Yiddish theater actress Luba Kadison dead at 99

Luba Kadison, the last surviving member of the Vilna Troupe, an influential Yiddish theater company founded in Europe during World War I, has died. She was 99. Kadison died at her home in Manhattan on Thursday, said Caraid O'Brien, a scholar of Yiddish theater and a friend of Kadison. Kadison, whose married name was Luba Kaison Buloff, toured extensively in Europe before becoming a leading actress in Yiddish theater during its heyday on New York's Lower East Side. She was part of a golden age of Yiddish theater that saw serious and satirical plays challenge the dominance of popular musicals. "They did experimental things. They were doing stuff in the style of German expressionists before most English-speaking theaters," said O'Brien, who called Kadison an "incredible inspirational artistic figure." Born in Lithuania in 1906, Kadison began performing in Europe as a child. Her father, Leib Kadison, was a founder of the Vilna Troupe, which performed modernist works by Yiddish writers S. Ansky and Sholom Aleichem, and translations of plays by others, including Maxim Gorky and Henrik Ibsen. In 1923 she married another member of the troupe, Joseph Buloff. The couple came to America in the late 1920s and performed in Lower East Side theaters packed with Jewish immigrants. Kadison had roles in Sholem Asch's "God of Vengeance," I.J. Singer's "Brothers Ashkenazi" and Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." The Holocaust devastated Yiddish culture, and declining use of the language worldwide was eventually mirrored in New York's theater scene. Kadison performed around the globe, and later in life became an interpreter, a teacher and a painter. She wrote a memoir with her husband, "On Stage, Off Stage: Memories of a Lifetime in the Yiddish Theater," which was published in 1992. Buloff, who moved on to a successful career on Broadway, died in 1985. Kadison is survived by her daughter, Barbara Buloff, of New York.