From a Childhood in Nazi Germany to Children’s Theater in Israel

The Fellowship  |  August 5, 2020

Orna Porat (left)
Orna Porat (left)

Born to a Protestant mother and Catholic father in Germany between the World Wars, Orna Porat joined the Hitler Youth like so many young Germans. Her family opposed the Nazis, however. Orna soon followed in rebuking the anti-Semitic regime.

After starting her career as an actress in Germany, she fell in love with a Jewish man from the Holy Land, an officer in the Jewish Brigade. The couple married in 1946 and moved to then British-mandate Palestine. Orna converted to Judaism and the couple adopted two children.

Beginning her Israeli acting career at the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv, she changed her birth name (Irene Klein) to the Hebrew-sounding Orna Porat. She also worked to soften her native German accent. In 1958, she began to serve on the theater’s board, a position she held until retiring in 1984.

In 1970, she founded the Orna Porat Children’s Theater, the oldest of its kind in the Holy Land. It still entertains and educates Israeli children to this day.

The beloved Israeli actress passed away in 2015 at the age of 91. But her contributions to Israeli theater and Israel’s children won her acclaim during her lifetime (the Israel Prize in 1979). And her contributions continue to serve Israel to this day, which is why Orna Porat is an Israeli You Should Know.