Probably Was Not From Kalarash

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Portrait of Sigmund Mogulesko

Sigmund Mogulesko

Although he is not that well-known today, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sigmund Mogulesko (born Selig Mogilevsky, also known as Sigmund Mogulescu) was "a popular comedian of the Yiddish stage and known to all Yiddish theatregoers in America and most of Europe".[1] Scholars of his era said that he was "recognized as the best comedian on the Yiddish stage".[2] He was such a beloved artist that when he died in New York in 1914, more than 30,000 "weeping, pushing, half hysterical" people attended his funeral.[3]

Mogulesko passport application

Mogulesko's Passport Application

According to reliable sources, Mogulesko was born in Kalarash, Bessarabia.[4] However, independent research discloses that --- as his Romanian stage-name suggests --- he may have been a native of Romania.

The 1910 census states that he was born in Romania. While census records are notoriously unreliable, it is significant that in 1910, Bessarabia was part of the Russian empire. Had Mogulesko been born in Bessarabian Kalarash, he more likely would have said that the country of his birth was Russia, not Romania.[5]

More definitive evidence that Mogulesko was not from Bessarabian Kalarash is a passport application that was signed and submitted to US authorities by Mogulesko in 1898. The application says that he "does solemnly swear that I was born at Galaty in Romania".

So — despite what some of the authoritative sources might say — while those of us with ancestors from Bessarabian Kalarash, might like to claim “the best comedian on the Yiddish stage” as a landsman, that honor probably should be accorded to the Romanians.

  1. New York Times, February 5, 1914, "Yiddish Comedian Dead: Body of Sigmund Mogulesko, Popular on East Side, In Actors Club".
  2. Singer, Isidore and Wiernik, Peter, "Mogulesko, Sigmund" in Jewish Encyclopedia (1906).

  3. New York Times, February 7, 1914, "30,000 at Actor’s Funeral: Mounted Police and 150 Reserves Were Kept Busy".
  4. See, for example, the article by Singer and Wiernik, Op. Cit., which was written in 1906, when Mogulesko was alive and living in New York, and which states that he was "born in Kaloraush, Bessarabia".

  5. Compare the 1912 Declaration of Intent filed by Kalarash, Bessarabia native Isidor Waxman, in which the clerk recorded that the affiant had stated he was born in "Colorask, Russia". [Source: The Private Collection of Helene Kenvin.]


Credits: Text and page design copyrighted © 2007 by Helene Kenvin. Page created by Helene Kenvin. All rights reserved.