut


S. was born in Constantinople, Turkey. As the actor Sigmund Mogulesko said, S.'s mother was also born in Constantinople[?], his father in Bursztyn, near Lemberg, Galicia. At the age of four he was taken by his parents over to Brăila, Romania, where they settled, and where he learned in a Jewish elementary school with Zavel, a religious teacher. From the age of nine until fourteen he studied in a Greek trade school in Romania, then his father sent him away to learn in Zibenbergen [Transylvania region], where he completed an eight-class gymnasium and studied in a Vienna university.

The Argentinean Yiddish writer, Sh. Rozhansky, states that S.'s mother is buried in the old cemetery in Buenos Aires (Liniers). His sister Regina S. De Reich, since 1890, lived in Buenos Aires. Kleynherheyt S. should have learned a lot of Hebrew. At seven years he received a slap from his rabbi, and he became deaf in one ear. As a child he "made theater" at home. At the age of seventeen in Hermannstadt [today Sibiu, Romania], he became a fest-speaker during an academic holiday, and the intendant spoke of his future as an actor, [and he then] interrupted his studies and went away to Vienna, where he began studying at the conservatory. In 1900-1901 S. played in Buenos Aires with German amateurs and was unknown to the Yiddish theatre attendees.

During his visit in 1911 with the editors of the "Forverts," S. declared that he was born in Constantinople, Turkey, and at the

age of six he was brought over by his parents to Romania. He stressed that he received his initial reduction in a Jewish elementary school and cited his first religious teacher "Shmuel Zanvel." He noted that languages came easily to him, because since childhood he had become familiar with languages. His mother was a Spaniolish-Jewish woman and had spoken Spaniolish and Romanian; his father spoke Yiddish and Romanian. He received his entire education in German. He also spoke French, and because of that he had from home he later became familiar with Spanish [Spaniolish], and it was easily then for him to learn Italian.

In his talk the question of Yiddish came up, and as such S. said:

"A language is a language. The Yiddish language has in itself juice and spirit. It is very expressive and filled with color. The main thing is that when one speaks Yiddish, it has to be a natural Yiddish. In Germany I played character roles in various dialects, and I hadn't any success when I did not speak in the dialect demanded of that character, with the expression, with the shadows.

Classical plays perhaps are not easy to translate into Yiddish, but generally I had, for example, in 'Shylock,' studied [my role] in German, and it wasn't very easy for me to play it in Yiddish. However, I had a plan for 'Shylock,' to play it in Hebrew. In a short time I had returned here to see, as children had played, 'Joseph and his Brothers' in Hebrew, it was to be so electrifying, that I sensed that if I had to play 'Shylock in Hebrew (when Schildkraut had such words to speak, his eyes became enflamed, and his closed fist had expressed a fiery passion, and a firm order). A Hebrew translation existed, and I began to study it. I cannot tell you in words how strongly I thirst after it."

The theatre director Joseph Edelstein, a close friend of S.'s father, declared that he wasn't born in Constantinople, but in Galatz, Romania, where his parents maintained a small hotel in which Yiddish actors lived. Among the inhabitants in the hotel were: Joseph Edelstein, David Kessler, Sigmund Mogulesko, the musicians Finkelstein, Israel Weinblatt, Paulina Finkelstein (later Edelstein.)

B. Teich, a brother-in-law of S., says that in a long letter in the "Forverts," S.'s father was called Ignatz, and he had maintained a hotel on Strada Belavista in Galatz. The place was called Hotel Berlad. S.'s sister, Regina, had loved Teich's brother, Josef. Schildkraut's parents were excited about the shidakh, but the bridegroom's parents were absolute against making a shidakh with him, a hotel person whose son had studied to become an actor, whose life was not fanatically religious. Galatz had strongly moved itself due to the shidakh. The Teichs had required of their son that if he made the shidakh, he should change his family name. All the strashunkes and applications were not saved. Josef Teich got married. His father sat shiva for him, but his mother was for the marriage. Josef later had went off with his wife to Cairo, then returned home, where he passed away, and the letter writer, as a brother of the deceased, gave khalitza to his sister-in-law.

S.'s son, Yosef, was named after his brother-in-law.

Teich also recalls that around 1881 S. happed to play in the Hungarian city of Kronstadt [now Braşov, Romania] in a large cabaret. Then he was not too good. Another time he happened to be playing in Bucharest, but not in theatre, only kortn. S. had a golden character and was a lovely man.

As a student, S. participated in the gymnasium in theatre productions, and instead of studying in a university, he completely  took to visiting the dramatic department of the Vienna Conservatory. As punishment his father stopped sending money to him, and after a year's time he became materially supported by the Austrian actor Mitterwurtzer. [end 2818]

The poet A. Glantz writes:

"His father had...[much more to translate!]

Sh. E.

  • "Lexicon






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2817.

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