March 21, 2011

The unforgettable Shifra

Shifra Lerer, a masterful actress, friend, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Wallenberg Foundation, has died in New York City on March 11, 2011, at age 95.

Born in La Pampa, Argentina, on August 30, 1915, she developed an important career as an actress in the Yiddish theater in Buenos Aires. In 1943 she settled in New York where she continuously excelled in both theater and film. In 1998 Woody Allen showcased her in a leading role in his film “Deconstructing Harry”.

Her role in the film “Legacy” – a documentary produced by the Wallenberg Foundation that tells the story of Jewish immigrants that arrived in Argentina in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century – left an indelible mark on the history of Argentine documentary productions.

As a remembrance and tribute to her human qualities and her record of excellence in the performing arts, we reproduce below a letter written and signed by Shifra on occasion of the presentation of “Legacy” in 2004.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My parents, Manuel Dansker and José Bernardo Lerer, called “Iosl der shvarzer” were colonists. Also my sister Miriam, Flora, and my brother James.

They all came from Poritzk, a village in Russia.

I, Shifra Lerer, the “Mezinke” (the youngest) was born in Santa Catalina, La Pampa Province. Later we settled in Médanos and finally, in Buenos Aires.

From a very young age and to this day, I was, am, and will be an actress of Yiddish Theatre. That is my honor and my life.

In the meantime, I did Argentine and English theater, filmed movies in Hollywood. But I understood and I realized that my one and true passion is the Yiddish theater.

When Baruch Tenenbaum, based on his idea, offered me to be a narrator in Yiddish of “Legacy,” a film about Jewish life in the colonies, I accept excited, nervous, and why not, proud.

Thanks to the excellent script and direction by Vivian Imar and Marcelo Trotta, along with an exceptional team, we achieved our goal: a true story of Jewish settlement in Argentina; to all of them my gratitude.

To my dear friend, Baruch Tenembaum, thank you, a thousand times.

To AMIA, its Board of Directors and my very good friend Moshe Korin, Director of the Department of Culture of AMIA, my appreciation and satisfaction for the given prize.

It makes me feel very happy.

To you, my loyal fans for so many years

Shifra Lerer