Lives in the Yiddish Theatre
SHORT BIOGRAPHIES OF THOSE INVOLVED IN THE Yiddish THEATRE
aS DESCRIBED IN zALMEN zYLBERCWEIG'S "lEKSIKON FUN YIDISHN TEATER"

1931-1969
 

Jakob Fischer


 

Born in 1899 in Warsaw, Poland, into a Orthodox family. His father was an employee in a business. Also he was a gabbai (sexton) for the Voliner rabbi. His mother (called "Sheindele di tsdkhit (Sheindele the Righteous") was descended from a rabbi's lineage, a daughter of R' Yosele Lelever, son of the righteous R' Dovid'l.

He learned in a cheder, and at the age of ten he began to sing with Cantor Gershon Sirota. Two years later he joined (together with Chana Levin, Chaim Sandler and Yitskhok Lipinsky) the children's troupe of Herman Feinstein, where he played the main roles. Due to the opposition of his parents, he left home and in his youth began to wander around with Yiddish theatre troupes across the province.

Through the thorny path of the Yiddish theatre at that time, F. finally reached a prominent position as an actor, became  a member in the Professional Yiddish Actors Union in Warsaw, and played as a character actor in the popular Yiddish theatres in Poland, Russian and Germany.

In 1931, together with Moshe Lipman, traveled around as the head of a dramatic ensemble across Romania and Hungary, having in repertoire the plays, "Hirsch Leckert" by H. Leivick, "The Seven Who Were Hanged," "The Family," "Kidush Hashem," "Tevye the Dairyman," "Moshke the Swine," et al.

In the time of the Second World War (1939-41) f. played as as prominent actor in Lemberg's Jewish State Theatre, then he was evacuated to Soviet Russia, where he played in Yiddish theatre (together with Sidi Thal), where he also wrote and directed his comedy, "Miss Lily," which also was performed  in Russian and Ukrainian.

About this the performer Jacob Mansdorf wrote:

"Ten years ago I met with him somewhere in far-off Middle Asia. Jakob Fischer then was touring across the Jewish communities and carrying his burning artistic message in that dark, gray life, many Jewish actors remember him even now for his sparse but heartfelt and friendly help.."

In 1946 F. turned back to Poland and participated with an ensemble of the first Yiddish theatre in Warsaw. from there he traveled to Germany, where he participated as "Jakob Jelin" in the Yiddish film, "Lang ist der Weg (Long is the Road)," with Israel Becker and Berta Litwina, and in recitations and scenes from Yiddish writers and poets.

About his acting in the film, M. Ginzburg writes:

"A very visible stamp laid on him life in Nazi camps, where he even more deeply understood the terrible tragedy of the Jewish people, and this has also greatly contributed to his original acting talent. The all-powerful nuances come to expression in the film, 'Long is the Road,' as Fischer showed his glory, splendor and talent. He is a tragic comedian in the fullest sense of the words."

Here F. founded the Yiddish Folks Theatre, where he also was stage director and played in various cities in Germany, and in the camps for survivors of Hitler's destruction.

Norbert Horowitz writes:

"Jakob Fischer, one of the well-known actors in pre-war Poland, directed in the Feldafing camp, with two theatre undertakings. One undertaking was called the 'Jidischer Folks Teater,' which was under his stage direction and administrative leadership. In the Folks Teater there acted together known performers and several able amateurs. The repertoire of the Folks Teater consisted of sketches, duets and scenes of a very opposite character; Y.L. Peretz, Sholem Aleichem, Gebirtig on one side; and on the other side doubtful materials from doubtful authors. The programs, however, were capably built, had carried the name, 'Yidelekh aheym,' and the theatre audience was led. ... The Folks Teater was a temporary appearance in the rich theater sky of the Holocaust, and had constantly changed the actors, but not the repertoire.

Jakob Fischer also temporarily directed an American group in the Faldafing camp, in which by himself he acted. J. Fischer had other stage material besides, and with success he played a scene from Y.L. Peretz's 'The Crazy Beggar,' Itzik Manger's 'Sheinderlekh,' scenes from M. Gebirtig's "S'brent,' and specifically taken a fragment of Sholem Aleichem's "Menakhem Mendl,' and an episode of 'Rabbi Akiva.' "

In 1949 the "Jewish Committee" in Munich celebrated F.'s twenty-five year stage anniversary, in which he performed in the title role of Kalmanowitz's "Der eybiker nar (The Eternal Fool)."

The writer Mendel Manne writes in a welcome for the jubilee:

" ... Until the stamps of Kazakhstan he carried with him the Yiddish word, which was not obscured by borders, ghetto walls and the death tombs. I had the honor to meet Jakob Fischer in post-war Lodz, and saw him in his wonderful and unusual interpretation  of Menachem Mendl. However, unfortunately, the meeting with him in the ancient Jewish city of Regensburg, in the former Royal Palace of Karl the Fifth, will continue for me, where Molcho and Prince Reubeni performed the dream of liberation for the cold monarch, which is now converted into a theatre hall. ... There I saw him in the role of Menachem Mendl."

In 1951 F. arrived in America, where from time to time he acted in Yiddish theatre, including with Berta Gerstin and Pesach'ke Burstein. Then he toured across the province with word concerts from classical Yiddish literature, such as "Der meshugener betln (The Crazy Beggar)" by Y.L. Peretz, and "Menachem Mendel" by Sholem Aleichem, et al.

In February 1955 he performed under the direction of David Licht with the ensemble of the "New Theatre" (Management: Rose Shoshanah, Sheftel Zak and Jakob Fischer), in the dramatization of Sholem Aleichem's "Dos farkhishufte shnayderl (The Enchanted Tailor)" in the role of "Shimen Elye der Latutnik." In the review about the offering, Chaim Ehrenreich writes:

"He is a character actor of a very high level. His Shimen Elye comes out as a Jew who is funny nice and funny sweet, a true latutnik [the lowest rank of a tailor], with verses that pour like honey from his mouth. It appears that if you strike a blow on him, he will not be saved. Once the Yiddish stage displayed many character-comics of the Jakob Fischer genre. Now he is an individual to us. May he be with us for a long time."

For the 1955-56 season F. played in Maurice Schwartz's Yiddish Art Theatre. Shortly thereafter F. withdrew from the stage and took up trading.
 

Sh.E.

  • Kh.G-d -- Yakob fisher, "Unzer vort," Munich, 13 Sept. 1946.

  • Moshe Vaysbord -- Fisher's kontsert in dortshester, "Tog," N.Y., 23 February 1952.

  • Ruth Pisarek -- Jakob Fisher in Berlin, "Der Weg," Berlin, 26 Dec. 1949.

  • M. Ginzburg -- Der film "lang iz der veg," vos hobt zikh an veyzn haynt in his majesty's, "Canadian Eagle," Montreal, 28 April 1952.

  • Chaim Ehrenreich -- Sholem aleichem's "dos farkhishuf'te sheinderl" in dem nayem teater, "Forward," N.Y., 4 March 1955.

  • Norbert Horowitz -- Yidish teater fun der sharit haplith, "fun noentn evri," New York, 1955, pp. 126, 147-48, 168-69.


 

 

 

 


 

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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3064.
 

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