Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Lillian Lux


Born in New York in 1922. Her parents came to America from Odessa when they were children. In 1929, her father, who was a Yiddishist and lover of the Yiddish theatre, placed L. when she was still a child in the Yiddish Art Theatre where she acted as “the child” in Asch’s “Kiddush Hashem”. She remained there for several seasons playing children’s roles and participating in Mendel Elkin's production of the children’s operetta “Bum und dreidel”.

L. attended the Sholem Aleichem schools and simultaneously learned (stage makeup) with Saul Raskin and (diction) with Jacob Mestel at the Art Theatre’s drama studio. She graduated from elementary and high school. As she became too old to act in children’s roles, but still too young for grownup roles, she began to perform in English-Yiddish radio programs, studied dance and music and also wrote her own translated sketches for the radio.

At the age of fourteen, L. was engaged at the Second Avenue Theatre (manager -- Michael Saks) where she performed as a chorus girl as well as in Freeman’s “Katerinchik” substituting for actress Fannie Lubritzky who had been taken ill. This success turned her into a prima donna --soubrette overnight.

In 1938 she joined Pesach'ke Burstein, touring with him in Argentina and Uruguay where the two  married. Upon their return, L. and  her husband acted for one season at New York’s Clinton and Hopkinson Theatres. Next they toured Poland, returning to American when World War II broke out. 


In 1940 they again toured Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, returning to America in 1941. Here they appeared in the Brighton”Theatre, and during the 1944-46 seasons became partners in the Hopkinson Theatre. In 1947 they toured Argentina once again and in 1949 they performed in London and Paris. During the 1950-51 season, they and Bertha Gerstin took over the Clinton Theatre. In 1951 they became managers of the Douglas Park Theatre in Chicago. In 1952 they went on tour once again to Argentina, including Buenos Aires, as well as Brazil, Uruguay and Chile. Next they performed in Paris, and in April 1954 appeared -- in Yiddish -- for two seasons in the state of Israel. 

After a short visit to America, they were invited to play in Johannesburg (South Africa), then returned to Brazil, performed in Argentina as well, and went on a tour of Central and South American countries. With their twins (Motele and Zissele born in 1945) they returned to America, stayed in Washington for two years where they created an English-Yiddish radio program, written by Lux. In 1958 they appeared in Yiddish theatres in London, Paris and Belgium. At the end of that year the whole family began to perform with Maurice Schwartz until they left for Israel in 1960. In Israel, L. had the opportunity to act -- in English -- as “Sara” in Sholem Aleichem’s “It's Hard to be a Jew”, and in I. J. Singer’s “Yoshe Kalb”. She performed -- in Yiddish -- in Sholem Aleichem’s “Tuvia the Dairyman”, H. Leivick's “Shmates” [Rags] and in the translated version of the comedy  “A Hole in the Head”. In the summer of 1961, the whole family performed in Argentina, toured the  South American countries as far as Venezuela, were invited to play in Israel again (Impresario - Israel Wohlin). In Israel  they played  for three seasons, then went to California in 1964 and appeared in Los Angeles. 

In 1965 L’s daughter got married and left the stage. L., her husband and their son returned to Israel where they appeared in a dramatized version of Itsik Manger's “Megilla lider”. This performance made history in the course of Yiddish theatre in Israel. The play was performed for nine months -- a record for the highest number of performances for a single Yiddish production in Israel -- elevating the prestige of Yiddish theatre to its highest level. The spectators included not only the regular Yiddish theatre audience, but opponents of Yiddish as well those who had been living in Israel for a long time and Hebrew language purists. The press, i.e. the newspapers in Hebrew, Yiddish and in other languages, highly praised the production.

Hebrew actors began to speak and perform in Yiddish. The praise of the production and its effect spread out literally throughout the whole Yiddish world. After that,  L. acted in Yiddish in Ephraim Kishon’s  “Di ketubah” (The Marriage Contract), as well as in a revival of  “Di megila”.

During the “Six Day War”, L. and her husband performed both together and separately for Israeli soldiers all over the country, singing near the Front. In 1968, L. and the whole Israeli troupe, performed “Di megila” in Argentina and later, with the same play, in New York.

L. appeared in Hebrew on “Kol Israel”, the Israel radio broadcast. Alone or with her family, she  produced a great number of records with their songs and theatre pieces.


Mendel Kohanski -- The Itsik Manger cult in Israel, ”Yiddisher kultur”,  “Jewish Culture”, N.Y., No. 8, 1968.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 5324.

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