Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Sarah Kaner


K. was born on 29 May 1882 in Braila, Romania, into an Orthodox, well-to-do family. As a great lover of Yiddish theatre she had a sister and older brother who would often visit the guest-starring troupe of Aneta Finkel, and there she often used to take and bring home as a guest the actor Leib Kaner. Due to a conflict that had broken down the troupe, and a part of her, with Kaner, organized themselves under the management of Meyer Schwartz and led them across the province. Having a lack of force, especially in women, K. succeeded in moving her parents, that they should give her permission to travel with the troupe for a year's time.

K. debuted as "Shvesterl" in Shomer's "Baal teshuva." After acting during this time she returned home, and Kaner came with her too, but learning that fantshe Rosenblum's troupe was playing, ganevenen zay zikh beyde aroys and shlisn zikh on in the troupe, and before her parents came back, she returned home and married Kaner. Avraham Goldfaden took them into his troupe, and with them went away to Galatz, but business was so very bad that they grew hungry, and furthermore a daughter was born to them and Kaner then went away to Braila to sing in a coffee house. Goldfaden had given her expenses so then she might leave him for "such degradation," but coming there Kaner had completely shown her that for them it was a better solution is that she also remained. Later they went over to Galicia, where they had in Kolomea joined Tanentsap's troupe, which they had


abandoned, but also soon because of the harsh material conditions, and they traveled to Romania, where they put together a small troupe across coffee houses and summer gardens. They were very popular, and their earnings were very good. From here they were aroysgefodert to Lemberg, where they also played one-act comedies and traveled from there to play vaudeville in Vienna, where it was forbidden to play legitimate Yiddish theatre.  However, not paying heed to the governmental representative there they, for four years under the mask of "fasen" played Yiddish theatre, then vaudeville in Budapest.

In September 1906 they were engaged for New York to Levy in his "People's Music Hall," then they played with Mike Thomashefsky in the Arch Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Newark's "Metropolitan Theatre." In 1914 they went to guest-star in Europe, and arrived in Bucharest, Romania, putting together a troupe and did very good business.

Jacob Botoshansky characterized her acting in Romania as such:

"The wife was, Sarah Kaner, was much superior to him, and she was tunklhoytik to grinkeyt, and she often looked like a student in a skirt. She had often enough played students. She displayed many temperaments, but she coarsely and wildly hit on the sexual. Jews had farkhliniet for her, and they nevertheless feared that she would transfer her daughter. ... There wasn't any lack of Zionist ignorantn, who were content with the little propaganda that the Kaner woman, they had presented between one lewd song and another. For certain Zionistic doktoyrimlekh was well such a punishment as, "I want to return to this lendele with a blue-white bendele,' or, 'I want to return to the makhele, I want this Hebrew shprakhele' ...One must concede that due to the beautiful choristers that the theatre had had, here there was a mark of love." There was no lack of choristers, who were simple street girls, and they had forced such looks that Mrs. Kaner, who had earned a lot of money, said that they could not nakhhaltn, and she said that they had been forbidden to go too much oysgeputst on the stage."

The troupe also went to perform to Constantinople, and preparing themselves to return home to America, the First World War broke out, and because her husband was not an American citizen, they were forced to remain in Romania.

K.'s fight, however, wholly soon changed when her husband passed away in 1919, as Botoshansky wrote:

"Then began the end of the Kaner dynasty. [Her brother Leon] Berger returned back into the troupe and a scandal erupted. Leopold Kaner had his wife gelozt up front and kept him in the shadows. Berger wanted to know from nothing, and his sister-in-law 'went with the whole blanket [koldre],' and she wanted cover. It once came to an open scandal, and both parties before the curtain told the audience what it had come to. Mrs. Berger had zikh ongenumen for her husband, and the two sisters, who were much alike, one to the other, stood and cried:
-- She doesn't let me play!
-- She doesn't let me play!

After her husband's passing she finally was successful in aroystsugereysn for Romania, played with Avraham Axelrod in Czernowitz, and with Emil Gimpel in Lemberg had traveled around across France, Belgium and Canada, where she played from time to time, until 1926 when she again came to America, where for several seasons she played in Newark with Elving, in 1929-30 in Toronto, then in other theatres, going over to character and mother roles.

On 8 June 1931 K. was taken in as a member of the Yiddish Actors' Union.

on 14 February 1959 K. passed away in New York and was taken to her eternal rest on the grounds of the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance.

K.'s daughter Tina and her sister and her husband Leon Berger, and their daughter Rachelle Berger, have played Yiddish theatre.


Sh. E. from Sarah Kaner.

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

  • Jacob Botoshansky-- "Di lebensgeshikhte fun a yidishn zhurnalist," Buenos Aires, third part, 1942, pp. 138-140.







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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 24 page 2959.

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