Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Shlomo Vayngold
(Spiridon Voik(ts)a)

V. was born on 9 August 1889 in Iasi, Romania, to Christian parents. His mother was Italian, his father was a Romanian.) His father passed away when he was eight months old, and when he was nine years old his mother passed away. The treatment from the other members of the family could not be transferred, so he fled from the home.

Still in school V. sang in a choir. A little underdeveloped, he was taken into the Romanian operetta by Nico Payegoru. Two years later he returned to Iasi, where his family created for him the possibility to learn in a gymnasium, and he took lessons in a conservatory. At the age of fifteen V. was engaged in the Romanian opera and operetta troupe of Grigorio, but after several months the troupe collapsed, and V. joined the circus of Trotzi as an acrobat and as a Romanian-Italian translator. Several months later he went over to Galati in a Romanian revue theatre, in which his partner, a Jew, introduced him to the Yiddish language. In 1907 V. left the revue theatre and was forced to go to work in a Jewish bakery. Here he had the possibility to learn several Yiddish songs, and in 1908 he joined the Yiddish varieties, which led to a complete breakup with his family.

The Yiddish language was already more prevalent, and V. joined in Iasi a Yiddish operetta theatre, where he played as a singing-lover in a play with mostly liturgical music, such as "Gavriel" in "Khinke-pinke," "Bartelo" in "Kol nidre," "Moritz" in "Izik the Butcher" et al.


In 1911 he traveled to Austria, playing in Galicia and Bukovina in various Yiddish troupes, then in a German variety, later in the Yiddish operetta trope in Vienna (Tsugartenshtrase), and in the "Vinger Yiddish Stage," where he remained until 1917. In 1918 he was engaged for Krakow as a stage director and actor in the local Yiddish operetta theatre, and from there he created a tour across Bukovina, and since 1921 V. continued to play in Poland.

In 1914 V., as he writes in his autobiography, went over to Vienna to the Jewish faith, receiving the name of Shlomo ben Avraham. Jonas Turkow writes that as people had said, V.'s parents were gypsies. V. also knew Hebrew well and mastered the Yiddish language in word and script, and he said to Turkow that he had converted in 1914 in Budapest. In his documents it was written down that he was a Christian. However, he was mixed.

For several years V. played with Jonas Turkow in Warsaw and in the province. In Warsaw he played in the "Kamaral bine (Cameral Stage)" at Bielanska 7.

In his autobiography, to the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," in full Yiddish, he wrote with red mint, and remarked that he wrote "Mitn blut fun mayn harttsu."

Jonas Turkow characterizes him this way:

"He looked like a specific gypsy. He was of a middle weight, firmly built, with a characteristic gypsy face with two black, burning eyes, with pitch black hair on his head.

Shlomo Vayngold was a magnificent character player with a roaring temper. From each role he created a virtual masterwork. He has not played any singing lovers, because he drowned out his lovely vocal. He would certainly take one of the first positions in Yiddish theatre, when When not passionate about the bitter drops. He was a chronic alcoholic and often fell into a state of delirium. I admired him for his great talent, and therefore I have looked away from his 'weakness' and hired him for my theatre. Because of his weakness of the flesh, he had however always known his roles from the outside (We used to play without a prompter), and never went astray. With his colleague-actors he behaved well and never quarreled with them. If it ever came to a quarrel, it was only when he got upset, when one of the actors badly uttered a Hebrew word. 'I hate stupid people from the bottom of my heart.' -- he cried out.

Turkow recalls an episode when the troupe played in the Polish city of Lentshitz, where there was a huge amount of anti-Semitic mood, and out of fear of an attack from Polish hooligans, the audience of theatre-goers soon after the production, quickly left for home, and the entire troupe together went away in the direction of the hotel, where it stood, but here as if from under the earth grew up a band of Polish hooligans, and they fell upon the actors with knives and flesh. There was bloodshed, but to everyone's amazement, the first disappearance of a "battlefield." When they got rid of them, he answered: "I was afraid that my doglike, gentile blood will become inflamed within me, and that I would put to death a few anti-Semites. I decided it would be better not to take part in the battle. So I went to have drink and drown my troubles. Later on I earned another mitzvah. I saved Lentshitz from a pogrom."

Benzion Palepade writes about him in his memoirs:

"Vayngold was born a Christian, a Romanian, a round orphan. From his early childhood, he remained alone in the world, and he was surrounded by Jewish minds, and as such he had by himself was raised among Jews, and with the Yiddish language., until he, thanks to his beautiful voice, became a choir boy in a Yiddish theatre, and later also an actor and exactly a good actor. After his father his name was Voika, but he gave himself the name Vayngold, and until today remained a secret. So the neglected poor orphan turned out to teach writing and reading in Romanian and German, and even more we wonder why Vayngold has been able to write and read Yiddish better than many of the Yiddish actors of that time.

About Vayngold people recall many curious episodes: When they presented a play in which it had to be made 'An al mla rakhamim (A Merciful God),' among every Yiddish chorister, Vayngold, the gentile who was the only one who had with his sweet lyrical tenor made this "Al mla," that the women in the theater broke down.. In general, at Yiddish affairs on stage, Vayngold has always appeared more understanding than the others in the theatre, and when he began as a chorister and became an actor, he soon demonstrated his great abilities, and he was elevated from chorister to become an actor. It didn't last long. He started playing his first role. Vayngold had an innate intelligence, and he had always been caught. (?)

In 1912 the Romanian Sheygetz Voika in Vienna he was allowed to speak to an expert mohel [?]. He converted, called it and received the name of Avraham. (Vayngold later declared that he did not do so much for religious motives, as for a stronger conviction that an actor who plays in the Yiddish theatre must be a Jew...) ...Vayngold gave a great speech (for the occasion of Palepades' anniversary), Depict the suffering path and wanderings of the Yiddish actor, and some set of vignette speeches were so overwhelmed with joy that they brought tears to me."

And about his tragic end, Jonas Turkow writes:

"When the war broke out, Shlomo Vayngold Voika disappeared from the horizon. He knew what awaited him with the Nazis. He went away from Warsaw, and every track of him has disappeared. It was his destiny to have the same end as his adopted brothers and he fell to the hands of the Nazis. His Yiddish 'kentseykn" was enough that he should count the fate from within the Jews and gypsies from which he was descended."

  • "Lexicon of Yiddish Theatre," New York, 1931, Vol. I, pp. 684.

  • Benzion Palepade -- "Zikhrones fun a halbn yorhundert yidish teater," Buenos Aires, 1946, pp. 298-299.

  • Jonas Turkow -- "Extinguished Stars," Buenos Aires, 1953, Vol. 2, pp. 122-128.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 3783.

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