The Yiddish Book Center's
Wexler Oral History Project
A growing collection of in-depth interviews with people of all ages and backgrounds, whose stories about the legacy and changing nature of Yiddish language and culture offer a rich and complex chronicle of Jewish identity.
Barbara Buloff's Oral History
Barbara Buloff, daughter of Yiddish actors Joseph Buloff & Luba Kadison, and granddaughter of Leyb Kadison, cofounder of the Vilna Troupe, was interviewed by Christa Whitney on January 11th, 2017, in New York City. She is the last surviving member of her family; many relatives and members of the troupe were murdered by the Nazis. Barbara's parents were brought to America by Maurice Schwartz. Joseph Buloff started performing in American theater as well as Yiddish theater and became the protégé of well-known producer Mike Todd. Barbara recalls that her father was acting in "Oklahoma" during World War II and that the Holocaust was never discussed. Her parents were secular and there was little attention to Jewish holidays or traditions in the household. Barbara spent a lot of time backstage or in the wings of various theaters and felt beloved in that world. Her father was very well known in Israel and Barbara loved being there; her feelings about Israel are now very complicated. While she loved her parents, Barbara feels that she was often left to fend for herself, sometimes in the care of French nannies who were not kind to her. Barbara describes her mother as an elegant, beautiful woman who was a leading lady in the Yiddish theater. Her parents translated some important American plays into Yiddish. Barbara reports with pride that their version of "Death of a Salesman" was recently remounted by New Yiddish Rep. Barbara acted for some time and has a BFA in theater. She feels that it was difficult to be an actor while she was trying to hide her sexual orientation from herself and others. She also discusses the long journey to her parents' acceptance of this aspect of herself. Barbara now has a social work degree and works as a psychotherapist. Many of her clients are actors, and she points out some similarities between the two roles. She ends the interview by talking about her complex relationship with her Jewishness and her hopes that Yiddish language and theater will survive – in part due to the involvement of non-Jews in Yiddish cultural activities.
This interview was conducted in English.
Video highlights from this oral history
“They Would Speak and You Would Listen”: Yiddish Actors, Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison
3 min 30 sec
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"When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie, That's a Tsures": Connecting to Judaism at the Yiddish Theatre
2 min 46 sec
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Artifacts related to this oral history
Photo of poster from Buenos Aires 1935 Caricatures of Joseph Buloff and Luba Kadison in the Dybbuk
On Stage, Off Stage Memories of a Lifetime in the Yiddish Theatre, By Luda Kadison and Joseph Buloff with Irving Genn