Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leopold (Leib) Kaner


Born on 16 December 1875 in Bucharest, Romania, into a genteel family. He learned in a school and used to covertly flee from there in order to act in children's roles in the troupe of Goldfaden and Segalesko, until his brothers thereof caught him, sometimes in the middle of acting, taking him off the stage, and in order to keep him from returning to "foolishness", they sent him away to relatives in Vienna, where he would settle into his studies. However, instead of studying, he would "hang around" the "Karl Theatre" and acted there, which he would only do until he became homesick for his mother and he went back to Bucharest.

He didn't stay here for long. He went to Berlad where he entered into Aaron Rosenblum's troupe, seeing his stubbornness to become an actor, rejecting his family and returning to Bucharest and often performed in the troupe of Goldfaden-Segalesko. Aneta Finkel took him, however, into her troupe, and after immigrating to Romania, he came to act in Braila, where he met Sarah Friling, with whom he married, and she prepared to become an actress.

According to the actress Chaike Lunik, K. did not make(?) her for an actress, but she gor him. As her mother had told her, K. worked with her father, a clockmaker, and Sarah Frilling came to Bucharest with her brother-in-law Leon Berger and his wife (her sister) to act in vaudeville, and K. had liked her, and with her ran away from there and became an actor.


When Aneta Finkel's troupe disbanded, K. made a connection with Meyer Schwartz, and not having enough actors, especially actresses, took K. up onto the stage with Sarah. The troupe disbanded soon and both went over again to Rosenblum's troupe in the town Pantshe. Returning with the troupe to Galatz, they became bergenumen for Goldfaden, but as there was not any rent to pay, and by them there was born a child, K. went out of the troupe, away to Braila, where he entered into a coffee house as a singer of songs. Also his wife later stood by him as a song singer, and then they both went to Kolomea, Galicia, into Tanentsap's troupe. Again they were, due to difficult material conditions, forced to leave the troupe and leave to return to Romania, where they themselves put together a small troupe that wandered across coffee houses, summer gardens, where they entertained the audience with songs, couplets and small scenes. They became popular, and they were invited to Lemberg, Galicia, where they performed with success and became engaged to act in vaudeville in Vienna, where they remained for four years. Then they performed in Budapest, Hungary.

In September 1906 K. was brought by Yosl Groper to America, where he and his wife performed with Levy in the "People's Music Hall", and after acting for several years in Yiddish vaudeville, they became engaged to Mike Thomashefsky in Philadelphia, where they acted for two seasons, then in Newark's "Metropolitan Theatre".

In 1914 K., together with his wife and daughter Tina, who also became a Yiddish actress, went to Europe and guest-starred in London's "Pavilion Theatre", in Warsaw with Kompaneyets, in Lodz with Lipovski, Bialystok, et al., then played in Bucharest with Mordechai and Chaim Meir Segalesko, and Sholom Simovitsh with whom also traveled to Constantinople, Turkey.

About K.'s performing in Romania, Jacob Botoshansky writes:

"In that time the troupe of Kaner-Seglesko aropgefaln to Falticeni, which had staged several productions. A troupe with a pretty, little actor is there. Kaner alone was .... rist and courtesy. He performed as an elegant comic and he bore the tails with less grace, and he had plainly brought forth the words politely.... It wasn't long before Leopold Kaner returned from the United States, and he had both money and a name. He was a very fine character-comic. He had a im with grace. He even possessed elegance. Also he had never not seen a Yiddish actor who wore a frock so well as Kaner had demonstrated. He was somehow higher than Mitlvuksik, Brown. He had round, olive eyes and also alone was hibshlekh keylekhdik. He had then considered easily, and he was very boygzam. I have seen him play the rich uncle in "Borg mir dayn vayb", and I had until then not seen such an elegant, older man on the Yiddish stage. He also acted fine in tragi-comedies. I had at times seen him in a play "Far riamantn", acting in a tragi-comical role, and he had the audience shed not a few tears as they laughed. In kaftan roles, he was worse than in tails".

Botoshansky also remarks about a second time when he happened upon K.'s performance in Bucharest. The troupe was under the direction of Kaner-Goldenburg. It was during the First World War, and in Romania there were many desertions by those who hadn't any desire to serve in the Russian army under the despised Czarist rule:

"The Yiddish theatre then was quite full of Russian Jews and Jewish actors who had served, and they had said, pieces of gold. ... The troupe had performed operettas and melodramas. In the operettas the Kaners were given tickets/cards [acting in the main roles], in the melodramas Goldenburg had acted in the main roles, but the Kaners had acted and shared with him the success".

As a non-American citizen, K. could not return to America when Romania joined in the War, and he became taken into the military, and there he became sick from fleck-typhus, and in 1919 passed away in Bucharest.

Sh. E. from Sarah Kaner, M. E. from Chaika Laznik.

  • Yankev (Jacob) Botoshansky -- Tsvishn forhang in leyvnt, "Di prese", Buenos Aires, 30 August 1935.

  • Jacob Botoshansky -- L. kaner un leon berger, "Theatre", Buenos Aires, October-November 1941.

  • Jacob Botoshansky -- "Di lebnsgeshikhte fun a yidishn zhurnalist", Buenos Aires, third part, 1942, pp. 53, 136-37.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2957.

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