Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Aaron Lebedeff
(Aron Lebedev)


Aaron Lebedeff was born in Homel [Gomel], White Russia.

His parents had a clothing business.

As a boy he sang with the Homel cantor Barukh David.

Since he did not wish to study he was apprenticed to an artisan at an early age. He soon ran away from town and began to work as an extra [in the theatre]. Later he performed in minor roles in the Russian theatre in Bobruisk, Minsk, and in other cities. When the Russian troupe disbanded, Lebedeff came back to Homel, and participated with amateurs in a "Mekhires yosef" play. He opened a dance class. When the troupe of Leyzer Bernshteyn came, he managed to join it.

In this troupe he was officially in the chorus, and unofficially he was a porter, dresser, and prompter. He made his debut as the "Pipkiner rov" in Shomer's "Der ba'al teshuve." From then on he worked as a character actor, mostly in repertoire imported from America. Later he acted in operettas.

After appearing in various troupes and touring all over Russia, he was given a role in Warsaw, where he became very popular as " Der litvisher komiker." From 1912-1913 he performed in Lodz with Zandberg, afterwards again in Warsaw, and during the First World War he went to Russia, where in 1916 he was drafted into the Russian army and sent to Harbin. There he was able to make his life in the army easier by often appearing in concerts for the officers.

After he was demobilized, during the October Revolution, Lebedeff joined Avraham Fishzon's troupe, but because of bad business dealings he often had to support himself by singing in Russian and later in English for the members of the American Red Cross.

Later he traveled to Japan where he (and his wife Vera) organized international concerts. In September 1920, he and his wife came to America, and on October 12, 1920 he appeared in Boris Thomashefsky's National Theatre in Wolf Shumsky's play, "Lovke molodyets". His success was so great, he became a star overnight and remained one in the American Yiddish Theatre.

On January 8, 1921, he appeared in Boymval's "Khatskele kolboynik". On February 25, 1921, he appeared in Julius Adler's "Di sheyne berta," and on April 7, 1921, in "Shlomke oyf brodvey" by Yitzhak Lash.

During the 1921-22 season Lebedeff was a star in Thomashefsky's National Theatre. He performed, (alone or together with Samuel Rosenstein) on October 28, 1921 in Isidore Lash's "Yoshke khfat" (music, H. Wohl), on December 25, 1921, in "Lebedik un freylekh" (music, H. Wohl) and on April 13 1922, in Kalmanowitz's "Arontshik un solomontshik" (music, H. Wohl).     

During the 1922-23  season Lebedeff was again the star of Thomashefsky's National Theatre, where he performed on September 23, 1922 in Boris Thomashefsky's "Toyznt un eyn nakht" (director, composer, music, H. Wohl). On November 3, 1923 he appeared in Kalmanowitz's "Tants, gezang, un vayn" (director, B. Thomashefsky, music, Joseph Cherniavski) and on January 26, [1924] in Israel Rosenberg's "Yankele litvak" (directors L. and S. Rosenstein).

During the 1923-26 seasons, Lebedeff was again in the National Theatre (directors Louis Goldberg and M. Saks) and he staged Moshe Schorr's " Di rumenishe khasene" (music, Peretz Sandler) on September 11, 1923;  Kalmanowitz's "Dem tatns zundele" (music, Peretz Sandler) on January 1924; on March 28, 1923 [sic! 1924]; G. Rakov's "Mendl in yapan" (music, Peretz Sandler); on October 3, 1924, Israel Rosenberg's "Kavkazer libe" (music, Peretz Sandler); later Israel Rosenberg's  "A khasene in palestine" (music, Peretz Sandler); on November 17; 1925, L. Freiman's "Modeln fun libe" (music, Peretz Sandler), and on March 30, 1926, Isidore Lash's "Volodke in ades" (music, Peretz Sandler).

During the 1926-1927 season Lebedeff and the National Theatre troupe moved into the Brooklyn Liberty Theatre, which opened with L. Freiman's "Syomka vert a khosn"  (music, Peretz Sandler) on September 22, 1926, and later in the Public Theatre on April 15, 1927, he staged  Aaron Nager's " Der kleyner milyoner" (music: Sholom Secunda).

During the 1927-1929 season Lebedeff was involved in the National Theatre (directors, Nathan Goldberg and Jacob Jacobs), where on September 27, 1927, he appeared as "Fayvl Visotsky" in William Siegel's "A nakht in kalifornye" ( music, A. Olshanetsky); on December 30, 1927, he and S. Goldenburg had the leads in Siegel and Lateiner's "A gan eden far tsvey" (music, A. Olshanetsky); on April 5, 1928 he appeared in Isidore Lash's "Itsikl sholtik" (music, A. Olshanetsky); on September 5, 1928, in William Siegel's "Goldene teg" (music, A. Olshanetsky); on December 21, 1928, he played the title role in Isidore Lash's " Der litvisher yenki" (music, A. Olshanetsky) ; and on March 29, 1929  Israel Rosenberg's "Hulye kabtsn" (music, A. Olshanetsky).

During the 1929-1930 season Lebedeff was involved in the Chicago Lawndale Theatre and appeared in guest roles at the end of the season in the New York National Theatre, on April 9 staging Kalmanowitz's "Motke in slobodke".

From 1930 to 1932 Lebedeff was involved in the New York National Theatre (director, M. Saks) where on September 23, 1930 he staged William Siegel's "A khasene in shtetl" (music, H. Wohl); on November 25, 1930, Isidore Lash's "Rusishe libe" (music, H. Wohl); on February 27, 1931, William Siegel's " A nakht in vald" (music, H. Wohl); on September 12, 1931, William Siegel's " Di gliklikhe nakht" (music, H. Wohl); on December 3,1931, Avraham Blum's "Der groyser nes" (music, H. Wohl); and on March 4, 1932, William Siegel's " Raykhe kabtsonim" (music, H. Wohl).

During the 1932-1933 season Lebedeff was involved with Kessler's Second Avenue Theatre (director, M. Saks) where he staged Avraham Blum's "Der groyser surprayz" (music, H. Wohl) on October 10, 1932.

At the end of that season Lebedeff and the troupe, in which he played guest roles, traveled to various cities in the United States. On various occasions Lebedeff played "Maks" in Goldfaden's "Beyde kuni lemels", and appeared in Goldfaden's "Di bobe yakhne"; played "Vorobeytshik" in Gordin"s "Der vilder mentsh" and appeared in  Chone Gottesfeld's comedy "Morgen."     

Lebedeff made many records of his songs for the Brunswick Record Company.

During his stay in America, Lebedeff visited Europe a number of times, but never appeared on the stage there.

M. E.

  • Ab. Cahan, " Another new comedy in Thomashefsky's theatre,"  Forverts, [Forward] N.Y., Oct. 14, 1920.

  • Lead Pencil [B. Botvinik] "Who is the new Yiddish comedian, Lebedeff?" Forverts, [Forward] N.Y., Oct. 15, 1920.

  • Jacob Kirschenbaum, "How Lebedeff became popular in the Yiddish theatre" Der amerikaner, [The American], N.Y., Dec.18, 1925.

  • Idisher Velt-Almanakh , [Jewish World Almanac] N.Y.,1926.

  • Dr. A. Mukdoni, Theatre, N.Y., 1927, pp. 172-178.

  • A. Glants, "Molly Picon and Aaron Lebedeff in two new beautiful operettas," Tog [Day], N.Y., Sept. 30, 1927.

  • Aaron Lebedeff, "I and the audience," Tog [Day], N.Y., Jan. 27, 1923.

  • A. Frumkin, "Aaron Lebedeff on starring in the operetta", Morning Journal, N.Y., Feb. 3, 1928.

  • A conversation with Aaron Lebedeff about his plans for the Yiddish Lawndale Theatre," Forverts, [Forward], Chicago, Oct. 11, 192?

  • B. Y. Goldshteyn, "Do you know that ...", Fraye arbeter shtime (Freye arbeiter stimme, Free Voice of Labor), N.Y., July 10, 193?






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1133.

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