Miriam Zohar

Bar-Ilan University bestows an honorary doctorate upon Miriam Zohar, in recognition of her stellar achievements in Israeli theatre and for her premier role in cultivating cultural life in the State of Israel from its earliest days.

A veteran actress of Israel's national theatre, Habimah, Miriam Zohar has masterfully played major female roles over four decades. Widely lauded for her brilliant performance in dozens of plays, both classical and modern, she was awarded the Israel Prize in 1987. Among her outstanding roles were Martha in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Serafina in Tennessee Williams’s The Rose Tattoo (1971); and the title roles in Euripides’s Medea (1981); Schiller’s Mary Stuart (1981); and Jacob Gordin’s Mirele Efros (1987). The recipient of many awards, she won the Aharon Ashman prize for her performance as a fragile Holocaust survivor in the monodrama The Journey by Maria F?ldes (1980).

Born in 1931 as Miriam Katz – the daughter of a traditional Jewish tradesman from Czernowitz (Chernivtsi), she herself is a Holocaust survivor. In 1941, she and her family were deported by the Romanian Fascist government to Transnistria in the western Ukraine where she was forced into hard labor. When Soviet Troops liberated the region in 1944, the family moved back to their home town. Soon thereafter, her father was imprisoned and deported by the Soviets. In 1948, she, and her mother and brother, set out for Palestine, spending a year in a British detention camp in Cyprus before arriving in the infant Jewish state in 1949.

Although she hardly spoke Hebrew and lacked formal theatre education, Miriam Zohar rapidly rose to stardom in the State of Israel. Shortly after arriving, she was invited to perform with the theatre of Yaakov Mansdorf. Her acting ability was so impressive that she was invited to audition for the Habimah. In 1951, she joined Israel's premier theatre, where she played uninterruptedly until 1994. In accordance with theatre policy, she adopted the Hebrew name Zohar (meaning splendor) which seemed appropriate for a Hebrew actress.

Since leaving Habimah, she has worked mainly at Beit Lessin. There she began a fruitful and long-lasting collaboration with the Israeli dramatist and director Shemuel Hasfari, appearing in all parts of his autobiographical trilogy. All three characters that she played are elderly middle-class women, Holocaust survivors who try to cling to and control their collapsing families. These roles were well suited to Zohar’s tendency to realistic acting and reflected her own public image as a Holocaust survivor who had built a stable, conventional home in Israel.
Throughout her long, impressive career, Miriam Zohar's highly sensitive artistic ability has enabled her to perform in a varied repertoire of roles and to develop a deep psychological identification with the characters she portrays.

In tribute to her outstanding leadership in Israeli theatre and her vital contribution to developing and enriching cultural life in the State of Israel, Bar-Ilan University is honored to award Miriam Zohar with an honorary doctorate.