The Arty Semite

Yiddish Actress Chayale Ash-Fuhrman Dies at 90

By Itzik Gottesman

  • Print
  • Share Share

In Yiddish there are some professions or positions that use the diminutive form of a name as a sign of popular endearment. These include Hasidic rebbes, cantors, thieves and actors.

Bruce Forrester

This was true of the beloved Yiddish actress Chayele Ash-Furman, who died on March 8 in Northern California at the age of 90. According to family legend, she was actually born onstage as her family’s theater troupe was on tour through Besserabia and Poland. The troupe wandered from town in a covered wagon, as true “wandering stars,‟ to use Sholem Aleichem‘s term for Yiddish actors of the period.

When Ash was 3 years old she began to act on stage and continued to perform until the Soviet army occupied Bessarabia at the beginning of World War II. During the war, the family was sent to Uzbekistan where her father died in a labor camp. There, Ash met the Polish Yiddish actor Peysakh Ziskind, whom she later married and with whom she had two children.

The couple settled in Poland after the war before emigrating to Israel, where she helped found a Yiddish theater in Haifa. The troupe was hassled because of Israeli anti-Yiddish sentiment in the 1940s and ‘50s, and at one point she was even arrested. During that time she performed not just in Israel but worldwide, before settling in Philadelphia in 1962, where she divorced Ziskind and married the actor Ari Fuhrman. She formed another troupe in Philadelphia and traveled to many branches of the Workmen‘s Circle and Zionist Farband organizations all over the country. She moved again in 1998 to San Jose to be near her daughter.

Wherever Chayale Ash lived she immediately became an advocate for Yiddish and a tremendous resource of Yiddish culture. She taught Yiddish classes until she was in her late 80s and lectured on her Holocaust experiences in many schools in Pennsylvania and California.

She leaves behind two children, Khane-Feygl and Moshe, and their families.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yiddish, Theater, Chayele Ash-Furman, Itzik Gottesman, Obituaries

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.