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Shimon Dzigan Dead at 74

April 16, 1980
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Shimon Dzigan, the Israeli satirist who was known to Yiddish speaking audiences throughout the world, died last night at the age of 74. Dzigan suffered a heart attack April 5 on stage at the premier of his new show based on Sholem Aleichem’s stories in honor of the 120th anniversary of the Yiddish writer’s birth Funeral services will be held here tomorrow.

The Polish-born wit was known in Israel for his biting satire on everyday life in Israel as well as Israeli politics and politicians. In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in New York in the half of 1978. Dzigan said the Israeli officials do not mind his barbs at them since he makes them famous.

Dzigan brought his humor to Jewish audiences throughout the world particularly in Europe and Latin America. Last fall and in the fall of 1978, he appeared in New York in skits with the American Yiddish actors Ben Bonus and his wife Mina Bern.


Dzigan was always telling jokes even at his most serious moments. One of his last jokes was reportedly to his doctor in the hospital where he died. Noting that Premier Menachem Begin was shout to leave for Washington. Dzigan said “Begin should register Jerusalem in his wife’s name….so that they will not be able to take it away from him.”

But Dzigan was very serious about what he considered the shabby way Yiddish culture was treated in Israel. “They don’t let it live and they don’t let it die,” he told the JTA interviewer in New York. He said for 28 years he had been trying to get the Israeli government to provide a subsidy for Yiddish theater and all he received was promises.

Dzigan was born in Lodz, Poland and started in the avant garde Yiddish theater there in 1927. In 1930 the group moved to Warsaw where, as the “Ararat.” it became famous for its humor aimed at the threat of Hitler from Germany and anti-Semitism in Poland. With the outbreak of the war the group fled to the Soviet Union where it reorganized. But Dzigan and his partner. Israel Shumacher, where jailed by Soviet authorities for their satire and spent five years in various labor camps in Siberia.

After the war, they returned to Poland and then made their way to West Europe and finally arrived in Israel in 1950. Dzigan and Shumacher set up a Yiddish theater in Israel until they separated after several years. Dzigan continued on his own until his death.

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