OBIT: Joseph Wolfe Gordon (1937)

An Actor Struts and Frets Across the Yiddish Stage No More

By S. H. Abramson

From the Canadian Jewish Standard, January 1937

The recent passing of my old friend Joe Gordon at the Mount Sinai Sanitarium, after an illness of six years, brings to mind a host of memories.

During my last visit to Joe during the summer, he was in pretty bad shape, and everybody knew it but Joe himself. Perhaps he did know it, but refused to admit it, because his optimism was at times almost unbearable to the visitor.

It was pathetic to listen to him talk of his plans; to hear him tell of the plays he planned to write; of the things he had in mind to do when he became well once again. We knew very well all the time that he would never recover his health. And now he is gone, and with him are gone all the plans and dreams and hopes.

Joe first came in contact with the theatre through the Yiddish Players at the Monument National. He was at that time a young man of no particular education or culture, and he knew nothing of the theatre, except that he felt an impelling urge to be part of it.

And so he began as an extra and gradually was given parts of greater importance. He played opposite well known Yiddish actors like Samuel Goldenburg and Stella Adler, and the future at that time was a bright one. He entered the English stage and took part in amateur dramatics both as a director and an actor. He took a leading part in the YMHA’s memorable production of the “Dybbuk” some years ago.

My first acquaintance with Joe was in Young Judea, where he directed a series of one-act Yiddish plays. Many old timers will remember Sholom Aleichem’s “She Must Marry a Doctor,” in which Joe Frank was the star. He was invaluable aid to the organization in those days and gave freely of his time and talent.

His premature death has removed an outstanding talent from our midst. His many friends will miss him, but there may be some slight consolation in the knowledge that his long years of useless agony and suffering are now over.