In Yiddish there are some professions or positions that use the diminutive form of a name as a sign of popular endearment. These include Hasidic rebbes, cantors, thieves and actors.
This was true of the beloved Yiddish actress Chayele Ash-Furman, who died on March 8 in Northern California at the age of 90. According to family legend, she was actually born onstage as her family’s theater troupe was on tour through Besserabia and Poland. The troupe wandered from town in a covered wagon, as true “wandering stars,‟ to use Sholem Aleichem‘s term for Yiddish actors of the period.
When Ash was 3 years old she began to act on stage and continued to perform until the Soviet army occupied Bessarabia at the beginning of World War II. During the war, the family was sent to Uzbekistan where her father died in a labor camp. There, Ash met the Polish Yiddish actor Peysakh Ziskind, whom she later married and with whom she had two children.