Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leon Rabinowitz [Leybl]

Born in December 1886 in Lodz, Poland, to very religious, Chasidic parents. He received a strong Yiddish education: religious elementary school and yeshiva. As a youth he sang in the chorus of the "German Synagogue," then without the knowledge his parents, went away with an itinerant troupe of "amateurs" across the province, later a professional actor under the direction of Itzhak Zandberg, then he performed as a fat comic with Genfer, until he was associated as a fat comic and amateur with the Kompaneyets troupe, which played across Russia and Poland. In 1919 he married Borisova (Betty, the daughter of Aba and Leah Kompaneyets.)

R. later went on to act in drama and also stage direct plays and create in the role of "Khanan" in "Dybbuk," "Itsik" in "The Idle Inn," and "Yudl" in "The Treasure."

In the twenties the troupe guest-starred in Krakow with the director Yakob, and about it the actor Benzion Palepade writes:

"...Rabinovitsh had staged the play "The Dybbuk" under Herman's stage direction. With the greatest amount of honor we repeated and studied the roles that could be played without a prompter, and this is in the theatre on Bukhenska, which was truly was a great revolution, and also the sets, which were specially painted, and also the special costumes. All this was great news in Moshe-Yankl's theatre, and the public noticed these innovations.


Not only assimilated Jews came to the theatre, who were normally different than the Jewish landscape, but even Christians and priests came to see the wonderful spectacle, and every Polish newspaper of Krakow had published glowing reviews, both about the play and about our acting. The 'Dybbuk' played for a long time, and as a second play Rabinovitsh staged Hirshbein's 'Idle Inn,' which although it had not achieved as much success as the 'Dybbuk,' Hirshbein's 'Idle Inn' was fully staged and drew a warm interest from the Krakow intelligentsia, and one could say that the two offerings had very strongly elevated the prestige of Yiddish theatre of which the Krakow Yiddish intelligentsia had never considered, and this was the positive praise of Kompaneyets and his artistic family."

Also together with Itzhak Nozyk, R. founded the Yiddish Artists' Union in Poland and was at times its secretary.

In 1936 R. wandered with his wife to Mexico, where he settled down in Mexico City and began to act in the local Yiddish troupe. When the troupe disbanded, and R. actually withdrew from acting in the theatre, and took u societal activity in the local "Folks League," where he founded with it a drama section, in which he stage directed for a span of a year and staged with them many one-acters and several plays of a literary character. Although for a number of years his income came from commerce, he went over in a strong way to the drama section.

So on 8 November 1942 he staged, "The World in Flames" (underground work) in twenty-five scenes. On 16 May 1943-- "In the Dark" by Peretz Hirshbein. "Death Symphony" by Itzhak Berliner, scenes from R, and "Our Family" by Godiner-Zeldin, and on 4 march 1925 "Pastrigas' Tragic Life," a Purim play in nusakh, from Itzik Manger's Megillah songs, adapted by Dr. Chaim Goldstreich in three acts and fifteen scenes with singing and dance.

R. also translated from the Russian the operetta, "The Happy Night [?]," music by Schlossberg, which he put on in Poland. Being very musical, from time to time he used to study with the choruses and orchestras of the theatres where he played, and in Paris and then in Mexico he was a chorus conductor in the local synagogues, and he used to write music for the melodramas in which he used to play.

R.'s daughter, Malka Rabel, is a writer, and his daughter, Fania, is a painter.

His brother-in-law, the actor Aaron Poliakov, writes about R.:

"Leon Rabinovitsh heard the pleiade-observant [?] actors, for whom theatre was a holy place. He followed his vocation opegehit with all his Rm"kh abrim... Leon Rabinovitsh was in theatre as a true laborer: from early on, until the productions, he was taken up with the stage. Here with the sets, here with the lighting effects, here with costumes and props and theatre properties. H was an enormous pedant. He had lived with the stage-air."

M. E. by his wife Borisova.

  • [--]-- Impozant un derfalgreykh iz geven di feyerung in "teatro del pueblo," "Der veg," Mexico, 17 November 1942.

  • Jacob Glantz-- A guter onhoyb far a yidishn teater in meksiko, dort, 21 November 1942.

  • Chaim Lazdeysky-- A drayfakhiker derfolg, dort, 12 May 1943.

  • David Zabludovsky-- A derinerung, "Di shtime," Mexico, 31 August 1960.

  • Aaron Poliakov-- Geshtorbn leon rabinovitsh, "Der teater shpil," Paris, September 1960.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 2686.

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