Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Jacob Kalich


Born on 18 November 1891 in Rimanov, Galicia. He was raised in the house of a rabbi from Rimanov, later studying in the yeshivas of Mihalovits-Kassoy in Hungary, and with a Buhusi rabbi. There he secretly "familiarized himself with the world," withdrawing from Chasidism, beginning to become interested with Zionism, familiarizing himself with Yiddish literature, publishing brochures "to the younger generations" for local groups, which were later partially published in the "New Lemberg Daily" newspaper under the direction of Gershom Bader.

He fled from Buhusi to Bucharest, where in 1912 he joined the troupe of M. Segalesco. Here he wrote a four-act drama, "Der tam (The Naive?)," which was performed in the "Jignitza" with Albert Segalesc0 and Janet Paskewitch in the main roles. The play was also translated into Romanian. There there was also played his plays, "Der katsef (The Butcher?),"Der shemesh (The Shemesh?)" and "Gots mshpt (God's Judgment)."

K. also wrote one-acters for amateur groups and is active with theatres in Botosani and Czernowitz. Later he was a manager for theatre director Joseph Kessler.

In 1914 he came over to America (with the assistance of Ber Borochov. He took over the management with a troupe in Winnipeg (Canada), then toured with Joseph Kessler's troupe

across America, and [then] joined Krim's troupe in Detroit.

In the 1918-19 season he managed, together with Dina Feinman, the "Grand Opera House" in Boston, where he engaged Molly Picon, with whom he married in 1919, and in November 1920 they went together on a tour across Europe. Taking advantage of Molly's success in the role of the "youngster" in the play, "The Polish Jew," K. wrote a play for her in which he transformed the "nebn" figure from the youngster into a main figure, and performed the play (in November 1920) with "tsunifgeshlepter" music in the Paris theatre, "De l'Ancre" (Director N. Blumenthal), under the name, "Yankele Goes to School" (the later-famous operetta, "Yankele") with Molly Picon in the title role, with K. playing the lover role. In March 1921 they guest-starred in Vienna's "Yidishe bine (Jewish Stage)," in May 1921 in Lodz's "Rozmaytoshtshi" Theatre. Here K. also put on "My Sweet Girl." In July 1921 they turned back to Vienna, where they played, "Stepchild of the World." In August they performed in a concert for the benefit of the poor children of Vienna. In the same month they put on a concert in Karlsbad, then went on a concert tour across the Czech Republic and Moravia, and then returned to Vienna, where K. put on "Suzie bren."

In January 1921  they continued with a concert tour across Czechoslovakia, then in Lodz, where K. put on "Tsipke fayer"; "Yankele" in Warsaw, and across the larger cities of Poland with a concert program, later in Romania, where K. put on "Hopsasa" and 'A Sensible Girl," continuing with concerts in Paris and London, and in November 1923 they returned to America.

Here K. took part in a concert in Boston, and on 24 December 1923 he put on, in his new adaptation, "Yankele," music by Joseph Rumshinsky in New York's Second Avenue Theatre. During the same season he put on his new adaptation of "Tsipke," per Louie Freiman and S.H. Cohen.

In the 1924-25 season K. put on his musical plays "Shmendrick's Wedding" per Goldfaden (music by Rumshinsky and Goldfaden), his montage of Goldfaden's and Shomer's play, under the name "The First and Second Haman," and his adaptation of Joseph Lateiner's "The Gypsy Girl."

There, during the 1925-26 season, K. put on his adaptation of Anshel Schorr's "Molly Dolly," N. Rakowe's "Katinka," and on 13 April 1926 Gershom Bader's "The Rabbi's Melody."

In the 1926-27 season K. put on Nager's "The Little Devil," Meyer Schwartz's "Mamele," M. Osherowitz's "The Little Czar." In the season K. became partners with the director of the theatre (together with Molly Picon, Rumshinsky, Psternak, Seiger and Parnes.)

In the 1927-28 season K. put on Chone Gottesfeld's "Raizele," Kalmanowitz's "Some Girl" and Joseph Lateiner's "Good Luck."

In the 1928-29 season there K. staged "The Circus Girl" by the Shomer Sisters, Sheine Rukhl Simkoff's "Hello, Molly," and his own musical revue, "Second Avenue Follies."

In the 1929-30 season there K. staged Freiman's "The Radio Girl," William Siegel's "The Jolly Orphan," and Joseph Lateiner's and William Siegel's "The Little Clown."

In all these years, being associated with the Second Avenue Theatre, K. had, only in the beginning, acted together, later giving himself only to the adaptation of plays, which he had staged with Molly in the main roles, and after staging the play in New York, with them traveling around, across the province, of the United States and Canada.

In the summer of 1931 K., with Molly, went on a concert tour across the United States, then across Karlsbad, Romania, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

In January 1932 K. traveled with Molly to Argentina, where he had, there and in Uruguay, staged with Molly, and with a local troupe her repertoire. In the winter of 1932 both went on a concert tour across the United States. In the beginning of 1933 they visited the Land of Israel, Soviet Russia and several large cities in Poland.

In the 1934-35 season K. staged in the Second Avenue Theatre, with Molly, "Here Runs the Bride," a musical comedy by Ossip Dymow, "One in a Million" by Anshel Schorr and William Siegel (in K.'s adaptation), on 28 November 1934 "Motel Peissi, the Cantor's Kid" by Sholem Aleichem, and then "What Girls Do" by William Siegel. After performing in concerts and on radio programs, both in 1937 visited South Africa. After returning, K. staged in the Public Theatre (manager William Rolland) "My Malkele" by William Siegel.

On 21 April 1942 K. put on in Philadelphia, then in New York, his operetta, "What a Life!" (a biographical operetta of Molly's life.) In 1943-45 K., together with Molly, traveled around in concerts to the American military camps, camps, hospitals and convalescent homes, and performed in concerts. In 1946 the same was done in the concentration camps for the Sheerit Hapleitah and in the orphanages in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany, where they gave free concerts for six months. In 1948 they again visited Africa and performed with concerts in Johannesburg, Capetown, Durban. In 1951 he performed for the American soldiers in Japan, receiving awards from the American government and the title of Captain in the army.

In 1955 he visited the Land of Israel as a guest of the "Israel Bonds" to sell bonds in the sum of 25 million dollars in the United States and Canada from 1952 to 1955. In 1958 he put on and played the main male role in his and Kalmanowitz's operetta, "The Lost Honeymoon."

In 1936 and 1937 the artistic providence had filmed "Yidl mit'n fidel" and "Mamele" by Meyer Schwartz, [two Yiddish-language films] in Poland.

For one year K. put on the air a Yiddish radio program in New York under the name, "Der briv-kastn (The Mail Box?)."

K. also put on two spectacles in "Madison Square Garden," "Queen Esther (an Akhashveyresh play in the "Mecca Temple)," with Yiddish writers as actors (see the "Lexicon," pp. 1733-34), and a cantorial festival with three hundred cantors in the "Mecca Temple."

In 1959 K. played in English the main role from the dramatized book "The Education of Hyman Kaplan" on television, and "The Littlest Little Leaguer," as well as other television programs.

K. is working now on a biography of his wife, Molly Picon.

K. was many times an Executive Member of the Yiddish [Hebrew] Actors' Union, and also its president.

K. is the treasurer of the committee of the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre."

K. also composed a series of Chasidic skits, novels, scenes, travel writings, articles, songs in "Di varhayt," "Di tsayt," "Der yidisher kemfer," "Der tog," "Yidishes tagenblat," and in the provincial press. In "Kunst friend" (under the direction of Kalman Marmor) he began to publish a series of "Legends of Jewish People's Zhenien," and in "Teater shtern" about Yiddish theatre personalities.

K. also wrote a children's fantasy play, which was translated into Hebrew, Polish, Romanian, German, Czech and Hungarian.

Sh. E.

  • Z. Reisen-- "Lexicon of Yiddish Literature," Vol. III, pp. 440-42.

  • Ab. Cahan-- "Di naye lustige operetke in kesler's sekond evenyu theater, "Forward," N.Y., 9 January 1924.

  • Ab. Cahan-- Moly pikon als "shmendrik," "Forward," N.Y., 13 November 1924.

  • R. Kristol-- Der goldener fodem fun yidishn teater, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y., 21 November 1924.

  • Ab. Cahan-- "Di tsigayner meydel," an opeeta in sekond evenyu theater, "Forward," N.Y., 13 March 1925.

  • "Der yidisher velt-almanakh," New York, 1926.

  • Moshe Nadir-- fun nekhtn biz morgn, "Frayhayt," N.Y., 26 April 1926.

  • M. Osherowitz-- "Dovid kesler un muni weisenfreund," New York, 1930, pp. 185-186.

  • H. Ehrenreich-- Farvos rumshinsky hot zikh opgeteylt fun moly pikon in yakov kalich, "Forwards," 12 May 1931.

  • Joseph Rumshinsky-- Mayne akht yor mit moly pikon un yakov kalich, "Forward," NY., 23 May 1931.

  • B.I. Goldstein-- Yosef rumshinsky in shoyn a fuftsik yoriker, "Fraye arbeter shtime," N.Y., 26 June 1931.

  • G. Frank-- Moly pikon in nayem "yankele," "Parizer haynt," 4 January 1932.

  • Jacob Botashansky-- Moly pikon als "tsipke fayer" in "ekselsior," "Prese," Buenos Aires, 10 July 1932.

  • Zalmen Zylbercweig-- "Album of the Yiddish Theatre," New York, 1937, pp. 44, 56, 61, 70, 72, 112.

  • Hillel Rogoff-- "Azoy iz dos lebn," "Forward," N.Y., 17 October 1942.

  • Kh. Gutman-- "Azoy iz dos lebn" in Moly pikon teater, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 16 October 1942.

  • A. Meyzels-- Moly pikon un yakob kalich, "Ilustrirter teater shpigl," London, July 1946.

  • Kh.K.-- Moly pikon un yakob kalich brengen a lebedigen grus fun zid-africa, "Forward," N.Y., 12 September 1947.

  • Wolf Mercur-- "Merkoyozn," New York, 1948, pp. 116-18.

  • N. Buchwald-- "Moly pikon in "abi gezunt," "Morgn frayhayt," N.Y., 14 October 1949.

  • Shlomo Melnik-- "Moly pikon, y. kalich-- un sholem aleichems, "Morgn frayhayt," N.Y., 4 February 1959.

  • Chaim Ehrenreich-- Yakob kalich shpant ariber zayn zibetsigsten geburstog, "Forward," N.Y., 2 February 1962.

  • Bibliography of Molly Picon's Biography, "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre," Vol. III, pp. 1814-1824.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3636.

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