About Zelda Popkin

Zelda Popkin, 1898–1983, novelist, sister of Helen Rossi Koussevitsky.

Jenny Feinberg of Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania changed her name to Zelda when she left home to study journalism at Columbia University. She settled in New York, founded and ran, with her husband Louis Popkin, a public relations firm, and wrote occasional articles for magazines. In 1938, Lippincott published the first of her Mary Carner mysteries, Death Wears a White Gardenia. Four more volumes in the series followed. After the her husband’s death, she gave up their business and turned her attention to writing as a profession. She enjoyed her greatest commercial success with Journey Home in 1945.

In late 1946, convinced that there was material for a novel in the Zionist struggle in Jerusalem and that the story badly needed telling, Helen Rossi began to encourage her sister to visit Palestine. Shortly after the declaration of the State, Popkin visited Israel for two months, and did, indeed, plan a novel. In a letter to her Lippincott editors, she described the Israelis who had so deeply impressed her, including Ismar David. He had been in New York, looking into printing methods,1From a resume dated June 14, 1954. when fighting broke out. He cut his visit short. Popkin wrote that David “said when he returned to bomb-torn Jerusalem this winter: ‘I know I am not a fighter but when I come back my friends will say: “David was safe. He was in America yet he returned to us!” and that will give them strength and courage.’”2Popkin, Zelda, a memorandum, 2 pp., n.d., addressed to editors, George Stevens and Tay Hohoff, Box 12, P. Lippincot, 1938-1970, Boston University Archives. Creating Israel, 2020. In her novel, The Quiet Street, she mentions one of his Hagana Posters:

A poster appeared on the walls, a dramatic thing, an arm and a clenched fist with the English words, “It all depends upon you,” and the Haganah symbol of the blue and white flag above the Old City walls. Everyone took these words as his own and worked feverishly as though he alone were the one to defend Jerusalem.3Popkin, Zelda, A Quiet Street, introduction by Jeremy Popkin. Nebraska: Bison Books, 2002.

Ismar David must have first met Popkin during his trip to New York in 1947. Helen Rossi had asked her sister to make some calls and introduce him to people (interior decorator, Julie Lucas and Sadie Engle’s brother, owner of an offset printing plant) who might help him.4Letter from Helen Rossi to Zelda Popkin, October 9, 1947,

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