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[Pages 122]

From the bitter and the sweet
(crumbs from the way of life)

by Y. Schildkrauth

Translated by Sara Mages

 

A. Measure for measure

One day two important homeowners met in one of Akkerman's streets. One was Chone Gewirtzman the lame who was also a lawyer and an active leader in the cooperative. The second was one-eyed Hersh Brodetsky, an intelligent cultured man who was active in public affairs. Hersh Brodetsky, who had one eye, asked Chone who limped on one leg: well, R' Chone, how it goes? Chone the witty answered immediately: as your eyes can see…

 

B. Only a doctor

Ozer Schwinn was very rich but also a great miser. He, together with his three sons, traded in grain, wine, wool etc. and accumulated a large fortune. However, it didn't stop Ozer from always walking in faded and untidy clothes which looked like rags on his body. On one summer day, Ozer sat and napped on the sidewalk with his body leaning against the wall and his face covered with dirty sweat. A “Gentile” woman walked past him and innocently thought that a poor beggar was before her. She stopped, crossed herself twice, and pushed a handout into his hand…

His three sons were known by the name “Z'lobes,” and they were like their name - clumsy and rough. They lived in a farmhouse in the agricultural suburb of “Wershina.” The furnishings in their house were very modest: a long wooden table, a few beds and long wooden benches. Their stinginess was visible in their house. Everyone knew that there was no reason to turn to Ozer with a request of a donation. It was a wasted effort. Ozer would never give.

One day, the “spirit of insanity׆ entered one of Ozer's daughters. Her soul craved to study and all of Ozer's arguments that he doesn't need a “melumed'te” [educated woman] in his house and it will also cost him a great fortune - didn't help. The daughter insisted and even completed her studies at the government's high-school. When she reached marriageable age they began to search for a husband for her and since the pretty maiden was also educated, her father, Ozer Schwinn, declared that he will not take less than a doctor as a groom for that daughter.

Yosale' Segel the matchmaker search and found in the village of Shabo near Akkerman the son of David Meyrson who studied in the third year at the university. He came running to Ozer's house with the news: I have! I have a doctor for your daughter! He's from a good home, educated, handsome and perfect in all virtues.

Ozer answered him: So, how expensive? Meaning - what is the desired dowry?

The matchmaker answered him: half a million. This is the payment for a doctor in our place.

Ozer began to bargain with the matchmaker until they've reached a compromise: three hundred thousand.

When they were on the verge of writing the “Tannaim,” Ozer remembered to ask: what kind of a doctor is this young man? Yosale' the matchmaker answered him: the groom is studying veterinary medicine and this is a labor that honors its owner.

Ozer became angry and shouted: “what? For three hundred thousand you offer a “horse doctor” for my daughter? You are a thief! You are a leech! Get out of my house and don't show your face again in this place!”

Yosale' took off immediately, the match was canceled and the matter became the topic of conversation in our city.

 

C. A new face

Kalman Kogen was one of the Yeshiva students in Beit HaMidrash. He came from a good home, earned a good living, but he had one flaw: he didn't have a beautiful face. To cover his ugliness he always dressed in fancy clothes. In one of the weekdays he came to Beit HaMidrash dressed in a new suit, a new hat and a fancy tie. He made an impression on his friends but Pisi Lewin, who was both witty and cheeky, was also there. When he saw Kalman's fancy outfit he said to him in these words: “look Kalman, if you can spend so much money on new clothes why don't you also buy yourself a new beautiful face?”

 

D. The fate of a Jewish master

Moshe Milstein was one of the wealthiest men in our city. He had mansions with large gardens around them, vineyards in the vicinity of Akkerman and in nearby Shabo, grain business etc. In addition to all of that he was the chief executive of the shipping company that

[Page 123]

sailed its ships in the waters of the Black Sea and the Dniester River, and during the Romanian rule he also served as a bank manager. Therefore, it was no wonder that his name was carried on all lips and the most popular blessing in Akkerman was: if only you can reach the rank of Moshe Milstein!… He donated a lot of money to public needs and the highlight of his contributions was the building that he established for the Jewish school in one of his gardens. When “Tarbut” association was established in 1918, he dedicated the building to the Jewish High-School and the Jewish council's offices were also located there.

One evening, in 1929, Moshe Milstein invited Moshe Herman the chairman of the community council, and the lawyer Yosef Serfer who was a member of the community presidency. He locked himself in one of the rooms with them and revealed a secret: his businesses are in trouble, the situation is unbearable and he's unable to pay his debts. In order to pay his debts and save his good name he decided to mortgage all his buildings and vineyards. Since the building that housed the high-school and the community offices is also registered in his name, there is a danger that they'll also put a lien against it. Therefore, he asks them to hurry and do all the official arrangements in order to transfer this building under the Jewish community's name so it won't fall in the hands of strangers.

At the same time he asked them not to reveal his secret in public because of the “evil eye” and other dangers related to it. Hurry, as much as possible, to take out the building from my hands so you won't miss the dateline.

The community leaders pledged to quickly take all the necessary steps and keep the secret.

 

E. The Repentant

There were several converts in Akkerman: the son of the lawyer Toporov, the lawyer Zwillinger who often served in the role of an attorney, not for the sake of receiving a payment, in trials concerning the dignity of a Jew and Jewish public interests, Dr. Hacham, son of Shlomo Hacham, who returned to the bosom of Judaism after the Revolution of 1917, Dr. Scher, who was one of the organizers of the self-defense unit (“Samoobrona”) in our city and commanded a division during the pogrom of 1905 in Akkerman, and others.

We should talk here about the last one. Toward his old age Dr. Scher left his Christian wife, children and grandchildren, and a repentance ceremony was held on one of the Sabbaths in the craftsmen's synagogue. Dr. Scher was called to the Torah, and from the synagogue's Bima he expressed his regrets as he was barely holding his tears. He asked the congregation and all the Jewish community to forgive him for the disgrace that he had caused to the Jews when he converted from Judaism to Christianity. After Dr. Scher's words of confession the synagogue's Gabai, the lawyer Bendik Akslrod, congratulated him on the occasion of his return to Judaism and wished him a long life. In his words he mentioned his activities for Jewish interests and his stand against the rioters in 1905. At the conclusion of his words he said: we've all heard your request for forgiveness and we owe you an answer, and the answer is: “I forgive you as you ask!” and the congregation replied: “We forgave.”

Those, who were present at the craftsmen's synagogue, testify that it was an impressive and shocking event.

I, the writer of these lines, also attended this dramatic event in the synagogue.

 

 

[Page 124]
The seven daughters of R' Mendel the carpenter
(From the Jewish way of life in our city)

by Y. Schildkrauth

Translated by Sara Mages

When R' Mendel was widowed, may the same thing not happen to us, when he was still in his early fiftieth he had, neither more nor less, seven daughters in his house. They were, to say the least, not beautiful, and neither of them was a candidate for the title of Bessarabia's beauty queen. Besides that, R' Mendel was very poor and was unable to give a dowry, and in those days everyone knew that if there is no dowry - there are no grooms.

So, the girls sat at their father's house and no one paid attention to them apart from the city's clowns who gave them the nickname “Benot Zelophehad[1].” This nickname was accepted by all because no one was able to explain why Mendel's daughters were given this nickname. The only explanation that I've heard is - that it was given to them because they were orphans and remained virgins for many years.

We can't say that young men never stepped on Mendel's doorstep. On the contrary, they stepped. Store clerks, craftsmen, craftsmen's assistants etc. spent every Sabbath eve in the company of these girls. They cracked seeds, chatted about this and that and even danced to the late hours of the night, but, it never came to “realization,” meaning, marriage. Mendel's heart ached when he saw his daughters getting older from year to year. Sometimes he uttered a sad monologue, which was mostly seditious words against the young men who take advantage of his daughters for recreation, love games, etc., in the ears of those who were willing to listen.

One day, a rumor passed in the city: one of Mendel's daughters is getting married, and not just to a young man, but to Zalman Tchernilov, Zalman of the hats, meaning that he produces hats and also sells them in his shop in Akkerman's main street. It was a good match by all accounts, and the matter became the topic of discussion by all. Before people had the time to properly spin the story of this marriage, a new rumor circulated: R' Mendel's second daughter is getting married to Golobow the furrier. Apparently, Mendel's distress was observed from the Heavens and the matchmaker of all living took pity on “Benot Zelophehad.“ Before long it was the turn of two additional daughters: one married to the owner of the kiosk, Zalman is his name, and the other to a salesman in Liza Steinberg's grocery store. In short, a wedding followed a wedding and the traffic in R' Mendel's house increased from day to day, just like in a train station…And why should we extend in a place that we have to shorten? Less than two years have passed and Mendel's house was emptied from all the daughters. Chaim Frechter, the owner of the tavern, was the one who took the youngest daughter, and Mendel remained alone.

All the efforts of the city's clowns, the “Ogolnykim[2] ” and the gossipmongers to explain this puzzling spectacle came to naught. It was impossible to settle the matter logically, and the sages of the generation concluded and said: it must be the finger of God that wrought this miracle. Who could have imagined that Mendel's daughters will be grabbed like fresh buns when everyone knew that they were not so fresh and they had not dowry. What is there to say? When the Divine Providence intervenes in worldly matters it generates great things.

The birds have left their nest and R' Mendel remained alone at home. Theoretically, he should have been happy that he was released from the sorrow of raising daughters and from his financial worries, but he was far from happy, he was sad and he was bored. He had an eerie heaviness in his heart because it was difficult for him to get used to the new situation and to the pace of the weddings.

It was not only difficult for him. It was also difficult for the city's clowns to accept the changes. For many years “Benot Zelophehad” were the subject of their jokes and now they were left without a subject. After a consultation they decided that the matter needs to be examined. It's impossible - they claimed - that there isn't another daughter in R' Mendel's house. From then on, they started to visit R' Mendel's apartment every night. They knocked on the door and asked: R' Mendel, do you have another daughter? Every day, or rather, every night, before R' Mendel had the time to close his eyes and before he wove the threads of his first dream, they woke him from his sleep with the same question: Do you have another daughter?

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R' Mendel was beside himself. He complained before the city's homeowners, asked for mercy and claimed - I suffered badly before my daughters got married so why do I have to go through the same agony after they got married? What do they want from me? Is there a shortage of modest girls in the city? Is it not enough that I placed seven daughters? They should go and knock on the doors of those who didn't bring even one daughter to our world.

It turns out that the city's clowns also have a Jewish heart, and when they realized that their prank agitated R' Mendel's soul, they decided to let him go him and find another victim for their practical jokes, and R' Mendel found his peace.

 

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Benot Zelophehad - “Daughters of Zelophehad.” Return
  2. The “Ogolnykim” were grain merchants who stood and gossiped at the corner of Nikolowski and Sobieski streets. Return

 

[Page 126]
Such a “Krishmelanu”

by Nisan Amitai (Stambul)

Translated by Sara Mages

There was a Jewish man in Akkerman and his name was “Leizer der Blinder,” and so he was called, may it not befall on us, because this Leizer was blind. However, despite his blindness he knew all the Jews in the city, knew where they lived and what they did, and even knew how to get to them. He knew everyone - and everyone knew him. And why is that? Because this Leizer had a special role, he had the “possession” on all the “Krishmelanus” in Akkerman. If you don't know the nature of these “Krishmelanus,” I will explain it to you. “Krishmelanus” is a large number of “Krishmelanu,” and its interpretation probably came from the word “Kriyat Shema.” And if you want to know how “Kriyat Shema” turned into “Krishmelanu”- the people of Akkerman have the solution. They were experts in the disruption of Leshon Hakodesh, names of prayers etc.

Well, Leizer's “possession” was to conduct the prayer of “Kriyat Shema” in the Jewish Maternity Hospital one day before a newborn was brought in the Covenant of Avraham Avinu. He didn't lead the “Kriyat Shema” on his own, he added to himself a group of boys who also received a payment for the “Krishmelanu.” The mothers gave the boys cookies and candy, whereas Leizer was paid in cash for his trouble. It can be assumed that the business was worthwhile for him, and the proof is - he never relinquished this livelihood and the “possession” on it.

There was another man in Akkerman and his name was Chaim Klorfeld, but the “Ogolnykim” of Akkerman nicknamed him Chaim “der langer,” and if they called him that way - so would we. Chaim “der langer” wasn't only “langer” (long), but also a wise Jew who loved to joke.

One day, and that day was a summer day, our Chaim walked in a city street a little bored and probably pondering in his heart: on whom can I play a practical joke on this summer day and relieve some of the summer's boredom? As he was thinking so and so - Leizer “der blinder” came toward him. An idea flashed immediately in Chaim Klorfeld's head. R' Leizer - he said to him - you probably know that a certain Jew from Bucharest lives in my yard. A son was born to him, his eldest son and, God willing, the “bris” will take place the day after tomorrow. Don't forget to conduct a proper “Krishmelanu” in his house, and you may rest assured that this Jew will pay what you deserve, because he's not one of the wimps, some say that he is a very rich man. Don't forget, for God's sake, tomorrow afternoon!

Leizer's face lit up when he heard the news. He knew well where the yard of Chaim “der langer” was, and in the afternoon of the next day he gathered a large group of boys, as appropriate for a Jew from Bucharest that the gossipers say that he's a very rich man. He burst with shouts of joy, together with the children, to the house of the Jew from Bucharest in the yard of Chaim “der langer,” and without asking questions started to pray “Kriyat Shema” with great enthusiasm and in the most festive style.

As they conducted the ritual of “Krishmelanu” the shout of - Woe is me! - sounded from the next room. It was accompanied by the cries help! help!, and the voice, the voice of the mother who became hysterical after hearing the prayers of R' Leizer and his group of helpers.

The Jewish women, who heard the cries in the yard, quickly entered the apartment of the “Jew” from Bucharest and saw R' Leizer and his group of children at the peak of their ecstasy, trilling their voices and swaying their bodies the way you shake a lulav on Sukkot. What are you doing here? - the women shouted, get out of here, fast!

Why do we have to leave? - says “Leizer der Blinder” - we came to conduct a proper “Krishmelanu” for the newborn and his mother and wish them Mazel Tov. I don't understand why the woman is shouting as if she was slaughtered by a sharp slaughterer's knife. The most important thing is - I want them to pay me and give some candy to the children.

So? - the women said - you're waiting for your payment? We advise you to run away from here with the boys

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as long as you're still alive, otherwise, you will get such a beating that your ancestors and your forefathers never knew. This Gentile, the tax collector from Bucharest, will beat you hip and thigh if he would come here and see what you have done to his wife. He will dismantle your bones, one by one, and grind them very thin!

What, a Gentile? - said one-eyed Leizer - after all, Chaim “der langer” clearly told me that a Jew lives here, a distinguished Jew from Bucharest, a very rich man!

The righteous Jewish women didn't respond to his puzzling questions because first of all they had to calm the Christian woman, explain the tragic mistake and beg her not to tell the whole matter to her husband. R' Leizer stopped the “Krishmelanu” prayers in the middle because he understood that this time he fell victim in the hands of Chaim the long. He no longer waited for his payment because he was afraid that he would be forced to read “Kriat Shema” before death, and this time, specifically for his own body. Leizer “der blinder” left with pain and shame together with his “holy sheep.”

 

 

 

 

The Liman River

 

Corners in Akkerman's City Garden

 

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