Jewish Name -
Philip “Fyvush” Finkel
Harvey Lipschultz - Boston
Public - TV Series
Finkel is a
Jewish American actor best
known as a star of Yiddish theater and for
Fyvush Finkel's role
as lawyer Douglas Wambaugh on the television series Picket
Fences, for which
Fyvush Finkel earned an Emmy Award in 1994.
Fyvush Finkel is also known for
Fyvush Finkel's portrayal of
Harvey Lipschultz, a crotchety U.S. history teacher, on the TV
series Boston Public.
Early life and career
Fyvush Finkel was born at home in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn,
New York City, on October 9, 1922, the third of four sons of
Jewish immigrant tailor
Harry Finkel, from Warsaw, Poland, and housewife Mary, from
Minsk, then part of Russia. Born Philip Finkel, with no
Fyvush Finkel adopted the stage name "Fyvush," a
common Yiddish given name.
Fyvush Finkel first appeared on the stage at age 9, and acted for
almost 35 years in the thriving Yiddish theaters of Manhattan's
Lower East Side, as well as performing as a standup comic in the
Catskill's Borscht Belt. In 2008
Fyvush Finkel recalled that,
“ 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. ”
Fyvush Finkel worked regularly until the ethnic venues began
dying out in the early 1960s, then made
Fyvush Finkel's Broadway
theatre debut in the original 1964 production of the musical
Fiddler on the Roof, joining the cast as Mordcha, the innkeeper,
in 1965. The production ran through July 2, 1972.
then played Lazar Wolf, the butcher, in the limited run 1981
Broadway revival, and eventually played the lead role of
Tevye the milkman for years in the national touring company.
Fyvush Finkel succeeded Hy Anzell in the role of Mr.
Mushnik in the Off-Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors.
Then in 1988,
Fyvush Finkel's work as "Sam" in the New York Shakespeare
Festival revival of the Yiddish classic Cafe Crown earned him an
Obie Award and a Drama Desk nomination.
Fyvush 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
Fyvush Finkel had
waited 51 years for that moment.
Following the end of Picket Fences,
Fyvush 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, 2000–2004).
Through the 1990s and 2000s,
has 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,
appeared in the Coen brothers' film A Serious Man.
Fyvush Finkel has continued to appear onstage in such productions as
Fyvush Finkel: From Second Avenue to Broadway (1997) and
Classic Stage Company's historical drama New Jerusalem (2007),
by playwright David Ives.
Fyvush 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.
American Comedy Award, Picket Fences 1993.
Emmy Award, Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series, Picket Fences
Obie Award: Performance, Cafe Crown 1988-1989.
Fyvush Finkel" (interview),
Newsday, January 6, 2008
Internet Broadway Database: Fiddler on the Roof
Internet Broadway Database: Fiddler on the Roof
Internet Theatre Database: Little Shop of Horrors
Infoplease: 1988–1989 Obie Awards
Fyvush Finkel at the
Internet Broadway Database
Gates, Anita. "Theater Review: Legends Of Yiddish Stage
Brought To Life".
The New York Times, December 30, 1997]
Press release, "Tony
Award-Winner Richard Easton to Star in New Jerusalem",
Marc Thibodeau, The Publicity Office, November 19, 2007
Internet Movie Database -
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