Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Yetta Zwerling


Born on 25 December 1894 in Kohliev, near Lemberg, Eastern Galicia. Father -- an employee in a fruit business, while at the same time a klezmer. She learned in a cheder, and through her sisters Bessie and Mamie, who had sung in the chorus of the Lemberg Yiddish theatre, was taken into the theatre.

She immigrated with her family to America, and here she made it through high school, and she began to act in children's roles in variety theatre and soon thereafter in English vaudeville, where she acted for eight years.

Z.'s first performance on the Yiddish legitimate stage was in Chicago as "Chanele" in Solotorefsky's "Yeshiva bukher" during the guest appearance of Sara Adler and Joseph Kessler. From here she traveled to act through the province, coming to New York and entered into the "Grand" Theatre, where she performed in Yiddish vaudeville with Sam Klinetsky, then went back onto the English stage, where she acted for four years in musical comedy under the leadership of Leon Errol, and then for six seasons in Philadelphia for Anshel Schorr, who helped perfect her Yiddish. There she had the opportunity to act in soubrette roles, also with the guest-starring Leon Blank, Celia Adler, Sam Kasten, Dina Feinman, Samuel Goldenburg and Boris Thomashefsky. From there she went over to New York's "Grand" Theatre (directors Jacobs and Goldberg), and then to the "National" Theatre, where she acted with Samuel

 Goldenburg in the "Student Prince", and with Berta Kalich in "Di neshome fun a froy (The Soul of a Woman)."

In the summer of 1928 she acted in the "Prospect" Theatre with Tanzman.

Since then she acted in the National, Public, Second Avenue, McKinley Square theatres, and in Philadelphia and yearlong was the comic partner of Itzik Feld, Julius Nathanson, Eli Mintz, Isidore Meltzer, Adolf Fenigstein, Irving Jacobson, Menasha Skulnik and Leon Fuchs, and outside the eccentric comic roles, she also sang in solos or duets (with her partners), especially written potpourri from Olshanetsky, Secunda, Ellstein and Trilling for Yiddish songs, English pop songs or English songs made more Jewish (most of the time by Jacob Jacobs), some of the time in the form of a parody.

Z. also toured across America and Canada with the stars in their repertoire. In 1936 she, together with Seymour Rechtzeit, guest-starred in Mexico.

In 1953 Z. arrived in Los Angeles with Menasha Skulnik's troupe in the "Embassy Auditorium," and here continued to perform in English, with Leo Fuchs. 1956 -- acted in Los Angeles with Chaim Tauber in Yiddish, then in English, and in 1958 acted in Yiddish with Leo Fuchs in New York in the "Anderson" Theatre and in the province in "Family Mishmash" by Israel Rosenberg.

Z. for a season performed on English radio, together with Irving Jacobson in a program for the "Maxwell Hour." From time to time she performed on the Yiddish radio and sings comical songs and also participated in several movie plays under the direction of Ossip Dymow.

Z. participated in the following Yiddish plays: "Motl der opereyter" by Chaim Tauber, "Ir tsveyte mame" by Itzhak Frankel, "Ikh vil zayn a mame" by Isidore Lash, and the vaudeville film "Mazel tov, yidn" (with Michal Rosenberg, Leo Fuchs and Chaim Tauber), "Kol Nidre" by Ben Gitlin, "Der groyser etz-geber" by Itzhak Frankel, and "Der idisher nigun (The Jewish Melody)" by Chaim Tauber.

From 3 November until 1 December 1951 Chone Gottesfeld printed in the "Forward" a series of episodes about her life.

Z.'s children Artie, Sidney and Albert have acted together with her in children's roles in various theatres. Her sister Mamie (earlier married to actor Morgenbesser, later to actor Coopersmith) had acted for a time in Yiddish theatre. Her deceased sister Bessie had performed in music halls.

M. E.

  • B. Y. Goldstein -- Iber zaln un teaters, "Fraye arbayter shtime", N. Y., 18 March 1932.

  • Chone Gottesfeld -- Yeta tsverling -- oyf der bine un in lebn [unter farshidene keplekh], "Forward", N. Y., 3 November -- 1 December 1951.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 3, page 2276.

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