"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 began to aspire 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.[7] 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



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