Mina Bern (May 5, 1911 – January 10, 2010) was a Polish-born American actress. She was a star of the Yiddish theater.
Mina Bernholtz was born in Bielsk Podlaski. Her theatrical debut was in Bialystock under the director Yehuda Greenhoyz. In 1930, through her relative Moishe Broderzon, she shortened her name and auditioned successfully to join the Ararat Yiddish cabaret theater in Łódź, and then played at the Warsaw Scala and later, the Kaminska theaters and the local folk theater. With Dina Halperin and Sam Bronetski she worked in the collective Our Theater, and later with Zygmunt Turkov. A few years later, she established a small cabaret theater in Białystok.
Bern fled to Russia with her daughter after the Nazi invasion of Poland; there she played with the “Bialistocker yidishn miniatur-teatr” (miniature revi-teater) of Shimon Dzigan and Israel Shumacher. In 1944 she was sent to a camp in Uganda where she did children’s theater for Poles stationed there. Through Jewish family connections she went to Kenya in 1945 and from there to Israel where she worked with Jenny Lavitz in the revue Rozhinkes mit mandlen, favorably reviewed and subsequently staged at the Hebrew Li-La-Lo revue theater. In 1949, after an incident in which she was accused of sending a thug to beat up theater critic Haim Gamzu, who had written a bad review of her performance, she emigrated to the United States. She married actor/producer Ben Bonus. She recorded songs in Hebrew.
Ms. Bern was known not as much for her dramatic powers as for her cabaret singing and comedic flair. She would play a coquette in one sketch, a small-minded busybody in another and, in a third, an old mother whose children will let her live with them for only a short time. Nahma Sandrow, author of “Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater” (Harper & Row, 1977), said Ms. Bern “was adorable in sketches.”
Bern received an Obie Award in 1999, for her performance in Sweet Dreams (Zise khaloymes), at the Folksbiene.