Ida Kamińska

Ida Kamińska
Born (1899-09-18)September 18, 1899
Odessa, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
Died May 21, 1980(1980-05-21) (aged 80)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Other names Ida Kamińska
Years active 19041970

Ida Kamińska (September 18, 1899 May 21, 1980) was a Polish-Jewish actress.


Born in Odessa, Russian Empire (now Ukraine), Kamińska was the daughter of Yiddish stage actress Ester Rachel Kamińska (1870–1925) and actor, director and stage producer Avram Izhak Kamiński (1867–1918).[1]

Early career and family life

Ida Kamińska began her stage career at the age of five.[1] One of her earliest roles was in Jakob Gordin's play Mirele Efros, as the grandson of the title character, who was played by her mother.[2][3] She was acting in both tragedies and comedies, as well as directing plays in her father's troupe by the time she was 18.[4]

In 1918 she married the Yiddish actor and director Zygmunt Turkow (1896-1970), who was a member of her parents' troupe. She and Turkow had a daughter, Ruth Kamińska-Turkow, who was born in 1919.[4] Following a three-year tour of the Kamiński theater in the Soviet Union, the young couple settled in Warsaw, and together established the Warsaw Jewish Art Theater, in 1922, with Ida Kamińska as the principal actress. They divorced in 1932, and in the same year Ida organized her own company in Warsaw, the Drama Theater of Ida Kamińska, which she continued to direct until 1939.[4] In July 1936 Kamińska married the Yiddish actor Marian (Meir) Melman (1900-1978).

In October 1939, in the early part of the Second World War, Kamińska and family members, including her husband, Melman, and daughter, Ruth, fled to Lwów (Lviv, Ukraine), which was under Soviet occupation. There she was able to direct a Yiddish theater funded by the Soviet authorities.[2] Kamińska and her family subsequently migrated to various localities in the Soviet Union. Her and Melman's son, Victor, was born in Frunze (Bishkek), in Soviet Central Asia, in fall 1941.[1] In 1944 they arrived in Moscow,[1] where Kamińska again acted in Yiddish productions.[4]

Postwar career

After the war, Kamińska and her family returned to Warsaw. The Polish Jewish population had been decimated by the events of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, Kamińska and Melman made the decision to try to reestablish the Jewish theater. A Yiddish theater reopened in Warsaw in November 1946.[4] In 1949 the Polish government granted a subsidy for the establishment of the Jewish State Theater of Poland, with Kamińska serving as its artistic director.[4] In its early period the theater toured between the cities of Łódź (1949-1953) and Wrocław (1953-1955). In 1955 it was established permanently in Warsaw, as the State Jewish Theater, which was later named after Ida and her mother Ester (the Ester Rachel Kamińska and Ida Kamińska State Jewish Theater). Ida Kamińska continued to direct the theater until 1968.

In 1965, she starred in the Czechoslovak movie The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze, directed by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos), for which she received a 1967 nomination for Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[1]

In protest against government antisemitic campaign during March 1968 events she emigrated from Poland and ended up living in New York.

Her last role was The Angel Levine (1970), directed by Ján Kadár.[1][5]


Ida Kaminska died of cardiovascular disease in 1980, aged 80. Her husband, Meir Melman, had died in 1978.[6]

She was interred in the Yiddish theater section of the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, New York.[7][8]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Segal, Sheila F. (1996). Women of valor: stories of great Jewish women who helped shape the twentieth century. West Orange, NJ: Behrman. pp. 52–65. ISBN 0874416124.
  2. 1 2 Steinlauf, Michael C. (2010, August 17). "Kaminski Family." YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Retrieved 2015-06-21.
  3. Baron, Alec (2000). "Kamińska, Esther (Rachel) ... and Ida Kamińska". In Banham, Martin. The Cambridge guide to theatre. Reprint of 1995 edition with corrections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 586. ISBN 0521434378.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Morgan, Barbara (2002). "Kaminska, Ida (1899–1980)." Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia. Ed. Anne Commire. Vol. 8. Detroit: Yorkin Publications. p. 431-434.
  5. Langman, Larry (2000). Destination Hollywood : the influence of Europeans on American filmmaking. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 24. ISBN 078640681X.
  6. "Ida Kaminska dead at 80" (May 23, 1980). Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  7. Thise, Mark (2008). Hollywood winners & losers, A to Z. New York: Limelight Editions/Hal Leonard. p. 99. ISBN 9780879103514.
  8. "Ida Kaminska". Find a Grave. Retrieved 30 August 2013.

External links

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