Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Israel Welichansky


Born in Brest-Litovsk, Russia-Lita, into a Chasidic family. Father -- a scholar. Mother -- maintained a candy store and a bakery. Learned with a drdki melamed, and later Gemora in Best-Litovsk, then in a Slobodka yeshiva and with R' Yitzhak Elkhanan, later again returning to Brest-Litovsk. Hebrew, Russian and Yiddish  -- in a private school, and entered into the Poalei Zion courses. Also learned Polish and general history, history of the labor movement, studied in the professional school of "Ort" and finished as a carpenter/cabinet maker. In 1921 he went to Vienna, where he attended lectures about the dramatic arts, as well as in France. In 1922 he went, as a pioneer (Chalutz) to Eretz Yisrael, where he worked as a carpenter with building shoseen, and was interested at the same time with studying the dramatic arts.

In 1923 he came to a brother in America, and here in the beginning he was a costume (suit/dress) peddler, worked as a painter with a Spanish school, carpenter, window washer, and with theatre properties in "Artef," where he debuted in Sholem Aleichem's yahrzeit as "Di ershte yidene" in Bergelson's "In a sovietish-yidishn gerikht," "A shiksl" and "A hintl" in Sholem Aleichem's "Lag B'Omer" dance, in 1930 W. acted in the role of "Miss Foyrgitshur" in Shmuel Gadiner's "Jim Kuperkop," "Shprintse alekseyevna" in Vyevyarka's "Briliantn," "Sere" in Cherne's "In roysh fun mashinen," and even participated in other offerings.


In May 1931 he went to Soviet Russia and there joined in the Kiev Jewish State Theatre under the direction of Vershilov, where he acted in an entire range of woman's roles in the plays: "Der 5-ter horizant," "Di poeme fun der hak," "Di dreyendike fligl," "Naftali Botwin," "4 tog" and "Di gas fun freyd."

1933 -- returned to America and further participated in the further work of "Artef," also traveling with a tour across America, and in 1934 and 1936 again acted in a serires of women's roles in various plays and as "Der shneydersher gabbai" in Reznik's "Recruits," in the role of "Rabinovitsh" in Khaver-Paver's "Clinton Street," and as "Yosef Shmuel" in Lev's "Di shniters."

For the 1938-39 season he entered into the Yiddish division of the Federal theatre in Massachusetts as regisseur and first role player, and there directed "Dos groyse gevins (The Big Winner)" by Sholem Aleichem, acting in the role of "Shimele soroker" and, in English, Shakespeare's "Macbeth."

In the Second World War, W. served three years in the American army, and there he had, in the hospital for the soldiers and for the "sisters" of the "Red Cross," he acted in English. Returning from the army, W. was taken in as a member of the Yiddish Actors Union.

 W. for two seasons was the dramatic director of the "Arbayter Ring (Workmen's Circle) Camp," and four seasons in "Camp Boyberik," made sixteen tours with the Arbayter Ring and "Jewish Center Lectures Bureau" across America and Canada, where he directed through small-arts programs, and specialized especially in declamations, recitations, monologues, with and without makeup, especially in Gordin's "Clinton Street," Peretz's "Der gilgl fun a nigun," Mendele's "Fishke der krumer," Sholem Aleichem's "Milkhiks," Mercur's "Radiotn," and his adaptation (according to the Tunkler) "Der litvishe melamed."

In 1951 W., together with Wolf Mercur, directed a tour across Colombia, Cuba and Mexico. In 1955 he again performed (with Fraydele Lipshitz) with a small-arts evening in Mexico and other Latin American countries, and in 1961 he, by himself, again performed with a small-arts evening in Mexico.

In 1962 W. directed through such evenings, together with Celia Adler.

W. was also regisseur and directed in the span of ten years the "third seder" of the "Arbayter Ring" in New York, and also directed for large spectacles for the National Fund.

M. E.

  • "Tsen yor artef," New York, 1937, pp. 51-52.

  • A. Y. Dubelman -- Mayn kolum, "Havaner lebn," Havana, 11 August 1951.

  • M. Rubinstein -- A yishr-khkh -- di artistn, "Di shtime," Mexico, 25 August 1951.

  • Dr. Yeshayahu Ustri-dn -- Inmitnvokh, "Der veg," Mexico, 12 October 1955.

  • Inzh. A. Finkelstein -- An ovnt fun kinstlerishn genus, "Der veg," Mexico, 11 October 1955.

  • Sh. Sulkes -- In gang fun vokh, "Di shtime," Mexico, 15 October 1955.

  • M. R. -- Ekht teater-shpil, "Di shtime," Mexico, 29 October 1955.

  • Yitzhak Berliner -- Durkh di shoybn, "Der veg," Mexico, 5 November 1955.

  • Shmuel Sigal -- Mit dem kinstler y. velitshansky iber shabes in a zumerikemp, "Forward," Chicago, 1 August 1957.

  • N. S. -- Jewish Theatre Popular as Ever, "The Jewish Post," March 3, 1960.

  • A. B. -- S'iz take geven vos tsu hern!, "Dos idishe vort," Winnipeg, 4 March 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 3177.

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