To his life! Topol brought pride to Israel with long and successful acting career

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

To his life! Topol brought pride to Israel with long and successful acting career

Though he starred in multiple films and stage shows, it was the role of Tevye in the musical Fiddler On The Roof, first performed in the West End, which earned him most acclaim.

Chaim Topol in Sydney. Pic Noel Kessel.
Chaim Topol in Sydney. Pic Noel Kessel.

Once voted the 90th greatest Israeli of all time, Chaim Topol brought pride to his home country through his long and successful acting career.

Though he starred in multiple films and stage shows throughout his career, it was the role of Tevye in the musical Fiddler On The Roof, first performed on London’s West End, which earned him most acclaim.

Topol performed the role more than 3,500 times on both stage and screen from the late 1960s until 2009.

His portrayal in the 1971 film adaptation earned him a Golden Globe and a best actor Oscar nomination, as well as a Tony nomination for the 1991 musical revival.

Topol was born in 1935 and grew up in a working-class area of Tel Aviv.

Topol (right) on the beach in Tel Aviv in 2021.

Among his earliest film appearances was the lead role in the 1964 film Sallah Shabati by Ephraim Kishon.

The play, later adapted for film, depicted the hardships of a Mizrachi Jewish immigrant family in Israel of the early 1960s.

The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and earned Topol the Golden Globe award for new star of the year.

In 1966, he made his first English-language screen appearance as Abou Ibn Kaqden in the big-budget Mickey Marcus biopic Cast a Giant Shadow.

Watch: Fiddler On The Roof at 50: Jewish News’ celebration with the original cast – CLICK HERE

It was then that he landed the role that would shoot him to prominence, as the milkman Tevye in stage-show Fiddler on the Roof, performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre, in London.

After scoring a major success on the West End stage, Topol later starred in the 1971 film version, which earned him his Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

Despite being on active service with the Israeli Army at the time, he was granted permission to attend the awards ceremonies.

Chaim Topol receives his civilian honour from Netanyahu.

The actor went on to take the leading role in the musical The Baker’s Wife, but was fired after eight months by director David Merrick for unprofessional behaviour.

Topol later starred alongside other contemporary acting greats, including Brian Blessed in 1980’s Flash Gordon and Sir Roger Moore in the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only in 1981.

In 1983, he reprised the role of Tevye in a London revival of Fiddler on the Roof, before going on to play the character during a US tour of the production.

In 1990, he again played the part in a Broadway revival of Fiddler, and was nominated in 1991 for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical, though he lost out to British actor Jonathan Pryce.

He played the part again in a 1994 London revival, which became a touring production and saw him perform on stages around the world.

In 2005, he was voted the 90th-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.

In January 2009, Topol began a farewell tour of Fiddler on the Roof as Tevye, but was forced to withdraw from the tour owing to a shoulder injury.

He made his last appearance as his famed character in Boston, Massachusetts in November 2009.

In addition to acting, Topol also dedicated his time to charitable causes and founded Variety Israel – an organisation that provides support for children living with disabilities and their families.

He also served as the president of Jordan River Village, a free overnight camp for Israeli children living with chronic or life-threatening illnesses.

In 2015 the actor was awarded the Israel Prize – the country’s most prestigious award – for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the state.

In the days leading up to his death, his son told Ynet that the actor had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago.

Omer Topol said that his father is an “amazing actor who developed all kinds of tactics to cover up the problems that began to arise.

“When he won the Israel Prize, his Alzheimer’s was in its early stages,” Omer said.

“He spoke wonderfully at the ceremony, and also at other events, and no one even felt it.”

Topol is outlived by his wife Galia, who he married in 1965, and the couple’s three children, daughters Anat and Ady and son Omer.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: