Yetta Zwerling Silverman (December 25, 1894[1] – January 17, 1982[2]) was a Yiddish movie star during the 1930s and 1940s.

Early life

Zwerling was born in Kalievo, near Lemberg, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Choliv, near Lviv, Ukraine); her father had a fruit business and was also a klezmer. Her sisters Bessie and Mamie sang in the Yiddish theater chorus and brought Yetta in as well.[1]

She emigrated to the United States with her family, finishing high school there and playing juvenile roles in variety theaters and English-language vaudeville. During her vaudeville years she also sung Yiddish songs like Vu Bistu, Yukel? and Bei Mir Bist du Schoen.[2]


Her first "legitimate role" in Yiddish theatre was as Hanele in Zolotarevsky's Yeshiva Bokher (Schoolboy). She toured and ended up in New York, playing Yiddish vaudeville with Sam Klinetsky at the Grand Theater, then doing four years of English-language comedy with Leon Errol and then six seasons in Philadelphia with Anshel Shor, who improved her Yiddish and gave her the opportunity to play the soubrette opposite Leon Blank, Celia Adler, Sam Kestin, Dayna Feynman, Samuel Goldenberg and Boris Thomashevsky. She then played at the National Theater in Student Prince and with Bertha Kalich in Di neshomeh fun a froy (The Soul of a Woman).[1]

She played alongside Yitskhok Feld, Julius Nathanson, Eli Mintz, Isidore Meltzer, Adof Fenigshtayn, Irving Jacobson, later Menasha Skulnik and Leo Fuchs in Yiddish movies such as Motl der opereytor and Ikh vil zayn a mame.[3] Beyond her comic roles, she sang as a soloist and in duets with her partners. She was also noted for her eccentric outfits and jewels.


In 1982, Yetta Silverman died in Los Angeles, California, survived by two sons, Sidney and Arthur Silverman. She was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.[2]


According to the New York Times she was 93 years old at the time of her death on January 17, 1982, which would indicate that she was born in 1888, given her December 25 birthday; however, 1889 and 1894 have also been cited as her year of birth.


  1. ^ a b c Zalmen Zylbercweig, Leksikon fun Yidishn teater, Book three, 2276
  2. ^ a b c New York Times obituary
  3. ^ Biodata