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Shraybman, Yekhiel

(1913–2005), Yiddish writer. Born in the Bessarabian town of Vad-Rashkev, Yekhiel Shraybman was educated in a heder, at a Romanian primary school, by private teachers, and in the Czernowitz Hebrew Teachers Seminary. In the 1930s he lived in Bucharest, working as a prompter at a Yiddish theater. Affiliated with illegal socialist circles, he took part in Komsomol underground work. Shraybman was also fascinated by Soviet Yiddish cultural life: as he recalled in 1990, even the reformed Soviet spelling “stirred up the flight of my fancy.”

Shraybman’s first stories, devoted to workers’ lives, were published in 1936 in the New York journal Signal, which was a forum for proletarian writers. Later he contributed to periodicals published in Bucharest, Warsaw, and New York. Two collections of his stories also appeared in Bucharest. In 1940, when Bessarabia was annexed by the Soviet Union and became part of Soviet Moldavia, Shraybman moved to Kishinev, where he was admitted to the Soviet Writers Union. During World War II, he worked on an Uzbek collective farm. Shortly thereafter, the Moscow Yiddish publishing house Emes produced a small collection of his stories, Dray zumers (Three Summers; 1946), based on his wartime experiences in Central Asia.

Shraybman was spared during the Stalinist repression of Yiddish culture in the late 1940s. From 1955, his works began appearing in Moldavian and Russian translations. He became known as one of the best stylists in post-Holocaust Soviet literature, a master of short prose works. He contributed to the Moscow Yiddish journal Sovetish heymland (Soviet Homeland) from its inaugural issue in August 1961, later joining the journal’s editorial board. This was the most productive period in his creative life, especially considering that Shraybman was the leading Yiddish writer in Moldavia, where Yiddish was more widely spoken than in the Slavic republics of the Soviet Union.

Many of Shraybman’s works were written as first-person narratives. This device underscored their autobiographical character and the writer’s desire to justify his idiomatic Yiddish when he applied it to non-Yiddish-speaking settings. He argued that any linguistic setting could become a Yiddish one as a result of his idiosyncratic perception and creative interpretation. Topically, his prose—particularly as exhibited in Yorn un reges (Years and Moments; 1973), devoted to Jewish life in Bessarabia after World War I—continued the tradition of Moyshe Altman’s writings.

Shraybman encouraged a number of writers from Moldavia, born after the Holocaust—most notably Boris Sandler, Mikhail Felzenbaum, and Moyshe Lemster—to write in Yiddish, and he helped them publish their first works in Sovetish heymland. From the late 1980s, he actively participated in the cultural activities of newly formed Jewish organizations in Moldavia. The perestroika period was marked by his last significant prose works: the autobiographical novel Zibn yor un zibn khadoshim (Seven Years and Seven Months; 1988) and Khumesh-noveln (Biblical Novellas; 1990).

Suggested Reading

Tevye Gen, “A kapitl Shraybman,” Sovetish heymland 10 (1980): 130–139; Hersh Remenik, Shtaplen (Moscow, 1982); Yekhiel Shraybman, Shtendik: Gresere un klenere dertseylungen, minyaturn (Tel Aviv, 1997); Yekhiel Shraybman, Yetsire un libe (Kishinev, 2000).