Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leonid Sniegoff
(Yehuda-Leib Goldstein)


S. was born on 7 May 1883 in Kherson, Ukraine. 

His father was an architect and founder of the “Yavneh” synagogue, and a member of the circle of Dr. Avinovisky, Levinsky and Sheinkin.

S. had barely a few days in a cheder, and only later, when he was already in a gymnasium, did he study with a Hebrew teacher.

At the age of sixteen, still a gymnasium student, he played “Chatsky” in a school production of Ostroysky’s  [Ostrowsky] “Woe from Wit” [“Gore Ot Uma” in Russian] so successfully that the gymnasium's headmaster’s recommended that he enter Ivan Michalovich Shuvalov’s drama school where he studied for two years and then began acting at Odessa’s State  “National House”. 

Later he played lover roles for Kienski and Suborin’s theatre in Peterburg (St. Petersburg).

In 1903 he attended the Natural Sciences faculty, then the Law faculty of Novorossiysk University; however, when S. became a member of the S.D.[ Social Democrat] party during the student riots[?],he was expelled from the university. 

 He then studied at Margolin’s School of Dentistry for six months, but right after his father’s death, he joined Borisov’s Russian troupe in Izmail, as first lover. 

In 1905 he played second lover in Krylov’s troupe in Rostov where he played with actors Yurenieva, Paschalova, Michaelov and Dvinsky. Participating in the Jewish anti-pogrom self-defense, forced him to leave the troupe.

After a short acting period at Nikolayev, then in Baku, Kiev and Moscow, S. toured with Savina all over  Russia. Next S. became director in Stavropol, then acted in Rostov, Irkutsk, Vilna, Orienburg , Simbirsk, Yekaterinburg, Voronezh, Odessa, Rostov, Yekaterinograd, Yaroslavl, Moscow (two years at the Young Artists Theatre with Tychomirov as stage director), then in Kiev, Minsk and with part of the troupe in Vilna and Białystok where he received an invitation to join the Vilna Troupe in Warsaw to act as well as direct in Yiddish.

He and his wife Esther Orzhevskaya acted in Yiddish in 1919 in Strindberg’s “The Father” in Warsaw, then performed in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” ( for the first time on  the Yiddish stage) and in Surgutchov’s “ Harbst fidlen (Autumn Violins)”. Next he went on a tour of Poland and Lithuania and left for America where he acted in 1922-3 at the Yiddish Art Theatre. 

On  1 May 1922 he acted in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” as well as in a dramatization of  Andreyev’s “The Seven Who Were Hanged”. Next S. played in small troupes (Yiddish or Russian) touring America in the New York and Philadelphia area. In 1926-7 he was engaged by the Irving Place [Jewish] Art Theatre (with Ben-Ami) where he was also a member of the Stage Directors Association and produced a dramatized version of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot”.

In 1928, S. visited the Soviet Union where he acquired the right to represent a few Russian plays and productions.

In 1929, for a short while, S. acted on the English stage in America. 1930-31 he was at the Art Theatre Ensemble. where he directed (with Jacob Mestel) V. Ivanov’s “Armored Train [No. 1469]”.

M. E.

Sh. E. with Jacob Mestel

  • Hillel Rogoff- Chekhov’s masterpiece “Uncle Vanya” , for the first time on the Yiddish stage, “Forward”, N.Y. 3 May, 1922.






Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 2, page 1504.

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