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Chayale Fuhrman, Mainstay of the Yiddish Stage, Dies at 91

March 29, 2012 By:
Justin Sacharoff, Jewish Exponent Feature
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Chayale Fuhrman

Chayale Fuhrman, famed star of Yiddish theater and advocate for the preservation of the Yiddish language, passed away from pneumonia on March 7 in San Jose, Calif., at age 91.

She went by her family's stage surname, Ash, and grew up in Yiddish theater, where she began her acting career at age 6.

Born in Kishinev, Bessarabia, in modern-day Moldova (then part of the Soviet Union), Fuhrman's family traveled in a covered wagon, bringing their performances to people across Eastern and Central Europe.

Fuhrman spent five years in labor camps in the USSR during World War II, and it was there she met her first husband, Pesach Ziskind. They moved to Israel in 1948, while the country was still in its infancy. She started a Yiddish theater in Haifa.

In 1959, she divorced Ziskind and, two years later, she and her two children immigrated to the United States, settling in Northeast Philadelphia. Together with her second husband, Ari Fuhrman, whom she'd met in Israel, and his cousin Abraham Fuhrman, she founded a Yiddish acting company that performed at various venues in the city and eventually toured the country.

An active member of the Workman's Circle, Fuhrman was a board member of the Holocaust Awareness Museum at Gratz College. For nearly 40 years, Fuhrman was an active member of the Association of Holocaust Survivors in Philadelphia, serving as the chairwoman of the cultural committee and editor of its bulletin for more than 20 years.

In 1999, Fuhrman moved to San Jose to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren, but that didn't stop her from staying active in the Jewish community.

She taught Yiddish and gave lectures on the Holocaust to high school and college students. Fuhrman's daughter, Chana Taradalsky, said that her mother felt it was her responsibility to pass on the stories of survival and teach the younger generations how to appreciate freedom.

In addition to her daughter, Fuhrman is survived by two other children, Moshe Ziskind, and her stepson, Herbert Fuhrman, as well as five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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