28 April, 1924  –  1 September, 1979


(Khayele / Chayele / Chajele / Chayale / Khajele / Chaya / Chaje / Hayale / Rozental / Rosental )

Chayela Rosenthal was born in 1924 in Vilna (Vilnius), Lithuania (Poland), to Fruma and Nochum Rozental.  Her father owned a large printing shop and published the popular Yiddish daily newspaper Der Ovent Courier / Ovnt-Kuryer (Evening Courier) in Vilna.     He also got the license to produce a “Vilna” issue of the popular Warsaw Jewish Daily Newspaper. Chayela’s brother, Leyb “ Lolek” (Leib / Layb / Lejb) was a prolific Yiddish writer, social activist and poet, who published his first book of poems at age 14.    He was a member of the Young Vilna Literary Group, Jung Vilna, and also in the ensemble of the Yiddish Puppet Theatre ‘Maidim’ – specializing in children’s productions as well as left-wing parodies of political and social issues in Vilna from 1933 to 1941. Marionetten shpiele!

Chayela, her brother and sister, Mary, were artistic and well educated.  Chayela attended Epstein Gymnasium High School where she came top of her class regularly, excelling in mathematics. She tutored younger students and was an excellent sports player and ice skater. Her passion was in the Arts and her dramatic and singing talents triumphed and were recognized early on, singing in all school concerts and more. She did voice overs and sang in the Maidim puppet shows and was singing her brother’s songs on radio as a mere teenager. When she was 16 she won a national singing competition and was chosen to represent Soviet occupied Vilna in the International Folk Festival of Songs in Moscow, scheduled for 22 June, 1942. Sadly, she was not able to go as the war broke out just days before she was due to leave.


On June 24th, 1941, the German army invaded Vilna and the culturally rich Jewish world of the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” as Vilna was known, was destroyed forever. Chayela’s father was among the first to be taken away a few days later, when two SS soldiers and a Lithuanian policeman barged into her home, ordering her beloved father to pack some soap and a change of clothes and forcing him out of the house, took him away ….. never to return.   He was one of the first victims of the Einsatzgruppen Kommandos who actioned unexpected roundups of men who were then murdered in the Ponary forest – the killing dumping ground outside of Vilna. Leyb who was not home at the time his father was taken, was kept hidden at his Uncle’s house ( dressed as a young girl). Another Aktion took place when around 6,000 Jews were deported to the Lukiszki prison yard, Chayela, Mary and Fruma included.

We layed on the ground and storm rain fell on our heads….. There were three big yards separated each from the other by a big iron door and I felt this was the end.  I understood, we must come nearer to the exit, because we were in the last yard. By every door stood a watchman. I came to him, this was a young Lithuanian boy, …. And I begged him to let us come into the first yard. I spoke to him in Lithuanian ( I learned during their occupation) and this helped. He was very afraid, but at a moment no German was a round, he opened a little the door. We came to the first ground. My feeling was right to come nearer to the exit because my Uncle had come three times to the prison, with a German of this unit, to take us out, but being in the last ground (yard), we didn’t hear ( him) calling our names.  But this morning, a friend of Chayela’s told us she heard the Foreman calling our names.  Mommy and Chayele pushed me to go ask the Foreman.   He was a Lithuanian tall man in a long black leather coat and in a hand a whip which he beat right and left. I was so afraid. I came to him and asked him, in his language, if he called our names. He checked the list and said YES…. And we came out of prison.  Outside waited for us already my Uncle and Lolek ( brother Leyb)…..and then we went to the ghetto.” –  as written by Mary Karpinowitz – Chayela’s sister.   


Early that September, Chayela, her siblings and mother were among the more than 60,000 thousand Vilna Jews living in Vilna, who were ordered to leave their comfortable homes and all their belongs behind and were forced into the walled off seven-street blocks of the old Jewish quarter, which then became known as the Vilna Ghetto.  It was hard to find rooms to stay in and because they had no working permit cards, they had to seek cover in basements, constantly changing locations in order to survive.  Food was scarce and disease quickly spread.  


After some stability began to prevail in the Ghetto, Jacob Gens, the Vilna ghetto chief, had announced plans for a theatre company to be formed inside the ghetto which would allow actors and writers a permit to work, and thus survive. Chayela’s brother Leyb was helped by his literary friends to get a yellow schein, the work permit card, and later the pink schein for his family, that kept them safe.  Those with these work permits were mostly spared the consequences of the Aktions that gathered and sent people away to be killed. Leyb, with his knowledge of German, worked during the day at YIVO and was part of the “Paper Brigade” that smuggled, hid and saved many important documents and documents and Jewish religious works.  Chayela’s  singing talents and her brother’s writing talent and fluency in languages, secured their family’s safety.   Many Jewish intellectuals and rabbis objected vehemently, smearing walls with posters claiming: “You don’t perform theatre in a graveyard.”   Despite the opposition, Gens forged ahead with the plans for a theatre.  The young, charismatic Chayela was a regular feature, singing in jazz ensembles and eventually appearing in starring roles in the musical productions, many written by her brother, Leyb. Chayela was grateful too, to the finest actors and directors who shared a small room with her in the ghetto and coached her too.

(Chaje) Rozental’s beauty as well as her youthful demeanor and strong sense of humour used to charm the theatre audience” – Markas Petuchauskas child in the ghetto.

In the Vilna Ghetto Leyb became one of the most successful writers of musicals and theatre revues.

The first music performance in the ghetto was on 18 January, 1942. Josef Glazman, member of the Vilna Ghetto police and underground movement, gave an introductory speech. In the first part of the concert included verses of Chaim Nachman Bialik, the Vilna Ghetto Choir, Liuba Levicka and pianist Sonia Rechtdik, performing Chopin‘s  “Funeral March”. In the second part of the concert, Dora Rubina recited verses written by Avrom Sutzkever, and after Chayela performed Leyb’s song “YISROLIK”, the audience asked for her to sing it again and again and they ultimately joined in and started singing along.

According to Israel Segal, one of the founders and directors of the Vilna Ghetto Theater, although it was was met with ambiguity, the first concert at the Vilna Ghetto Theater left a deep impression both for the performers and the audience. In order not to spoil the atmosphere created by the evening, the audience left the hall in silence… A poster of that concert still exists today.

Chayela was soon named the “Wunderkind of the Vilna Ghetto Theatre”.  Leyb Rozental, together with other talented writers and musicians, created “full length” musicals, plays and satirical revues, which depicted ghetto life with poignant humor. Leyb became one of the most successful writers of musicals and theatre revues. These “shows” grew to be very popular as they served to provide much needed relief and hope for the rapidly dwindling, fear filled population.  For many, attending the theatrical shows in the large auditorium gave them the only opportunity to gather together as community. Survivors today talk of the theatre as a “miracle.” Nothing could keep audiences away, not even the presence of German and Lithuanian soldiers in the audience, or the grim reality of omnipresent random murders, imminent death and starvation. At the end of the first year, the group had given 111 performances!  Seen by some as spiritual resistance against the evil of the oppression and violence of the Nazis, this group of artists and actors demonstrated that in the face of the most depraved conditions, people could rise above their horrific circumstances to work together and create and present art . Thus culture and spirit were sustained and nourished, and some of the songs written then are still being sung and recorded today!


One of Chayela’s most notable of her many leading roles in the Vilna Ghetto revues, was as the young orphan girl “Peshe” in “Peshe fun Reshe,” a comic satiric revue about the upheaval and chaos of living in the Ghetto. Her rendition of the song “Yisroilik”, written by her brother, about a young ghetto street orphan, was sung throughout the ghetto and is still a favorite in Yiddish circles today.

Chayela was the first to sing Hirsch Glick’s song “Zog Nit Keynmol Az Du Geyts Dem Letstn Weg” introduced in the ghetto as “Unzer Naje Idisze Lid” (Our new yiddish song) and now sung as an anthem around the world.

Her youthful vivaciousness, irrepressible humor, and heartfelt singing, the petite Chayela soon became adored and hailed as the “Wunderkind of the Vilna Ghetto,” and “Songstress of Hope”.


Chayela performed Leyb’s song YISROILIK (about the ghetto orphan boy ) at the first variety concert held in the Ghetto in 1942. In September of 1943, as the liquidation and destruction of the Vilna Ghetto began, the shows kept going until the end. Deportees attended performances even as they knew that the next day would probably bring death. The songs written by Leyb Rosenthal: Mir Leybn Eybek, (We live Forever) Einz, Tzvei Drei, (One, Two, Three) and those from the final musical, “Moyshe halt Zich “(Moses, hold on!) accompanied many Vilna Jews on their final destination to extermination camps. Leyb’s songs are still being sung around the world today by many artists, including non-Jewish klezmer singers.   After the war,  Chayela too, continued to sing Leyb’s songs like  “Yisroilik” / “Ich Benk Aheim” / “Shotns”/ “Susie” / “Vilna”/ “Veyn Nisht Narele“/ “Pak Zich Eyn”/ “Bayrn Geto-Toyer” and many more… did both her daughters, continuing their family legacy of song.


In September of 1943, the Vilna ghetto was liquidated, and Chayela was separated from her beloved brother.  Leyb was deported to Klooga Camp in Estonia where he was brutally murdered one day before the Soviet Troops liberated that camp. 


Chayela, her mother and her sister Mary, were deported, to the labor Camp Kaiserwald in Riga.  Upon arrival the selections began….  Chayela stood next to her mother, holding her hand tightly. The SS man was pointing to the left, to the right, to the left, to the right. He looked at Chayela’s mother and pointed to the left. Quickly, she told Chayela to go to the right, to leave her, but Chayela would not  let go of her hand, she was holding on so tight, but her mother pushed her away… To the right, meant life. 

With a rising need to cover the labor shortages from the war effort, Heinrich Himmler agreed to exploit the Jewish prisoners in ghettos and camps for this use by selling them as labor for German businesses, factories and farms and having the prisoner’s salaries sent to the Nazis.  Kaiserwald was one such labour camp.    While in Kaiserwald, Chayela and her sister were forced to clean and wash the uniforms, shirts and underpants that had belonged to dead soldiers, for reuse. While sorting the clothing from Prisoners, they were instructed to search the hems for gold and jewelry. No soap was given to the prisoners, and only cold water to shower with. For weeks they wore the same clothing day and night. They slept on their blankets to soften the wood below their bones. The nights were so cold. At 5am, there was “Appel ” / Roll call after which inmates were sent to work. The food was the worst imaginable – a daily ration was served only at at 4pm and consisted of soup ( water with maybe some potato in it) and a quarter slice of bread.

“During Appel, (SS man) Hirsh was terrorizing us – picked out girls to go work to sort clothes and asked for those who can sew .  beating the girl who broke the needle…. in that “kleider kamer” no one was not allowed to flinch as he would beat them too. No emotions could be shown, no sympathy… . Chayela washed the clothing. Others ironed  – girls helped each other did for each other…   Also Kaiserwald was laid out with the headstones from Jewish cemeteries of Riga.  Germans made the camp and used those Jewish tombstones for the ground.  We walked on those names of Jews – torture…and degrading”

Because she was recognised as the Vilna ghetto songbird, Chayela was often asked to sing songs in Kaiserwald – songs that gave brief pleasure and boosted morale, and in return she would often be given gifts of extra food or easier tasks.  Chayela kept singing, giving hope and courage to others and keeping alive the precious memories of their beloved home, Vilna.  


After a few weeks in Kaiserwald,  Chayela and her sister were loaded with others into a cattle truck, in which they travelled without food or water for days until they reached their destination – Stutthof concentration camp, near Danzig/Gdansk.   There, Chayela and her fellow prisoners stood for hours every day to get meagre helpings of, again, soup made out of potato peels… Typhoid and starvation was rampant.   Multiple times in the day or the night, the prisoners were called to Appel to stand in formation to be counted.  Missing or hiding from Appel meant certain death.  During one such Appel, Chayela and her sister were taken way in transit through Crottendorf to the concentration camp Sophienwalde.


Chayela and Mary were in Sophienwalde for over two years. There, in the harshest of conditions, through the cold of two long winters in thin clothing, sickly, exhausted, dehydrated and under nourished, Chayela was forced into hard labour that included road building and forest carving.

In Sophienwalde, a woman SS camp guard used to push us to run instead of march to the work place and although I ran well, I was still beaten by her on my head several times……I once had to spend six days in Krankentsubbe (infirmary) because of the open wounds on my head and shoulders from when she beat me with that stick that had nails on top.”

For a while, Chayela was in charge of tending to the fire along the road building sites…adding more and more wood…and monitoring how long each prisoner was allowed to stop work for a moment and warm up by the fire …..

A friend, Milly Baron, who also survived, shared that “Chayela was SO kind to everyone …She allowed many prisoners to warm up longer.   If you were very sick or had a fever you could stay in barracks BUT you still had to work – peel potatoes… You could not lie down to heal.   Chayela would sing for the sick girls sometimes – She was a tonic – like medicine.  The German officer liked Chayela singing so he let Chayela watch the girls and peel potatoes too… and Chayela would encourage girls to take potatoes for themselves, when the officer in charge left the room. When he was out in the bathroom, Chayela would let the girls run to barracks to unload and hide their potatoes while she sang extra loud to give impression all the girls were still there listening.  Chayela took big risks – a person being brave and kind  and helpful… Yah, in those bitter years and bitter days, Chayela was a jewel, a treasure, a gift.  Her singing made us forget everything.  Reminded us of the good years forgot our tsorress in those moments. Often, after a full days work…. we had to stand for hours, again for Appel, before we could rest in our barracks, A-frame barracks – no windows, like a dog house – Lying on straw on the ground as there were no bunks. Sometimes we could sneak in wood to burn in a little oven.  We would dry the wood sticks under the straw.    The SS Officer gave us black coffee at night and many of us used it to wash hair or hands with it as it was warm.   At night too, kind and considerate Chayela would sing for us all the ghetto songs… She gave us hope we will overcome the bad. Songs helped us to forget, take us back to good days in our head.  Chayela was a big help to us. In the worst conditions, Chayela showed her humanity. We all loved her…”


In March, 1945, Chayela and her sister suffered the forced participation in the women’s death march to the Baltic Sea.  For two days and nights, without water or food, they marched… They witnessed those in front of them ordered to march into the sea…pressed forward by the bayonets of the soldiers pushing them further and further into the water. Many of the women were shot and others drowned. Most would be loaded onto barges that were to be bombed, thereby removing witnesses to the fate of the Jews.  On the 10th March, 1945, Russian troops overran their march near Lauenburg / Lebork in Poland and when the liberating Russian troops arrived, the German soldiers scattered and ran away, leaving the remaining women behind on the beach. Chayela and her sister were among those left alive.  


Chayela later learned that after the Vilna Ghetto was liberated, her brother Leyb had been sent to Klooga Camp of Estonia.  On 21 September, 1944, the Germans, upon hearing of Soviet troops arriving, tried to evacuate the camp, placing prisoners on trains and force marches to outlying forests where they were to be shot and killed. When no more trains were available, the Nazis marched those remaining prisoners, including Leyb, into the nearby forest. The prisoners were ordered to build a platform from logs and forced to lie on top of the logs. More logs were piled on top of the men and then more men stacked on those logs. The Nazis shot them and burned them. A few Klooga prisoners had managed to run and hide when the trucks were being loaded and the camp was set afire. When they wandered out to meet the liberating Soviet troops, they came upon the sickening sight of the log pyres, the charred bodies, and so bore witness. leyb’s loss was so heartfelt by Chayela, she could hardly ever speak of him….but the one photo she had of him, was always with her.

In 1946, Chayela would write down all her brother Leyb’s songs in a small blue notebook, determined to keep his memory and songs alive.  Photos from the blue book that also includes some songs composed by other writers in the ghetto, can be seen on Leyb’s website page of photos.


After being rescued from the death March 1945, Chayela and her sister were placed with some Hungarian girls in nearby barracks.   Weak, thin and shaven-haired, the sisters then found their way to a house in the town of Lebork/ Lauenberg. A day or two later some Vilna boys came to invite the girls to rather come stay with them in their house as it was unsafe for girls to be living alone as they had heard of Russian soldiers raping some other survivor girls. Chayela was recognized by one of the Vilna Landsman, another survivor, Israel Jutan, who introduced himself to her as someone who had written articles about her music performances before the war…. Chayela, now riddled with Typhoid fever, was nursed back to health and into love by this young man.

After Victory Day on 5th May, Israel Jutan, now going by his previous journalist nom de plume of Xavier Piatka, and knowing he wanted to take care of Chayela for the rest of her life, began to discuss their future together.   He and Chayela agreed to find a place where they could live, just the two of them and start to build their new and better future together. Through a friendship made with a Jewish Red Army soldier, Xavier was given a job with the Polish administration of Lauenberg, to help with the registration of refugees and incoming Poles.

Chayela, eager to perform again, joined the State Yiddish Theatre group, becoming one of the lead actresses in the many performances to critical acclaim in the Wroclaw, Warsaw, Lodz and beyond.

Xavier, taking leave for two weeks from work to accompany his wife to Lodz where she was scheduled to perform again, they stopped in the town of Bydgoscz. While Chayela attended a singing competition on radio, Xavier took a walk and bumped into an old Polish aquaintance who recognised him as a journalist from before the war, and helped him get issued with new identity documents.  And so, in the town of Bydgoszcz, Xavier began working as the editor of a Polish newspaper, and married Chayela in June 1945 in the a judge’s office with a small group of actor friends as witnesses.   In the Autumn of 1945 they moved to Hirschberg, Jelenia Gora where Xavier became editor of  the main newspaper and manager of the Office of Information.   Soon the couple moved into their own three roomed apartment and enjoyed many luxuries that included owning a car, radio, kitchen mix-master and a piano.


One of Chayela’s first notable post war concert, was in Lodz on 17th June, – prepared by the Polish Association of Jewish Literarians, Journalists and Actors. The concert repertoire consisted of the songs of the Vilnius Ghetto theatre. The first part presented the songs of her brother Leyb and was devoted to his memory. The second part consisted of other popular songs of the Ghetto, ending with Chayela singing Wilne, the anthem of her native town.

Chayela, along with Ararat singers and actors and Kiev’s famous, Norbert Horowitz joined the Miniatur jidisher kunst teatre (The Theatre of the Jewish Miniature Art), headed by Israel Bieker and Karpinowicz. Chayela starred in the leading roles and the first performance was  Dos groyse gevins (Striking the Jackpot) – by Sholem Aleichem.

Chayela continued to tour and perform in many towns in countries across Europe (including Poland, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, France, Czechoslovakia). By invitation from the American Joint Distribution Committee, Chayela also performed in many Displaced Persons camps across the region. Employed by the (Yiddish Collective) Jewish State Theater of Lower Silesia, she (known then as “Khayele” or “Chaje”) became one of the most important female figures of the actors’ team.

When Chayela performed with the Niderszlezisz Jidiszer Teater (The Jewish Theatre of the Lower Silesia), in the play Der blutiker shpas (The Bloody Hoax) by Sholem Aleichem, Chayela, who played the role of “Beti”, was described by critics as follows: “a talented dramatic acting of the singer, her specific temperament, wonderful artistic intuition and clear diction.”

Chayela continued to perform regularly touring with a group of actors performing in the small towns of Lower Silesia. In 1947, she and Sheftel Zak performed in John Boynton Priestly’s play “The Inspector Calls” in Breslau’s old Opera House. Critics praised her talent in her role as Sheila Berling in this complex play. Chayela again ” flashed all her talent” in the role of “Cine” in Peretz Hirshbein’s Yiddish play, Griner FelderGreen Fields”, produced by Jakub Kurlender, opening in Wroclaw on 23d of March, 1947. And in 1948, Chayela received great reviews for her memorable role as the nurse in Dzis Nocy (Tonight), produced by Ida Kaminska who also played lead.


During one of her Grine Felder performances a DP camp, Chayela was discovered by the famous Yiddish American comedienne, Molly Picon and her husband, Jacob Kalich, who while visiting refugee camps in Poland, had come to see the play. Kalich wrote that Chayela was “a new Molly Icon”. Molly Picon, was so impressed by Chayela’s performance that she promised to help get Chayela out of Poland and to America. Molly arranged that Chayela audition for the famous impresario, Sol Hurok, when he visited Warsaw to restore the ruined cultural sites. They needed to get to Warsaw for this meeting in a hurry. Trains were too slow, but through Xavier’s contacts, they were able to board an army plane carrying ammunitions to Warsaw, as sole passengers. Within a few hours they were there to meet and audition for Sol Hurok. Hurok was moved to tears by Chayela’s performance and impressed enough to use his contacts to secure Chayela an engagement in Paris, France with his agent Leonidoff who organized the relevant papers, visas and travel documents.

Chayela and Xavier took their happy leave of Poland, the country that now represented virulent anti-Semitism, death and destruction for Jews. With travel documents in place for Xavier to report on a UNESCO conference in Paris, but carrying a one way ticket, one small suitcase and with just a ten dollar banknote which Chayela had hidden in her hair, they crossed the frontier from Poland and set out for Fence … and a life of true liberation in the free western world.


In 1948 Chayela and Xavier had settled happily in Paris, France.  Chayela joined and performed with the local Jewish theatre there, the ‘Entrepot’ Theatre, Ambigue, Pigalle and other cabaret venues. Following Chayela’s amazing performance of Yiddish songs at  the Gala Variety Show in Paris’s Palais Chaillot on the New Year’s Eve, 1949, she received a contract for regular nightly appearances at the Jewish night club ‘Habibi’ in Montmartre. This contract led to appearances on French TV with Edith Piaf, Yves Montand and other stars of the French variety acts.  Art Buchwald in the Paris edition of the “New York Herald Tribune” highly praised her comedy act and comedian Dave Cash and singer Danny Kaye, who joined for some sessions on stage at Habibi, became Chayela and Xavier’s good friends there.

In Paris, Chayela stepped into a recording studio for the first time and in 1948 recorded her songs on LP with the Ben Horris Orchestre ( Disque Polyglotte 1023). Chayela also joined a new company of actors featuring the renowned Yiddish actors Etta Topel and Mark Markov.


In 1951,  African Consolidated Theatres sent Sarah Sylvia, (a London born Jewish actress from South Africa) to Paris to meet and engage a group of Jewish actors to perform a season in Cape Town and Johannesburg. She was so taken with Chayela that she offered her a contract immediately to come and perform in South Africa.  



Chayela fell in love with beautiful South Africa, its friendly people, geographical beauty and easy climate. This was where she wanted to settle with Xavier, build a new home and start a family. In 1951, Chayela and Xavier, came to settle in Cape Town, where their daughters, Naava and Zola were born.

Chayela continued to perform, writing her own scripts, songs, comic sketches and original music revues. Over the years, she still continued to travel abroad, performing in clubs and theatres all over Europe (Zurich, Paris, London and more). She toured Israel many times including performing for soldiers during the 1956 Sinai Campaign. In 1964, Chayela performed on the cruise ship “S.S Shalom” ( Israel to New York.)

In the USA, Chayela performed on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre, appearing with Yiddish writer and producer Jacob Jacobs, as the leading lady Freidel in “The President’s Daughter” (1970) and as leading lady Molly in “Hello Charlie” (1965) with Max Perlman and other notable actors.

From 1951-1970, South Africans enjoyed her performances in Yiddish plays, where she often starred along with visiting actors like Mark Markov, Etta Topol and others including overseas Yiddish celebrities Max Perlman and Henri Gerro.    Also much enjoyed in South Africa, were her solo shows in Muizenberg, outlying towns, concerts at The Alhambra, The Three Arts, Broadway, The Labia, Nico Malan Theatre, Space and Market Theatre and other national venues.  

In South Africa, Chayela recorded more of her music and her LP titled “Chayele Rosenthal Stage Show” with Gallo Africa  Ltd. / Gallotone Record Company (GALP 1048) was released.

Chayela spoke seven languages and often also performed in French, Hebrew and English productions that included her memorable performances as Mrs Hollander in Woody Allen’s play “Don’t Drink The Water” (at the Space and Market Theatres -1977), as Madame Georges in Jean Anouilh’s play “Colombe” – aired on SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) Television (1978) and as the ultimate “yiddeshe mamme” – “Golde”- in “Fiddler on the Roof” (Nico Malan Theatre -1979).


Juggling show business, travel, mothering, entertaining, social dinners and yoga, Chayela was also a keen card player, winning multiple national Bridge tournaments.   She deeply loved people of all ages, was good fun to be around and was a loyal and devoted friend.  She was ready to help anyone and fight for justice and fairness for all. She hosted parties and functions for visiting and local artists in the entertainment industry and through the years did many concerts, shows and keynote addresses to raise money for different Charity organizations in the community. ( WIZO, UJW, Bnai Brith, ORT and more)


In 1979 Chayela was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer.   Just two months after major surgery, she stepped back on stage and through her failing health and the debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Chayela, performed her final role as the ultimate Yiddishe mamma, as “GOLDE” in the musical “FIDDLER ON THE ROOF” – a role she played with strength, courage, humour and brilliance. She passed away on 1 September, 1979 – just one week after the show ended its run. A significant date in her life. The day the war started, the day her best friend was killed….

She was just 55 years young when the world lost her. She is remembered with love and admiration by her friends, producers, directors, fellow actors and many fans, as a smart and talented, diminutive woman of huge presence, enormous courage and delicious “chayn” (charm) – always ready with a joke, and a huge capacity for the joy of life.

Her credo was: “Chupp zich ein a tog!” Grab the day !


Chayela’s life is written about in Naava Piatka’s musical “Better Don’t Talk” and in Naava’s book “NO GOODBYES – A father Daughter Memoir about Love, War and Resurrection” .

Chayela’s life story has been written about in many books and publications and is featured as a main character in plays including Joshua Sobol’s play “Ghetto” which is based on Chayela’s life as songstress in the Vilna ghetto. She has “pages” on many Yiddish, Theatre and Jewish related websites worldwide and is featured in numerous museum archives across the globe.

While Chayela was among the first to ever sing her brother’s songs, today, many of Leyb Rozental’s songs are still being sung and recorded worldwide by many artists and his songs are featured on itunes and youtube.

The strong family genes have been passed down to both Chayela’s daughters. Naava (1952-2009) was a talented artist, author, actress and playwright, and Zola ( is a Billboard award winning songwriter, multiple CD recording artist, performer, writer, teacher and motivational speaker.  She continues to sing her mother and Uncle Leyb’s yiddish songs and is the composer of “Hert Zich Tsu – We Will Remember You” a song dedicated to all Holocaust survivors, victims and future generations of all those who died in the Holocaust. See below for Youtube channel and other links.



FACEBOOK PAGE: Chayela and Leyb

CHAYELA on film as “GOLDE” in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF – 1979

Chayela’s – summary of life and songs :

Chayela Rosenthal Wunderkind of the Vilna Ghetto :

ZOLA – Chayela’s daughter

Hert Zich Tsu – We Will Remember You” – ZOLA’s song tribute to survivors, their lost loved ones and future generations: Available for purchase: Apple Music:

ZOLA ‘s singer-songwriter WEBSITE:


Zola’s Concert at Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, USA:

NAAVA – Chayela’s daughter

Naava Piatka’s musical/play about Chayela: BETTER DON’T TALK :



“Chayela Rosenthal – A YIDDISH MEDLEY” available at:  

Amazon Music :

Apple Music:

“YIDDISH SONGS FOR YOU” – Chayela Rosenthal

Apple Music:

 Amazon Music: 

About CHAYELA, LEYB and more by Markas Petuchauskas: /









in Books

NO GOODBYES” – by Naava Piatka

“IN SACRED MEMORY” – Recollections of the Holocaust by survivors living in Cape Town. Edited by Gwynne Schrire:

Music in the Holocaust” by Shirli Gilbert: pg 62, 80, 239

LIDER FUN DI GETOS UN LAGERN” by Katsherginski, S. and H. Leivick, Eds. (1948).  New York, Alveltlekher Yidisher Kultur-Kongres.

PRICE OF CONCORD by Markus Petuchauskas

The Complete Book of 1970s Broadway Musicals” – by Dan Dietz

PLAYS featuring Chayela Rosenthal as character:

BETTER DON’T TALK” by Naava Piatka :

GHETTO” – by Joshua Sobol

VILNA” – By Ira Fuchs Podcast Interview about the play


Griner felder (Green Fields)  by Peretz Hirshbein’s  Chayela perfomed as  “CINE”  in WROCLAW  (March 1947)

An Inspector Calls by John Boynton Priestley. Chaje Rozental ( Chayela) played role of “SHEILA BERLING” – 1947 

Dzis Nocy (Tonight )  1948

 Dos groyse gevins (Striking the Jackpot)  by Sholem Aleichem –  Miniatur jidisher kunst teatre (The Theatre of the Jewish Miniature Art) 

Der blutiker shpas (The Bloody Hoax) by Sholem Aleichem.  Chayela played role of  “BETI”.

Songs sung in Yiddish by Chayela







Orem Ingeleh –


Vaksen  kinder un vargesn –

Nisht Mit Verder –

Chiribim –

A Mama un a techterel


A HalutzichE –






4 thoughts on “HOME

  1. What a tribute & what a life……short but filled with every kind of experience I plan to make my way through all the links on the website

    Thank you Zola


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