Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yakov Kurlender
(Polish: Jakob)


Born on 20 December 1904 in Warsaw, Poland. His parents were artisans. He completed a middle school, and for eight years worked in a book business of A. Gitlin.

In 1923 he enrolled in the Yiddish Dramatic School, which was under the auspices of Dr. M[ichael] Weichert, which he completed in 1925 with an award. Then he participated in the David Herman Studio, and also with its tour across the province, but he had to interrupt his work together with them, due to his entering into Polish military service.

He returned in 1927, going back to work in Gitlin's book business, and in the same year he was engaged as a professional actor in the Krakow Yiddish theatre, which was under the auspices of Avraham Morevski.

From 1928 he played for several years in the "Vilna Troupe." From 1931-31 he participated in the dramatic theatre, which the Warsaw Yiddish Artist's Union organized under the auspices of Dr. M. Weichert, and played in Gottesfeld's comedy, "Parnose [Income]." In 1935 he went to Paris, France, and became one of the organizers and artistic directors of the Paris Yiddish Arbeter's Theatre, "PIAT." Returning to Poland, in the Spring of 1936, he joined the troupe called "Group 36," where he played under the direction of Dr. Weichert in the play, "The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers" (in the role of "Alter"), and was associated with the theatre ensemble, under the auspices of Ida Kaminska, with 

whom he played until the outbreak of the Second World War. After the Nazis occupation of Warsaw, he fled to the Soviet Union, and until June 1941 he worked together with and created the Lviv (Lemberg) Jewish State Theatre. After the outbreak of fighting between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, he was evacuated, together with still other Yiddish actors, to Middle Asia, where they played Yiddish theatre (most of the time Gordin's plays, where also "Mayn zun" of Gorelik's, and "Froy advokat" by Vergeil, which Ida Kaminska wrote down from memory) in Runza (Kirgizia), then across Alma-Ata, Ash, Leninobad, Andijan, Bamangan. When Ida Kaminska and Meier Melman traveled to Moscow, the troupe in December 1945 was directed by Yitzkhok Grudberg-Turkow, Sheftl Zak and K.

In 1946 he returned to Poland, where he participated in the returned-to-life of the Professional Artist's Union of the Yiddish actors who had remained alive, and from 1946 until 1948 he, the artistic director of lowest Yiddish theatre, where he directed several plays, including the actual American drama, "Tife vurtslen." At the end of 1948 he traveled to Paris, where he performed for a certain time in Gordin repertoire ("Nuchumize Khana Devorah" in "Mirele Efros," "Motye Shtreykhl" in "Chasia the Orphan," "Raphael Friedlander" in "Kreutzer Sonata," and "Zisl Kreynes" in "Di shkhithe.") In 1949 he went to Brazil, where he directed until 1954 with non-professional theatre collectives in Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, and also performed at the same time with recitations from the creations of the Yiddish and world literature.

In 1954, together with his wife, the actress Ester Perlman, were engaged by the directors Yitzkhok Lubeltshik and Willy Goldstein in a theatre ensemble, under the artistic direction and participation of guest-star Maurice Schwartz, on a tour to South Africa, returning to Brazil and for several years working as a stage director with a theatre collective at the Sao Paolo Folks House, where also from time to time there were performed plays with other "amateurs" across the country.

In 1957 K., together with his wife, was engaged for the "Yiddish Art Theatre," where Maurice Schwartz created in Buenos Aries, and here they participated in the offering of "Yosele the Nightingale," "Wandering Stars," and "Sender Blank" by Sholem Aleichem, "Esterke" and "The Wise Men of Chelm" by Aaron Zeitlin, "Uncle Moses," by Sholem Asch, et al, returning to Brazil, together with Maurice Schwartz, where they participated in his offerings of "The Three Gifts" (according to Y.L. Peretz), "Dybbuk" by Ansky, "In a Faraway Corner," by Hirshbein, and "Tevye the Dairyman" by Sholem Aleichem. K. then began again his stage-directing work with the drama circles and directed Markish's play, "Uprising in the Ghetto," and Sholem Aleichem's "Hard to be a Jew" for his fortieth year time, as well as "Hershele Ostropoler" by Gershenson. In 1960 K. traveled with his wife to the Land of Israel, where they played for around a year in Yiddish, including six months together with Joseph Buloff in "Tevye and his Daughters" (according to Sholem Aleichem), and "The Singer of his Sorrows," by Osip Dymow, then K. directed (with Ester Perlman in the title role) "Madame X," by A. Bisson, and "Mirele Efros" by Jacob Gordin (playing the role of "Nuchumize") In 1961 he traveled to Western Europe, where he performed with his wife for a "theatre evening" in Paris, and also directed there with an amateur circle the comedy, "Hershele Ostropoler" by Gershenson.


  • Michael Weichert -- "Memoirs," Second Volume, Tel Aviv, 1961, pp. 79, 83, 85, 127, 134, 154, 170, 223, 226, 304, 306.

  • Zygmunt Turkow -- "Di ibergerisene tkufh," Buenos Aires, 1961, p. 313.

  • Sheftl Zak -- Yidishe aktorn -- plitim in der vayter kirgizye, "Folk un velt," N.Y., N' 117, 1962, "Daily Morning Journal," N.Y., 16, 23 Aug. 1962.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3204.

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