As confirmed by The New York Times, beloved character Fyvush Finkel has died. The confirmation came from Finkel’s son, who explained that he had been having heart problems “for many months.” Finkel was 93.
Born Philip Finkel in 1922, he began acting at a young age in Manhattan’s Yiddish Theater District and took the stage name “Fyvush.” He tried to get a more traditional job as a teenager, but quickly returned to Yiddish theater and stuck with it well into the ‘60s. As The New York Times explains, though, he had no choice but to break into Broadway as the audience for Yiddish-language shows began to shrink. He ended up playing a number of different roles in Fiddler On The Roof right up until the original production closed in 1972 and returned to the show for a revival in the ‘80s.
Finkel also started appearing in some film roles around the time, including Sidney Lumet’s Q&A, which brought him to the attention of David E. Kelley and got him a role on Kelley’s Picket Fences TV series. Finkel played public defender Douglas Wambaugh on the show, winning a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his work in 1994. Years later, he would reunite with David E. Kelley for Boston Public, where he played history teacher Harvey Lipschultz.
More recently, Finkel appeared in the opening of the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man and had guest roles on Harry’s Law and Blue Bloods. He is survived by his two sons, a brother, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.