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Sarah Bernhardt

Hailed as “the Divine Sarah” and celebrated around the world for her acting talents, Sarah Bernhardt lived as vivid a life as any character she portrayed onstage.

Vaudeville in the United States

Jewish women in vaudeville helped to cultivate a unique American Jewish identity. Headliners Sophie Tucker, Belle Baker, and Fanny Brice were prominent, as were performers such as Nan Halperin and Nora Bayes. Molly Picon was a star of Yiddish theater, and Sarah Bernhardt a star of the stage. The reign of Jewish female vaudevillians ended in the 1930s, but their voices continue to be heard.

Theater in the United States

For over a hundred years, Jewish women have been involved in the American theater as writers, actors, directors, designers and producers. The vitality of the Yiddish theater, the splendor of Broadway, the rich tapestry of the regional theater—and everything in between—all owe a debt to the Jewish women who have given of their talents, their energy, their drive, and their dreams.

Bessie Thomashefsky

With suffragist spirit and comedic skill, Bessie Thomashefsky adapted great American and British plays for Yiddish-speaking audiences. Thomashefsky performed Yiddish adaptations of plays by Chekov, Wilde, and Shakespeare, as well as modern Yiddish creations at the People’s Theater in New York, playing many strong female characters. From 1915 to 1919, she ran the People’s Theater and renamed it for herself. 

Modern France

From the French Revolution to the twenty-first century, Jewish women in France have undergone radical legal, political, cultural, and religious transformations. Seizing upon the increasing number of opportunities available to them, both as Jews and as women, Jewish women have left their marks on all areas of French society.

Sarah Bernhardt

Named by her fans “the Divine Sarah,” the French actress Sarah Bernhardt is recognized as the first international stage star. She played some 70 roles in 125 productions in Europe and around the world and reinvented herself as a public icon, allowing the romances and tragedies of her stage heroines to reflect her own life.

Belle Baker

Belle Baker has been described as a famed torch singer and vaudeville star, as well as a Yiddish, Broadway, and motion picture actor. Among the songs associated with her are “Eli Eli” and “My Yiddishe Mama.” Her resonant voice made her the first choice of many composers to debut their songs, and she helped to introduce 163 songs to the public throughout her career.

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