Life in Poland
Born Zypora Tannenbaum, she worked in her native Poland as a midwife for many years, delivering hundreds of children, including during World War II when she witnessed horrendous suffering. After emigrating to the United States in 1954, she became an actress.
Career in the United States
Spaisman, during her career as an actress, was long associated with the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre in NYC and, along with Morris Adler, kept it alive for 42 years. Following a dispute with the Folksbiene's new management in 1998, she founded the Yiddish Public Theatre.
The Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, originally located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in what was then known as the Forward Building and later ensconced across from the Central Synagogue in its Community House building (both locations during Spaisman's tenure), is the longest-running Yiddish theatre company in the world. Founded in 1915 as an amateur group dedicated to producing non-commercial Yiddish theater and world drama in Yiddish translation, it turned professional in later decades. It was sustained by Morris Adler, who joined the company in 1934, and Spaisman, who joined twenty years later. During Spaisman and Adler's tenure, the Folksbiene remained a bastion for Yiddish literary culture.
In 1998, Ms. Spaisman's position with the company was taken over by Zalmen Mlotek and Eleanor Reissa, who were then named co-artistic directors. They invited Spaisman to stay on as a "consultant" but she opted to start her own company, the Yiddish Public Theater, which endured for one year before its demise.
A documentary by Dan Katzir about Spaisman and her Yiddish Public Theater, Yiddish Theater: A Love Story, was released to much acclaim in 2006.