New York loses Shifra Lerer, Yiddish performer born in Argentina

By Melvyn Kohn
March 17, 2011

Argentine born Shifra Lerer passed away on Saturday here in NY. She was 95. She was a darling of the Yiddish theatre scene who performed in such well known mainstream pieces as "Those Were the Days" and Avalon( both from 1990) and Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" (1997); she portrayed a very Jewish persona in these films. On the Yiddish stage she worked alonside the likes of Molly Picon, Maurice Schwartz, Jacon Ben-Ami and Joseph Buloff.
Her family had emigrated from Russia to Argentina, where she was born on 30 August, 1915. An agricultural grant from philanthropist and banker Baron Maurice de Hirsch allowed them to leave Russia and settle in the Pampas. When she was 5, Boris Thomashefsky needed a child actor for his Buenos Aires theatre group, and she was subsequently discovered. In 1943, she found NY to her liking and continued acting in Yiddish in Brooklyn, but not until she was accepted by the Hebrew Actors Union in 1949. In the interim she performed in English. She met Ben-Zion Witler, traveled with him to her native country, became his collaborator in musical compositions, and married him.
After his death in 1961, she married actor Michael Michalovic of Argentina, also a Yiddish actor.
She was buried Monday in Mount Hebron Cemetery, in Block 67, which is reserved for thespians; her grave is only a few away from that of Mr Thomashefsky's; and next to her second and last husband, Mr Michalovic, whose tombstone is engraved with the lyrics to the Yiddish folk song "My beloved, I wait for you."


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