Literally, light or splendor. The holiest book of the Kabbalah, actually called the “Holy Zohar.” Written in Aramaic, the Zohar first appeared in the 13th century when it was published by Moses de Leon. De Leon attributed the Zohar to Rabbi Simeon Ben Yohai who lived in the 2nd century and together with his son Eliezer hid for thirteen years in caves to escape Roman persecution. During this time, the Kabbalists believe, Ben Yohai occupied himself with composing mystical interpretations of the Bible.

The Zohar dwells on the mystery of Creation and explains the stories and events in the Bible in a symbolic manner. It finds hidden meanings in common statements of facts. The Zohar describes God as “the Infinite One.” God makes himself known to the world through ten “spheres of emanation.” The Zohar also contains wonderful stories, discourses by the ancient masters, ethical pronouncements, and some moving prayers.

The Zohar has exerted a profound influence on the religious thought of large groups of Jews, including the Hasidim.

ZOLA, EMILE (1840-1902).

French novelist and founder of the naturalistic school of writing. During the Dreyfus affair, he published his famous pamphlet J’Accuse in 1901, and was an important champion of this Jewish army officer falsely convicted of selling French secret documents to the German government. In addition to J’Accuse, Zola wrote a parable on the Dreyfus affair in his book Verite.


Violinist. Born in Israel, Zuckerman came to the U.S. in 1962 to study at the Julliard School. In addition to being one of the world’s leading violinists, he has earned renown as a conductor.

ZUNZ, LEOPOLD (1794-1886).

Jewish scholar in Germany, founder of the Jewish Wissenschaft movement, which introduced scientific methods of research to the study of the Jewish classics and influences Jewish scholarship to this day. Zunz studies in Midrash, liturgy, and medieval religious poetry are still essential for Jewish scholarship in those fields (See also Midrash, Prayer, and Hebrew Literature.)

ZWEIG, STEFAN (1881-1942).

Critic, biographer, and dramatist. Best known for his play Jeremiah, and a biography of Marie Antoinette. He brought to his subjects great learning and a talent for breathing life into far-off places, persons, and times. An impassioned pacifist as well as a Jew, Zweig was forced to leave his native Austria when Hitler came to power. Although they had become British subjects, he and his wife fled to the New World during World War II. Overwhelmed by despair at the triumph of Nazism, Zweig and his wife committed suicide in Brazil in 1942.