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Fyvush Finkel, veteran actor with Yiddish theater roots, dies at 93

Fyvush Finkel, an Emmy Award-winning actor who began his career performing in the Yiddish theater, dies at 93.

Finkel, who played in the 1990s CBS drama series “Picket Fences” and Fox’s “Boston Public,” dies Sunday in his Manhattan home of heart failure, The New York Times reports.

Finkel spent most of his early career on the Lower East Side of New York City performing in the Yiddish theater and was popular in his niche stage community when he broke into the mainstream in 1964 with the national production of “Fiddler on the Roof” playing Mordcha the innkeeper.

On the big screen, Finkel had a breakout performance in the 1990 Sidney Lumet pic “Q&A” as a corrupt attorney. He also appeared in “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “For Love or Money” and “Nixon.”

In 2009, Finkel appeared in the opening scene of Academy Award best picture nominee “A Serious Man” playing a Treitle Groshkover, known as a “dybbuk” in Jewish lore — the wandering soul of a dead person that enters the body of a living person and controls his or her behavior.

On television, Finkel played public defender Douglas Wambaugh in “Picket Fences,” for which he was twice Emmy nominated, winning in 1994. He soon became a favorite of “Fences” creator David Kelley, who also cast him in “Boston Public” as an eccentric high school teacher.

— JTA

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