Born in Vilna,
Polish-Lithuania. He started his career as a
member of the choir in Lipinski's theatre.
For many years he
sang for various cantors. By 1916 he had already
acted in Vilnaís Yiddish theatre.
Sh. Bliacher wrote:
"I was still a small
brat when the theatre began to draw me to it.
Without the possibility to even purchase a
ticket, I donned my high school hat that I
shoved under my shirt and climbed over the fence
in order to steal myself into the circus, which
at that time was located on Lukishker Place. The
Yiddish theatre was performing there at that
time. I think that it was 1916 when I saw "The
Pintele Yid." An officer went on the stage in
the costume of a soldier wearing shiny patent
leather boots and sang. The officer was Israel
Zubak. And even though he didnít play a Jewish
role, a Jew seemed to emerge from every single
limb in his body. With his long Jewish shofar-shaped
nose, the officer looked more like a Jewish
recruit. In 1928, when I too was acting in the
Yiddish theatre I became his friend.
He was a highly
intelligent young man. He was full of
Yiddishkayt and also full of life. Perhaps this
was due to the influence of all those years when
he was involved with the kloyz in which
he sang for many years in the choir of the Vilna
Cantor. However he didnít occupy any special
position in the theatre. He suffered from a
stuffed nose, and his vocalization was weak. His
head somehow, seemed to be a bit too heavy. When
appeared on the stage in
Vilna in "The Dybbuk," Zubak was also on that stage in
the role of the Gabbai Michael. Iím reminded of
something that took place at that time. In the third act
when Sender Brintzer comes to the Rabbi for a hearing,
Michael says to him that Sender Brintzer is waiting for
the inquiry. Zubak appears on the stage and says:
"Rabbi, Alexander Brintzer has arrived." Morevski
wanting to impart that he hadnít heard, asks him once
more "Who?" "Iím telling you Rabbi, Zubak responds with
full assuredness -- Alexander Brintzer." Morevski, with
tremendous devotion clung faithfully to every word Ansky
wrote, started to beat his head against the wall and ran
away from the hearing. For a long time thereafter Zubak
was called Alexander, instead of Israel.
In 1925, due to long time
unemployment, Zubak was locked out of the Yiddish
Artists' Union. He then put together a group of amateurs
and dragged himself around to many smaller Yiddish
towns. These towns were those that the larger troupes of
the Yiddish Professional Artist Union did not visit. His
group fell apart, so he went to a small town and put
together a troupe of amateurs and staged a
presentation. By doing this he managed to have a small
income. This went on year after year. Later he brought
in a chorister from Vilna named Sara, with whom he
wed. Together with her it became a bit easier, because
he was now married; the basic theatrical earnings were
always all his. Together they acted in many plays; he as
the hero and she the heroine.
In 1936 as I was driving by
day in the small town Zshaludak, I noticed that a tall
young man was pasting a theatre poster on a wall. I was
intrigued by the poster. I approached: on the poster,
written in large letters was written: Guest appearance
by Sara and Israel Zubak. The person who was pasting the
poster was Zubak himself. He was very embarrassed --
"Please understand -- he said to me -- the person who
normally pastes the posters is sick." ...Later drinking
a schnapps he confided in me: "Thereís no money to pay
someone to paste posters." He had no choice but to do it
himself. When the State Theatre was created in Vilna his
old friends made a great effort to bring him into the
theatre. It was at least ten years till that theatreís
lights finally went dim. His luck was similar to the
luck of that theatre. It was short...as soon as the
Germans marched into Vilna a terrible fear fell upon
him. There could be no way now to act in the theatre.
However, none of his friends wanted to see him lose his
work in the theatre. He was given a job behind the
scenes. His intuition never failed him. On 16 July 1941
he was taken away by the "Chappers," those who snatched
Jews for the Nazis.
According to Yehoshua
Borodov, Zubak was a weak actor. In the Vilna Yiddish
theatre in the Ghetto he was not assigned work. Finally
he was given the job of prompter.
From a notification in Sh.
Kaczerginskiís book "The Destruction of Vilna," both
Zubak and his wife were murdered in 1941 in Ponar.
a kloyz is a synagogue generally headed by a
prominent scholar appointed by the founder and
was frequented by selected scholars. Sometimes a
kloyz was a house of prayer and study for people
from a specific trade, such as butchers or
M.E. from Yehoshua Borodov.
Sh. Kaczerginski --
"Destruction of Vilna," N.Y., 1947, p. 232.
Sh. Bliacher -- "Eyn
un tsvantsik un eyner," N.Y., 1962, pp. 77-79.