by Sheftel Zukerman
Translated by Sara Mages
On the seventieth birthday of our brother, Zadok Zukerman, who lives today in Herzlia, all the members of the extensive family and their descendants gathered at the home of his oldest daughter and soninlaw, Malka and Zev Golani, in Herzlia. Not all the family members came. But, nevertheless, about seventy Zukermanim gathered.
In honor of this family event, a page with a diagram of a tree and branches, the Zukermanim's stocktaking to the month of Tishrei 5739, was prepared and distributed to all the participants. This page, which was snatched by everyone as a keepsake, was not only given to the sons and their descendants, but also to other relatives (cousins etc.). We are grateful to Malka and Zev Golani who prepared this handsome family page.
Who are our parents, the head of the lineage?
The father of the family, Nachum Zukerman, was born in 5630 (1870) in the town of Azarnitz, Ukraine. His father, HaRav Zadok Zukerman, was the rabbi of the city of Akkerman for many years. The family probably moved to Akkerman from the Ukraine around the 1860s. Our grandfather, HaRav Zadok Zukerman, was a descendent of a Ukrainian rabbinical family, and one of his ancestors was a famous rabbi, the Bach [Yoel Sirkis], who, as it was customary in those days, was named after one of his books.
I remember the tombstone of grandfather, Zadok zl, in the first row at the entrance to the Jewish cemetery of Akkerman. It was in the form of an ohel, and was located in one of the most distinguished places as befits the man who was the rabbi of the city for many years. When our father, Nachum, died in 5685 (1925), he was buried in the second row near his father's grave. Every year, in the month of Elul, I visited the cemetery with my mother to pray at the graves of my ancestors, as was customary in Jewish communities.
My father zl studied at the Yeshiva and was certified to be a ritual slaughterer. He was one of the four ritual slaughterers of Akkerman. He died after a long illness on 12 Elul 5685 (1925). Until his death he was a Torah scholar and an ardent Hassid of the Rabbi from Sadigura. His image appears before my eyes (he died when I was 11) as a tall Jew with a beard and he's dressed in a black kapote [long coat]. A yarmulke was always on his head when he studied the Gemara or other sacred books. On the Sabbath and holidays he dressed in his holiday clothes and walked slowly to the Hassidim's Beit HaMidrash which was located in the synagogues' courtyard. On the Sabbath he usually returned with a guest for the Sabbath.
Father didn't stand out in public activities probably because he was always busy with matters of livelihood. Even though he had to support the eleven children who were born to him over the years, he was very devoted to his Rabbi from Sadigura. Once a year he visited his rabbi and spent 23 weeks in his court…
Mother zl, Chana Zukerman from the Horovitz family, was born in Akkerman in 5634 (1874), and the origin of her family Southern Bessarabia. Her father, HaRav EliyahuChaim Horovitz, was the rabbi of the city of Kilya which was located on the bank of one of the tributaries of the Danube River. I remember well my elderly grandfather, Eli Chaim, when he came to visit us and when I visited him when I happened to be at the branch of Gordonia in Kilya. The family tree of grandfather EliyahuChaim Horovitz refers to the sons of the Horovitzim, the descendants of R' Isaiah HaLevi Horovitz who is better known as the Shelah haKadosh after the title of his wellknown book Shenei Lu?ot HaBerit. Therefore, on our mother's side, we are offspring of Shelah haKadosh and all of us are proud of this relationship.
I will always remember our mother Chana as the mother of the big family. She was awarded to raise 1011 children, big and small. The house was always full, but not too full because of the age difference (there's a difference of 22 years between me, the youngest, and my older brother).
My parents' home, despite the religious atmosphere, the observance of the commandments, and the daily prayer in the synagogue, was also a Jewishnational and Zionist home. I envision the books in Hebrew and Yiddish which were on special shelves, next to the beds or on top of the wardrobes. The general book case only contained the Gemara, Mishnaiot and other sacred books.
For many years we lived near the Jewish library (Hebrew and Yiddish). In the afternoon, Shterenshis, the librarian and teacher, passed next to our apartment on his way to open the library. Therefore, we were able to plan our visit to the library to exchange books. The following newspapers came to our house regularly Unsere Zeit from Kishinev, Ard un Arbayt of Tzeirei Zion, HaOlam the weekly journal of the World Zionist Organization which came every week from Great Russell Street, London. We were very proud of this newspaper which came straight from London… Books, which were published by Stiebel and Tarbut, were also found at our home. The kids read children's books and also studied from the collection of Olam Katan [small world] which was published at the beginning of the century. We spoke Yiddish at home even though everyone was fluent in Russian and Romanian. We also spoke Hebrew because the young children (four of us) studied at the Hebrew Gymnasium.
The children's education was varied: the first the three sons studied in Yeshivot and received rabbinical ordination. Only one of them went the way of his ancestors and became a ritual slaughterer (our brother Leib Zukerman). The sister, Leah, studied at the government school for girls (in the Russian) in Akkerman and also studied external studies. The fourth son, Noah Zukerman, who also studied in a Yeshiva, was the first son to immigration to Israel. He defected from the Romanian Army and traveled to the port city of Constanţa on the Black Sea coast. There, he slipped to a boat that brought him to the shores of Israel in the fall of 1920. Two sons, Zev and Shmuel, studied at the Russian trade schools in the city even though they studied the Torah and a little Hebrew before that.
A new period in the education of the children in the Zukerman family began with the seventh son, Zadok, and I mean the Hebrew education at the primary and secondary (gymnasium) school of Tarbut association in our city.
At the end of the First World War Bessarabia was returned to Romania. At that time, Hebrew schools of Tarbut society were established in the regions west of Tsarist Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea in the south (LithuaniaLatvia, Eastern Polandand Bessarabia). The new authorities, in their wish to push out the Russian language and culture that dominated the streets and spoken by Jewish families for centuries, encouraged the establishment of a network of these schools. Most were private schools who didn't receive rights from the government. The graduates of these schools had to take additional exams so they could continue their higher education at the university.
Zionist and Hebrew activists took advantage of this situation and established a primary school in almost every district city in Bessarabia. Later, they also established a Hebrew Gymnasium. The study at the gymnasium was for a fee, which was often quite high. Not everyone was able to pay tuition, and after a year or two the parents sent their children back to the Romanian Gymnasium where they studied for free.
The Zukerman's four young children studied at Tarbut school. The first, Zadok, studied only for 23 years because after father's death he traveled to Kishinev to study in a Yeshiva. He studied to be a ritual slaughterer so he can get the job that was the right of our father's family. We, the three young children, continued our studies and graduated the Hebrew Tarbut Gymnasium in Akkerman after 12 full years (together with the primary school).
Akkerman was greatly influenced by the city of Odessa, the largest port city in southern Russia, but it was mostly at the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, until the October Revolution of 1917. In 1918, Bessarabia was returned to Romania, the border was closed and sealed, and the contact with Soviet Russia was severed.
I remember the stories that my parents, uncles and older brothers and sisters told me about Odessa, the Jewish metropolis, about its splendor and the vibrant Jewish Zionist life in it. About the harbor which was bustling with sailors from all the countries in the world, and to differentiate, about the city's underworld…
Our brother Shmuel, in addition to the 4 Zukermans who studied at the gymnasium, was the school's secretary and its driving force for many years. The gymnasium wasn't only a place of study for the Zukerman's sons, but also a place for cultural entertainment for the entire family. The famous Chanukah parties, graduation ceremonies and national Zionist meetings took place in the gymnasium's hall. All of us blended into the life of the Hebrew Gymnasium and were active within it. The first core of the branch of Gordonia was founded there, and the three young sons of the Zukerman family were active members in it. There weren't many students in Tarbut Gymnasium (only close to 200 students), but its contribution to the education of the Jewish youth to Zionism, immigration and life of fulfillment was high.
Without a doubt we are the only family from Akkerman that almost all its sons and daughters immigrated to Israel. Only one son, who's also has ties to Israel and visited it three times, didn't immigrate. His descendants, who are veteran Zionists, visited the country many times. We often hear from our townspeople how proud they are of our large family. It's true that we were fortunate that the last two families, together with our mother, immigrated to Israel after the Second World War and its tribulations. Here, they merged their strong desire to immigrate and their desire to build their home in the country. Dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren live in Israel. No one, God forbid, emigrated from Israel. This is the epopee of one Israeli family, if only there were many more like it.
by Chaim Zukerman
Translated by Sara Mages
More than forty years have passed since we left Akkerman to the mercy of the Gentiles as it changes the names of its squares and streets, perpetuates its history and the names of its various conquerors, but it never left our memory. Our Akkerman had infinite power when it clung to the shore of the Leman River that its silent waves cleaned the walls of its legendary ancient fort.
Beautiful and proud Jews lived in Akkerman, Jews who settled there by chance when they sought a source of income and sustenance. They struck roots in the city and added a lot to its beauty and charm. I close my eyes for a moment and envision various scenes from my childhood and youth. Here is the market with its many shops and Jewish merchants waiting in their doorways for a buyer; here are the vendors lurking nervously, they're also looking for buyers for their wares; a woman is offering a chicken for sale the revenue from this chicken her only income; and here's the corner of the taverns and the strong smell of vodka reaches my nostrils.
And here's the corner of the haberdashery stores, the bakeries and grocery stores and in their center a square. It stands empty all the days of the week and only fills with farmers and agricultural produce on market days. Here's a farmer sitting in the corner and eating challah with herring and a bottle of vodka next to him; and I see more and more pictures in my closed eyes.
Akkerman was a Jewish city. All its synagogues were concentrated in one yard and each synagogue was unique and a world unto itself. And to differentiate the church that the ringing of its bells brought a reminder to the Jews, a threatening reminder from ancient time to our days.
We, the members of the rabbi's family, lived in the shadow of this church. I remember the road that led to the church on Sunday and Easter, and the galloping horses that frightened the hearts of the Jews. Our house was in a large courtyard with a lot of neighbors and a well stood in its center. Behind the courtyard sprawled an orchard and a vineyard, a barn with a lot of cows and warehouses with a stock of barrels that were used to store wine.
I see father hunched over the Gemara studying a Sugia [Talmudic discourse on a topic]. By the sound of his voice I was able to tell if and when he managed to overcome the severity of the Sugia and start learning a new one. He had time for Torah study and for ruling on religious laws and kashrut, meetings with the city leaders and walking to the synagogue with a close friend. This walk was seasoned with words of Torah and wisdom
During the holidays his sermons at the Great Synagogue were saturated with wisdom and wit. They weren't just seasoned with quotations from the Bible, but also with words of secular philosophy of ancient and modern philosophers that weren't strangers to him. He repeated, again and again, that Jewish thought and the Torah influenced their contemplation. He fascinated the worshipers with his words and the synagogue was full to capacity each time he gave a sermon on current affairs.
Our course of life and daily existence were rooted in the Torah and tradition, and every holiday cast a special atmosphere on the house. On Passover eve the city's Jews came to the rabbi's house to sell the chametz to a Gentile from Turlaki. The last day of Passover, which is the day of the death of my grandfather HaRav Zadok, is engraved in my memory. After his death the rabbinate was transferred to my father who was ordained by the genius rabbi Der Alter from Constantine. Later, he was also ordained by the genius rabbi, R' Soloveitchik, from Brisk. On that day all the relatives and family members gathered at our home and the preparation for that day was great and exciting.
I also remember well the days of Gittin. Gloom settled on the house on the days of Gittin because home and family ceased to exist. In one corner in father's room, which was filled with scared books, lay the halitzah shoe that, as we all know, freed the widows from their aginut. We, the children, were taken out of the house so that we will not see the procedure of the Gittin. By the way, in the divorce certificate the addition, which is called Weissenberg, was written next to the name of our city because of the power of an ancient custom.
Besides the yard, the orchard and the wide spaces around us, we, the children, had another hidden treasure that cannot be described in words, and the treasure is our mother. She was the center of the house and the supreme authority. Those who came to the rabbi's door knew that she was in charge of the rabbi's public relations. She engaged, from early morning until late at night, in matters of the house, the education of the children, etc. Sometimes, I pestered her with my various questions including the eternal question that only a child like me allowed himself to ask: Is there a God or not… Mother showed great patience to my embarrassing questions and didn't let me go until my claims were closed. I'm sure that she didn't tell father what bothered me because he didn't have great patience to my heretical questions because, after all, he was a Jewish rabbi.
There were brothers and sisters at home and each had his own living space. The atmosphere in this house merged with the atmosphere of the city's Jewish community. The war brought an end to our home and its unique atmosphere.
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