Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yasha Belzer
(Yakov Belfer)


B. was born in Belz, Bessarabia, in a poor family. He learned in  a cheder, later in a school. One day when his parents were off to a wedding, the eight-year-old B. made a true "pogrom" at home: He took children from the street and made a "theatre" at home. The petsh and klep, which he therefore received from his father, reflected in him the desire for "art," or not wholly absent.

At the age of seventeen B. organized a drama circle for "amateurs" (including the future actors Leybl Golvog--later the actor Leon Gold in America, Chaim Gutman, Ben Zion Berdichevsky, Edelman). A year later B. arrived in Odessa in the troupe of Korik, debuting as "Solomon" in "David's Violin." Then he played for several seasons with Sabsey, Rappel, Dramov et al. In 1916 with Lipovyetsky, Kristerman, Friedman, many seasons with Albert Segalesko and Rosa Brin, and he had the opportunity to play the role of "Itsik" in Hirschbein's "The Haunted Inn," "Dr. Kerzentsev" in Andreyev's "Gedank" and "Karl Moore" in Schiller's "Robbers," then in Kiev with Jacob Libert and Rakitin, Zaslavsky, Nuger. In 1923  in Dnepropetrovsk, in the "Kunst vinkl (Arts Corner)" with Leah Bugova, Sheinberg, Treistman, Kaplan, Dubrovinsky, Nitzberg, Leiptziger, Meyerson, later in a Moldovvan itinerant theatre.

In 1935 B. was an actor and stage director in a Vinnitsa Yiddish theatre, 1936 -- in Zhitomir's "Yiddish Arbayter Kolchoz Theatre" under the name "Sholem Aleichem." The theatre researcher and critic Y. Lyubomirski specializes in the Russian journal "Theatre," on B.'s acting in Lipe Reznik's "Der shuna baym toyer un

"Torkvemada" in Victor Hugo's play. At the same time B. began with pedagogical activity, dedicated his practice to the younger generation. 

During the Second World War B. was found in Middle Asia, where he performed as an estrada artist, visited many hospitals and strove through artistic words to help the wounded.

In 1947 B. was stage director in Lemberg, and there played the title role of "Tevye the Dairyman" (in his adaptation), then in Ukraine, where he performed in Kulbak's "Boytre" (playing the title role), "The Two Kuni Lemels" ("Max"), "Kabtsn'zon un Hungerman," "Hershele Ostropeler" ("Kalman"), "Uriel Acosta," "Familye ovadis" ("Zanvl Ovadis"), "Der umbekanter (The Unknown)," and in his translation, plays by Chekhov, Tolstoy and Mark Twain.

After the Second World War B. settled in Kovno, where he organized and directed, and since 1960 with a Yiddish dramatic collective at the Cultural Palace for the professional union, and traveled across cities and towns of Lithuania, bringing to the Jewish masses of people the Yiddish artistic word.

B. also composed a two-act play, "Never Forget," about the horrific murders of he Hitler murderers, and the Litvak fascist nationalism.

The play on 6 April 1965 was performed in Kovno, and it was written about  by Muni Glazer and Peretz Zelmanovsky:

"The production had a great success, has been widely noted in the press, which underlined Yakov Belzer's talent both as an author and as a stage direction and actor. The main motive for the event was to succeed in peoples' friendship in the fight against radicalism and fascism.

We got to know some of his great content-rich correspondents. If you have friends, students, a spectator, writer, dramaturge, lovers of the Yiddish word, and all respect this deserving Yiddish actor. Despite his age, he is always creative, leads the mentioned Jewish collective, travels around, gives concerts, and is closely associated with the Vilnius Jewish artistic collective, which has now been transformed into a folks theatre."

Y. Yanes writes about the offering in Kovno:

The play brings to the heart the tragedy of the Jewish people. On the stage the people as Jewish students are going freely into the Soviet Army. An old Jewish grandfather, a clockmaker played by Yakov Belzer, is the central role in the play. The The old man is sacrificing to the Jewish people. He tells the fascist leaders that a people cannot be killed. It's Israel lives, the Yiddish people live and are living. A prominent Russian teacher played for the famous artist Chava Eidelman, becomes a leader of a partisan group. On the stage the Russians and Jewish partisans, who swear to take revenge for the innocent victims. Touching images, one after another, run past our eyes, scenes of the surviving tragedies. Often the silence weeps over the silence, and you hear long-lasting applause.

After the production there came up onto the stage one of the names of the Cultural Ministerium, the director of the Kovno culture palace of the trade union. He said about  the colossal earnings of the art circle and praised the collective for putting on the play, 'Never Forget,' which is a great contribution in the struggle for peace. He gave Yakov Belzer a medal."

The play also was offered on 26 April 1965 in Vilna. In July 1967, in honor of the fifty year jubilee of the October Revolution, B. staged with the Kovno dramatic collective, "Der shtumer muzikant," according to the account by L. Bogdanova, and "In yene teg" by A. Ulyanimski (both in his translation).


  • Y. Yanes -- Derfalgrayche farshtelungen fun yidishn teater in kovne un vilne, "Morgn frayhayt," N.Y., 11 June 1965.

  • Munye Glazer and Peretz Zelmanovsky -- 50 yor oyf der yidisher bine, dort, 1 December 1965.

  • L. Even -- Derfolgrayche forshtelung in kovne fun yidisher teater grupe, dort, 10 August 1967.







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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5694.

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