Museum of the Yiddish Theatre


Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Avraham Ash
(Avraham Averbukh)

A. was born 1895 in Kishinev, Bessarabia to religious parents. He studied at a Talmud Torah until the age of ten, then in a folkshul

After seeing a British singer performing “The Old Father,” he immediately began to mimic him, and that aroused his interest in starting a children’s troupe, in which he staged Goldfaden’s "Grandma Bontshe."

At the age of thirteen, he became an extra in Avraham Fiszon’s troupe. After that he performed with “amateurs,” following that he was employed in a candy store, while at the same time studying at a school of the painting arts. 

At the age of seventeen, he began traveling with Kokhanski’s troupe, and after that with other touring companies. At the age of twenty-two he founded a troupe of Kishinev actors, and in that group he began playing under the name of Avraham Ash. 

In 1918 he played in Odessa; later in the Zolotnitski province. In 1920 he was with Clara Young throughout Rumania; in 1921 with Axelrad in Czernowitz; in 1922 with Misha Fiszon in his “Master Theatre,” where he was also the first stage director, and along with Shklovski designed stage scenery. Following that, A. performed with Dr. Paul Baratov, with the "Vilna Operetta," with the “Vilna” (i.e. the "Vilna Troupe," which was directed by Mordechai Mazo), and after that with various traveling troupes throughout Bessarabia.


Misha  Fiszon writes in his memoirs:

He was a charming actor, not greatly talented, but he loved the stage. He could also paint a bit. Before he joined our troupe (in Romania) he worked as an associate director; worked like a horse, earning nothing but problems.

Ash's wife, Polia, who first was a chorus singer, then later an actress, died in Israel in 1963. Their daughter, Khayele Ash, who is married to the actor Ari Fuhrman, survived, lived in Philadelphia, where they performed Yiddish theatre and organized Yiddish concerts.

Chayele Ash says the following about her father:

In the early 1920’s Misha Fiszon and Vera Zaslavska came to Kishinev as guest performers along with a splendid repertory, creating a theatre called “Yevreyski Experimental Theatre.” At that time, my father was considered one of the most important elements in this kind of theatre. He was a proponent of better repertories, for which he fought for years. If a director wanted to contract him to a particular star, his first question was about the kind of repertoire that star used in his guest performances. He was a splendid painter, and because of that he was positioned as one of the best associate directors. He was a good character actor, and because of his artistic talent with stage makeup he could also play a variety of personalities (even several within the same production) and was one of the only people (of that time) who could create sketches and scale models of the most complicated stage scenery. Directors virtually fought over him. The guest performers who would come in for cameo performances used to make sure their contracts specified that Avraham Ash had to be contracted for that production. He always attracted a good camaraderie of actors and a good repertory. That’s why he was the darling of the common people who were the main viewers of Yiddish theatre in Romania.

His daughter recounts a list of his roles: (In the Vilna Troupe): “Tzingetang” in “Shulamis," “Eliezer” in “The Sacrifice of Isaac," “the Man in the Skullcap” in Peretz’s “Three Gifts." In Fiszon-Zaslavska nsemble he played “the Lawyer”  in Tolstoy’s “The Resurrection,"  “the Messenger” in “The Dybbuk," “Bobchinski”  or “Dobtchinski”  in “The Inspector General."  In the Molly Picon-Kalich ensemble he played “the Banker” in “Lively Tzipke." In the Moshe Lipman ensemble he played “the priest” in “The Seven Who Were Hanged," and when Shloime Prizament created a small arts theatre in Romania along the lines of the Polish-Yiddish “Azazel,” her father developed the roles in  “Bontshe the Silent," “the Duke” and “the Crazy One” in Peretz’s “In polish oyf der keyt” (“Arrested and Detained at the Synagogue,”) played “Motke” in “Motke the Thief" throughout the province, “Uriel mazik” in “God, Man, and Devil," “the Miller” in “A Faraway Corner," and the “Director” in “Help, When Will He Die?"

In 1937, A. toured across Czechoslovakia with the Ziegler troupe in operettas and melodramas; after that he worked with Moshe Lipman, where he played “Moshe the Chasid" and four more serial roles in “Yoshe kalb” When the Hitler army marched into Czechoslovakia in 1938, the troupe disbanded, and A. went back to Kishinev. Because of the reigning anti-Semitism there at the time, it was impossible to put on Yiddish theatre, especially in Kishinev. Playing in restaurants and teahouses had to suffice. In 1939 he was contracted to Kishinev and performed there until 1940, when the Soviet forces took over Bukovina and Bessarabia.

Learning that there was a new Jewish state theatre being created in Kishinev, he went back there again. The first performance of the Moldavian Jewish State Theatre was (symbolically) “Di kishufmakherin” (The Sorceress) by Avraham Goldfaden, directed by Abelev (director from the Odessa Kharkov Theatre.) Avraham Ash performed in “Bobe yakhne (Grandma Yakhne)” with exceptional success. Zuskin, the actor and Pulver, the conductor (and composer) of the Moscow Jewish State Theatre personally came to see the great success of the production. All the newspapers featured pictures of Ash in makeup as “the Sorceress,” along with the two artists mentioned above, showering him with the highest praise for his creation. 

In 1941 when the Second World War broke out (in Russia), the state theatre moved to Tiraspol. But the Germans got close to that location too. In one of the bombardments, we were loaded into locked wagons, like beasts, with the destination of Kuybyshev to where the Moldavian government had been evacuated. In all the disarray, my father was separated from us. It was not until 1943 that we (my mother and I) found out that he was no longer alive. We were told very briefly that he lay along with fifty other men in a grave that had been covered with lime (on account of the raging epidemic) so that no trace of it remained. They also told us how he looked the last day before his death. I wanted to imagine it, but I couldn’t. That makeup, Avraham Ash’s last stage makeup, could only have been created by gruesome death itself, inflicted by the Nazi murderers.

Sh. E.--  by his daughter Khayele Ash-Fuhrman and by Iacov Yakubovitsh. 

  • Misha Fiszon – Behind the Curtain of Yiddish Theatre – “Tog,” N.Y. , February 1948.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 3828.

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