Lives in the Yiddish Theatre
Volume 8



Harry Eliad



E. was born on 8 October 1927 in Craiova, Romania.

He was the current artistic director and general manager of the State Jewish Theatre in Bucharest, Romania, until his passing in August 2012.

He started his artistic career in 1949-1950 in Craiova.

Between 1953 and 1989 he collaborated with the State Theatre of Ploieşti, acting there as general manager and director. He successfully directed more than thirty performances. In December 1989 he was selected as general manager of the State Jewish Theatre in Bucharest.

As stage director he accomplished his artistic dream, directing on stage almost the complete series of famed author Sholem Aleichem: six comedies adapted after novels of the greatest of all classical Yiddish literature. Two especially successful of these performances were "The Chaloim Sellers" and "The Novel of a Businessman". Also, E. directed two famous musicals, "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Cabaret". He also directed works of the greatest playwrights of universal drama: Gogol, Chekhov, and

 recently Woody Allen's "Play It Again, Sam" ("How to Seduce Women").

Among his awards and distinctions as an "honored artist" were as "Knight of Cultural Merit of Romania, First Class", "Award of the Cultural Ministry of Romania", "Award of Excellence" for his entire artistic activity (2009), and "Stage Director of the Year" (2010).

E. is survived by Leonie Waldman Eliad, the great actress of the State Jewish Theatre in Bucharest.

His friend, Jean Askenasy, a doctor of neurology at the University from Tel Aviv, who wrote an article for the online magazine CULTURA. The article, entitled "Harry Eliad, a Tree Who Died Upon His Feet", written in tribute to E. after his passing, states (translated into English from the original Romanian):


(…) Being fatherless at a young age, he knew the material and moral wants determined by this tragic family situation, (...) that developed in him a sensibility for the suffering of others. His attraction for the theatre was inborn in him. (…)

At age six he hid himself in the loft of the Theatre of Craiova, where he watched the rehearsals with fascination, and he was happy to admire the actors and the stage directors. Later he became friends with the technical staff and became a common presence, becoming an integral part of Craiova’s theatre. This was the little garden and the first school of Harry Eliad. In his adulthood, when asked what was his first love, Harry Eliad answered “Craiova’s theatre” .

Harry Eliad graduated from "Fratii Buzesti" high school and Cornetti Conservatory, with a magna cum laude. His brilliant debut was at age twenty-one with the performance of "Însir-te margarite", by Victor Eftimiu. At twenty-six, recommended by Toma Caragiu, he was hired at the State Theatre, Ploieşti. As stage director, he had a very successful artistic career. Harry Eliad became director of the State Theatre, Ploieşti, until 1989. He created over thirty performances and brought to Ploieşti great actors from Bucharest: Margareta Pogonat, Stefan Banica, Dumitru Furdui, Adela Marculescu, Roman Bulfinsky, Ion Manolescu, Elvira Godeanu, Dan Pop Martian, George Storin, Toma Caragiu, actors who became his close friends because of his respect and sincere appreciation. He also had the chance to collaborate with major dramatists such as Aurel Baranga, Victor Eftimiu and Paul Everac. At Ploieşti he started his collaboration with television and film and established international partnerships. It was [during] his period of youthful enthusiasm that he wrote and produced many musicals. He was also a lecturer at the theatre department (stage directing) at the School of Popular Arts, Ploieşti, and as teacher he used all of his human and artistic experience. Harry knew that the relationship between stage director and actor, as well as the relation between teacher and student needs a [certain] distance that creates a compensatory bridge. Harry believed that creating this bridge with love and respect was the key to successful stage directing. (…)

In December 1989 he became General Manager of State Jewish Theatre in Bucharest, a theatre of Yiddish language with a millennial tradition. For Harry Eliad, this job meant a challenge, and his success would depend on saving a theatre in leeway. He exchanged the countryside for the capital, and he also exchanged the natal language with Yiddish and became the director of the State Jewish Theatre, with a tradition of three hundred years. (..) on the building frontispiece was written in Romanian and in Yiddish: "Between 1941-1945 in this building the Barasheum Jewish Theatre functioned, keeping alive the flame of Jewish culture" (...)

He started working, and with the help of the city hall he succeeded in renovating the theatre. He decided to equate the quality of the Yiddish theatre with the extraordinary quality of Romanian theatre. His wish came true when the young actors, impressed by Jewish theatre’s glamour, learned the Yiddish language. In this place of culture, between 1989-2012 -- for almost 25 years -- Harry Eliad, General Manager of State Jewish Theatre, Bucharest, imposed proudlyand with dignity in the Romanian horizon his triple identity as human being (mensch), Romanian and Jew. As evidence of his membership in the Romanian Theatre, he became stage director of Caragiale plays. To demonstrate that he supported the Jewish theatre, he staged the repertory of Avraham Goldfaden, and to prove his quality as a human being, he also staged plays by Anton Chekov and Nikolai Gogol. These three choices [all] have humor in common.

In the Jewish Theatre directed by Harry Eliad, there lived in a perfect harmony the classic and the contemporary repertory, serving the Jewish, the Romanian and universal culture, and there also lived happy people of different cultures and various religions. Harry Eliad was a visionary of globalization. He succeeded in transforming the State Jewish Theatre into an institution of theatrical interculturality. In many tours abroad he represented the Yiddish repertory in the spirit of Jewish drama and Jewish musical comedy, but his theatre also had a strong, folkloric national Romanian spirit. As manager of the International Yiddish Theatre Festivals in 1991 and in 1996, in Israel, Ukraine, Canada, the State Jewish Theatre performed, danced and sang in Yiddish and in Romanian (…)

His great repertory and stage directing skills were due to his collaborations with talented stage directors Catalina Buzoianu, Dominic Dembinsky, Grigore Gonta, Horea Popescu, Ion Cojar, Alexandru Dabija, Alexander Hausvater, Radu Afrim, Mihai Maniutiu, Iosif Satz from Kishinev, Moshe Yassur from New York and the stage directors from Habel Theater, Berlin. Harry Eliad had a remarkable memory, impressive by its exactitude. He also had the talent to simplify the difficult things and to present the sophisticated essential in simple words. (…)  

Harry, the human being  was concerned by the reality of the anti-Semitism in Romania, obsessed by the question: is it possible that Mihai Eminescu to be considered a xenophobe, when, on the occasion of the first performances of Jewish Theatre directed by Avram Goldfaden, the great Romanian poet wrote in the theatrical critique: "the beginnings of the Romanian theatre interpenetrated with the beginnings of Jewish theatre, mutual beginning that had as result two great theatrical cultures?"

(…) Humor was the link between Yiddish theatre and Romanian theatre between Harry Eliad and Ion Luca Caragiale. Humor as the essential part of his personality was seen as his attraction to Woody Allen plays. Harry stage-directed the comedy "How to Seduce Women" (after "Play it Again, Sam!").  

Goldfaden’s "The Golden Thread" in Yiddish theatre was absorbed and continued with glory by Harry Eliad. (...) The belief of the State Jewish Theatre to keep alive -- by its performances -- the flame of Yiddish language, was respected and conducted by Harry Eliad. This language cannot die, it waits for new speakers, new audiences, new fans of Yidishkeyt. Yiddish language is a treasure of the human mind .(…)

"Our predecessors were faithful to this language even when they were alone, in ghettoes, even when they laughed, cried and prayed, and we took with this cultural heritage the cult for Yiddish language", said Harry Eliad. A human being with important international relations, he was friends with Avi Hoffman of Paris and  Shmuel Atzmon-Wircer of Tel-Aviv. (…)

Leonie Waldman Eliad, his long life partner, remains to keep alive the torch of this cultural will of Harry Eliad.

Mr. Eliad loved musicals, opera, ballet, and classical music. Chopin and Mozart were his favorite composers. These preferences were evident in his inspired versions of "Fiddler On The Roof" and "Cabaret". Dedicated to the project. the "Essential Sholem Aleichem", he stage-directed musicals with Jewish folkloric songs, such as the successful "The Sellers of Chaloimes" and "Menachem Mendl, the Novel of a Businessman".

He wrote many articles and studies about the art of the actor. He created plays, organized symposiums, concerts, evocative meetings about [not only] the classical, but also modern and contemporary repertory. He was Vice-President of the "
Avraham Goldfaden Cultural Foundation", and was a member of the Management Council of the Jewish Community Federation, Romania. In 2002, the President of Romania decorated him with the Order of Cultural Merit, as Chevalier. He received an award from UNITER; The Gala of Theatrical Minorities and TVRI. (…)

After a sufferance hidden with discretion and endured with courage, Harry Eliad left the Romanian Theatre and the Yiddish theatre as a happy man, for living his life in dialogue with people throughout the world. He died as he lived his entire life
-- upon his feet."

Harry Eliad passed away on 6 August 2012 and was brought to his eternal rest at the Filantropia Cemetery in Bucharest.

Sh. E. and Sh. E. from Edith Negulici, Dr. Jean Askenasy.






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Photograph courtesy of Edith Negulici.

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