Avrom Morevski (left) with an unidentified actor from Habimah, Poland, 1920s. (YIVO)

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Morevski, Avrom

(1886–1964), Yiddish actor, director, translator, and essayist. Avrom Morevski (also Morewski; Menaker) was born in Vilna into a comfortable merchant family. He received both a traditional Jewish and a secular education. Drawn to theater and Russian literature, in 1905 he began performing on the Russian stage and in 1910 graduated from the Russian-language Suvorin Theater School in Saint Petersburg. He performed in Russian until 1918 when he turned to the Yiddish stage, first in Vilna and then in Łódź.

In 1919, Morevski joined the Vilner Trupe, for which he created the role of the charismatic Miropolyer Tsadik in Dovid Herman’s production of S. An-ski’s Der dibek (The Dybbuk). He worked on and off with that theater company (1920, 1922, 1927), enriching its repertoire with his own translations and acting in Yiddish versions of classic European plays, performing in Vilna, Warsaw, Łódź, Riga, Argentina, New York (1928, under the direction of Maurice Schwartz), Chicago (1929), and Paris (1930). During one season, he directed the communally funded Krokever Yidish Teater (Kraków Yiddish Theater, 1927–1928). He also formed his own companies (1931, 1934, 1935), the first of which performed in 55 towns over the course of 60 days. Between productions, Morevski toured with lectures and readings. In addition, he acted in films produced in Berlin and Warsaw, most notably in Michał Waszyński’s Der dibek (1937), in which Morevski recreated his acclaimed role in the stage version. Morevski spent World War II in the Soviet Union, returned to Poland in 1956, and became the leading actor in the State Yiddish Theater directed by Ida Kaminska.

In addition to the Miropolyer Tsadik, Morevski’s roles included the circus clown in Leonid Andre’ev’s Der vos krigt di petsh (He Who Gets Slapped; 1919); Uriel Acosta in Karl Gutzkow’s play of the same name (1922); the lonely factory worker in H. Leyvik’s Shmates (Rags; 1922); the old count in Alter Kacyzne’s Der dukus (The Count; 1925), about a Polish aristocrat who converted to Judaism; the title role in Georg Büchner’s Dantons toyt (Dantons Tod [Danton’s Death]; 1930); and Prospero in Arn Zeitlin’s translation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Der shturem; 1938), staged by the Polish director Leon Schiller.

Morevski’s translations into Yiddish included Andreyev’s Tot, kto poluchaet poshchechiny (as Der vos krigt di petsh; 1921), Gutzkow’s Uriel Acosta (1922), and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (Shaylok; completed in 1926). Morevski subsequently published a book about Shylock. He also wrote polemics and essays on theater and other matters for the Yiddish press. His memoirs appeared in four volumes in postwar Poland.

Morevski’s uncompromising, sometimes capricious personality made it difficult for him to work steadily with any single company. Most of his career was devoted to performing as a visiting star, at a time when this tradition was already somewhat old-fashioned. But through his acting and his translations of European classics, he greatly contributed to the shaping of a Yiddish dramatic theater on a par with those of other European national theaters.

Suggested Reading

Szczepan Gąssowski, ed., Państwowy Teatr Żydowski im. Ester Rachel Kamińskiej: Przeszłość i teraźniejszość (Warsaw, 1995), pp. 247–254; Avraham Morevski, Ahin un tsurik: Zikhroynes un rayoynes fun a yidn, an aktyor, 4 vols. (Warsaw, 1958–1963); Jerzy Timoszewicz, “Burza Szekspira w Folks un Jugnt Teater: Inscenizacja Leona Schillera (1938/39),” Pamiętnik Teatralny 41 (1992): 439–452; Zalmen Zylbercweig (Zilbertsvayg), “Morevski, Avrom,” in Leksikon fun yidishn teater, vol. 2, cols. 1259–1264 (Warsaw, 1934).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 26, Yidisher Artistn Fareyn (Warsaw), Records, 1919-1939.



Translated from Polish by Michael C. Steinlauf