by Ahron Chayat, New York
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
My destroyed shtetl [town] a headstone
My landsleit [people from the same town] a gift.
I long for you, my dear old home,
My sweet shtetl! You stand here before me in your full charm,
Here you stretch out idyllically near the Neiman River,
And so my little house, where my grandmother rocked me,
There again I hear mother's tender voice,
That at twilight Shabbos [Sabbath] drips like evening dew,
God of Abraham murmurs the chaste woman's pure mouth,
And she looks for three stars deep in the blue heavens.
And there the old kheder [religious primary school], my well of inspiration
My love and dear shtetl, my dream of reality,
Slim means of support, scant, the income small and weak,
The Rabbi, Reb Yehoshaya, the purest oil,
Reb Moshe from Zabludowa, fed the feminine folk
Reb Eliahu Machtey, oldest shoykhet [ritual slaughterer], a Jew, sweet as sugar,
Reb Shlomo shoykhet, a Jew of an entirely good nature,
Reb Josef Hasid, a quiet, dear Jew,
Reb Meir'ke, the geler [blond], do you remember him, the eccentric?
And Dovid, Chasha Leah's son, zealot, pioneer,
The teacher Alter, dear veteran of Zion,
And who among you does not remember Motele Machtey,
Do you remember the young man from Bialystok, the elegant young man
Reb Shaul from the bathhouse, our Carlsbad spray,
Zlata Minya's daughters waited patiently to the tips of their very braids
Chantshe's daughters at the circle stores, door by door,
Of the people, Avraham FulFul, the gazetszik [newspaper seller] and culture carrier,
Would pray Shakharis [morning prayers] with ardor and with zeal until noon
Then he went running to the train station for newspapers without an order, without a system
And in the evening, he came with halfbaked news.
And if you hear gevalt [exclamation of alarm] on Pormana,
Shmuel, Khashe Breyna's son, covered with many medals,
Reb Lipo Dorski, a dear Jew with God in his heart,
A tumult, an uproar, in the kehile room in the evening,
Rywa's son, Mordekhai Feywl, a Jew with feeling,
Day and night, Yosef the painter strove
First row, sitting from the right: Dr. Ahron Lewin, two Christians;
Second row, standing from the right: unknown, Dr. Yitzhak Epsztajn, Kantorowicz, Lawyer Ahron Chais, Tanya Wolfson, Yoel Lusterman, Dr. Yakov Akslrod.
The old Reb Yedidia, a shoemaker, drew his income,
Entirely from his trade, from the shoemaker's thread and awl.
Wherever anxiety, a misfortune stood watch,
[He was] a kindhearted person, supported, helped countless [people].
Eli Shaul's son, Tanna, the most powerful man in the shtetl,
Leibe, Esterke's son, the ataman of the khevre kadishe [burial society]
Avraham the watnik [maker of quilted jackets] served devotedly at the synagogue lectern,
A heavy heart always confided,
My dear birthplace, with Jews of illustrious birth,
Your young, woven from the threads of the shtetl,
Livelihood? Trade? Heavy industry?
|Women's Union and Orphans Room and Board|
Ideas? Hotel Europa with Eloykim the owner,
Two people could barely [cross the threshold];
A bitter irony, a mockery, something fleeting,
Alas, a continent of …four by four cubits [a cubit equal about 18 inches 45 centimeters].
The community lived there idyllically,
Until… like thieves from the deepest forest,
Young and old in bunkers and in the forest,
From the empty ghetto dipped in fiery passion,
Now it is quiet there, everyone is gone with the smoke,
Although I am far from you, wandering in a strange land,
My mourning has no boundary and no foundation,
The years pass but my mood is lonely,
By the flickering glow of the yahrzeit candle,
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