Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Yakov Lerner


According to Zalmen Zylbercweig:

"There is no biographical information about him, there was no way that I would want to receive.

It seems to me like at the beginning of you shouldn't know from it, probably 1908-1909, he suddenly showed up on the Yiddish stage in Warsaw. The theatre directions by which he played had certainly announced him. He performed in the former Yiddish operetta theatre, and played and sang the lover roles. The audience received him very warmly. The critics were not excited about his playing as an actor, but he constantly emphasized his excellent singing with what he could do at that time, thinking of himself as the best singer on the Yiddish stage. However just as quickly as he had flashed, so quickly and suddenly he disappeared."

Writing about a benefit in the "Elizeum" Theatre in 1910, Spinks (M. Kipnis) characterized him this way:

"It is difficult to determine what type of voice Mr. Lerner possesses. The brilliance of his voice is like a tenor, and the restraining power of his tone is baritone in the upper register. The tenor he possesses, however, is to be admired, strong, broad and firm, which not only does he dare with his voice, the entire C.D.E.F. ensemble, together with an orchestra, and the tone is not wild. He resembled himself and nodded. [awk.]

Mr. Lerman had made his career, as do all the Yiddish artists. Without a systematic distribution. It is heard singing in his place, and in his treatment of every song, though he sings with diction and with heart. Indeed, one of his greatest earnings would have been that of not looking at the great success he had everywhere and now also in Warsaw, with the lovely reviews in the Russian newspapers. Not looking at all of them, he should take himself seriously for the learners, so as not to make the soon-to-be-announced transition from "singer" to "dramatic actor," and also not everyone makes the transition.

Mr. Lerman is still young and filled with life and energy, and can with that wonderful voice material make a very great singing career."

In her remarks, the actress Zina Rappel once mentioned Lerman and emphasized that he for a long time he had acted under her husband's direction, earlier together with Epelberg in Warsaw, then by himself in Odessa, during the First World War. She also mentions that when she later, years after the First World War, went to London, there she again met L. According to her he did not then act on the Yiddish stage.

According to Zygmunt Lev, who in that time toured with "word concerts" across Western and Eastern Europe, around 1926 L. moved to Paris, where together with him she participated in several such concerts in Paris and its vicinity, and there used to perform in a repertoire of Yiddish folk and classical songs, as well as with Hebrew songs. Lev mentions that "Lerman took on his task very seriously and has moved with great lengths for his profession."

In January 1927 L. performed in London's "Pavilion" Theatre, in the title role of Goldfaden's "Bar kokhba."

In 1928 L. turned back to Warsaw and performed in the "Kaminski" Theatre, in the operetta, "Der freylekher khazn (The Happy Cantor?)."

According to various accounts, L. later became a cantor and went away from the stage. During the Second World War, he was found in France.

Zygmunt Turkow noted that he visited Vienna with the sickly Ester Rokhl Kaminska:

"I also attended a remarkable cantorial contest in which our well-known operetta singer Yakov Lerman participated. Lerman was amazed that I was no singer and could not become a cantor, because 'Cantors -- he assured me -- in bread with butter and Yiddish theatre -- a moldy sugar.' "

According to the actor Moshe-Dovid Makhorovski, being sent by the Nazis, L. had pretty bad days from 1942 in Odessa, where through his landsman Leybele Maler, he applied for the pulpit, and was sent from there with the first or second transport to his death.

According to the actress Aniuta Paliakov, being along among the interred in Drancy, she saw there L., and that on 16 July 1942, he was taken to his destruction.


M.E. from Zygmunt Lev, Sh.E. from Zalmen Zylbercweig, Moshe-Dovid Makhorovski and Aniuta Paliakov.

  • Spinks (M. Kipnis) -- Yakov lerman, "der shtrahl," Warsaw, 19 May 1910.

  • Kritikus (Morris Mayer) -- H' lerman's erfolg als bar kokhba, 'The Times," London, 24 January 1927.

  • Nekhamya Tsuker -- "Fir dorot yidish teater," Buenos Aires, 1944, 2nd part, pp. 244, 272, 315, 382.

  • Zygmunt Turkow -- "Di ibergerisene tkupe," Buenos Aires, 1961, pp. 154-155.





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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 4099.

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