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Ben-Ami (Shieren), Jacob

BEN-AMI (Shieren), JACOB

BEN-AMI (Shieren), JACOB (1890–1977), actor and director. Ben-Ami's long stage career began in his native Minsk, Belorussia, before he was a teenager. After traveling with many Yiddish acting companies through Eastern Europe, Ben-Ami went to the United States in 1912 to appear with Rudolf Schildkraut and Sarah Adler in Yiddish plays. In 1918, together with Maurice *Schwartz, he founded the Yiddish Art Theater in New York. Ben-Ami's reputation as an actor and director grew, and in 1920 he made his English-language acting debut in Samson and Delilah, a drama written by a Dane, Sven Lange, that Ben-Ami had played and directed in Yiddish in New York and in Russia. The following year he made his Broadway debut in Peretz Hirshbein's The Idle Inn, and many leading roles followed. Ben-Ami played more parts on the English-speaking stage than on the Yiddish, but he did not appear in a commercial success until almost 40 years later, when he played a grandfather in Paddy Chayefsky's The Tenth Man (1959). In the interim, Ben-Ami toured extensively in South America, in South Africa, and in the United States where he did Yiddish plays and Yiddish translations of Russian, European, and American plays.

[Stewart Kampel]

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