Celia Zuckerberg-Zylbercweig



Celia Zylbercweig
cir 1958

Bottom: as Mirele Efros, in Wilshire Ebell Theatre production



Celia was born in 1905 in Chelm, Poland. Her father was a contractor for the government buildings. She completed Clara Morgenstern's private folkshul, where she also had received her Jewish studies. Then she completed the eight-class philological gymnasium "Stefan Tsarnetski", and she continued her Jewish studies privately with Feivel Fried. As a member of "Hashomer Hatzair", she participated in a Hebrew biblical one-acter by teacher Vadilovski, and since 1920 in the offerings of the dramatic section of "Hashomer Hatzair" and other drama circles,  in plays such as "Bar kokhba" ("Dinah"), "Ash re" ("Shulamit"), "El nhrut bbl" ("Palmira"), "Der vilder mentsh" ("Liza"), and in the title role of Orshansky's "Anna" and Gordin's "Sappho", as well as performing with declamations during city celebrations.

In 1923 she traveled to Warsaw, where she had earlier studied singing with a private teacher, and then for a short time in the city conservatory. From there in 1924 she traveled to Essen, Germany, where she again studied singing. In 1925 she immigrated to Argentina, where she entered into the troupe of the Teatro Ombú,  and she acted there as a prima donna with actors, such as Boris Auerbach, Esther Perlman, Jacob Shefner, Itzhak Deutsch, in operettas,  as well as with Rudolph Zaslavsky in dramatic productions ("Berta" in "Foter", "Regina" in "Di geyser" and "Hodl" in "Tuviya der milkhiker". Then she toured across the Argentinean province. According to their daughter, Shirley, this is where her mother and father (Leon Zuckerberg) met.

Family Talk Station  11

From their daughter Shirley.


After marrying him, they appeared together on stage in 1927, as well as in a troupe that included actors Morris and Rosa Brown, Morris and Genya Gelber, and Aaron Aleksandrov. They then went on a tour across South and Central America (Chile, Peru, Cuba and Mexico), where she performed in soubrette and prima donna roles. In 1928 she acted in several cities in Texas, in the United States, and in 1929 she was engaged by Moshe Schorr in Baltimore, where she performed in his work "Dos yidishe meydl". Celia acted with Clara Young and Leon Blank, then performed in Detroit on Grushko's Yiddish radio, and she also participated in a concert in the local Yiddish theatre. She traveled back with her husband to Mexico, where she acted with many stars of the Yiddish stage.

After the death of her husband (1935) from pneumonia, she continued acting, with Abe Lax, Jacob Berlin, Zigmunt Turkow, Esther Perlman et al.,  and afterwards, together with them, led a theatre, bringing in such guest-stars as Ethel and Abe Dorf, Abraham Teitelbaum, Isidore Meltzer, later going over to the newly created building for Yiddish theatre with local actors and with the guest-stars such as Ludwig Satz (acting as their partner in the comedy and operetta), Rose Wallerstein and Oscar Ostroff, Yetta Zwerling and Seymour Rechtzeit.

After her return,  she ended her acting in the theatre, throwing  herself into society work, helping to found a reading circle,  often writing in the local press about the problems of Jewish culture. She also often was the person in charge of the receptions for literary guests.

Daughter Shirley recounts  the life she had with her mother in Mexico City, e.g. about her mother's store there, how her mother brought over two family members from Poland, and how her mother introduced herself to the music and culture when she was a child.

Family Talk Station  12

Shirley and Celia in Mexico City.


In 1947 Celia married Zalmen Zylbercweig (editor of the magnificent opus, the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre"), and then moved with daughter Shirley to New York with him, where Celia performed on the Yiddish radio and directed under the name of Celia Silver a woman's page in "Der amerikaner", where she also published a range of character portrayals of actresses Bina Abramowitz, Miriam Kressyn, Esther Hirshbein, Paulina Kobrin, Malka Lee, Shifra Weiss, Emma Sheiver, Shoshana Damari, Feigele Panitz, Bessie Thomashefsky, Rose Shomer Bachelis, Molly Picon and Gertrude Berg.

Since August 1948 Celia directed under the name Celia Silver, together with her husband, the daily Yiddish radio in Los Angeles ("Zylbercweig's Yiddish Radio Hour"), in which she had from time to time a special women's program, interviews, occasionally performing in song, in recitations of Yiddish poetry, and in dramatizations.

According to daughter Shirley, "Aba (the affectionate name she had for her stepfather)  traveled a lot of the time (for 'Lexicon' research), as the years went by. He went to Mexico alone, many times to have his Lexicon printed there, and my mother always  took care of business here. Like I said, she was very smart and she knew exactly what to do with the programs, how to tape, and how to do all that to get on the air..... Mother would get guests for the program and take care of the business aspect of it....She loved it; she was wonderful. And she could also speak and write seven languages...."





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