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Bertha Kalich

A distinguished performer, Bertha Kalich performed 125 roles in seven languages and became the first actress to make the transition from Yiddish theater to mainstream American drama in film, radio, and on stage. Kalich studied at the Lemberg Conservatory before joining the chorus of a local Polish theater at thirteen. She quickly became a star of Yiddish theater, performing in Budapest and Romania, where even anti-Semitic audiences who had come to harangue her ended up throwing flowers instead. She moved to the US in 1894 and began pressing the vaudevillian Yiddish theater community for higher artistic standards and serious dramatic material, performing starring roles in new plays to much critical acclaim. In 1905, she performed in her first English language part, the title role in Fédora, and began working to remove her foreign accent. She performed in both Yiddish and English roles on stage and in silent movies until her retirement in 1931, but continued acting in historical radio plays, rehearsing for hours due to her declining eyesight to maintain the high standards she set for her craft.

Kalich, Bertha - still image [media]
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Known as the "Jewish Bernhardt," Bertha Kalich was one of the great stars of the golden age of the American Yiddish theater and, for a time, a leading light of mainstream American drama as well.

Institution: American Jewish Historical Society

Date of Birth
May 17, 1874
Place of Birth
Date of Death
April 18, 1939

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Bertha Kalich." (Viewed on March 30, 2015) <>.


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