Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Zalmen Yakhnes

Born on 25 December 1911 in Smilovitch, White Russia. His parents were laborers. From his youth he manifested signs of an indignant humor, which had with time evolved into a desire for the stage.

In 1923 his family moved to Minsk, where he searched for, already under the Soviet powers, a Yiddish artists school in which the poet Moshe Kulbak was one of the teachers. At the beginning of 1920 he and his family immigrated to America, where Y. studied in New York's pedagogic seminary as a teacher, and worked in this area for many years in the Yiddish secular children's school.

Y. developed at the same time his talent as one who recites humor and spontaneous, natural jokes, a genuine spirit of Hershele Ostropoler and Motke Chabad.

His talent is the way he was chiefly small-arts, in which he had strongly excelled. In the span of ten years he was director of culture and recreation in the summer camps, earlier in Canada, and then in the United States, where he was especially popular and continued to work in camp "Lakeland," by New York, and there he prepared and stage directed the various plays that were given. Especially very original and created much enjoyment with his plays, which he had written or adapted for children, among them Sholem Aleichem's "Motl peisi dem khazns." A strong impression was made with his dramatizations of M. Olgin's "The Golden Pen," which was given in New York for 1500 attendees.


Y. Fried often performed in various cultural undertakings, and his strong ability as "Humorist Bel Ph," his sharp words and reflex gaining him a lot of popularity, which was clearly seen at the banquet, which was given for him on 6 November 1966.

Despite a severe illness, (because of this it had been previously cancelled) still his thankfulness was reflected with a refreshing humor.

Y. Fried writes:

“We have lost Zalmen Yakhnes, the community messenger of laughter, the joyfulness-maker, whose single mischievous-saucy, sometimes roguish glance of his blue eyes could as if by magic drive off the clouds around you. …He drew everyone to him with magnetic charm. Waves of laughter sparkled around him. …Wherever he was involved, ‘raging’ with his characteristic temperament, he placed his own personal stamp, rooted in his own ‘I,’ his Yakhnes-personality. …It would be wrong to confuse the joy-maker with a simple ordinary person. There was also no ‘simple’ Yakhnes. He was deeply involved with and felt the events of the times, especially in Jewish life. He was shaken by moments of crisis, and in conversations with him one could not always share his heat even if one understood his mood. But whatever complaints and grievances he may have had, he suffered them in his own [socio-political] atmosphere from which he never retreated.”

Sh.E. from Y. Fried and Hershl Rosen.

  • [--] -- Z. yakhnes geshtorbn. lvih morgn elf inderfri, "Morning Journal," N.Y., 26 December 1966.

  • Y. Fried -- Zalmen yakhnes--a trer far a lakh-meister..., "Yidishe kultur," N.Y., January 1967.







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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 6, page 4988.

English translation courtesy of Hershl Hartman and Steven Lasky.

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