An All-American Girl Learns Yiddish
1898-1923

Molly in Vienna, 1922

Molly was born Margaret Pyekoon to Clara Ostrovsky and Louis Pyekoon on the Lower East Side on either February 28, or June 1.  In typical Molly fashion, she celebrated both birthdays. At age 5, Molly made her stage debut, winning a local talent competition.  Feeling pressure to support her single mother, Molly left school as a teenager to join an English-language vaudeville troupe.   Life changed dramatically in 1918, when she met Yonkel (Jacob) Kalich, who would become her husband, manager and creator of many of her roles on the Yiddish stage.

"When we met in Boston, I was the All-American Girl full of hurdy-gurdys and absolutely illiterate about Jewish culture.  Yonkel, on the other hand, was the complete intellectual who knew not only classic Yiddish but its plays, theater and writers."

Shortly after they married in 1919, Yonkel and Molly toured the "Jewish" cities of Eastern Europe so that she could improve her Yiddish and gain performing experience.

 

Molly in the film East and West (Mezrach und Maarev), Vienna 1923

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