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"There is no other choice! I must be an actress. I feel a little bad when I say this but forget Marie Curie, forget Orville and Wilbur. I know my true calling now—acting."

Zipporah "Zippy" Silver (née Feldman; born June 23, 1891) was the youngest daughter of Jewish parents, Sarah and Yekl. She was also the sister of Tovah and Miriam Feldman. Her best friends were Blu Wolf and Yitzy Silver. In 1903, Zipporah immigrated from Russia to New York City. After seeing a Yiddish play, Zipporah aspired to become an actress.


Early life[]

Zipporah was born on June 23, 1891[3] as the third daughter of Sarah and Yekl Feldman. She grew up in the small village of Zarichka, located in the Minsk Gubernia of Russia,[2] with her elder sisters, Tovah and Miriam.

On Passover in 1901, Zipporah's father announced his intentions to immigrate to America.[8] He settled in New York City and sent money to his family for their tickets.

Life in New York[]

Zipporah, her sisters, and her mother reached Ellis Island on September 1, 1903. They joined their father and began living at 14 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side part of Manhattan. Zipporah began attending public school, where she was placed in the first grade. She befriended Bluma "Blu" Wolf, a Jewish immigrant, and Yitchak "Yitzy" Silver, though it took her a while to warm to his personality.

In November, Zipporah and Blu were promoted to the third grade. Days before Hanukkah, Zipporah found a sign advertising the Russian Symphony Society and signed her father up for it. He was accepted and had his first performance in January 1904. Before his concert, he took her to see a Yiddish theater play, Shulamith. The play inspired Zipporah to become an actress. The following spring, Uncle Schmully arrived from Russia and began boarding at the Feldmans.

Miriam eloped with Sean O'Malley in July 1904, which caused her mother to disown her. By October, Zipporah was promoted to eighth grade and had began working as a prop girl at a theater. Zipporah's friend Mamie died in a fire in November, which caused her to stop writing in her diary. In February, Zipporah's brother, Yossel was born, but died a few days later. Zipporah had her theater debut as a child eaten by a lion in Shulamith later that month. Miriam attended the play and made up with her mother afterwards.

Later life[]

Zipporah became a "beloved star" of Yiddish theater. She was well known for her portrayal of the widow in Jewish Queen Lear and had a critically acclaimed European tour in 1930. At the age of fifty, Zipporah made her Hollywood debut in A Treacherous Woman (1940). She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, but lost to Ginger Rogers in Kitty Foyle. She starred in ten other motion pictures.

In 1920, Zipporah married Yitzy Silver, who had became a millionaire as a manufacturer of women's cloaks. They had three sons, an actor named Yossel, another who became a doctor, and a third who worked in his father's business. During World War II, the couple helped Jewish children leave Germany and donated to relief organizations. In her eighties, Zipporah witnessed her great-granddaughter, Fruma, debut in Jesus Christ Superstar.

Personality and traits[]

Zipporah loved the theater, especially Yiddish theater. After seeing her first play, Zipporah aspired to become an actress and displayed talent for it during her first role in Shulamith. According to Tovah, Zipporah was good "at knowing feelings", which Tovah thought would make her a great actress. Her favorite actor was Jacob Adler, whose picture she saved from the newspaper. She also had pictures of Marie Curie, the Wright brothers, and Theodore Roosevelt, all of whom she admired for their various accomplishments.

She was also intelligent and learned English well within a year of living in America. Zipporah was placed in third grade, but was moved up to the seventh by the beginning of the following school year.

Family tree[]

The Feldman Family Tree
Yekl Feldman
Sarah Feldman
Tovah Feldman
(b. 1886)
Miriam Feldman
(b. 1888)
Sean O'Malley
Zipporah Feldman
(b. 1891)
Yitchak Silver
(b. 1890)
Yossel Feldman
(d. 1905)
Four children
Yossel Silver
Two sons

Behind the scenes[]


Natalie Vansier as Zipporah



See also[]

Dear America characters
Main characters

Remember "Mem" Whipple | Deliverance Trembley | Lozette Moreau | Catharine Logan | Prudence Emerson
Abigail Stewart | Lucinda Lawrence | María Rosalia de Milagros | Hattie Campbell | Mary Driscoll
Florence "Florrie" Mack Ryder | Susanna Fairchild | Clotee Henley | Amelia Martin | Emma Simpson
Sarah Nita | Phillis "Patsy" Frederick | Libby West | Priscilla "Pringle" Rose | Mary "Polly" Rodgers
Nannie Little Rose | Angeline Reddy | Sarah Jane Price | Teresa Viscardi | Anetka Kaminska
Zipporah Feldman | Minette "Minnie" Bonner | Angela Denoto | Margaret Ann Brady | Kathleen Bowen
Simone Spencer | Lydia Pierce | Nell "Nellie Lee" Love | Bess Brennan | Minerva "Minnie" Swift | Grace Edwards
Julie Weiss | Madeline Beck | Amber Billows | Piper Davis | Dawn "Dawnie Rae" Johnson | Molly Flaherty

Supporting characters

Antoinetta Viscardi | Leon Nasevich | Daniel Pierce | Erma Jean Love | Patrick Flaherty

Lists of characters by book

A Journey to the New World | I Walk in Dread | Look to the Hills | Standing in the Light
Love Thy Neighbor | The Winter of Red Snow | Cannons at Dawn | A Line in the Sand
Valley of the Moon | Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | All the Stars in the Sky
Seeds of Hope | A Picture of Freedom | A Light in the Storm | When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly | The Great Railroad Race
Down the Rabbit Hole | Land of the Buffalo Bones | My Heart Is on the Ground | Behind the Masks
My Face to the Wind | West to a Land of Plenty | A Coal Miner's Bride | Dreams in the Golden Country
A City Tossed and Broken | Hear My Sorrow | Voyage on the Great Titanic | A Time for Courage
When Christmas Comes Again | Like the Willow Tree | Color Me Dark | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Christmas After All | Survival in the Storm | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
My Secret War | Early Sunday Morning | The Fences Between Us | With the Might of Angels
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?