Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre



Malvina Yoles-Gimpel


She was born on 3 June 1900 in Lemberg, Galicia. She graduated from a state-operated school. She sang for four or five years in a local temple. Through the efforts of the choir director she discovered the Lemberg Yiddish Theatre. As Jonas Turkow tells us in his book, "Extinguished Stars," she started her stage career in theatre for children, which had been organized in Lemberg by the (still to be known actor) Moshe Tarlowski. They performed in the theatre every Saturday in an attic. The audience was comprised only of children. They did not charge any money, but every small audience member had to bring a metal button that was handed in, in exchange for a ticket. The buttons were later sold by the actors. This went on for a long time till the children no longer could find a garment from which to take more steel buttons.

 Later Yoles appeared on the stage with Tarlowski every Saturday in the Garden "Na Znyeshinyu." Their repertoire consisted of plays that had earlier been performed (in the Yiddish theatre), and also duets that they sang. However, in this setting the former children entertainers were paid for their performances.

From time to time, Malvina Yoles was hired by the manager of the Lemberg Reform Temple to test the children’s singing abilities. Since Yoles had a wonderful voice, she was also allowed to sing in the temple choir. From that temple choir, the manager of the Polish Theatre used to engage children in an opera that might be in need of a children’s choir. Malvina Yoles was also engaged to be part of that choir.

Malvina Yoles once after reading a poster from the Yiddish theatre that young girls and boys who had good singing voices should make themselves known to Adolph Gimpel in the Yiddish theatre. As a result, she was hired by the Gimpel Theatre as a choir member and eventually became the choir director.

At the time of the performance in the Gimpel Theatre, of "Blind yidele," the actress Elka Dorf fell ill. Yoles was given the opportunity to replace her sick colleague. She was a great success in her new role. From that time on she began to be given small roles. Emil Gimpel’s son, Maurice, who was a frequent visitor to the theatre, fell in love with the beautiful, charming Malvina Yoles. His parents did not want, under any circumstances, to agree to such a match. They sent their son away to Vienna to complete his studies. However, this didn’t help. The more the young man studied, the more he yearned for and loved Malvina. After the First World War, they married and till the end of their lives they were a very happy couple.

Now the tradition was broken by the young Gimpels. They led the theatre with strong hands. One aspect of their leadership that speaks well, and for which they must be given a compliment, is the fact that they presented a superior repertoire and made it their goal to present better plays and to hire sincere actors and directors. If the previous two generations of the Gimpel dynasty did not display any importance to the standards of the Yiddish used in their theatre, Yoles-Gimpel and her husband decided that in their theatre a refined Yiddish would be heard from the stage.

Also, as partners in the Colossus Theatre in Lemberg, they managed two Yiddish theatres. Shortly before the start of the Second World War they had just finished construction of a splendid theatre structure that was built over the site of a previous Gimpel building.

Malvina Yoles was excellent both in drama and in operetta. She was often engaged in guest roles throughout Poland and Russia and wherever she could play successfully.  

In the last few years she turned her attentions from acting and busied herself completely as the director of the Gimpel Theatre—The Colossus. She focused very successfully on how to manage the theatre.

Israel Ashendorf tells us about the match with her husband:

The director of the Gimpel Theatre had several sons. One of them became a doctor, another lawyer. This lawyer married a Jewish actress—Malvina Yoles. Imagine: A director, a doctor, a lawyer, such excellent lineage from one side of a family and from the other side a Yiddish actress. After the wedding not even one person from either side of the family, God forbid, wanted to erase such this transgression. Malvina Yoles, even if she had a fitting role to play, would have been prepared to step onto the stage and to play once more in the theatre. Please understand that the fact that a Jewish actress can achieve such a match, lifted her up even more in the eyes of the public regarding the importance of a Yiddish actor.

Zygmunt Turkow points out "His (Misha Gimpel's) wife, Malvina Yoles, a fine singer and actor took an active part in the management of their theatre." In in another article he shows us: "We have received material that they had the support of the artistic coalition and for the first time in theatre history, from the theatre owners themselves, the Gimpels and Yoles’."

About her tragic end Jonas Turkow wrote:

When the new Gimpel Theatre (Colossus) was first built in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the war, Malvina Yoles hired me as the artistic manager and director of the theatre where she was engaged. For our first play I was supposed to place Shimon Shpunds in a musical evening built around a historical theme. A day before the outbreak of the war, I prepared their contract in Lemberg and then traveled to Warsaw to hire actors. Even before I had arrived in Warsaw, the war broke out.

When the Russians took over Warsaw, turning it into a state-run theatre, Yoles-Gimpel worked for the same state theatre, she as an actress. Adolph Gimpel, the manager performed in the theatre as a violinist. Later the Germans slaughtered the Lemberg Jewish community, including and together with the entire Yiddish theatrical family in Lemberg.

  • "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," Volume 2, Warsaw, 1934, pp.911-912.

  • Jonas Turkow -- "Extinguished Stars," Buenos Aires, 1953, Vol. 1, pp. 235-251.

  • Zygmunt Turkow -- "Di ibergerisene tkufh," Buenos Aires, 1961, pp. 130, 447.

  • Israrel Ashendorf -- S.M. gimpels teater in lemberg, "Gedenk bukh galitsye," Buenos Aires, 1963, p. 31.





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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 5, page 3803.

You can see her initial Lexicon biography in its Volume 2.

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