Fyvush Finkel

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Fyvush Finkel
Fyvush Finkel.jpg
Finkel on the red carpet at the 1994 Emmys
Philip Finkel

(1922-10-09)October 9, 1922
DiedAugust 14, 2016(2016-08-14) (aged 93)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Years active1931–2016
TelevisionPicket Fences
Boston Public
Trudi Lieberman(m. 19472008)
; her death
Awards Emmy Award (1994)

Philip "Fyvush" Finkel (Yiddish : פֿײַוויש פֿינקעל; October 9, 1922 – August 14, 2016) was an American actor known as a star of Yiddish theater and for his role as lawyer Douglas Wambaugh on the television series Picket Fences , for which he earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 1994. He is also known for his portrayal of Harvey Lipschultz, a crotchety history teacher, on the television series Boston Public .

<i>Picket Fences</i> television series

Picket Fences is an American television drama about the residents of the town of Rome, Wisconsin, created and produced by David E. Kelley. The show initially ran from September 18, 1992, to June 26, 1996, on the CBS television network in the United States. It sometimes struggled to maintain a stable primetime audience and had fluctuating ratings, due in part to its Friday night time slot. In its first season on the air it placed 80th in the prime-time Nielsen ratings and in its second season it moved to 66th. The show's exteriors were shot in the L.A. suburb of Monrovia, California, with many of the townspeople appearing in the background of episodes.

This is a list of winners and nominees of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. In early Primetime Emmy Award ceremonies, the supporting categories were not always genre, or even gender, specific. Beginning with the 22nd Primetime Emmy Awards, supporting actors in drama have competed alone. However, these dramatic performances often included actors from miniseries, telefilms, and guest performers competing against main cast competitors. Such instances are marked below:

<i>Boston Public</i> television series

Boston Public is an American drama television series created by David E. Kelley and broadcast on Fox. Set in Boston, the series centers on Winslow High School, a fictional public high school in the Boston Public Schools district. It features a large ensemble cast and focuses on the work and private lives of the various teachers, students, and administrators at the school. It aired from October 2000 to January 2004. Its slogan was "Every day is a fight. For respect. For dignity. For sanity."


Early life

Philip Finkel was born at home in Brownsville, Brooklyn, the third of four sons of Jewish immigrant parents, Mary ("Miryam"), a housewife from Minsk, Belarus, and Harry ("Cwi Hirsh") Finkel, a tailor from Warsaw. [1] [2] He adopted the stage name "Fyvush", a common Yiddish given name. [1]

Brownsville, Brooklyn Neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City

Brownsville is a residential neighborhood located in eastern Brooklyn in New York City. The 1.163-square-mile (3.01 km2) area that comprises Brownsville has 58,300 residents as of the 2010 United States Census. The neighborhood's boundaries are unclear, but it is generally bordered by Crown Heights to the northwest; Bushwick and Cypress Hills to the north; New Lots to the east; Canarsie to the south; and East Flatbush to the west. Brownsville has consistently held one of the highest poverty and crime rates of any neighborhood in New York City.

Minsk Capital city in Belarus

Minsk is the capital and largest city of Belarus, situated on the Svislač and the Nyamiha Rivers. As the national capital, Minsk has a special administrative status in Belarus and is the administrative centre of Minsk Region (voblasć) and Minsk District (rajon). The population in January 2018 was 1,982,444, making Minsk the 11th most populous city in Europe. Minsk is the administrative capital of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and seat of its Executive Secretary.

Warsaw City metropolis in Masovia, Poland

Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland and its population is officially estimated at 1.78 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 3.1 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 8th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 516.9 square kilometres (199.6 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). Warsaw is an alpha global city, a major international tourist destination, and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Its historical Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Finkel first appeared on the stage at age 9, and acted for almost 35 years in the thriving Yiddish theaters of the Yiddish Theater District of Manhattan's Lower East Side, as well as performing as a standup comic in the Catskills' Borscht Belt. In 2008 he recalled:

Manhattan Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Manhattan, often referred to locally as the City, is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City and its economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough is coextensive with New York County, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.

Lower East Side Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City

The Lower East Side, sometimes abbreviated as LES, is a neighborhood in the southeastern part of the New York City borough of Manhattan, roughly located between the Bowery and the East River, and Canal Street and Houston Street. Traditionally an immigrant, working class neighborhood, it began rapid gentrification in the mid-2000s, prompting the National Trust for Historic Preservation to place the neighborhood on their list of America's Most Endangered Places.

Borscht Belt area with (now mostly defunct) summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains, in the Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster counties, New York; so called because many Eastern European Jewish Americans from New York City would vacation there in the 1920s–1970s

Borscht Belt, or Jewish Alps, is a nickname for the summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains in parts of Sullivan, Orange, and Ulster counties in New York. Borscht, a soup associated with immigrants from eastern Europe, was a metonym for "Jewish". These resorts were a popular vacation spot for New York City Jews between the 1920s and the 1970s. Most Borscht Belt resorts hosted traveling Jewish comedians and musicians, and many who later became prominent began their careers there.

I played child parts till I was 14, 15, then my voice changed. So I decided to learn a trade and went to a vocational high school in New York. I studied to be a furrier, but I never worked at it. As soon as I graduated high school, I went to a stock company in Pittsburgh, a Jewish theater, and I played there for 38 weeks, and that's where I actually learned my trade a little bit as an adult. [1]

He worked regularly until the ethnic venues began dying out in the early 1960s, then made his Broadway theatre debut in the original 1964 production of the musical Fiddler on the Roof , joining the cast as Mordcha, the innkeeper, in 1965. [1] [3] The production ran through July 2, 1972. Finkel then played Lazar Wolf, the butcher, in the limited run 1981 Broadway revival, [4] and eventually played the lead role of Tevye the milkman for years [1] in the national touring company.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

Musical theatre Stage work that combines songs, music, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance

Musical theatre is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting and dance. The story and emotional content of a musical – humor, pathos, love, anger – are communicated through words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole. Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it may be distinguished by the equal importance given to the music as compared with the dialogue, movement and other elements. Since the early 20th century, musical theatre stage works have generally been called, simply, musicals.

<i>Fiddler on the Roof</i> 1964 musical

Fiddler on the Roof is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in the Pale of Settlement of Imperial Russia in 1905. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters and other tales by Sholem Aleichem. The story centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family's lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love – each one's choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of their Jewish faith and heritage – and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village.

Shortly afterward, Finkel succeeded Hy Anzell in the role of Mr. Mushnik in the Off-Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors . [5] Then in 1988, Finkel's work as "Sam" in the New York Shakespeare Festival revival of the Yiddish classic Cafe Crown earned him an Obie Award [6] and a Drama Desk nomination. [7]

Hy Anzell Yiddish-speaking American television and movie actor

Hy Anzell was a Yiddish-speaking American actor. He originated the role of the flower shop owner, "Mr. Mushnik", in the original off-Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors with Ellen Greene and Lee Wilkof. He was also in the original 1976 Broadway cast of Checking Out.

An Off-Broadway theatre is any professional venue in Manhattan in New York City with a seating capacity between 100 and 499, inclusive. These theatres are smaller than Broadway theatres, but larger than Off-Off-Broadway theatres, which seat fewer than 100.

<i>Little Shop of Horrors</i> (musical) 1982 horror comedy rock musical, by composer Alan Menken and writer Howard Ashman

Little Shop of Horrors is a horror comedy rock musical with music by Alan Menken and lyrics and a book by Howard Ashman. The story follows a hapless florist shop worker who raises a plant that feeds on human blood and flesh. The musical is based on the low-budget 1960 black comedy film The Little Shop of Horrors. The music, composed by Menken in the style of early 1960s rock and roll, doo-wop and early Motown, includes several well-known tunes, including the title song, "Skid Row (Downtown)", "Somewhere That's Green", and "Suddenly, Seymour".

Finkel made his movie debut in the English-subtitled, Yiddish sketch-comedy revue Monticello, Here We Come (1950), then after small parts in an episode of the television series Kojak in 1977 and the miniseries Evergreen in 1985, returned to film in the detective comedy Off Beat (1986). That same year saw a role opposite Robin Williams in a PBS American Playhouse adaptation of Saul Bellow's novel Seize the Day , and a role in the film adaptation of Neil Simon's Broadway comedy Brighton Beach Memoirs . An appearance as a lawyer in director Sidney Lumet's Q & A (1990) led TV producer-writer David E. Kelley to cast Finkel as public defender Douglas Wambaugh in the television series Picket Fences (CBS, 1992–1996). For the role, Finkel earned a 1994 Emmy Award, announcing at the televised ceremonies that he had waited 51 years for that moment.[ citation needed ]

Following the end of Picket Fences, Finkel had a regular role on the short-lived revival of Fantasy Island (ABC, 1998) and then reteamed with writer-producer Kelley to play history teacher Harvey Lipschultz in Boston Public (Fox; 2000–04).[ citation needed ]

Through the 1990s and 2000s, Finkel appeared in movies including Nixon and The Crew, guested on TV series including Chicago Hope , Law & Order , Early Edition , and Hollywood Squares , and provided voiceovers for episodes of the animated series The Simpsons ("Lisa's Sax") and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters ("Ickis! You'll Be Snorched!") and the animated direct-to-video feature The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars . In 2009, he appeared in the Coen brothers' film A Serious Man , and in 2013 had a guest appearance in Blue Bloods ("Men In Black")

Finkel continued to appear onstage in productions such as Fyvush Finkel: From Second Avenue to Broadway (1997) [8] and Classic Stage Company's historical drama New Jerusalem (2007), by playwright David Ives. [9]

Personal life

Finkel was married to Trudi Lieberman from March 1947 until her death in 2008. They had two sons: Ian, a musical arranger, and Elliot, a concert pianist.

Finkel died in Manhattan on August 14, 2016, at the age of 93 as a result of heart problems. [2] [10]




1950Monticello, Here We Come
1986 Off Beat Vendor
1986 Seize the Day Shomier
1986 Brighton Beach Memoirs Mr. Greenblat
1990 Q&A Preston Pearlstein
1991 Mobsters Tailor
1993 The Pickle Mr. Shacknoff
1993 For Love or Money Milton Glickman
1995 Aaron's Magic Village NarratorEnglish version, Voice
1995 Nixon Murray ChotinerNominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
1998 The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars Hearing AidVoice
2000 The Crew Sol Lowenstein
2009 A Serious Man DybbukNominated—Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cast
2013The Other Men in BlackMoshe
2015 Deli Man Himself
2016 Game Day Max [11] (final film role)


1977 Kojak SimonEpisode: "Kojak Days: Part 1"
1992–1996 Picket Fences Douglas Wambaugh87 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Drama Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series (1995–96)
Nominated—Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Drama Series (1993, 1995)
1995 Chicago Hope Douglas WambaughEpisode: "Small Sacrifices"
1995 Aaahh!!! Real Monsters Jackie Jarr2 episodes
1995 Great Performances HimselfEpisode: "Itzhak Perlman: In the Fiddler's House"
1996, 1999 Early Edition Phil Kazakian2 episodes
1996 Rugrats ShlomoEpisode: "Chanukah"
1997 The Simpsons Himself as Krusty the Clown Voice, Episode: "Lisa's Sax"
1998–1999 Fantasy Island Fisher13 episodes
2000–2004 Boston Public Harvey Lipschultz70 episodes
2000–2003 Hollywood Squares Himself10 episodes
2007 The Wedding Bells Saul FinkelsteinEpisode: "For Whom the Bells Toll"
2011 Harry's Law Abe GoldEpisode: "The Rematch"
2013 Blue Bloods MoisheEpisode: "Men in Black"

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Lovece, Frank (January 6, 2008). "Fast Chat: Fyvush Finkel". Newsday (interview). Archived from the original on March 8, 2008. Retrieved 2017-04-11.
  2. 1 2 Berger, Joseph (August 15, 2016). "Fyvush Finkel, Pillar of Yiddish Theater Who Crossed Into TV, Dies at 93". New York Times. p. D11. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  3. Internet Broadway Database: Fiddler on the Roof Replacements/Transfers
  4. Internet Broadway Database: Fiddler on the Roof (1981 revival)
  5. Internet Theatre Database: Little Shop of Horrors
  6. Infoplease: 1988–1989 Obie Awards
  7. Fyvush Finkel at the Internet Broadway Database
  8. Gates, Anita (December 30, 1997). "Theater Review: Legends of Yiddish Stage Brought to Life". The New York Times .
  9. Press release, "Tony Award-Winner Richard Easton to Star in New Jerusalem", Marc Thibodeau, The Publicity Office, November 19, 2007
  10. "Fyvush Finkel Dies at 93". BroadwayWorld. August 14, 2016. Retrieved 2016-08-14.
  11. Trav, S.D. (March 2, 2016). "Formerly of 'Fiddler,' Finkel, 93, far from final act". The Villager . Retrieved August 4, 2016.