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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Ida Kaminska

b. 1899, Odessa, Ukraine; d. 1980, New York

Born into an illustrious theatrical family—her mother was called “the Yiddish Duse”—Ida Kaminska began acting in 1916, becoming a leading player in the Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater. She starred in numerous Warsaw productions until 1919 and then toured throughout Russia, returning to Poland in 1921 to establish the Ida Kaminska Theater. With complete control of the repertoire, she directed and starred in most of the company’s productions. In the 1920s and 1930s, she acted in a number of films, including A Vilna Legend (1924) and Without a Home (1939). During World War II, she again performed in the Soviet Union and at the end of the war founded the Jewish State Theater in her native country. Her role in the Czech film The Shop on Main Street (1965) earned an Academy Award nomination. The official anti-Semitic campaign launched by the Polish government compelled her move to the United States in 1968 but, failing in her attempts to establish a Yiddish theater in America, she eventually settled in Israel. In 1973, she published the autobiography, My Life, My Theatre.