(JTA) — Chaim Topol won a Golden Globe for his portrayal of an immigrant to Israel, stepped off the stage in London to fight for his country and had his sketches of Israeli presidents turned into postage stamps.
But the actor was by far best known for his embodiment of Tevye the Dairyman in “Fiddler on the Roof,” first in the Israeli and London stagings and then in the 1971 movie that brought the musical about poor shtetl Jews to the masses.
Topol died Thursday in Tel Aviv at 87, a day after his family announced that he was near death. He had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for some time.
Born in 1935 in Tel Aviv, Topol served in the Israel Defense Forces entertainment unit before embarking on a career in stage and screen that took him around the world. In 1967, he appeared as the lead character in London’s staging of “Fiddler on the Roof,” which had been a breakout hit on Broadway three years before. In his early 30s at the time, he wowed audiences and critics with his portrayal of a character decades older.
But it was when he turned his character over to an understudy that his profile truly exploded. It was June 1967 and Israel was locked in a war with several Arab states; Topol was called up as a soldier and returned to Israel to serve in what would ultimately be known as the Six-Day War. Israel’s swift defeat of an alliance of enemies caused the world to notice the young country and the actor who took part in its victory.
“He had left London as a star; he returned as a hero,” Alisa Solomon wrote in her 2013 book “Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof.” “‘Fiddler’ became a site for celebration, drawing Jews as well as gentiles to the theater — some for repeat viewings — to bask in Jewish perseverance and to pay homage to Jewish survival. The show didn’t change, but the atmosphere around it did.”
In one sign of Topol’s breakout moment, his recording of “If I Were a Rich Man” hit No. 9 on the British charts — besting Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” in July 1967.
From there, Topol was cast in the film production of the musical, beating out Zero Mostel, who put an indelible stamp on Tevye as the star of the original Broadway production, as well as a host of Jewish and non-Jewish movie stars. Using only his last name — purportedly because his first name was easily mispronounced by non-Hebrew speakers — he ultimately starred in more than 30 films in both English and Hebrew, publish two books and release multiple albums.
In Israel, Topol was perhaps best known for his breakout role as the lead character in the 1964 film “Sallah Shabati,” about the difficulties faced by a Mizrahi immigrant family. The Ephraim Kishon film was Israel’s first Academy Award nominee in the foreign language film category and earned Topol a Golden Globe for best new actor. The casting of an Ashkenazi actor as a Mizrahi character — and one who embodied many of the stereotypes held at the time by Israel’s Ashkenazi elite — would prove controversial, although the film is still regarded as a touchstone.
Topol won Israel’s top prize, the Israel Prize, for his lifetime of achievement in 2013.
“From Fiddler on the Roof to the roof of the world, Haim [sic] Topol, who has passed away from us, was one of the most outstanding Israeli stage artists, a gifted actor who conquered many stages in Israel and overseas, filled the cinema screens with his presence and above all entered deep into our hearts,” Israeli President Isaac Herzog said on Twitter.
Herzog noted Topol’s contributions to Israel not just through the arts but through his service in the army and his dedication to a nonprofit camp for children with medical needs in Israel’s north. Topol was board chair of the Jordan Youth Village, modeled after Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camp in the United States, until his death.
He is survived by his wife Galia, an actor whom he married in 1956; three children and their children.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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