Sydney Swerdlow Talks About His Family





Isaac and Odel (Adele) Swerdlow (Sverdlov) had two sons – Menasha (Moynia in Russian and Max in English). The other son was named Zurach, (Zunya in Russian and Sydney in English).

Isaac became an actor on the Russian stage at the age of fourteen, playing Russian juveniles. Five years later, he joined the Yiddish theatre and recruited his wife, Adele, to also go on the Yiddish stage. By the time Isaac’s two sons were born, they were professional Jewish actors.

Isaac and Adele’s first child prior to Max was a little girl. In those days, theatre groups travelling from city to city, could neither afford, nor was it available, for train transportation. They travelled by horse-drawn wagons. 

One winter or fall night, everyone packed up after the performance. They loaded the wagon and they were going from one city to another. It was very cold and Isaac and his wife were very tired after the performance. They bundled the little girl into some warm clothes and cradled her in a pillow. Adele fell asleep. Somehow in her sleep, the baby girl smothered and died. It hit Isaac quite hard, so he never talked about it.

Isaac and his family lived in Russia until 1923, when the family immigrated to America. The family first went to Germany as a first transient point. When trying to enter the United States, Isaac’s wife was not permitted to enter because of a quota system. The decision was made that Isaac would go to the United States, leaving Adele and his two sons behind in Germany. He would then apply to bring his wife and sons to the United States as soon as he could.

As part of the Museum's Lecture Series, you may read the text of (and hear part of) Sydney Swerdlow's lecture on the history of the Yiddish theatre, which was given in Toronto, Canada in 1979.



Sydney Swerdlow,
son of Isaac and Adele,





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