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Yehudit Ornstein

b. 1911

by Gaby Aldor

A dancer and choreographer, Yehudit immigrated to Palestine from Vienna in 1921, together with her mother Margalit Ornstein and her twin sister Shoshana. The sisters, who formed a duo, Ha’ahayot Ornstein, danced in the spirit of the German expressionist “Freitanz,” (Free Dance) performing works choreographed by their mother and dealing with universal themes, such as “Youth,” to music by Robert Schumann, Valse and Nocturne to Chopin and The Rivals to music by Rachmaninoff. Later they themselves created dances on Israeli and Biblical themes, such as The Girl of Cana’an and Cain and Abel.

Yehudit was considered the more technically sound of the twins and her more introvert or intellectual manner served as a good counterpart to her sister in the inspired duo. She established a dance company with studio producer Aliza Terry and Judith Herman and later with Oded Tiram, who performed Memorial, Invitation to the Dance, Eccentric Dance and other works. Yehudit Ornstein also performed as a soloist in her own dances and later choreographed full performance dances for large ensembles: Carnaval, Diaspora and The Flag. She also choreographed for the Ha-Ohel Theater, the Cameri and the Israel Opera. Orenstein prepared numerous kibbutz festivities and organized folk dance festivals in Haifa. She taught at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education, pioneered dance studios in high schools and was among the founders of the Dancers Union. She wrote dance criticism in the newspapers La-Merhav, Haaretz, and Davar and continued teaching until her late seventies.

After divorcing her first husband, the Ha-Ohel actor Poolan, Ornstein married Shlomo Ben David, a graphic artist and photographer, by whom she had a daughter, Naomi, herself a dancer and poet, and a son, Arnon, an artist. Since marrying her first violin teacher, Sam Pevsner, Yehudit Ornstein lives in New York City.

More on: Teachers, Dance, Zionism
1 Comment

Yehudit (Judith) was born on December 11, 1911 and died in New York City on April 12, 2008. My father was known as Samuel (not Sam) Pevsner. He was a student of the noted violinist and teacher Leopold Auer.

Yehudit Ornstein
Full image
Yehudit Ornstein, who with her twin sister Shoshana Ornstein formed the famous Ornstein dancing duo, devoted a lifetime to Israeli dance.
Institution: Dance Library of Israel, Tel Aviv

How to cite this page

Aldor, Gaby. "Yehudit Ornstein." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 23, 2019) <>.


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