Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Izidore Casher
(Zishe Kasirer)

Izidore Casher was born in 1882 in Lantskorine, Kamenets-Podolia Gubernia, Volin, where his grandfather was a shokhet (ritual slaughterer).  His father also was a shokhet in a small village. Till age six he was FARISUMT from his father and became raised by his grandfather. Still as a child C. used to imitate the local [Jewish] clergy, and Jews used to say that "there will be no delay from him." C. did not study very much. When he is undergrown, they began to search for a purpose for him, and at age thirteen he went to America to his American uncles.

Here C. TSUBISLEKH to learn in an evening school, and at night worked in a workshop. He took up with his uncle in the Yiddish theatre, where he, FARCHSHUFT for the Adlers, playing "David Moshele" in "The Yiddish King Lear," in which he saw a huge resemblance to his grandfather. C. became a "patriotn (avid fan)" in the theatres of Adler, then as an understudy in the theatres where Adler played, and over time he received small and greater roles, until he became an assistant regisseur and then a permanent regisseur for the Adlers.

About C.'s devotion as a "patriotn" of Adlers, which did not leave, that other stars should play Gordin's play, Boaz Young recalls in his memoirs:

"...When those two patriotn (Yasha Rosenthal and Izidore Casher) had ZIKH DERVUST, that Thomashefsky chose to buy a play of Gordins, they had decided that the play must have already


failed in the lecture (FARLEZUNG). Then there arrived a "hole" (Gordin used to read the opening to his plays), sitting off in the first rows, and in the middle of the reading began to yawn, so that they were all inflamed with this. When Gordin was at the helm of the second act, at the dramatic scene, Casher began to snort and snore, that the audience had laughed [FUNANDERGELAKHT], and the entire dramatic mood became destroyed."

And Joseph Rumshinsky recalls:

"...Izidore Casher, as a 'patriotn,' was called a bastard by them, because he used to go around and KHLUSN from Adler's acting in Jacob Gordin's play "Der meturef (The Bastard)". It was comical to hear what we called that energetic, boiling, healthy guy with those crazy, sharp eyes "meturef." The role, which Adler had played in 'Meturef,' was of a young fellow, a thinker, who used to stand the entire day by a window and listen to the neighbor's daughter, Liza, play Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on the piano. This delicate play of Adler and the music of Beethoven's sonata had the stiff Izidore Casher so upset, that he grew tired of the vernacular (VACHEDIKEYT) of the large workshop and actually left the shop. Casher had, with his love and life, surrendered to the theatre, and in a short time became Adler's right hand. Adler (PAGE 2157) already used to allow Casher to stage direct the plays of the old repertoire, and later also trusted him with the stage direction of the new plays. ...Casher was not only Adler's right hand, but also Berta Kalich. When Berta Kalich, already an English actress, used to come give guest productions in Yiddish Theatre, Izidore Casher was the regisseur of her repertoire. ...Izidore Casher was for a time the theatre stage manager, assistant regisseur, and even regisseur. However he began to be a full-time actor when he began with Maurice Schwartz."

The first role that C. played was in O. Dymow's "Shklafn fun folk (Slave of the People?)" (with J.P. Adler, 1918). He then played (with Sara Adler and Rudolph Schildkraut) in the Novelty Theatre, Brooklyn, and in 1921 in the People's Theatre ("Melkhial Garber" in Gordin's "Meturef (The Worthless?)."

In the Yiddish Art Theatre C. began to play in the 1923-1924 season, and from then on he remained continuously with the Theatre. In the first season he participated in the play, "Shabse Zvi" by Zhulavsky, "Di zebn gehangenene (The Seven Who Were Hanged" by Andreyev, "Betler (Beggar)" by Leivick, "Broit (Bread)" by Dymow, "Lialkes (Dolls)" by Beneveto, "Tsvey kuni lemels (The Two Kuni Lemels)" by Goldfaden, "Der blutiker gelekhter (The Bloody Laughter) by Toller, "Der eybiker lign (The Eternal Lie)" by Bramson, and "Furman Hershl (Hershel Furman)" by Hauptmann.

In the summer of 1924 C. went on a tour with the Yiddish Art Theatre in Europe (London, Paris and Vienna), and he then played in 1924-1925 in the same theatre in the benefit performance of Anski's "Dybbuk," in "Moshke khazir (Moshke the Swine)" by I.D. Berkowitz, 'Ven shtarbt er? (When Will He Die?)" by Chone Gottesfeld, "Sheydim veysn vos" by Peretz Hirshbein, "In yedn hoyz (In Every House)" by B. Gorin, "Velf (Wolves)," by Romain Rolland, "Peter der groyser (Peter the Great)" by Dmitry Sergeyevich Merezhkovsky, et al.

About C.'s role in these productions, Dr. A. Mukdoni writes:

"...Here he was the golem, Gavrila, in I.D. Berkowitz's 'Moshke the Swine,' who was given a soul. ...I love Cashier's Navrila. They possess few words, but every word of them comes out badly, accompanied by a piece of healthy heart." ---"The infinite innocence and the healthy calm, which I. Casher had given him (Wolf's father in 'Sheydim veysn vos'), were not any Yiddish. Such an oak can only grow in the forest with the trees ---"His "Vera" in the Rolland novel is the primitive of a people's revolution, the NIT-GETAKTER, NIT GESHLIFENER and NIT FALIRGER BUNT,  fire and mud are mixed, idealized with wolfish TSEKRIMTE, iron teeth, heroism with GRABE(R), unflattering melancholy. Everything pops out with his fierce anger. I. Casher's 'Vera' is the symbol of revolution, hot and wild blood hit the head... And this hell on two legs had Izidore Casher also steamed up with a childhood innocence, with the innocence of indigenous people. ...It is perhaps, however, Izidore Casher's love, innocence, his kindness, and he had for a while he smiled at the crushed Vera." --- "The joy in Mereshkovski's 'Peter the Great' (PAGE 2158) is so sculpturally posed, that you even see his drunken singing. A minute on the scene, and you see him for long, long."

A.H. Bialin writes (in his book, "Maurice Schwartz and the Yiddish Art Theatre"):

"Izidore Casher made a great impression in Romain Rolland's 'Wolves.' With his acting he oyfgeshturemt the theatre. With his dramatic stings and wild primitive momentum....

After a benefit production of "Di gayster (The Ghost)," Dr. A. Mukdoni writes:

"...A composition of broken lines. This what you see and admire in his (Casher) role of Jacob Bragstag (Engstrand) in Ibsen's "Ghosts." ...The soul is TSEKRIMT, TSEPITSILT, and a good thing comes out and is made bad, evil and obnoxious grimaces. ...It becomes cold at once from this man. A vicious nausea pops out. However, I. Casher possesses the blessed talent to to settle [BAKHNEN] people, and even this VERIM-KNOYL is also lovely. Jacob is one of the beautiful creations in our Yiddish theatre. I have on the European stage, with the best Ibsen actors, not seen such a complete figure, such a sculptured oysgehamerte, so harmonically done, as I. Casher had oysgemeystert.

In the 1925-1927 seasons C. played in the Yiddish Art Theatre in the prominent role in "Shaul hamelekh (Saul the King)" by Heyse, "Shekspir un kompany (Shakespeare and Company)" by Charnov, "Der luft-mentsh (The Air Merchant)" by Yoskewitz, "A shnirl perl (A String of Pearls)" by Sholem Asch, "Der krayd-tsirkl (The Chalk Cirlce) by Klabund,  "Shmates (Rags)" by Leivick, "Dem tsadiks nesie (The Saint's Journey)" by Sackler, "Dos tsente gebot (The Tenth Commandment) by Goldfaden, "Mendl spivak (Mendel Spivack)" by Yoshkewitz, "Yoshke muzikant (Yoshke the Musician)" and "Mentshn-shtoyb (Human Dust)" by Dymow, "Der veg tsu lebn (The Way of Life)" by Gemirovitch-Dantshenko, and "Reverend Dr. Silver" by Asch.

In 1927 he took over, together with Isidore Buzet, the McKinley Square Theatre (Bronx), where he played and was regisseur for a season and performed in other plays: L. Kobrin's "Shunayim" and "Dorfs-yung," Gordin's "Di emes'e kraft (The True Power)" and "Unbekanter (The Unknown)," Gorki's "Meshtshane (Middle-Class People) (with Rosetta Bialis in the main roles).

Since the 1928-1929 season C. continued with the Yiddish Art Theatre, excelling especially in the benefit production of Gordin's "God, Man and Devil" (as "Khatzkl drakhme"), I.J. Singer's "Yoshe kalb" ("Kanebtrn") "Brider ashkenazi (The Brothers Ashkenazi)" (as "Avraham Hersh"), and "Mishpakha karnovsky (The Family Carnovsky)," Asch's "Dray shtet (Three Cities)" ("Geler poyer"), Leivick's "Ver iz ver? (Who is Who?)" (as "Doctor Ziro"), Zeitlin's "Esterke" (as "Yerukhem"), Feuchtwanger's "Yozefus (Josephus) (as "Vespasian").

In 1931-1933 he played in the Folks Theatre with the Germans and Menasha Skulnik in Kalmanowitz's plays. [PAGE 2159]

In 1940 C. guest-starred for ten weeks in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he played (in the "Excelsior" Theatre), with Leojn Kobrin's "Bruder kegn bruder (Brother Against Brother)" (as "Shunayim"), M. Gorky's "Eltern un kinder (Parents and Children)" ("Meshtshane", Gordin's "Di emes'e kraft (The True Power)", and Kalmanowitz's "Der zayde gayt (The Grandfather Goes?)." On separate evenings C. played (in the "Soleil" Theatre) Gordin's "Khasye di yesom (Chasia the Orphan)" (The role of "Matye Shtreichl").

About his guest-starring, Jacob Botoshansky writes:

"There is no reason to keep that, in a guest role for us in Buenos Aires, that he had no great success. His success is materially so small, that a joke went around that the actors who had played with him, had constantly call for this play to be put on, that had a scene in which people ate. This seems to be saying that the actors were unable to eat too much of his guest-acting. Casher is for nature was not any star, but a good actor. ...Everyday Casher was generally awake?, and he needed to pack a rare role, which would give him an opportunity to become a YOM-TUBDIK, he played such a role at the end of his guest appearance, when he played a kind-hearted grandfather in a Kalmanowitz play. In this play he played a grandfather's goodness."

About C.'s success in a secondary role Dr. L. Zhitnitsky wrote:

"The correct Tetriev (?) (in "Meshtshane") is Izidore Casher. It is a role in which Izidore Casher revealed himself with his entire actorial power, with everything his artistic characteristics and abilities. ...without exaggeration ... The few nuances grow into each other and reach the complete whole."

And Sh. Rozshanski characterized his acting in this way:

"...Izidore Casher has no literary mannerisms. He is, however, literary according to his honest approach, according to his immersing himself in interpretation of his roles. He is one of the actors who act, as in life. A strict realist. He is so strict realistically that he escapes the rhythm of speech, or acting, if it can be sooner, as in life."

In the 1944-1945 season C. played in the Yiddish Folks Theatre (directors Jacob Ben-Ami and Joseph Green) in H. Leivick's "Nes in geto (Miracle in the Ghetto)," and D. Bergelson's "Mir veln lebn (We Will Live)." For the 1945-1946 season he returned to the Art Theatre, acting in "Dray matones (Three Gifts)" (as "Yokhanan the Water Carrier"), Sholem Aleichem's "Blonjende shtern (Extinguished Stars)" (as "Rav Sender"), Zahav's "Shylok un zayn tokhter (Shylock and His Daughter" (as "Lancelot") etc.

C. participated in a series of Yiddish films and moving pictures. As such he played in Vienna (1924) in the film of H. Sackler's play "Yizkor," together with Maurice Schwartz and with the troupe of the Yiddish Art Theatre. In 1926 he was in Z. Libin's "Gebrokhene hertser (Broken Hearts)" (as the "Unhappy Bridegroom," with Maurice Schwartz, Anna Appel, et al.), and in Chaim Tauber's "Der yidisher nigun (The Jewish Melody)" (playing the role of "Cantor David Shapiro").

In 1938 C. was the dialogue regisseur and played (PAGE 2160) the role of "Mendele Mokher Sefarim" in the Yiddish sound film, "Di kliatshe (The Light Ahead)" (based on Mendele's "Di kliatshe," "Fishke der krumer (Fishel the Cripple)," "Di takse (The Taxi?)" and "Der priziv (The Military Conscription?)," adapted by Khaver Paver, director--Edgar G. Ulmer, technical assistant Wolf Mercur: with the participation of Helen Beverly, David Opatoshu, Rosetta Bialis, Jennie Casher, Abraham Fishkind, Misha Fiszon, Wolf Goldfaden, Tillie Rabinowitz, Celia Boodkin, Anna Guskin et al.)

About his playing "Mendele," Jacob Botoshansky writes:

"He was, in the character, the perfect look of our wise and shrewd grandfathers. The grandfather is after all, it was obviously longer, like Greber [?], and Casher [IZ OAKH BFIRUSH GEVEN BREBER, VI LENGER], and [FUNDESTVEGN HAT ER IM OYKH OYSERLEKH GECHAPT.] And perhaps more externally, than inwards....Izidore Casher has moved the measures in sentimentality from Mendele's point of view, like some good-hearted grandfather."

C. also participated in the "Forward Summer Follies," where he played and directed scenes and one-acters and also used to perform by recitations from Sholem Asch's "Der mamzer (The Bastard)," Avraham Viviorka's "Di aveyre (The Transgression?)," etc.

C. was on the Executive Board of the Yiddish [Hebrew] Actors' Union, and for a single season he was President and Vice-President, a co-founder of the Yiddish Theatre Museum, a co-founder of the [Yiddish] Theatrical Alliance, a member of the committee of the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," and used to actively participate in organizing various celebrations of the Yiddish Theatre profession.

About his last years with the Yiddish Theatre, Joseph Rumshinsky recalls:

"Izidore Casher recently complained strongly about his financial condition, that because of the short theatre season, it is hard for him to make a living for his family, VERND other actors is much easier to earn; they go on banquets, weddings, in the summer they are in and playing in the summer places. He fought for a time with himself, until he decided that he will go to private undertakings. He was an entertainer at banquets. After a banquet he declared: 'My career as an entertainer (benefit) began yesterday, and has at the same time ended. When I am standing and FARGETRAGN PRTS a poem, IZ FARBEYGENGANGEN waiter passes by with a tray of chickens. My eyes became dark to him. I had barely ended the poem and am out through the back door. No, it is not for me. Jacob P. Adler and David Kessler were not going to entertain [in this way], at banquets and weddings, Maurice Schwartz also did not do this. I would rather die a poor actor, before a rich entertainer.' "

And about the condition of his health, Zalmen Zylbercweig recalls:

"The audience did not notice that Casher, who is always identifiable by everyone as a strong man, because of his massive figure and his steady pace, as well as his depth, a steady voice, were mentioned in something strong, TECHTIKES, (end of page 2160) mentioned in the last years was a dangerous patient. However it was a secret to the tens of thousands of Jewish theatergoers who still admired him only a few weeks ago (before his death) as the 'Shabes Goy,' The servant Lancelot in the drama, 'Shylock and his Daughter' was well-known in his own ranks. Every day you could tell when he was 'falling.' He became weaker and weaker, but he had not lost his humor."

On 15 April 1948 C. passed away in New York and came to his eternal rest in the cemetery plot of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance [Mount Hebron Cemetery -- ed.].

C.'s wife, Jennie, was a Yiddish actress.

Zeltn-Ven, in his so simple criticism about an actor, as she is in the evaluation of Izidore Casher. Dr. A. Mukdoni thus writes:

"In life a quiet, a quieter, and almost silent and on stage full of unease, filled with an effervescent power. in life bearish, cold, and apathetic in his movements, and on the stage a volcano that is filled with creative chills (SHAFUNGS-TSITER]. In life there are [ZAYNEN ZAYN VERTER HALBE], dark, and on the stage they are such full-mouthed, such wide, such colorful and such a KNALIKE. ...Isidore Casher plays with all his RM"KH ABRIM. A remarkable transformational ability is possessed by this actor. It is not only a mask, it is not only FARSHTELENISH, and it is not only BAHELMENISH under a strange kaftan. There is complete enlightenment. ...He creates an entire person, he creates open people, entirely in gravity, often in their lack thereof. ....broad and strongly built, full-blooded and his people are kind."

And Zalmen Zylbercweig:

"Izidore Casher began his theatre career in the former, old Yiddish Theatre, ... where the high, melodramatic tone and noisy gesticulations were the KEN-ZSEYCHNS of a great actor. And he would have stayed with this kind of acting, He would in no way have achieved the popularity in preparing the Yiddish theatre audience, and the recognition of the general Yiddish public. With Casher was the miracle of the natural instinct that he has adapted for the better, for the pure, Yiddish Art Theatre. ...Here he had the opportunity for artistic OYSTSULEBEN. In the 'Yiddish Art Theatre,' where Casher had played in for a span of more than twenty years, ...He reached the highest point, which he would ever reach as a performer. Casher naturally felt a sense of community and perfection, that he had begun to reflect on and AREYNGRIBLEN in the characters, who he had needed to create.... endowed by nature with a good diction, a deep breast tone and a strong organ, a fitting figure for various characters, a playable face, he had the natural features united with the good will to create. This match brought about his artistic achievements. ..He was expressive non-Yiddish roles. He was to endure in the role of Prostakes, BELI-GUFIM, the noble, GETSERTLTE, soulful human being."

Jacob Mestel:

"Casher -- a Chasid and student of the great Jacob P. Adler with his theatrical sentimentalities, and yet so loaded with heavy-handed idleness of Adler's permanent chimney sweep [SHITHKENGER] -- David Kessler. Starting from primitive, PRIMITIVKEYT is his core. ...But also the gentle tone is not strange to him: his 'Yonah' (in "Betler [Beggars]" Is devoid of practical wisdom and honesty; his 'Sender Brinitser' (in 'Dybbuk') is tender threads of fatherly concern [which] are breaking down. ...His 'Yevenukh' (in 'Chalk Circle'), and his 'Booth Director' (in 'Hinkemann'), who even weaves fantastic and unconscious expression."

Sholem Perlmutter:

"...He has enriched  the Yiddish stage with his entire gallery of forms. Nature gave him a keen eye for human sentiments, for human passion, for human struggles, for human types and characters, and he has brought them out in various plays for us on the stage. ...Izidore Casher presented [BALAGT] to select actors who enjoyed equal recognition by both the critics and the general theatre audience."

Chaim Ehrenreich:

"...Casher speaks with a full tone -- brusque, sure, concrete, and he leaves an impression, and more than an impression -- also mood. ...His art is cool in itself, a richness of tenor, shamefulness no less, as light without a wealth of nuances. ... He is sincere in his art."

Jacob Botoshansky:

"At best he was able to play a heroic villager, who seems honest and sincere, even when it comes out to kill him. ...Izidore Casher probably has a strong love to act well. ...In Peretz's 'Three Gifts' he plays the angel who accompanies the soul, who hasn't any TIKKUN and strays. ...From him he alone has created the goodness. ...He loved the full sound and the open and prominent faces. He was one of the most theatrical Yiddish actors."

Maurice Schwartz:

"Izidore Casher, like David Kessler, was an unpolished diamond, a raw power who with his natural temperament knew how to rule to stage. ...I really don't know who will be able to play his rare types, who he had created and OYSGESHAFT worked up BIZN DNA. In the more than twenty four seasons that he has played in the Art Theatre, he has played large and important roles, which had brought him glory both by the critics and the theatre public. ..In Leivick's 'Beggars' and 'The Seven Who Were Hanged,' Casher created two rare forms, which will long remain in memory. ...His best creations were: the father in 'The Brothers Ashkenazi,' the gravedigger in 'Yoshke Kalb,' Vera the Butcher  in Rolland's Wolves,' and David Carnovsky in "The Family (top of page 2163) Carnovsky.' ...For me he continually was the serious-toiling actor who worked hard in a role."

And Morris Myer writes:

"A character actor with a lot of dramatic power in Maurice Schwartz's Art Theatre is Izidore Casher. Here he was (in London) three times. he excelled strongly as 'The Minister' in 'Di zibn gehangene (The Seven Who Were Hanged.') He brought out their distinct illness, cowardice, and fear of death. He also played 'Engstrand' in "The Ghosts' very well. He very much succeeded in expressing the hypocrisy and falsehoods of that type. Izidore Casher brilliantly played 'Kone the Gravedigger' in 'Yoshe Kalb.' This was a monumental piece of vitality. So much deep expression and movement. Each movement has characterized the gravedigger. With masterful simplicity he has acted as 'Avraham Hersh,' the father of 'The Brothers Ashkenazi.' With sincere inner characteristics he expressed the feeling of 'Yiddishkayt (Jewishness)' and integrity. It has always been a pleasure to see Casher play a father, or some other character role."

M.E. and M.E. from Wolf Mercur and Rosetta Bialis.

  • Alter Epstein -- Interesante momentn fun aktoren lebn, "Der tog," N.Y., 10 November 1918.

  • Jacob Mestel -- Ver zaynen di kinstler fun dem nyu-yorker idishn kunst-teater?, "Di tsayt," London, 3 April 1924.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni -- "Teater," N.Y., 1927, pp. 166-72.

  • Y.M. (Jacob Mestel) -- Izidor keshir, "Teater un kunst," April 1927.

  • M. Osherowitch -- "Dovid kesler un muni veyzenfraynd," N.Y., 1930, pp. 10, 129, 228.

  • A.H. Bialin -- "Moris shvartz un der idisher kunst-teater." N.Y., 1934, pp. 66, 69.

  • Shmuel Roszhanski -- Izidor keshirs debut in "Bruder gegen bruder," "Idishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 1 July 1940.

  • Dr. L. Zhitinitsky -- Der debut fun izidor kesir, "Di prese, Buenos Aires, 1 July 1940.

  • Wolf Bressler -- "Bruder kegn bruder," "Morgntsaytung," Buenos Aires, 1 July 1940.

  • Sholem Perlmutter -- Der populerer idisher shoyshpiler izidor keshir, "Di prese," Buenos Aires, 5 July 1940.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- An iberike rekomendatsye, "Di idishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 7 July 1940.

  • Chaim Ehrenreich -- Izidor keshir, "Der shpigl," Buenos Aires, 12 July 1940.

  • Moshe Kaufman -- Maxim gorky's meysterverk in idishn teater, "Morgntsaytung," Buenos Aires, 15 July 1940.

  • Dr. L. Zhitnitsky -- "Eltern un kinder," "Di prese," Buenos Aires, 16 July 1940.

  • Sh. Roszhanski -- Teater-bletlakh, "Idishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 29 August 1940.

  • N. Buchwald -- "Teater," N.Y., 1943, pp. 265, 382, 405.

  • Joesph Rumshinsky -- "Klangen fun mayn lebn," N.Y., 1944, pp. 726-32.

  • Morris Myer -- "Idish teater in london," London, pp. 304-5.

  • Gershon Einbinder (Khaver Paver) -- Izidor keshir dertsaylt vi azoy adler hot im gemakht far an actor, "Morgn-frayhayt," N.Y., 27 September 1945.

  • Abraham Teitelbaum -- Sholem aleichem oyf der bine, "Yidishe kultur," N.Y., May 1946.

  • Jacob Mestel -- Mendele mokher seforim oyf der bine, dort, December 1946.

  • [--] -- Izidor keshir, barimter shoyshpiler, geshtorbn, "Forward," New York, 16 April 1948.

  • Jacob Botoshansky -- Tsvishn yo un gayn, "Di prese," Buenos Aires, 18 April 1948.

  • Maurice Schwartz -- Izidor keshir, "Forward," N.Y., 20 April 1948.

  • Joseph Rumshinsky -- Erinerungen un charakter-shtrichn fun dem goysn aktor izidor keshir, "Forward," N.Y., 23 April 1948.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig -- Der toyt fun izidor keshir a riziker klap far der idisher bine, "Di idishe tsaytung," Buenos Aires, 5 May 1948.

  • Boaz Young -- "Mayn lebn in teater," N.Y., 1950, p. 65.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 2156.

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