Ben Gailing 1898 - 1999

The Forward, April 2, 1999

Gailing, Star of Yiddish Theater, Dead at 100

Forward Staff

Benjamin Gailing, a star of Yiddish theater who for more than 50 years hosted Boston's Sunday morning "Yiddish Radio Show," died on March 27 at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged in Roslindale, Mass. The cause of death was complications from pneumonia. He was 100.

When Gailing moved at the age of 16 to America from Suwalk, Russia, he was studying to be a rabbi. But a trip to the Lower East Side Yiddish theater convinced him otherwise, and his career in the arts began. "He fell in love with the Yiddish theater, and there went the rabbinate," said a longtime friend of Gailing's, attorney Frank Weiner.

After performing at the Yiddish Art Theater in New York, Gailing went on to tour major American cities. He and his wife, Freda, eventually settled in Boston.

Calling himself "the happy poor man," Gailing launched the "Yiddish Radio Show" on WDLW. He later wrote a humor column for the Yiddish Forward, made recordings and wrote a book titled "Give a Schmeikle."

A labor Zionist, Gailing would often perform at Workmen's Circle camps, providing the entertainment between political speeches, Mr. Weiner said.

"As a child, I would be glued to the radio every time Ben Gailing came on," Mr. Weiner said. Years later, Gailing moved in across the street from Mr. Weiner in Canton, Mass.

In the early 1960s, when Temple Beth Abraham in Canton needed a new cantor, Gailing accepted the position and stayed on for 26 years. "His cantorial style was reminiscent of the cantors of yesteryear, like that of the cantors in Europe around the turn of the century," Mr. Weiner said.

Even when he was sick, Gailing was always singing radio jingles and Yiddish songs, said teh secretary who worked on Gailing's floor at the Hebrew Rehabilitation Center for the Aged, Terry Dweyer. Gailing moved to the nursing home in 1991, where he would often perform for the other residents.

His wife died in 1988.

He is survived by a niece, Gail Leibowitz of New York.

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Ben Gailing 1898 - 1999

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