Regal and soft-spoken, Berta Gersten graced the Yiddish stage for decades, playing a wide range of leading roles to great critical acclaim. After finishing elementary school, Gersten worked in a box factory to support her family before her first big break in 1908 playing Shloymele in Mirele Efros. She went on to perform in various Yiddish music halls. In 1915 she played the lead in Leon Kobrin’s Yisroel’s Hofnung at the Tomashefsky Theater, opening the way to several highly respected roles and an invitation in 1918 to join the original cast of Maurice Schwartz’s Yiddish Art Theater with Jacob Ben-Ami, who would become a lifelong friend and leading man. She played with the company both in New York and on their popular tours throughout Europe and Latin America until the troupe’s dissolution in 1950. She then successfully transitioned to English-language theater in 1954, playing across from Ben-Ami in The World of Sholom Aleichem and making her Broadway debut in Clifford Odet’s The Flowering Peach. She performed in two Yiddish films and played Benny Goodman’s mother in the 1956 movie The Benny Goodman Story, but her last theater performance was My Father’s Court in 1971, once again opposite Ben-Ami.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Berta Gersten ." (Viewed on September 1, 2015) <http://jwa.org/people/gersten-berta>.