A Century of Russian History Told in One Life Story

By Tom McLaughlin

Rutgers University–Camden scholars are currently presenting “Sara’s Century,” a weekly, 12-episode podcast chronicling the tragic life of Russian Jew Sara Mebel during the 20th century, exploring how antisemitism, revolution, war, and immigration affected a single individual.

Laurie Bernstein, an associate professor of history at Rutgers–Camden, and a relative of Mebel by marriage, wrote the podcast scripts based on taped interviews and supplemental research. Robert Emmons, associate director of the Digital Studies Center at Rutgers–Camden, produced the series with the help of Rutgers–Camden students.

The series, which launched on iTunes on Aug. 1, begins with Mebel’s birth in 1919. While still an infant, Mebel was hidden in a cellar during an attack – a “pogrom” – on her Belarusian town’s Jews. As a teenager, she lost her father to Stalin’s Terror. Sara survived Hitler’s invasion by fleeing Moscow for the far reaches of Siberia in 1941, but she faced Soviet-style antisemitism at the war’s end. Sara made it through, but open antagonism to Russian Jews upon the Soviet Union’s collapse proved unendurable. So she left Russia forever on – of all days – Sept. 11, 2001.

Podcasts and supplementary material can be accessed on the website sarascentury.blogs.rutgers.edu.

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