Zalmen was born on 27 September
1894 in Ozorków,
a town not far from
In 1896 Z.'s father took the family over to Lodz
when Z. was only two years old. There Z.
studied in the rooms of cheders.
Z.'s father was a
merchant, a cultured man, who had written from
time to time for "Hatsfirah", and in 1907 he
published weekly feuilletons under the pseudonym
of "Tzvi"h" in the "Łódź nachrichten
(Lodz News)". Here he became an official
co-editor. As a child Z. was popularly
known in the city as a "shiri-tsyon-zinger
(Songs of Zion singer)."
In 1905 Z. worked in the
first local modern Yiddish bookstore that his father
was the owner of,
where he would surround himself with Hebrew,
Yiddish and translated European literature.
Afterwards he would
study songs of the yeshiva for a half-year, then he
worked for a short time as a laborer on a farm in
privately with a teacher, and he became a trade employee
for various companies.
In 1910 Z. made his
debut under the pseudonym of "Solomon", with a
translation in the "Łódźer
morgenblat" newspaper, as well as various other publications.
Following his inclination
to the theatre, Z. soon completed his
first Yiddish theatre translation for a live-action
play named "Kin". Later he participated in
Hebrew, then later in Yiddish amateur productions, and
he also founded an "amateur circle" in 1912.
From 1915 to 1924 Z.
was a collaborator and later a co-editor at
the "Łódźer tagenblat" and
published many critical articles and reviews of Yiddish
theatre productions. In 1922 he edited and
(together with Lazar Kahan) the
weekly "Theatre and Cinema". Afterwards, Z.
by himself edited and published the weekly page
"Theatre and the Arts". In 1923 (again together with Lazar Kahan)
he translated this weekly
In 1924, Z. traveled
to Eretz Yisrael as a correspondent for the
Yiddish newspaper and spent several years there.
He then moved to the United States, from where
in 1927 be traveled throughout Europe and North
and South America, seeking information about the
He settled in New
York in 1937, then moved to Los Angeles,
California, where he lived for the rest of his
life. He and his wife Celia, with whom he
married in 1947, built a studio in the back of
their home and broadcast their own
Yiddish-language radio program from 1949 to
1969. Broadcasts of these programs will become
part of the Museum of Family History's "On the
Air!" own program, which will introduce not only
Zylbercweig radio programs,
but other "old-time" radio programs as well.
Z. was also the editor
or author of more than thirty books relating to
Yiddish culture and history. He is most often
remembered today as the editor of the six-volume "Leksikon
fun yidishn teater (Lexicon of the Yiddish
Theatre)", a compendium of more than 2,800
Yiddish-language biographies and histories of
those individuals and now-defunct theatrical
organizations who were once involved in some fashion with the Yiddish
theatre. Volume 1 of the Lexicon was published in 1931; Volume 6 in 1969.
His unpublished volume 7 still remains in galley form, as Z.
passed away in 1972, and the hopes of publishing
this last volume has long since faded (though it
is available via a link within this exhibition). Volume 5,
published after World War II, is the Lexicon's memorial
edition, consisting mostly of nearly
five-hundred biographies of those who were
killed during the World War II at the hands of the Nazis
and their collaborators.
The Early Years of Zalmen