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[Page 130]

People and Images

by Yehoshua Yaffe

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

Harav Nachemie

In the Hegdish lane, in a small house with narrow windows lived Reb Nachemie, the town's Magid [preacher]. In his youth he was a student at a Talmid Torah. Every Sabbath and Friday night he would pray ain-Jakov in the Katzev [butcher] synagogue. Later he became the town's Magid. In the morning, after shachres, he would teach a 'blat Gemore' [a page from the Gemorah] at the Katzev synagogue and in the evenings, between Mincha and Miriv, he would teach the common folk a chapter of mishnayes and ain-Jakov.

He knew much of midrash and Hagadah. He was liked by the whole town, particularly by the tradesmen, who were busy the whole week, but in the evenings and on Sabbath they used to join him at his table to listen to his stories or hear readings from the books by pious men of the present and from the past or a chapter of the Chumesh with commentaries. He taught people who were not highly educated. They understood him and were pleased with his efforts. On returning home they retold his stories to their wives and they were well received. The tales eased their hard, monotonous lives. Nachemie would also deliver hespeds [funeral orations]. If some one died, the body would be brought to the synagogue square and put on a table in front of the Todres synagogue. Nachamie would deliver the hesped. He did not have to prepare himself to deliver it. He had the orations well prepared in advance. When he was told that such and such died he would find on the spot something suitable for the occasion. All his life he was learning midroshim and he would pass them on to the people. He did not participate in divisions and altercations. He was a quite man and lived in peace with everyone. He died in the 1930's, and with him died the last magid and hesped speaker in Novogrudok.

Reb Benjomin Chaim Gordon

Reb Benjomin Chaim Gordon or Reb Benjomin Chaim of Wojce, as he was sometimes known, was the miller in the village of Wojce. When he became old he moved to Novogrudok. He had a nice home built on the Zamok mound, where he lived with his family. He was a good Jew, quite and calm. He prayed in the Mitaskim synagogue, where he was the gabi. He was a good student of the Torah. In the evenings at Mincha or Miriv he would read to the congregation 'a page of Gemorah'. He also attracted an audience on Friday evenings in the winter, when he read the Chumash. Most of the listeners were tradesmen and shopkeepers. Some enjoyed the stories he would tell about the forefathers. Others used the opportunity to catch a nap. After the reading of the Chumash, religious tunes were sung. And that was a good beginning to the Sabbath. Leibe the verger of the Mitaskim synagogue was waiting for the start of singing after the Chumash. He was a tall, thin man, with a thin white beard. He had a torn, squeaky voice and as he chanted 'Yismechu bi malchutcha' all present would burst out laughing.

Reb Benjomin's son Mojshe sold flour. He was the cantor at the Mitaskim synagogue. He had a thin, ringing tenor voice, and he was one of the best cantors in Novogrudok. Reb Benjomin's grandchildren studied at a university and were members of the Novogrudok intelligentsia.

Reb Fivel (Leib) Nikolayevsky and his son Bezalel

Reb Nachamie was the gabi of the Katzevs [Butchers] synagogue, and when he died Reb Fivel became the gabi. Early, before the first minyan [session], he read 'a page of Gemorah' for those assembled. He was learned in shas and psukim and could have been a qualified rabbi, should he have wanted. He was a wealthy man. Together with his two sons he dealt in oakum and tow and he had an adequate income. When he became old he transferred his business to his sons and devoted all his time to study. He would also read a 'page of Gemorah' as well as pray Mincha and Mirev in the big synagogue. His family was devoted to Zionism. His son Bezalel was one of the Zionist leaders in town. It was the son's influence that made Reb Fivel a dedicated Zionist and the father saw to it that his son would remain religious. Bezalel prayed not only in the big synagogue but also in the Katzevs synagogue, where he was a cantor.

Bezalel Nikolayevski was one of the organisers of the Zionist movement in town. He was one of the leaders of Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayisod. He was also a member of the committee of the Tarbut school as well as a member of various cultural and social organisations. After the Soviets arrived in Novogrudok Bezalel was in charge of an organisation purchasing oakum and tow. However, he was arrested for participating in Zionist organizations and kept in Soviet jails. He never returned from his confinement.

Sender Kagan

Sender was a tall youth bent as a lulav (branch of a palm tree). He wore glasses – pence-nez – which kept falling off his nose. He studied at the yeshiva and completed his learning by self education. He married in Novogrudok and had a shop in the rad kromen [row of shops, which used to be the Radziwil's stables, in the centre of the market place before they were converted in 1833 into several dozens of narrow shops selling a wide variety of goods]. He lived in Sieniezyc street in a small wooden house.

When we established in 1934 the Ha chaluts ha Mizrachi in Novogrudok he became one of its members. He put his small house at our disposal for meetings. We used the accommodation to conduct cultural work. He wrote philosophical dissertations for our weekly newspaper. Once a month he would lock up the shop in the middle of the day and would collect money for Keren Kayemet. The pleadings of his wife were to no avail. He would tell her: 'For Eretz Isroel I would give my life, not just my small shop'. He read and wrote a lot on philosophical subjects, but his manuscripts were never published. In 1940 the Soviets accused him of illegal trading and jailed him for 5 years. He was never seen again.

Reb Shloime Efron

He was a wealthy man, among the best respected in Novogrudok. He was a learned man, a maskil and an activist. He was the head of the local Mizrachi in Novogrudok. He fought for Zionism and loved Eretz Isroel. He visited Eretz Israel twice and with each journey his love for Israel grew. He was a good and whole hearted Jew. He supported the poor as well as all Jewish institutions in town. All his family were supporters of various branches of Zionism: Mizrachi, General Zionists, Frihite (Freedom) and Hashomer Hatzayir and even Betar.

His children were always arguing among themselves, and their voices could be heard in the street. He was a lively, impulsive, stormy person in the street and in the synagogue. Everywhere and always he campaigned for Israel. He spoke from his heart, with all his soul. In his last years his business was conducted by his children and his wife. His time was taken up in his work for Israel. When the Soviets came they arrested his son Benjomin, who was an ardent member of Betar. Before the outbreak of the German-Soviet war the whole family was sent to the remote regions of the Soviet Union. He died there.

Reb Avrom Yaffe

My father Reb Avrom Yaffe was born in Novogrudok in 1885. My grandfather, Reb Dov was a man of the book, a fanatically pious and sincere Jew who brought up his children in the spirit of devotion. My father studied at the Mir yeshiva and later studied Russian and secular subjects. He was close to the Tivat Zion [love of Zion] movement. During the 1905 revolution he got closer to socialism, but not of the revolutionary kind. He was always opposed to dictatorships. He was preaching the 'vahavta leriecha amocha lo talian shachar sachir otcha ad boker'.

After the socialist revolution of 1917, when the EvSeks [members of EvSec, which stands for Evreyskaya Sekcia- Jewish Section of the Communist Party] were murdering and terrorising the Jewish population and religion and Zionism were prohibited in Soviet Russia, he joined a Zionist organisation. Since than he advocated that the only salvation for the Jewish people was Eretz Israel. He lived his entire life in need and survived on the income from a small food shop. He gave his children a religious Zionist upbringing. He was a communal worker. He was for many years the gabi of the Katzev's [butcher's] synagogue and influenced all who attended there to become Zionists. He was an active member of Mizrachi and on the committee of Keren Kayemet and Keren Hayisod. He was on the committee of the Tarbut school, where his daughter Dvoira was a pupil. He also supported and helped to collect money for the small yeshiva and he also sat in Vad Hayeshivot. He fought the pious fanatics, who opposed the Zionist movement, and tried to induce in the religious populace the spirit of Zionism. If a magid (preacher) or a courier arrived in town, father would endeavour to meet him. He would lock up the shop in the middle of the day and go with the magid to collect money for whatever purpose the magid came to town for. He was the secretary of the businessmen's union in Novogrudok for 15 years. He was an adherent of Harav Mayerovich, who was the Zionist rabbi and kept in contact with Harav Abovich and did much to reduce the tension between Aguda and Mizrachi in Novogrudok. In the last years before the war, as Polish anti-Semitism had become stronger, he worked with Jewish youth to persuade them to go to Israel because the future in Poland was not at all certain. He sent his oldest son, Moshe Zvi on Hachshara of Hachluts Mizrachi. Moshe went to Israel in 1939. In 1940 [1939?], when the Soviets arrived in Novogrudok he wept. He kept saying 'now we are lost, we will be isolated from the rest of the world and we will not be able to go to Israel'.

When in 1941, when the Germans bombarded Novogrudok and burned down most of the town, he separated himself and read Tfilim the whole day. 'The end is near', he kept saying, 'we sinned too much'. Eighteens of Kislev Taf Shin Alef [8 December 1941] they took him to the slaughter together with my mother Rivke Leye, a quite, good and pious woman and their only daughter Dvoire who was then 14 years old. We, the three brothers remained alive. We also survived the second slaughter. During the third slaughter of the 2nd of February 1943 my brother Jankef Yehuda Jaffe was killed, a quiet man, a good mechanic. God will punish them for our blood.

Doctors Menuche and Shimon Kaminiecki

There were two dentists in Novogrudok: Dr Shimon on one side of the market square, close to the Yiddish street and doctor Kaminski on the other side of the market square next to Grodno street. [this is not correct: Shimon and Menucha Kaminiecki's practice was right next to Grodno street and there were other dentists in Novogrudok]. I knew the father of Dr Kaminiecki, who lived on the second floor together with his daughter Petie, the milliner. He was a pious Jew, but not a fanatic. He provided a good education for his children and his son was, as was said, a dentist. But as to the knowledge and study of Judaism he had no pleasure out of his son, the dentist. 'He is totally non-Jewish' his father used to say. Dr Kaminiecki was a Yidishist [a movement which favoured the use of the Yidddish tongue, as opposed to Hebrew]. His children studied at the Polish gimnazjum [high school] and they too were remote from national Judaism. And yet they were good Jews and were known as generous contributors to Jewish charities. They contributed to every cause including the Yeshivas. On two occasions the family Kaminiecki showed that they were true Jews. Once, when the younger son reached Bar Mitzvah, his grandfather bought him a set of Tfilim. He learned about Judaism, knew about the exodus from Egypt, and about the Land of Israel. He knew about the banishment from the Holly Land. He was also told about anti-Semitism in Poland, which was also a punishment from G-d [it seems surprising that he had to be told of anti-Semitism, which was all around him]. A Jew is born a Jew and must die a Jew, whether he liked it or not. A nation must not be allowed to assimilate, and the best proof was Hitler, who came at that time to power in Germany. The boy experienced anti-Semitism in the Polish school and decided to become a pious Jew. He came home and gave an ultimatum to his parents: 'either you will live as complete Jews, the house must become kosher, you must not work on the Sabbath, or I will leave the house'. The parents complied. The un-kosher dishes were thrown out, they bought new dishes and the house was made kosher. This, however, did not last long. The boy studied in the Polish school. He had to go to school on the Sabbath. For a few weeks he did not write on the Sabbath, but after a while he started writing again. And his period of piousness came to an end. The second time Dr Kaminiecki was reminded of his Jewishness was when the Germans entered Novogrudok. Our house burned down during the German bombing raids and Kaminiecki gave us a room in his house. It is then that I found out about Kaminiecki the man. Kaminiecki fell ill and he lost a lag. His older son was killed in the Polish-German war. His younger son studied in France, he married a French woman and came to visit his parents. On their way the war started and they could not return to France. Her husband went to the front and never came back and she remained as Ruth Hammurabit with her Jewish in-laws. The Germans considered her to be a Jewess. She was killed with her in-laws in the second slaughter in August 1942.

During the German occupation Dr Kaminiecki was morally depressed. He was disenchanted with his socialist, assimilationist views, the friendship among nations, the unity among the nations etc. When the Soviets arrived in Novogrudok he found a solution for the Jewish nation. Let's intermingle with the Soviet people – he advocated. And after this disappointment, the cultured German nation was eradicating Jews.

Through his window onto the market place he saw how the Germans had arranged 50 Jews in 5 rows of 10 plus two 2 members of the Judenrat and killed them all. They were not human.

He was moving on his one leg from one room to another and could not rest. He was broken morally and was regretting his past beliefs. He regretted that he fought against Israel and Zionism. He regretted that he had denied the existence and future of the Jewish nation. He took the Tilim and started saying: 'blessed is the man who did not follow in the steps of the assassins'. 'I did everything in the opposite way' – he began crying and he gave me back the Tfilim, 'in my dirty hands I dare not hold such a holy book' he told me. 'but if there is a G-d' he looked up 'I ask him for vengeance, from the depth of my heart. I ask for vengeance for our innocently spilled blood. And perhaps there will be someone who will survive. He must tell the future generations about us, about our inhuman suffering and awful death'.

Reb Aren Dovid who was blind in one eye

Reb Aron Dovid was a tall Jew who was blind in one eye. He was quite old. When he was younger, he was a teacher in the Talmud Torah. Later, when his children were married, he lived in a small house at the end of Kowalski street. He was a simple Jew, a good, quite, reticent man. And though he was not a great scholar, he thought of securing his place in the better world by helping others to learn the Torah. His life's aim was to support the poor children of the small Yeshiva, where 40 to 60 children came from the surroundings of Novogrudok.

He made arrangements for the smaller boys to 'eat days' with the local families. A kitchen was set up to feed the older boys. He collected bread and other produce for the kitchen. Reb Aron Dovid would go from house to house to collect food for the Yeshiva kitchen.

He told me once 'I am not an outstanding scholar, I have difficulties in understanding the Gemorah, I would be honoured to see to it that the children would be studying and would grow up to be good, pious Jews. On Simchas Torah he would invite the students of the Yeshiva to his home. His wife would prepare the best delicacies. He used to say: 'This gives me courage to work for another year for the Yeshiva'.

Rabbi Reb Yoisef Epshtein

Rabbi Reb Yoisef Epshtein was the rabbi in the small Yeshiva. He taught the third and fourth class. From morning till night, with a 2 hour break for lunch, he was teaching the students 'a page of Gemorah'. He lived modestly and he did not expect much. He taught time and again the same chapter of the Gemorah till the slowest scholar in the class would understand it. The students valued his efforts and liked him. He never shouted, but patiently and quietly he would explain matters. Every two years he graduated a class of students. His students came from Wsielub, Karelich, Lubch and Delatycz. His pupils went on to study at all Yeshivas of Poland. And those who did not continue with their studies and worked in trades or commerce remembered him and in their minds they preserved his teachings – the elements of the spiritual Yeshiva studies.

His pupils are to be found in Israel. He had a son and a daughter. The daughter was a teacher at the Bet Yakov school and his son, Moshe Epstein taught in the Kleck Yeshiva. From the Yeshiva he went on hachshara through the 'workers of Aguda Israel' with the aim of going to Israel. When the Soviets came to Novogrudok he smuggled himself out through Wilno, because there were rumours that from Wilno it would be possible to get to Israel. This is the last we heard of him.

Reb Judl Kaplanski

The 5th grade in the small Yeshiva was taught by Reb Judl Kaplanski. He was a pupil of the Mir yeshiva. He married young and taught the largest class in Novogrudok's small Yeshiva. His pupils could study independently and were able to understand 'a blat Gemorah'. His pupils were 15 to 18 years of age. He also endeavoured to show to his pupils a path through life. His principle was to speak little, and consider every word before it was uttered from the mouth. He said that every man, when born is given a number of words which he will utter in his life. When he reaches the allotted number, the man must die. After the word is pronounced it does not belong to the speaker. He also maintained that a Jew must different from the gentiles, to make it known that the speaker is a Jew, that it should be seen that he is higher, more refined, better, and more spiritual than other people. He prohibited his pupils to ride on bikes, because the others ride on them. One must never offend anyone and must not give cause to another to offend you. To deceive a friend even in speech is a great sin. He prohibited reading newspapers because it leads to 'bitul Torah' [denial of the Torah]. He was a strict, religious Jew, a fanatic and was naïve.

There were some of his pupils who endeavoured to live according to his directions, but they did not succeed, because those ideals were even then against the established norms. Reb Judl Kaplanski, however, was serious in his believes. He was honest and he endeavoured to live according to his ideals. As time went on he had fewer and fewer pupils.


[Page 134]

Jewish Gardeners

by Boruch Sapotnicki

Translated by O. Delatycki

It is definitely the wrong image when Novogrudok is represented as a town of shopkeepers, shonky business dealers and airy-fairy arrangements. If we look into the reality and not in the literary criterion, which emphasised a sceptical view of the Jewish existence, we can find a second Jewish town, a productive town of hundreds of artisans of many occupations, who made products for the large population of the countryside. They made clothing and shoes, they built carriages and ploughs and made all manner of tools and dishes for the field and home. Of particular interest is the story of artisan associations, their organisations and their fight against the infamous law, introduced in the interwar period, concerning guilds. It is also worth mentioning another level, a more modest, little noticeable and seldom mentioned. It is the trade of gardening and the gardeners – people of the land, people who produced flowering field, people which we looked down upon from the height of the town. Most of them were Jewish. The survival of the trade under the prevailing laws is remarkable. How could Jews be able to compete economically with the gentiles, working on hired the land [under the tsarist and Polish law Jews were not allowed to own land other than a building block for a house] and considering the Jewish existence with the emphasis on education, religion and culture compared to the existence of the illiterate, primitive gentile farmers. The difference was the Jewish entrepreneurship and knowledge. Many gentile farmers were unable to achieve the output of vegetables to satisfy the needs of their own family. Farmers from outlying areas would come to town during the harvest season to buy from Jews cucumbers and cabbage for preserving for the winter. The gentile farmers would employ their young children as shepherds. The Jewish children were sent to a religious school or later to a primary school. The minimum level of education included the ability to prey, read Chumash as well as the ability to read and write. This was achieved by industriousness and frugality. A common sight in sunshine, rain, in mud and snow was a carriage loaded with large containers of milk, trudging up the hill to deliver their products to their customers. The money earned was used for the education of their children. No matter how poor and restricted their lives the money was found to build a synagogue. Not many town dwellers ever went to the country, where on the crossroads from Brecianka to Litowka stood a synagogue. The old synagogue was taken apart for the building materials and taken to Germany in the first world war. For a number of years after the war the preyers were conducted in private homes, till the time came, which was a real epopee, of how and with what dedication have the poor country Jews began to build the new synagogue. There efforts resembled that of the ants. In the dark nights they would travel to the state forests, fell the trees and removed the brunches and by dawn the logs were at the building site. Everyone cooperated. Even the Polish forester approved of building of the house of prayers. Everybody worked. Everybody contributed something – some a board, some a brick, some a few zloty [Polish currency]. Even those contributed whose roof was in urgent need of repair. When the synagogue was built they came at least on the Sabbath. Having worked hard during the week, on Sabbath they came with measured steps to the house of prayers. Here they participated in reading of the Torah, each was given a portion. They had a chance to have a chat, to speak of what ailed them. There was always a bit to eat and a cup to drink. There were students of the Yeshiva in town who made it their duty to visit the lonely synagogue. In the summer the windows were opened wide and the summer aroma of the fields would spread. In the winter one had to thread through the deep snow to form a passage. Their own houses were heated with anything to hand but the synagogue was heated with logs of pine and birch.

The nearest suburb to the synagogue was called Peresike, which became a place of infamy. During the German occupation a Ghetto was established in Peresike and it was the place of two mass murders of Jews.


[Page 135]

Peculiar Types of People

by A. Yerushalmi

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

As in every town, Novogrudok had also its share of peculiar types of people. I remember some of them.

Bejle

That was what she was called. She came to Novogrudok from Lubch and she lived in the synagogue 'Metaskim'.

She wore only patched dresses. Even if she was given a dress without patches she would sow on a few patches of various colours. Her cheeks were always smothered in soot with the edges of the soot painted red. She kept repeating that somebody wanted to poison her and because of this she would not accept food from everyone. But if she was very hungry, she was less choosy and accepted food from whoever gave it to her. When she had her spells, she would shout and curse. She frightened people who came near her on dark winter nights.

Noach the water carrier

Noach the water carrier was a short, thin Jew. He was dressed in well worn, patched clothes. He dragged himself with the yoke on his emaciated shoulders. Two buckets filled with water hung on both sides of the yoke. He slept in the Sieniezyc synagogue. He delivered water to many houses of the merchants. He kept saying that one day he would bring Moshiach and, having done that, he would marry Moshiach's daughter. Noach thought that Moshiach's daughter would look like Miriam the crazy woman, a quiet, lost girl dressed in tatters. She always avoiding him, but he wanted to marry her and bring Moshiach to earth.

Yoshke the 'klipe'

Yoshke the 'klipe' was a quiet, peaceful, poor man. He never shouted or caused disturbances. He walked about with a dirty bag on his shoulder and would collect empty bottles. He considered himself to be a big businessman. He would say 'every day I earn new money'. If he decided that on a certain day he made enough money, he would stop collecting bottles, even if it was midday. Children hid from him, but if they were at a safe distance they would shout: 'Yoshke the klipe'.

At times he would isolate himself and would not speak to anyone. At other times he would be talkative. He was also occupied with political problems. He knew about the situation in Israel, and why not – he was a big merchant of empty bottles.

His only family was his daughter Rifke, a hefty maiden with rosy cheeks and big, expressionless eyes. She gazed at everyone. She went about barefoot in all seasons. She had her customers, where she cleaned their houses. But most often she followed Riva the midwife. She was a quite person and did not bother anyone. But, despite of this, she was called 'Riva the crazy one'.

Ek Mek

Ek Mek was about thirty years of age when he arrived in Novogrudok to join his old mother, who lived in the corner of the Synagogue Square and Yiddisher Street. His mother was a widow. They stemmed from the village of Branik. Ek Mek studied all his life at the Yeshiva. He studied uninterruptedly Musar and Gomorrah till he became crazy. He did not speak to anyone and if somebody asked him something he answered: Ek Mek. No matter what he was told, the answer was: Ek Mek. And that is how he got his name. He prayed in the big Synagogue after all had finished praying. After a while he stopped praying. He became an Apikores [defined as non-believer or perhaps doubter]. At that time, before the 1st of May, when the Polish secret police arrested the members of the Communist Party and Bund, Ek Mek was also arrested. During the interrogation by the judge he answered to all questions 'Ek Mek'. The Polish police gave him a beating, but all he said was Ek Mek. Children followed him in the streets shouting Ek Mek. He would turn to the children and answer EK Mek and the children laughed.

Grandma (bobe) Tzinke

My bobe Tzinke was about 90 years of age when she was taken to be slaughtered on the 8th of December 1941. Together with her were slaughtered her daughters and sons, tens of grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. The tree of Jewish life was killed and torn out with its roots. A couple of branches have been replanted and have grown roots. A new tree had grown. I am one of the branches. Bobe Tzinke lived in the small town Wselub, 14 kilometres from Novogrudok. At the time of the slaughter she was the oldest person in her town. Her husband, Dovid Berkovski had died 15 years earlier. He was a tailor in the township. He was a pious, honest Jew. He survived on what he earned from his work. His honesty and quiet disposition were inherited by his children. After her husband died, bobe Tzinke bought a plot next to her husband in the cemetery. She prepared her burial attire and waited, but was slaughtered by the Germans together with the Jewish population of Novogrudok. Though she was old, she managed to earn enough for her upkeep and did not have to rely on help from her children. Bobe Tzinke was renowned in all the villages around Wselub as an extraordinary healer by pouring lead. If somebody fell ill and the doctors could not help him, he would be taken to bobe Tzinke. She poured hot lead into a basin of cold water over the head of the sick. The head was covered with a sheet. She did the pouring from three to seven times, whilst uttering certain incantations. The sick began to feel better and most did recover. Most of the sick suffered from melancholy and lost strength from their affliction. She had a few patients every day and this is how she earned a living. She always had enough money to spare for the poor. There were several poor families in Wselub which bobe Tzinke supported, without anybody knowing about it. Bobe Tzinke was also a midwife and practised it for many years. On occasions, when a doctor was called to attend a birth, bobe Tzinke was called also. She would spend a week with the mother and child. She had a long, beautiful girdle and after each birth she made a knot in the girdle. She asked that the girdle with the knots should be put around her after she died, so that the newly born children would be her reference to allow her an entry to heaven. The money which she earned as a midwife she gave to charity. She would gather donations of food from the wealthy households and distribute it to the needy on Thursdays. She went to the synagogue three times a day. Midweek she was the only woman who was representing her gender at the prayers.

Bobe Tzinke, with all other Jews of the township of Wselub, was taken by the Germans to Novogrudok, where she was killed and buried in the mass grave of the 4000 [more than 5000] victims in the Koshelevo [Skrydlevo] ditches.


[Page 137]

The Public Bath

by A. Y.

Translated by O. Delatycki

The public bath was to be found at the corner of the Shul Heif (Synagogue Square) next to the Koidanov synagogue. This was the meeting place of all the Shul goers on Sabbath eve, and in mid-week, on appointed days, of all women of Novogrudok. The bath served as a club where all news and gossip were told and retold. I went there every Friday with my father. At the bath father would buy a broom [made up of twigs] for one kopek [the lowest denomination of Tsarist Russia currency]. He would take two water containers, one for each of us, and we would go in to the sweat room. In the corner of that room was a pile of hot stones. Each bather would pour cold water on the hot stones. As a result, a thick, choking steam would fill the room. Five rows of shelves were built into the walls of the bath. On the shelves lay those who were seeking a thorough steaming. I was able to endure only the heat on the lowest shelf. On higher shelves I would choke. My father would climb onto the second level. Only few would be able to endure the third level. There were however, four bathers who would climb fearlessly onto the top shelve. Who were they? They were Leibe Bodjung, the father of the well known Kandibe family, who lived in Pig's lane, Fishke Noske, the stone paver, who was given the name Noske because he had a flat nose, through which he would bellow as he spoke, Shachne the tandetnik [purveyor of second hand cheap goods] a small, rosy cheeked Jew, who would carry around during the week a mound of old clothing, which obscured him almost completely and Ele the fisherman, , an ancient man, who's age nobody in town could remember. They were the uncrowned rulers of the bath. They would come to the bath on Thursday afternoons, when the oven in the bath would be lit and would go out on Fridays before dawn to pray. They had a corner at the entrance, where they would cool off between periods on the top shelf. They would sit on their water containers and indulge in an endless conversation. But when they would rise to go into the sweat chamber, all others would run away as if perused by a wild animal, nobody could endure the sweat chamber when the foursome entered. The steam and heat would issue from the chamber and cover the wash room with a dense mist and a hellish heat. Undeterred, the foursome would climb onto the fifth shelf, flog themselves with the brooms and shout in a loud voice, as if someone was about to kill them. This would last for a substantial time. After, they would slowly go down, go out from the sweat room, pour over themselves cold water and go to the outer room to cool off. They looked red, like boiled crabs. After a rest they would return to the sweat bath and on and on until the time for the blessing of the candles. Once a month they would apply cupping glasses over cuts in their skin “to clear the blood”. This “operation” was done in the entrance to the bath. Following the operation the entrance looked like an abattoir. The foursome would rest after the bath. They would return home to regain their strength. I was curious to find out how Fishke Noske had regained his strength after the cupping glasses treatment. He lived not far from our house. His wife was waiting for him with a home made brew of beer, a large plate of tzimes [stewed carrots] in which a large portion of fat mutton was to be seen. He ate all that was prepared for him and finished up with a samovar of boiling tea, which he drank by sucking the tea through small lumps of hard sugar. After such a repast he would have a snooze for a few hours. On Friday night he would partake of a Sabbath meal. For most of the week he would live on black bread and sour milk, which he would buy at the market from a Jewish milkman from Skridleve. On Sabbath they ate meat and fish. On Friday his wife would buy from Ele the fisherman small fish, which were cheap. At the butcher she would buy cheaper cuts such as the lung, liver, tripe, flap, fat and a few meters of small intestine. She would also buy one or two cow's legs, which were used for making “fisnogie” [jellied meat]. From these raw materials she would make a number of dishes: large plates of fish balls, sweet and sour fish, she would clean the gut and stuff it with flour and fat, put it in to two large pots and take them to the baker for baking. She would also bake in a very large baking dish of a sweet kugl made of noodles and raisins. All that food was consumed on the Sabbath weekend.

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