The Remarkable
Zalmen Zylbercweig


Zalmen Zylbercweig was born on 27 September 1894 in Ozorków, a town not far from Łódź, Poland. His father was a cultured man, a merchant, who brought his family over to Łódź when Z. was but two years old. There Z. would study in a cheder.

As a child he was popularly known in the city as a "Shiri-tsoyn-zinger (the "Songs of Zion" singer".
In 1905 he worked in the first local modern Yiddish bookstore that his father owned, where he would surround himself with Hebrew, Yiddish and translated European literature.

Afterwards he studied yeshiva songs for a half-year, then he worked for a short time as a laborer on a farm in Czestochowa. Then Z. studied privately with a teacher and 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 and various other publications.

Following an 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.


Zalmen Zylbercweig, cir 1960s..

From 1915-1924 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 published (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 page. In 1924, Z. traveled to Eretz Yisrael as a correspondent for the Yiddish newspaper.

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 was published in 1931; Volume 6 in 1969. Volume 7 still remains in galley form, as Z. passed away in 1972, and the hopes of publishing this last volume faded.Volume 5, published after World War II, is the Lexicon's memorial edition, consisting mostly of biographies of those who were killed during the war at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators.

Here, at the virtual Museum of Family History, we are making some of Zalmen Zylbercweig's remarkable life's works available to you in hopes of furthering not only your awareness of  this great man's achievements, but also to enhance your appreciation of Yiddish culture and Yiddish theatre in particular.

At the time of his passing, Z. had completed, or was in the process of completing, two more works which to date have remained unpublished. The first was to be the seventh volume of his "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre". The second was to be a history of Maurice Schwartz's famous "Yiddish Art Theatre" and was entitled the "Yudisher kunst-teater in amerike (Yiddish Art Theatre in America)". After his passing, neither of these books were published, yet due to the generosity of his estate, the Museum of Family History has been given permission to present to you galleys of these two books (albeit with some pages missing). These book galleys are being made available to you in the hope that it will keep alive the memory of those once involved in the Yiddish theatre.

Additionally, the Museum is in the process of translating these seven volumes into English. At some point in the near future these translations will be made available to "Museum visitors". However, saying this, the Museum, which is unfunded must rely on volunteers to help translate these Yiddish-language biographies. If you are willing to volunteer, please contact the Museum at .

The Museum will also be presenting to you both full and partial radio programs hosted by the Zylbercweigs from a studio in their Los Angeles home over a twenty-year period, from 1948 to 1968. During this span, the Zylbercweigs (Zalmen and his wife Celia) interviewed many personalities, e.g. Yiddish actors, poets, playwrights, politicians and other personalities. On occasion plays or other types of performances would be presented on-air for the listening public. These radio programs will mostly be represented within the Museum's upcoming "On the Air!" series, each program available to you at no charge for your listening pleasure. Each program can be listened to 24/7, at least until it is replaced by a new Zylbercweig program, etc.

It is hoped that these works will help you in your research delves into some aspect of the history of the Yiddish theatre. simply to give you a glimpse into the history of the once-popular Yiddish theatre. This is part of the mission of the Museum of Family History, i.e. to keep alive the memory and enhance the appreciation of Jewish culture, not only as it once existed, but as it exists today. The Museum also wishes to honor the memory of Lexicon editor Zalmen Zylbercweig who had dedicated himself wholeheartedly to the preservation of Jewish culture and the history of the Yiddish theatre.


Due to the extraordinary volume and breadth of his work, Zylbercweig received numerous awards throughout his lifetime. One such award was bestowed upon him in 1959 by the Los Angeles City Council. This award was given to him only for his work on the "Lexicon", but also for the body of his life's work that contributed greatly to the preservation of both Jewish history and culture.

Here you can hear an audio recording of this awards ceremony.
The recording comes to you in four parts in sequential order, and is in an mp3 format:

photo, above: Graphic design representing the "Leksikon fun yidishn teater". Drawing of playwrights Jacob Gordin, bottom left, and Abraham Goldfaden, upper right.


You may also wish to hear a partial interview of Zalmen Zylbercweig, conducted in his Los Angeles recording studio, at sometime in 1960. The interview deals with his early life, his parents, his life as a young man in Europe, how he first got involved in the Yiddish theatre in Europe, his early career in translating plays, etc.

Be forewarned that the reel-to-reel tape as it currently exists is not in very good condition, so you will find a number of periods of five to fifteen seconds where the voices seem to fade, either in part or in full because of this. Also you might find a few seconds repeated here and there due to re-splicing. You are hearing the Museum's unedited version, and it is hoped that we will be able to equalize the volume at some point in the future and eliminate as many unwanted defects in the recording as possible.

To hear this twenty-seven minute interview (please allow for some download time as the recording is twenty-seven minutes long). Click here to hear the mp3 sound file.


An introduction to the Awards ceremony
as spoken by Zylbercweig's wife Celia, in English:

My Dear Listeners, Friends,

Today, in our studio, we are gathering for a wonderful event.

A few people who represent different organizations are here today, in order to pay tribute to my husband Zalmen Zylbercweig, for his work and dedication to the Jewish community and to the completion of the third volume of the "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre".

Not only is the celebration among the Jewish community here in Los Angeles, but for the first time the City Council of Los Angeles is recognizing a Jewish writer, a correspondent and radio personality who on a daily basis connects with thousands of listeners who await news of our country, of Israel, Europe and the entire world.

I am sure that even though you are here with us in the studio, you are delighted to learn of this tribute and are proud of the fact that a Jewish writer has achieved such recognition.

We know how you feel about us, and how dedicated you are to our daily program. We appreciate your love and respect.

Celia Zylbercweig







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These two unpublished works come to you courtesy of the estate of Zalmen Zylbercweig and YIVO (Institute for Jewish Research).

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