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[Page 191]

From Our Home

 

Like an uprooted tree

by Ida Weinshelbaum (Ita Peck)

Translated by Sara Mages

 

Roots

I envision my town Capresti from the home of Aharon the locksmith, when you come from Rogozhini, to the home of Shmuel Glicki, when you leave for the village of Prodăneşti. From the home of Yehoiakim the blacksmith - the place where the “Heder” of Yoel Mer was located, to the home of Feivel the water-drawer, the last house in the “New Street” on the road to the Rãut River.

My parents were Yosef and Sarke Peck. Our home was located at the heart of the city, under the same roof with Yankl Waysman, Leyzer Volman and Eliyahu Volman. My childhood years knew poverty, suffering, and my parents' constant worry to earn a living and raise their children. My father didn't work, but my mother - a woman of valor, carried both the burden of livelihood and the home. From time to time we opened a new shop, and it disappeared immediately as if it never existed. Not once the closing of the shop was involved in humiliation when Tzarna, the moneylender, placed a foreclosure due to non-payment of the debts and interest on time.

At the beginning of the 1930s, my parents decided to open a hostel, and since then there was an improvement in our economic situation. Even in the most difficult years our parents made a superhuman effort so that their children could study.

From the age of five we studied in a “heder.” Our brother Eliyahu studied with the teacher Polychuk. Mary and I with - Reizel Froymchuk, Duvid Derbinder (Rachmani),Yoel Mer, Leib Mer and Yosef Birshtein. In addition to that, we also studied in the Romanian school.

When we grew older, we were sent to study in the big cities. Eliyahu - to Kishinev [Chişinău] to study at the “Magen David” secondary school, Mary - to “ORT” school in Belz, and I to the “Jewish Teacher's Seminary” in Chernivtsi. The youngest daughter Dora, who was raised at the home of our uncle Mordechai Peck, studied at the secondary school in Mirculelti.

I wouldn't exaggerate if I state that our house was kind of a social center for the town's youth. Almost every day, boys and girls gathered at our home, played chess, debated and sang together while Moshale' Kleiman, the son of Chaim Hillel, accompanied them with a mandolin or an harmonica.

The pulse of the town's commercial life was felt in our house. It can be explained with the fact, that the representatives of the world of commerce stayed in our hostel since it was opened. For example: Moshe Green bought grain for well known traders from Kishinev who have conducted business with traders abroad. Moshe Mashiach bought the skins of lambs, rabbits, etc. The commercial life was conducted between the traders who stayed with us. The transactions usually took place during breakfast or lunch, and everything was agreed verbally. When a deal was finalized, no one changed his mind even if changes have occurred up or down.

I remember the long winter evenings when mother was busy in the kitchen making dumplings and frying sausage or smoked beef for 20 people or more.

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In such a meal, Yeshayahu-Yair (Scheior) Biranbaumþ trilled his voice in Cantorial music while Simcha Leiger - the Bernstein brothers' accountant - read excerpts from the writings of Sholem Aleichem with great success.

When the personnel of the Yiddish theater troupes arrived to Capresti, they dined with us and some of them even stayed with us. It happened that the actors couldn't pay what was due from them. In such cases, my mother was very generous and tried to help them as much as possible. I remember an incident when my mother sent me and my friend, the youngest daughter of Aharon the slaughterer, to sell tickets from home to home. The success of this task was great, and so we provided them with the travel expenses to the nearest town. Even the cantors stayed with us during their tour of the towns of Bessarabia. Among them I particularly remember the cantor Margolis and his singers.

Laschtschenko, the famous Russian singer, who appeared in a concert at the Yissachar Itskovich's Theater, lived with us. The tickets were expensive and only those with means assembled in the hall. Others filled the streets and listened to the concert through the hall's open windows. I was very proud when I was rewarded with a free ticket and was able to sit in the hall.

Different personalities, who lectured on various topics, came to the town. One of them was Yisrael Weinstein, the famous editor of the newspaper “Undzer Tsayţ” [“Our Time”] who was known by his pseudonym “Idel Melamed.” He was received with great respect and was also rewarded with a good income. However, despite everything, he published a feuilleton in his newspaper in which he mocked the town and its goats. My uncle, Mordechai Peck, who was a Gabai in the Ashkenazi Synagogue (Deutsche Shul) where all the rich men prayed, a member of the community council, and also a board member of the “Saving and Loan Fund,” sent a letter of protest to the journalist Yisrael Weinstein for his disparaging attitude and his ingratitude.

One day, a group of Revisionists appeared in our town with the intention to establish one of their chapters. As we know, this political party didn't have a foothold in our town. When the matter became known to the members of the youth movements “Gordonia,” “Dror,” and “Hashomer Hatzair,” they surrounded our house and didn't let them leave. Who knows what would have happened without my mother's assurance that the Revisionists will not appear in our town. They heard her advice, and left empty-handed.

Also rabbis were our guests for a period of about six weeks. From Rezina came the rabbi, Rabbi Motely. It was a man with an imposing figure who locked himself in his room and only came out to dine with his Hassidim and when he went to pray in the Hasidic Synagogue. Most of his followers belonged to the affluent circles. From Vad-Rashkov [Vadul-Raşcov] came Rabbi Moshe-Duvidel who prayed in the Great Synagogue. He was the rabbi of the craftsmen. The meals, which my mother prepared for Sabbath Eve and for the Havdallah on Saturday night, cannot be described. The menu was typical Jewish and included a variety of dishes. The rabbi came out for dinner only after all of his Hassidim sat around the table, and gave a sermon after the Kiddush and at the end of the meal. The sermon of Rabbi Motely was above my understanding because it was seasoned with interpretations and argumentation. On the other hand, I listened attentively to the stories of Rabbi Moshe-Duvidel about the wonders of Baal Shem Tov. The meals ended with music and Hassidic dancing.

I remember a tragic-comic event which was related to the rabbi's Kiddush. A Christian girl named Mashka worked for us. Like all the Christian domestic workers she had a good grasp of the Yiddish language.

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The rabbi's Gabai assumed that she was Jewish and handed her the bottle of wine, which was intended for the Kiddush, so she could put it in the cellar. Shortly before Kabbalat Shabbat, father learned that Mashka held the bottle of wine, and thus it turned into “libation wine” and disqualified for Kiddush. A great panic broke out. Immediately, they ran to Lipa the barber and took several grapes that were harvested from his vineyard. The grapes were pressed, and the rabbi used the juice for the Kabbalat Shabbat “Kiddush.”

While waiting in line to see the rabbi the women poured their heart before my mother. She listened carefully to their problems, and since her faith in the rabbi was unshakable she promised them that the rabbi, with God's help, will bring an end to their grievances.

Every once in a while, various traveling-agents arrived to the town from factories and production plants throughout Romania to receive orders from the town's shopkeepers. The agents were of different types and among them I remember one who excelled in the game of chess. Even Amnon Skeliar, Capresti's chess champion, was not able to beat him. Sometimes, a simultaneous game of several players was organized, but all of them were defeated by him. In such evenings our house was like a chess club, and became a gathering place for the best chess players in town.

We received a Zionist education from our parents since the dawn of our childhood, and when the youth movements were established in town they didn't prevent us from joining them. Eliyahu was a member of “Gordonia,” Mary a member of “HaShomer HaTzair,” but since I was too young for ideological recognition, it was important for me to spend time singing and dancing in the “hall” together with other children my age. As long as Eliyahu was at home I belonged to “Gordonia,” but after his immigration to Israel I moved to “HaShomer HaTzair.

My mother was very active in Capresti's Zionist movement. For a long period of time she was the deputy chairperson of the women's branch of “Keren ha-kayemet le-Yisra'el” [JNF]. She recruited other women, like Esphra,Chiekes, to the activities. Both of them traveled to the Jews in the nearby villages and received donations and items for “Keren ha-kayemet le-Yisra'el.” I remember the “bazaars” that took place in town. There was a nice display of various items and rich buffets, which included all kinds of cakes and food that were prepared by the women of Capresti. Even ice-cream was not missing there. Usually, the bazaar opening included Zionist speeches, sweepstakes and dancing. The first waltz was sold at auction.

When I was a young girl, my mother took me to one of the bazaars to help her. I looked at everything that was happening around me as if I looking at a world of wonders, and when one of the government's representatives bought the first waltz and invited Mrs. Schargorodska - who was known as the most beautiful woman in the town - I felt that I was participating in an event from one of the stories of Arabian Nights. All the money that was collected was donated to “Keren ha-kayemet le Yisra'el.

Over the years, my father started to earn a living as a broker of grains. He was the only person who knew how to test the composition of grain crops, and its price was set accordingly. I was proud that my father was known as an honest man who gained the trust of both the buyer and the seller. He was also considered to be an honest arbitrator, and his opinion was also received in inquiries that were held by the rabbi.


[Page 194]

The home of Eliezer and Rivka Heissiner

by Tova Filon (Heissiner)

Translated by Sara Mages

 

When I come to describe my parents' home in the little town of Capresti, it is befitting to review, in a few words, the background in which my parents were raised and educated, that is, the roots from which they have grown. My father and my mother grew up in a traditional home. My grandfathers were Torah scholars and observant.

My father, as I remember him, was of medium height, handsome, and his face was adorned with a black beard. My mother wasn't tall, and was considered to be a beautiful woman. In those days, it was customary that young couples were intended for each other, and were married only by means of a matchmaker. But Eliezer Heissiner fell in love with Rivka Klienman, and after much hesitation he plucked up courage, visited her parents and asked her hand in marriage. This event, almost a hundred years ago, caused a stir in the town and beyond it. The inscription above the photo that my mother sent to her fiancé is typical: “an offering of a memento, with eternal love to my fiancé Eliezer from your fiancée Rivka Klienman, “Leshana tova tekatevo” [May you be inscribed for a good year].

My mother was considered to be an educated woman. Many of the townspeople used to turn to her with requests to write letters to their relatives, and she always did it willingly. The letters, which she wrote me to Israel, were seasoned with expressions from the Talmud and aroused great admiration among my friends.

My father loved to raise goats in his yard, and since he was the director of the town's “Saving and Loans Bank” he earned the nickname “Capresti's bank director with the goats.” Even during the war, at the time of the mass escape, he didn't want to part from his goats and took a few of them with him.

He was affable, kind-hearted, generous, and was loved by everyone who knew him. My parents were Zionists in their heart and soul, and longed to immigrate to Israel. But I, with my many sins, prevented it from them when I saw the fate of the elderly people who couldn't adapt to life and work in Israel. I knew that they were rooted in the life of the town, and I was afraid to uproot them from their birthplace. Today, I am full with sorrow for this behavior, and mourn their bitter fate. “O for those who are gone and cannot be replaced!”


The man who was one
of the pillars of society

(Yosef Sklyar z”l)

by Zerubavel Seker (Sklyar)

Translated by Sara Mages

 

The editor said: “Could there be a book on Capresti without the figure of Yosef Sklyar?”

I answered: “Do you mean that I, as a son, should count his virtues like a peddler?”

The editor repeated: “Not necessarily, tell something. Each one of our townspeople, who will page through the book, will remember his own story about Yosef Sklyar. After all, there are many stories that his name is interwoven in them.”

Well, you want a story? A story about a young man, the only son of a real Chabad [wisdom, understanding, and knowledge] man, a scholar, a young man who one day, in the late 19th century, closed the Gemara on a certain page

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(he remembered the page to the day of his death). “You'll not see me anymore!” he said, and sailed to “new worlds,” to “secular studies,” and from there to “Hibbat Zion” [“Lovers of Zion”], to Ehad Ha'am [Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg] and, of course, to Herzl. One day, he settled in our town Capresti, established a family and saw a blessing in his work. All his life he continued to spin his dreams of redemption and a full life in Zion. My friend, the editor, you'll find plenty of similar stories in the literature of the “Haskalah” [“enlightenment”], and in the literature that came after it, is it not so?

“Yes and no. Because, after all, for us, the townspeople, Yosef Sklyar was like that and much more than that. Our man. First of all, a man. Yes, he was a dreamer, and even so, a whole “institution” in itself. Like a combination of numerous institutions. Maybe I'll mention, my friend: when a conflict broke out in our place they immediately turned to my father for arbitration, and his ruling was honored without a question. If a person was in need, he knew that my father will help with grace, secretly and without condescension. And the humor! What a delightful humor. How we were drawn to his flowing conversation. Young and old, “simple folks” and rich man, Zionists and ultra-orthodox- all of them found a common language with Yosef Sklyar. Even the local “landowners” and the anti-Semite stood before him in awe. Is it a routine? Are you still hesitating? Well: “Keren Hayesod” [United Israel Appeal], “Keren Ha'Kayemet” [JNF], Zionist conferences, and local community business (not being one of the professional activists), and what not? Sklyar had belonged to “beautiful Capresti,” my friend, go do your thing, and without fear of exaggeration, write:

“I'll try, I said, a few flashes, and the rest each person will complete as he wishes.”

In 1925, when the Hebrew University was inaugurated on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, Yosef Sklyar organized a big party in his home in Capresti… Jews danced till dawn, until they weakened: “Jerusalem! Jerusalem!” again and again, to “our country!” and father was leading them.

Our home was a Zionist home with a meaning. Father was among the first activists of “Tzeirei Zion” ' [Young Zionist] in the vicinity. The emissaries of “Keren Hayesod,” and “Keren Ha'Kayemet,” and later the emissaries of “HeHalutz” and “Gordonia,” who came to our town - their home, of course, was the Sklyar home. When the guest arrived, the entire group gathered: the writer Mordechai Goldenberg, my beloved teacher, my uncle Lezer Heisiner - the Zionists' elder and crowned leader, “Shimon-Yankel Komissar,” meaning, Shimon Heisiner and Yakov Goldenberg the authorized agents of “Keren Ha'Kayemet,” Moshe Pripez my modest loving uncle, Chaim Leib Harsonski, the Yosizim, and more. The conversation flowed for many hours and we, the tiny children, drank the words with thirst.
The people of Israel. The redemption of the land. Things were intertwined: Judaism and Zionism.

On Sabbath nights, when father returned from the synagogue - the “Hassidic Kleizel” - which was the house of worship of HaRav Kapliwatzky - the children sat (each in his usual place!) next to the table. Mother covered her eyes and blessed the candles and father conducted the Kiddush. The Sabbath meal. At the end of the meal father sat back in his chair, which was at the head of the table, closed his eyes with serenity, pointed his finger, and started to sing softly. The song gained power and slowly slowly filled the house: Hassidic songs and the songs of Zion. The songs of Mané and his band (those published in the “Tsien's Harfe” song book) the songs of Bialik and Tchernichovsky, and pioneer songs from Eretz-Yisrael. Mother joined her husband for a duet of delicate soprano and clear baritone, and we, the children, ran towards them and the flames of the Sabbath candles quivered with us, and it seemed that the walls broke into a dance. “Kabbalat Shabbat” at the Sklyar home.

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There were five rooms in the house. We'll peek into two of them for a moment. Soon, you'll understand why.

We will start with the “Gustina,” which is, the living room. Velvet armchairs were placed around the elegant table which stood at the center of the room. A plush sofa leaned on the wall, and the entire wall was covered with a carpet. This carpet, which was a work of an artist, arrived to the “Gustina” thanks to … the first “Jewish Encyclopedia.” And so was the tale. A rumor reached my father's ear (maybe from the pages of “”Undzer Tsay?,” or maybe from the “World,” the world journal of the Zionist Federation) that Nachum Goldman and Yakov Klatzkin have finished a mighty enterprise in the city of Berlin, which is, the “Encyclopaedia Judaica.” A problem was created: this encyclopedia - was very expensive, therefore, father planned a “compromise”: you, my wife, will buy a carpet to beautify the living room, and I will bring the encyclopedia of “Eshkol” [publishing] to our house.

When the first volume arrived, all the intellectuals of the town gathered, leafed through the thick book, gently, gently, and their eyes sparkled. A wonderful treasure! After they left, father paused at the head of the table and his hand stroked the letters very slowly. “Encyclopaedia Judaica” is residing at his home with respect.

We go back to the living room. Pass by the extensive mirror. On the wall, to its left, hung the portraits of our Sages from all generations: the Vilna Gaon, Baal Shem Tov, the RAMBAM [Rabbi Mosheh Ben Maimon], and next to them, on a decorated table - stood the new wonder device: the telephone. The first telephone in Capresti. The MaHaRa [Moreinu ha-Rav Loew] peered at it and smile.

Another corner is left. My father's bookcase stood there. Inside it was the gift library that every boy received for his Bar Mitzvah. I remember, that behind the shiny glass was an elegant box, and in it were many books in red cover and gold letters. Here we got to know Rabbi Akivah, Bar Kokhba, the legendary Elroy and other great figures. Our dream box!

Apparently, in the same cupboard, was carefully hidden a thin booklet: “How do I tell my son,” Neumann, Tel-Aviv. The first sexual information. Each boy, when his time came, found, by chance, this booklet on his desk. Immediately, of course, he was absorbed in its pages and father was passing in the room, “by chance,” smiling: the youngster has grown and become a man…

This was the contents of that “living room”: the gallery of the representatives of ancient tradition, and under it, the representative of the new civilization - the telephone. A Hebrew library and in it - Oh no! - a booklet about sex education.

Father. It was probably not accidental. Certainly not.

And now, “as promised,” to another room, which is the “Spalenia.” Seemingly, a bedroom like all the bedrooms in the homes of rich Jews, but under the bed was a rectangular slot in the wooden floor, a sign for some kind of a small door, a door without a handle, without a use. Why a small door? And why a small door that doesn't lead anywhere? Once, father explained it to me that way: “When the Bolshevik Revolution broke out, a wave of Jewish refugees crossed the Dniester River to Bessarabia, which is now annexed to “Greater Romania.” Many of them fled for their lives and soon found themselves in a terrible trap. Stateless persons, and even worse than that, Jews from the land of the enemy! Therefore, we hid these refugees in our cellar. Among them were members of the “Third Aliyah” - the first “Halutzim” [pioneers], and our Jewish brothers. Through this small trap door, under the bed, we lowered their daily food for weeks upon weeks.”

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One morning, close to those days of great tribulations, father woke up and the light in one of his eyes was extinguished.

Two charity boxes operated at home: one belonged to my mother and the second - to my father. My mother's box was called “WIZO - Committee.” As I recall, she conducted most of her “business” with…R' Aharon the wonderful slaughterer. From time to time, R' Aharon came to our home, looked up to the ceiling, because it was forbidden, strictly forbidden to, God forbid, look at a woman. Together they discussed the matters of “Hakhnasat Kallah.”

The second box, father's box, was intended for two main purposes: One - for “Keren Hayesod” and other Zionist funds, and the second - for various charitable enterprises for the needy of our town. In the days between Purim to Passover Rabbi Kapliwatzky used to appear in our house in his festive clothes, and the two friends sailed, in the well known Capresti's mud, to pull “Maot Chitim” [wheat money] from the pockets of the homeowners who sighed hard: It's difficult to skimp a hand before such a pair…it was kind of an annual tradition. In contrast, they flourished in the matters of “Gemilut Chasadim” all the days of the year.

The hours of Thursday afternoon, market day in our town, were special hours. Then, the “simple folks” came, one by one, to father's “Drogaria [pharmacy] to get a loan for the Sabbath or to pay an old loan. Some came to receive a guarantee, which was signed by Yosef Sklyar, to the wholesale store - to replenish the supply for the upcoming week. I remember one, who used to come every week only to announce in a single word: “deficit,” and father used to say with a wide smile, “a chronic deficit.” What can we do?

When the Soviets invaded the area and “tables have turned,” meaning, those on the bottom were on top, the “simple folks” remembered his acts of kindness. In those days, the Zionist and “capitalists” suffered the most, and a slight hint was enough to send them “to the land of the white bears.” They didn't harm my father. On the contrary, they guarded him well.

Everything collapsed with the well known deportation to the expanses of Eastern Russia. At an old age my parents were awarded with several years of compensation in Kibbutz Nir Am. Father worked in any job, as if he wanted to fulfill an unrealized dream.

Young and old surrounded him with admiration like in the good days of the distant past. One day, one of the kibbutz members stopped me and said with great excitement: “Listen, I've just spoken with your father and he recited before me one of Bialik's poems! He didn't miss a word.” Go tell a person about Sabbath nights and the early mornings when my father opened the windows and broke into a song. He sang for the new day and to a bird that came to his window from the warm countries, go and tell a person.

Without a doubt, distress signals, material and spiritual alike, adhered to other Jewish towns like our Capresti. However, check carefully and you'll realize that these weren't conflicts between people who were strangers to the place and to each other. Of course, there was also ugliness, conflicts, jealousy and pettiness in them as in any settlement where ordinary mortals live. However, the fact is, that in Capresti, for example, a well equipped Hebrew library was active, there were “revised Heders” so that each child was able to receive an education, and a complete network of institutions,
which are defined in our updated language - “Social Welfare Institutions.”

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But, over there, they were mostly managed by volunteers. There were Zionist youth movements, cultural balls, and what not? Indeed, in essence, a real community with a sense of mutual responsibility. Kind of an organic living body, and in its center, a radiated center, a “core,” in the language of Buber: kind of a natural leadership which sometimes radiated its influence beyond its boundaries. These were decent people who aroused trust, appreciation and fondness. Among them were those who were endowed with “lofty idealism.”

It seems to me, that Yosef Sklyar was one of them in our community that was lost.


Our mother - Chana “the Beinushke's”

by Mordechai Rishpi (Feierman)

Translated by Sara Mages

 

- “Your mother deserves that you'll write about her in the Capresti book” - so claimed in my ears a number of townspeople who knew her well. There was also someone who promised to “sharpen his pen,” and tell in public about her deeds. Given the fact, that this member of the editorial board was busy with a different kind of writing for the book, I said in my heart: maybe I'll try to write down a little bit? After all, I knew my mother no less than the others...

I remember, that not once, when I went from door to door to fill the boxes for “Keren Ha'Kayemet” or the “community center,” there were many who opened their pockets and gave me a larger contribution than usual because I was the son of Chana “the Beinushke's.” An elderly woman, invited Yochentzy and I for a cup of tea with jam, and told us the story of the “righteous, “Chava “the Beinushke's” that her daughter, Chana, is following her footsteps. Chava, the daughter of R' Mordechai Derenboim, married Beinush Itzkovitch a goldsmith from Orhei. Beinush was barely seen in town because he was working in the villages installing gold and silver ornaments in icons. He died at the prime of his life and left Chava, the young widow, to take care of five children and an adopted girl. Although she was poor and barely made a living baking bread, she was known for her generosity and her help to the ill-fated who called her by the nickname - “Chava the Beinushke's” (Beinush's wife). Subsequently, Chava traveled to America with her children, and Chana and her adopted sister Rachel, the wife of Duvid the tinsmith, remained here.

Mother, Chana, continued my grandmother's acts of kindness and the same people, who were helped by her, transferred their admiration to her together with the nickname - “Chana Chava the Beinushke's.”

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It's worth mentioning that not once, we, the children, wondered: where's mother going at sunset on Friday with two covered baskets in her hands? The hidden secret was discovered when mother was at the last months of her pregnancy with the youngest son Yosef. She called me and my older brother Beinush and asked us to help her with something, but we had to assure her that even the “birds in the sky” wouldn't know the secret. From that day on, for a number of months, we left the house together with baskets containing challot for the Sabbath and two small pots of food. We would go out, regardless of the weather, to certain houses where we left the contents of the baskets. By mother's explicit request, we tried not to be discovered. At the hours before the entrance of the Sabbath we didn't meet a living soul in the street. There were houses to which we entered and said: “mother sent you something to taste from her dishes.” In other homes we opened the door slowly, left two challot, and left undetected. “You understand- mother used to say - it isn't enough that a person is punished and needs mercy from others, it isn't necessary for him to know who makes the act of kindness for him!”

Father didn't know any of the above. For most parts, he came home on Friday from his travels to the villages, ate something and went to the bathhouse. Later, he lay down to rest until it was time to go to the synagogue. Mother planned these acts of kindness when father was resting, so he didn't know and didn't hear. In fact, even if father knew about it, it's doubtful that he would have created a problem. He would have said that instead of resting she was working from early morning, and she was wasting her time on people who even didn't know to say thank you…

But twice I've witnessed an outburst of anger from my father on my mother's actions. The first time - because of her winter coat (I wrote about it in my article about “R' Aharon the ritual slaughterer”), and the second time - in connection with operation “Keren HaZahav” [the gold fund]. It happened after the public meeting that took place in the Great Synagogue. Rabbi Levi Shternberg from Dombrovani gave a speech at that meeting. In his fiery speech he talked about “Keren HaZahav,” the enterprise to build a university in Jerusalem, and called the women to act like women who answered the call of Aharon HaCohen in the desert and “removed their golden rings.” Mother was very influenced by the speaker's words, went home, and brought him her jewelry box, without missing a thing.

The rumor about mother's contribution has spread, and was the subject of conversation even in the nearby towns. In this way, one of our aunts learned about it and hurried to ask father if he gave her permission to do so. This was a complete surprise for father. He kept it in his heart and on the following Sabbath, when they were getting ready to go to a Bar Mitzvah, he asked mother: why don't you wear the necklace that you always wear for a party? This necklace was given to her by her mother when she came to visit us a year before the outbreak of the First World War. Mother liked this necklace, and didn't part from it during the holidays.

Mother's excuses and evasions didn't help, and since father insisted that she show him the necklace she told him about the contribution to “Keren HaZahav.” - “And there's no need to consult me? - father boiled with anger - I think that I also have a part in your jewelry.” In the end, mother managed to appease father and brought the case of a robbery that occurred, exactly the same week, in a nearby town. “It is better that this treasure will be used for the building of a Hebrew University in Jerusalem instead of falling into the hands of robbers!”

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Mother was only sorry about one item: the necklace, a souvenir from her mother that she had given hastily. She was especially hurt when she learned that the jewelry, which was donated by the women of Bessarabia, was sold at public auction in Kishinev - “if only I'd known about it - she claimed - I would have paid any price to redeem the necklaces that I've received as a gift from my mother.”

Mother calmed down after she received an explanation from Eliezer Haysiner. Indeed, her activities were focused on helping the “needy and the ill-fated,” but her heart and her pocket were opened to everything that was related to Eretz-Yisrael. She bequeathed us, the children, this attitude and didn't object that each one of us belonged to a different Zionist youth movement. When we sat together around the table we used to break out in debates, and the house was in “turmoil.”

So was mother, and this is how she'll be remembered. It's a shame that she wasn't able to fulfill her dream and immigrate to Israel. She perished in the Holocaust together with all the family members who remained abroad. She was killed when they encountered a German military camp during their escape.


In the family circle

by Dora Tur-Kaspa (Froymchuk)

Translated by Sara Mages

 

My parents' home

I know that my father, Aharon Froymchuk, arrived from Lita to Bessarabia at the age of three together with his parents - Wolf Leib, his wife Rivka and their sons. They settled first in the village of Ciutule?ti, seven kilometers from Capresti. A few years later, with the death of my grandfather, they moved to live Capresti. I remember well my grandmother Rivka. She was well versed in “Korban Mincha,” “Tseno Ureno,” and treated her grandchildren, especially my brother Leibel and me, with great love. She told me legends from “Tseno Ureno” and examined Leibel's knowledge in the Bible stories. When he succeeded in a test, she tossed a coin behind his back, as if it was thrown by an angel from the heavens - a prize for his knowledge.

Grandma Rivka was respected by her children and grandchildren. In 1936, she died in Capresti at a ripe old age.

My father participated in a Mishnayot study group at the home of HaRav Kapliwatzky, even though he was not very pious. He visited the synagogue (kloiz) regularly, He claimed that it was also “our club” because, before and after the prayer they talked about all sorts of things that were of supreme importance. Mother greeted him with these words: Aharon, have you already arranged the world in the synagogue? He was punctual and meticulous in the education of the children. Father always found time to help the children with their studies. It was said in town: “No wonder that Froymchuk's children excel in their studies, they receive the help of their father.” He was also strict in matters of cleanliness and order. The livelihood wasn't plentiful. At first, he had a hardware store, and later he was appointed a tax collector and bookkeeper for the community.

[Page 201]

As opposed to father's accuracy and precision, my mother, from the Weiner family, was kindhearted, gentle and incredibly forgiving. In addition to the housework and the care of five children, she was also the principal initiator in matters of livelihood.

Since I was the eldest in the family, I felt obligated to set an example to the other children and help my parents. At a young age my father taught me to read and write in Hebrew from “Sefer Bereshit.” I started to study in “Heder M'tukan” with the teacher Gorman. Except for me, other girls my age studied at this Heder: Ita Mateevitch, Freida Yanovitch, Dania Gerstein and others. Gorman was a gifted teacher but, to our sorrow, he wasn't able to hold on in Capresti. A number of parents didn't fulfill their obligation to pay tuition, so he left town and move to Soroka.

I must mention my father's beautiful practice. Every Thursday, market day in the town, he put aside, inside a locked box, a quarter of the monthly tuition for me and for my sister Reizale. At the end of the month he opened the box and sent with us the monthly tuition fee to the teacher.

At Gorman's school we studied: Hebrew in Hebrew, grammar, Tanakh, arithmetic and history. Later, we studied with the teacher, Neura Itzkovitch, who was a native of Capresti. We studied Hebrew from the book “Bikurim.” We studied Russian with the teacher Mauriv who came to the classroom for a few hours.

In 1917, in the days of the revolution in Russia, I traveled with my sister Reizale to Odessa. I studied there for a year and received a certificate of completion of four years of high school. At the end of the war, after the annexation of Bessarabia to Romania, I continued my studies at “Tarbut” Gymnasium in Belz, and received a high school diploma in 1923. A year later, I studied natural sciences in Italy, but I was forced to return home for lack of funds. Later, I studied in Bucharest at the Faculty of Languages. After I finished my studies at the university I received an appointment as a teacher in a government gymnasium. From there, I moved to teach at the Hebrew Gymnasium in Zguriþa when it was founded in 1930. In 1933 I married my fiancé, Aharon Tur-Kaspa (Zilberg), also a teacher, and both of us continued to teach until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1940.

At midnight, on the night of 22 June, 1941, members of the Soviet regime expelled thousands of families from Bessarabia and Bukovina to Siberia. They also came to Zguriþa to take my family, but, fortunately for us, a couple of days earlier my husband traveled to Belz to visit his mother and thanks to that we were saved from expulsion to Siberia. I attribute this rescue to the fulfillment of the commandment of honoring a mother.

On 22 June, 1941, the war between the Soviet Union and Germany broke out and we began our wanderings until we arrived to Tajikistan in Central Asia. Many hardships found us on the road and our son, Yosef, brother to our daughter Naomi who was six and a half years old at the time, was born in one of the Cossacks villages.


[Page 202]

R 'Aharon Liebestag

by Yitzhak Liebestag

Translated by Sara Mages

 

In 1917, father came to Capresti from Donduºeni where he served as a rabbi, ritual slaughterer, mohel and “Ba'al Koreh: [reader] of the Torah. He came to Capresti to fill in for his brother-in-law, our mother's brother, R' Yitzchak Leib Sofer, who was a ritual slaughterer and a mohel and gave my father the “right of possession,” Together with father came: my mother, Ester-Leah, and six sons and daughters. The two ritual slaughterers in town weren't pleased with the arrival of a third slaughterer because, according to their opinion, both were able to satisfy the needs of the community. Father managed to find a common language with the town's rabbi and the public only after a hard and strenuous work.

Mother helped him and also ran a small business at home. To our great sorrow, she contracted typhus and died (25 Elul, 5779). Our young sister and youngest brother, Yisrael Tzvi, followed her. The burden of the house fell on the shoulders of our sister Dvora, who took care of me, my brother Moshe and our sister Beila. Father's situation was very difficult but, nonetheless, he found time for the study of the Torah.

After my sister Dvora got engaged to Baruch Rosenberg (from Belz), father married a second wife, Zlata, daughter of R' Zusia Shochet (from Vad-Rashkov). She was a modest woman and we called her “aunt.” Our father, R' Aharon, was a modest man who loved peace and pursued peace. He loved people and brought them closer to the Torah. He was happy with his lot even though his home knew poverty and despair. Over time, he endeared himself to the townspeople and the Jews in the surrounding villages. He engaged in public affairs with trust and was ready to provide help to all who turned to him - Jews and non-Jews, by the method of Chazal: “The Gentile poor shall be supported together with the Jewish poor.”

His activity encompassed the institutions: “Bikur Cholim” [visiting the sick], “Ezrat Aniim” [Assistance for the poor] and “Talmud Torah.” One of his most important activities was preparing ice, in the winter, for needy patients in the summer. Blocks of ice were put into a large pit, near the bathhouse, the ice was covered with straw and a roof was placed over the pit.

Every week he walked from door to door and collected money, which was used as payment for patients without means - to the doctor and the pharmacy. He also used the money to pay the salaries of the teachers at Talmud Torah. The rest he handed out as charity to the poor and Matan B'Seter [giving in a hidden way]. He traveled, from village to village and from town to town, and collected money for “Hachnasat Kallah.” In this manner he managed to help 32 brides, daughters of the poor, to get married, He danced a mitzvah dance with each of them while holding a handkerchief that at its other end was - the bride.

At the end of the summer he received barrels of herring from Yisrael Khayes and Yotiz, and pickled cucumbers, tomatoes and watermelons for the local poor.

In the winter, when snow covered the ground and it was bitterly cold, it was impossible to leave the house and find a job to support the family. Men, women and children came to father and he provided them, together with a financial help, pickled vegetables to revive their soul.

[Page 203]

Often, when one of the recipients of aid complained that it was very cold in his house and he had nothing to heat it with, father filled a sack with sunflower husks, loaded it on his shoulder and brought it to home of the needy.

Father often brought home guests from other towns, poor people who came to panhandle and remained in town after Friday eve prayer without an invitation for dinner. He turned to them in the following words: Gentlemen! What are you waiting for? Let's go! The aunt, even though she didn't object to receive guests, used to ask him in a whisper: from where are we going to get challot, meat and soup for the unexpected guests? Father's answer was “Bread? After all, you baked for the whole week and there's plenty of pickles and gravy in the cellar.” Could I return home for a Shabbat dinner and leave these people without food, drink and accommodation?... and immediately started to sing: “Shalom Aleichem Mal'achei Hashalom.” Father was very happy that he was able to practice the mitzvah of hospitality like Avraham Avinu, may he rest in peace.

One day, he decided that it was necessary to provide help to people from the middle class so they can continue to earn a living with dignity. At that time he founded “Kupat Gemilut Hasadim” [“Interest-Free Loan Fund”]. One Sabbath he turned to the worshipers and asked them to make a donation to this fund, each as his heart was willing to donate. And indeed, the audience responded to his call with their heart and soul, and the fund was established with these donations.

He opened an account in “Yiddisher ey-un shpor-kòase,” and was also assigned a special room for the pledged assets, the valuables that were given to him by people who received a loan from “Kupat Gemilut Hasadim.” Merchants, craftsmen and just people, who needed a certain amount of money, were given loans in the amount of 100 LEU to 5000 LEU (depending on the value of the items given as collateral).

When the Romanian government published a law regarding the establishment of Jewish communities in Bessarabia by democratic election, there was also an election in Capresti and a community was established. The community assumed the management of all the public institutions in town. All the institutions, which were under my father's care, were transferred to the community: “Bikur Cholim” “Ezrat Aniim,” “Talmud Torah” and also the ice cellar. Father didn't mind that, as a ritual slaughterer, he would be an employee of the community. “He who gives life gives food.” He was afraid that they would also take “Kupat Gemilut Hasadim,” but the community left the fund in his care. In addition, he was also please that these institutions were given to my care since I was one of the persons who were elected to the community. He was especially happy when I turned to him for advice.

In June 1940, with the entry of the Soviet to Bessarabia and Capresti, all the community institutions were abolished. “Kupat Gemilut Hasadim” was also disbanded because people came and demanded that their pledged assets would be returned to them without having to pay their loans.

In June 1941, when the Germans and the Romanian attacked the Soviet Union and progressed into Bessarabia, the Russians gave the Jews the opportunity to escape to Ukraine so they wouldn't fall into the hands of the Nazis. Father told aunt Zlota to take their son Yakov and escape together with everyone. He didn't want to abandon his books and remained at home. He was influenced by the promises of his friends, from among the farmers, who received his help. My aunt and Yakov left town, but they were lost during their escape and no one knows the location of their grave.

[Page 204]

One day, farmers, who pretended not to know father, attacked him and beat him up and only by miracle he managed to escape from them barefooted and naked. He arrived to Odessa because the members of his family lived there. He thought that he would find his wife and son there, but to his sorrow, he didn't find them and had no information about them.

I, who was conscripted into the Red Army since the outbreak of the war, retreated with the army east of the Dniester River. My wife Ester and my daughter, who remained in Belz, left their home, arrived to Capresti and there traveled from there together with the escapees. For an extended period of time I didn't know what had happened to them. When I arrived to Odessa with the army I visited my father's family with the hope to find someone from my family there. And indeed, I found my father in a serious condition with his legs swollen from walking. He fell on my neck crying and shouting in pain: “Where is the God of Israel?!”… Since I had to return to the battalion, I separated from my father and we continued in the direction of Stalingrad. The Nazis got closer to Odessa, and father was forced to wander, like the rest of the refugees, until he arrived to the Ural.

When I was discharged from the army I left to look for my family. I found my wife and daughter in Uzbekistan, and from there we moved to Kirgizstan. We also transferred my father there with the help of the information office, and he stayed with us until the end of the war. On the way from Kirgizstan to Bessarabia he bought a Torah Scroll in Moscow and traveled directly to Capresti. There, he only found a handful of people who were very happy with his arrival. Among them was also Aharon Ivcher. They offered father to remain in the town, but he only stayed there for a few months. When he learned that my brother-in-law and my sister were released from Siberia, found their daughters and settled in Chernivtsi - he also moved there. In 1947, they left for Israel in the way of Aliya Bet, but the British Government seized the ship and they were imprisoned in Cyprus. Father, who was old and sick, was released and immigrated to Israel. When he stepped on the soil of Israel for the first time, he bent down and kissed the soil of the Holy Land. He lived in a nursing home for two years and passed away on 13 Iyar 5711 (1951) at the age of 73. He was brought to a Jewish grave in Sanhedria by my brother Moshe, my brother-in-law, and my sisters with their families.

May his memory be blessed!


Small talks of a scholar

by Yitzhak Liebestag

Translated by Sara Mages

 

Father was asked: Why are you traveling every year, for the holidays and festivals, to the Rabbi of Shtefanesht - Romania?

He answered: People go out to spend time at the theater, at the cinema, or to any other place. To differentiate … this is my theater and my cinema…

Every week he went to collect money for “Hachnasat Kallah,” “Gemilut Chesed,” etc. There were several people in town who were stingy and didn't contribute, not once and not twice. They said: R' Aharon, we'll donate it all at once.

He answered them: don't give me by mouth, but by the hand…

[Page 205]

Asher Lemel Groizen z”l was a friend of my father. Once he asked me: Yizchakel, why don't we see you in the synagogue lately? I answered that I live too far.

Father added: not because he lives far, but because the he's far…

Each time he came to visit my house he paused by the door and coughed. I asked him once: what's the point?

He answered: Maybe you're bareheaded. So, I announce my arrival and you cover your head.

I told him: aren't you afraid that you suspect an honest man?

He answered: I wish!…

Once, on Tisha B'av, he walked from house to house to collect “Demi Taanit.” It was at noon when he opened the door of a man, an important man, and found him eating sausage and drinking wine. Father's arrival embarrassed the man and he said: I know that there're several days in the month of Av in which it's not allowed to eat cooked meat, therefore, I eat… sausage!...


Bits of memories from our home

by Israel Reshef (Feierman)

Translated by Sara Mages

 

It often happens that childhood events, which were pushed into the subconscious and forgotten for many years, begin to appear in our mind in the form of vague memories which start to emerge slowly while writing. Indeed, in a jumble, but here and there they clear up a little, take shape, somehow connect to events - and presented in a more or less organized manner.

I don't remember how old I was then, when it happened, when the refugees arrived from the Ukraine to Capresti after the First World War.

It was on Chanukah eve. The cotton ball wicks, which were dipped in oil and placed in a menorah made of potatoes halved and hollowed - went out a long time ago. My parents - my father Aharon Feierman, my mother Cahna, and also my brothers Binus and Mordechai, and my sister Beti sat around the table and played with a dreidel. My younger brothers, David and Yosef, already slept in the nearby room. I, although my eyelids closed by themselves from time to time, insisted on watching the game.

Suddenly we heard knocks on the door. Binus, being the eldest son, went and opened the door. One of the town's residents entered the room and invited my parents for a conversation in the next room. My brothers and my sister continued to play as if the matter was at no interest to them, but they kept an eye on me so I wouldn't get closer to the door and hear the conversation. That night I didn't see anything else because a fell asleep.

The next morning I discovered that the door of the last room of the house was closed and we weren't allowed to enter it. Later, I felt something strange: my mother prepared more food, cooked in big pots even though it wasn't Friday eve, and no one talked at home about guests that are due to arrive. I felt that something strange was going on in our house. I soon found out that the “uncle” -

[Page 206]

not an uncle, and the “aunt” - not an aunt, because, never before, no one mentioned their names at home and their attitude towards us, the children, wasn't the attitude of an uncle and aunt. I couldn't understand why they were always afraid, and why they gathered in the big room and locked the door behind them to the sound of a knock on the door.

The couple had two children, a son and a daughter. I boy, I remember, was called Leibele “Fameilich” [the slow] - why so? I don't know. Later, I remember a winter day, it was extremely cold outside even though the sun was shining and the weather was beautiful. On that day a winter cart, harnessed to two horses, stood in front of our house and in it sat the “uncle,” the “aunt” and the children. Before they left, my mother took off her coat, brought father's winter coat and also a fox fur scarf, and urged them to dress well so they wouldn't freeze until they reach the train station in Rogozen. The carter was given instructions - to take the winter coats and the scarf when they arrive to the train station and bring them back to my parents. However, the carter returned and told that they refused to give him the coats. Only about a year late, we received a letter from them from America in which they apologized for their behavior, and with that, the case was closed and we've never heard from them again.

When father returned we heard the exchange between him and mother. However, despite the difficult mood that prevailed at home because of the behavior of the “uncle” and “aunt,” refugees continued to come to us and stayed in our home until they were transferred onward. They always housed in the back room, and we always treated them fairly despite the behavior of the first refugees. The main thing was, to help the Jews in their escape from their Russian pursuers and the Romanian “hosts” who constantly searched for the refugees from Russia.

Storerooms and cellars served as hiding places for the refugees, but the best and most important of all was the attic in our house. The house was long, big, and the attic ran the length of the house. There were two chimneys from four ovens in the attic. Each chimney was in the middle, and the ovens were connected on each side by a horizontal chimneys made of brick and mortar. It was possible to lie behind the horizontal chimneys and not to be seen. The entire attic was completely dark and when the air vents were sealed - not even a single ray of light illuminated the darkness. The policemen, who went up to search the attic, gave up quickly because of the darkness, especially when temptation, in the form of sweets and the marmalades, stood behind the crates that contained the Passover dishes.

A policeman, who went to search behind the crates and came across the marmalades that my mother had made, already forgot what he was looking for. Thus, the sweets not only helped to dazzle their eyes but they were also used as bribes in all shapes. The most important thing was - to save the Jews so they could to continue on their way to safety, some to America and some to Eretz-Yisrael.

Notes for the completion of the image of the article: “Bits of memories from our home”

The Romanian authorities didn't keep still and constantly searched for the refugees who managed to safely cross the Dniester River and arrive, naked and barefooted, to the town.

The “committee” (the town's committee) has done everything in order to hide the fleeing Jews and care for their needs. However, to our shame, there were also several townspeople who helped the other side, the Romanian, and the policemen conducted searches and raids by the information that they provided. However, also the “committee” didn't sit idle and was up to date with all the details before each raid: when, how and how many. The password “scalding” was immediately passed by reliable children, and then the refugees were hidden in attics, cellars, storerooms and everywhere until the danger will pass. Thanks to the “committee” and its helpers many refugees were saved from the police.

Mordechai Reshef (Feierman)

 

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