Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leon Blank


B. was born in 1867 in Kishinev, Bessarabia, to pious parents, who took themselves to Berlad, Romania in 1876. He learned in cheder and in a Beit HaMedrash, and as a child of six became a choir singer for a cantor, afterwards, also together with a brother (now a cantor and ritual slaughterer), sang with cantors in Romania. Without the knowledge of his parents, he learned German and attended the production of the guest-starring Yiddish troupe (with Mogulesko, Feinman and Kessler), becoming known to Kessler, who was a friend of B.'s brother in Kishinev .

Excited by the production, B. fled with the actors and became with them a chorus singer and wardrobe supervisor.

Due to the difficult economic conditions, B. didn't come to the theatre day and night, almost the mis-nuraym, when he sang as a choir boy in shul.

When Mogulesko came to America together with the Yiddish troupe from Rumania, B. went along without the knowledge of his parents and already traveled as such to Iasi, Czernowitz, Lemberg, Hamburg and secretly caught himself on the ship.

In 1886 he came to America, and at first became a chorus singer, and he became a member in the chorus singer's union, and occasionally also performed with the chorus.


Inspired by Mogulesko to become an actor, B. performed for a time for Thomashefsky (who had become ill) in the singing role "Kroynprints aleksander (Crown Prince Alexander)", but T.'s "fans" received pnim B. with popular epl K.'s "fans". At other times B. performed for Kessler (who had become ill) in Shakansky's "Kol Nidre" ,and received a similar acceptance from K.'s "fans".

For five years B. was chorus leader and acted at the same time in various roles, but first in 1897 he acted as "Di tuv'h nyv" in Lateiner's "Dovid's fidele (David's Violin)", where he also caught the attention of the critics and subsequently became engaged in the theatre, in which he acted in the Gordin repertoire.

B. was the first to create the following Gordin characters: "Khatzkel drakhme" in "Got, mentsh un teyvel (God, Man and Devil)", "Tuviya habiyuni" in "Alishe ben abuya", "Melbyal garber" in "Der meturef", "Boris stavropolsky" in "Sappho", "Shmuel ashkhenazi" in "Der umbakanter", et al. He also created entire roles in Kobrin and Libin's repertoire.

For around eight years B. traveled around across the American provinces with plays, especially written for him by Zolotarevsky, Siegel, Wolff, et al. From 1920-1922 B. was engaged as the first actor at the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

In 1922 B. acted at the National Theatre (Managers Saks and Louis Goldberg).

In 1926 B. went over to the Liberty Theatre and from there to the Public Theatre (Managers Louis Goldberg and Nathan Shulman), where he also performed in several melodramas and Z. Libin's drama "Kinder fargesn nisht (Children Don't Forget)". Since 1928 B. has guest-starred again across the American province in his own repertoire.

B. was a co-founder of "The Hebrew Actor's Protective Union of America" (1899).

B., in the "Forward" (5 October 1928 -- 29 January 1929), published [partly under anonymous editors, and partly in the editing by M. Osherowitz] thirty-three long articles of memoirs about Kessler, "Prof." Horowitz and Mogulesko.

B.'s son, Benjamin, writes compositions for Yiddish operettas and married the actress Betty Frank, the daughter of the actor Jacob Frank.

  • B. Gorin -- "Di Geshikhte fun idishn teater (The History of the Yiddish Theatre)", Vok, II, pp. 35, 161.

  • Leon Blank -- (Memvarn vegn kesler, hurvits un mogulesko), "Forward", 5 October 1928 -  29 January 1929.

  • B. Botwinik -- Leon Blank iz alt gevoren fuftsik yohr, "Forward", 22 November 1918.

  • Alter Epstein -- Interesante momenten fun aktyoren leben. "Der tog", N. Y. 16 June 1918.

  • B. Botwinik -- Leon Blank, "Der veker", 8 January 1927.

  • H. Lang -- Vi azoy leon blank iz gevoren an aktyor, "Forward", 19 April 1925.

  • H. Ehrenreich -- Leon blank iz itst zebtsik yohr alt, "Forward", 10 June 1927.

  • A. Frumkin -- Der krizis dos zenen mir di start -- zogt leon blank, "Morning Journal", N. Y., 17 February 1928.

  • B. Weinstein -- "Di idishe yunions in amerika", N. Y, p. 129.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 1, page 172.

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