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Kaminski or Kaminska

KAMINSKI or KAMINSKA, family of Yiddish actors. ABRAHAM ISAAC KAMINSKI (1867–1918) organized his own theatrical company in Warsaw at the age of 20 and also toured the smaller towns. When the Russian ban on Yiddish theater was lifted in 1908, he also toured in Russia. Among the plays he staged were several of his own and translations of Gorki (The Lower Depths), Schiller (Die Raueber), and Molière (Le Malade imaginaire). Shortly before World War I he founded the Kaminski Theater in Warsaw.

His wife ESTHER RACHEL KAMINSKA (née Halpern; 1870–1925) won fame in her husband's company. When she appeared in St. Petersburg in 1905, she was hailed as "the Yiddish Duse." Her repertoire included plays by Ibsen, Dumas, and Sudermann, but she was considered at her best in portrayals of the mother roles of Jacob *Gordin She toured the U.S. in 1909–11, and played in London and Paris in 1913.

IDA KAMINSKA (1899–1980), their daughter, started her career as a child in her father's company and became its leading figure. Her first husband was Martin Sigmund *Turkow; her second Meir Melman (1899–1978), a leading actor.

On the invasion of Poland in 1939, the family fled into the Soviet-occupied zone and later into Central Asia. When she returned to Poland after World War II, she resumed activity in Lodz. In Warsaw she earned for her company the status of the "Jewish State Theater," with which she toured Israel, North and South America, and later western Europe. She also achieved fame in films. Her role in the film The Shop on Main Street (1967) was widely acclaimed. She left Poland in 1968 as a result of the antisemitic campaign in the country when the emigration of many of the country's remaining Jews deprived her of her audience. After emigrating to the United States, where she starred in Glueckel von Hameln, Kaminska settled in Israel in 1975 with her actor-husband Meir Melman, and joined the newly formed Yiddish Theater in Tel Aviv.

Another member of the family, JOSEPH KAMINSKI (1903–1972), son of Abraham and Esther Rachel, studied music in Berlin and Vienna, settled in Palestine in 1937, and became first violinist in the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He composed works for orchestra, chamber groups, and solo instruments.


Y. Turkov-Grudberg, Yidddish Teater in Poylen (1951), 34.ff.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.