Zabara, Natan

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ZABARA, NATAN (1908–1975), Russian Yiddish novelist and playwright. Zabara was born in Rogachev, Belorussia. In the late 1920s he studied at the Institute of Jewish Culture associated with the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He began publishing in 1930 and wrote Radioroman ("Radio Novel," 1932) about the development of new military technology: novels about the happy life of Soviet Jews, such as Nilovka ("Nilovka," 1938), books of essays such as Mensh un zeitn ("Peoples and Times," 1938), a novel, Hein vert geboyrn a velt ("Today a World is Born," 1965: Russian trans. 1968), reflecting his front-line experience during World War ii and his experience as a correspondent for the Soviet press in post-war Germany, and his novel-chronicle A Poshete Mame ("An Ordinary Mama," 1967) about G. Chudnovskiy, the first Soviet commander of the Winter Palace and red commissar of the city of Kiev.

Between 1950 and 1956, like the majority of the surviving Jewish cultural figures in the Soviet Union, Zabara was in jail and in prison camp (in Kolyma). He arranged Passover eve services (sedarim) for Jewish youth and introduced them to their national traditions and culture. On regaining his freedom, he became one of the first underground teachers of Hebrew in Kiev.

His uncompleted three-part historical novel Galgal Ḥozer ("All Repeats Itself," Moscow, 1979) aroused the interest of Jewish readers far beyond the borders of the Soviet Union. The work presents a broad panorama of Jewish life of the Middle Ages – depicting Jewish writers, poets, scholars, philosophers, and patrons of the 13th–14th centuries. Zabara often introduced into his novel sayings and legends taken from ancient sources, often citing them in Hebrew or Aramaic, then translating them into Yiddish. The publication of this was an exceptional event in official, i.e. published, Soviet Jewish literature, which generally avoids works reflecting Hebrew cultural creativity.

[The Shorter Jewish Encyclopedia in Russian]