Actress Orna Porat Dies
Porat pictured in 1957. Photo: National Photo Collection of Israel.

August 6, 2015

Stage and screen actress Orna Porat dies at age 91 in Tel Aviv.

She was born Irene Klein, a German Christian, near Cologne in 1924. She turned toward atheism and socialism in her youth and fell in love with the stage when she saw a Schiller play at age 14. She became a professional actress with a repertory company in Schleswig during World War II.

She planned to move to the Soviet Union after the war, but she met a Jewish intelligence officer with the British army named Yosef Proter and immediately fell in love. She moved with him to British Mandatory Palestine, and they married in 1947. She converted to Judaism in 1957.

After the Habima Theater rejected her in January 1948 because of her lack of Hebrew, she became a star at Tel Aviv’s Cameri Theater, where she took a suggestion to adopt a more Hebraic-sounding name and became Orna Porat. She played a range of leading roles, from Viola in “Twelfth Night” to the title roles in Shaw’s “Joan of Arc” and Schiller’s “Mary Stuart,” over nearly four decades at the Cameri and made occasional appearances in films and on television.

She also founded a children’s theater at the Cameri in 1965. It became independent in 1970, and she ran it for 25 years. The Orna Porat Theater for Children and Youth is one of her legacies.

Among many awards, she won the Israel Prize for theater in 1979 and the EMET Prize for arts and culture in 2005.