Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Naomi Natan


N. was born on 15 October 1891in Nowo-Minsk (now Minsk Mazowiecki, Poland), Warsaw Gubernia, Poland. Her father was the owner of a rope factory. She learned in a private school, and she learned Yiddish from a rabbi's wife. As an active member in the "Kleiner bund," she often traveled as an emissary to Warsaw, and later in Nowo-Minsk she participated in "amateur" offerings of Shliferstein's "Dora" (under the direction of the author) in "Koldunye" to benefit a worker's kitchen. Here she was arrested, and after her release she went away to Warsaw.

Through her acquaintance with the actress Losha Yakubovitsh, she was taken in as a chorus singer into an itinerant troupe that had performed in Kolo and soon, after performing as an actress, as "Tsila" in Gordin's "Kreutzer Sonata," she remained there to act in roles. For two years she toured across Poland, and in 1910 she came to Lodz, where she performed again as a chorus singer in the "United Troupe." For a short time she withdrew from her stage activity, and then through Shumsky, she returned to Odessa and joined Sabsey, later again with Fiszon where she was in the chorus for four years, performing part-time in small roles, and then for five years as an actress in prominent roles. Here she married the prompter and later popular actor Shimkha Natan.

N. then acted in Riga with Kompaneyets, in Bobruisk's Soviet State Theatre, in Warsaw with Kompaneyets, and Tselmeister, in Lodz's "Polish Theatre" (Dir. -- Kompaneyets), where she created

the role of "Vitskenea" in Sudermann's "Yohanes feyern." Then for several months she was in Vienna, where she performed under the name of "Natan". Later she acted in Vienna's "Fraye yidishe folks-bine" in the operetta troupe Kaminska-Breitman, and the "Vilna Troupe" (director Mazo). For a while she played in the troupe, in which her husband directed, together with Yosef Kamien, where she showed herself to be an excellent character actress. In the last years before the Second World War, she played with her entire family in Zygmunt Turkow's "VIKT."

Their children, Ida and Misha Natan, also became Yiddish actors. Ida's husband, Jacob Ginzburg, who also played on the Yiddish stage.

In his memoirs, Abraham Morevski recalls that episode about her:

"Levental was a beautiful actress. In "Nisoyen (Temptation)" (by Prager), she played the "mother." The last act is one in which the mother stands on the stage and responds to the strong outrage of her son, which the Peretz hangmen torment in their granary...

-- Dovid'l my Dovid'l--the mother calls, she's squeezing her hands, pulling her hair due to her disappointment. The Leventhal was an actress full of heart and spunk. You must understand she possessed a strong realistic lifestyle. She played her scene brilliantly. But the director (David Herman) wanted a "stone statue." Her profile faced the audience, her hands spread out ,with a supple figure, holding back a tear, silently, choking she said: "Dovid'l".. Herman beat up on himself for weeks without end but nothing came of it.

About the spectacle, it is realized that the actress already dressed for the act [in a crinoline, etc.] enters where a person has to enter. The stage worker points to the curtain and nobody is on the stage. Dovid'l screeches from the scenes .... One, two, three ... What will it be?

People walk around the wardrobe room: "Levental, gvald, where are you? The curtain has long been lifted." She hears from a special place the hidden gvaldn, which barely shows, walking across the dark stage, to the opposite, on the other side, to the right to make the crinoline, and flies out on the stage, breaking hands, raising the Lord with a whistle: "Dovid'l, my Dovid'l! My crown, my life!". That she finished and went away behind the curtain, she heard the stage directors' voices: "Excellent! Farblvaft! So do every show!"

About her last stage and tragic end, Jonas Turkow writes:

"When the Germans were in Warsaw, the Natan family went away to the Ratnfarband. Here they played  in Lemberg's Jewish State Theatre. ... When the Germans approached Lemberg, (her husband Simkha) Natan (who was the manager of the theatre), with the troupe was in Rovno (Volin). With him was their son-in-law Jacob Ginzburg and the son Misha Natan. Natan's wife, Naomi, with the daughter Ida, did not appear to flee from Lemberg, and they remained there with Ida's and Ginzburg's newly born child. For a lot of money they succeeded in persuading them to go to Warsaw, where, as they became aware, people were playing Yiddish theatre. Naomi and Ida Natan were engaged in Warsaw's 'Eldorado' (formerly the 'Skala' Theatre on Jelne Street), where they performed with great success.

When the 'action'  began in Warsaw's ghetto, they joined in the 'shop,' of actor Chaim Sandler, where they worked together with other actors. Soon at the first 'action' the Germans dragged off Ida Natan to the gas chamber in Treblinka. Some time later therein Naomi Natan with her grandson."

Simkha Natan wandered across Russia, in 1946 returned to Warsaw, and there several months later passed away at his son-in-law Jacob Ginzburg's home. Their son, Misha, survived and played in Yiddish theatre in the Land of Israel.

  • "Lexicon of Yiddish Theatre," Warsaw, Vol. II, 1934, p. 1397.

  • Jonas Turkow -- "Extinguished Stars," Buenos Aires, 1953, Vol. I, pp. 209-215.

  • Abraham Morevski -- "Ahin un tsurik," Warsaw, 1963, Vol. 4, p. 296.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 4175.

You can read Naomi's initial Lexicon biography from Vol. 2, by clicking here.

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