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SECTION THREE: LIFE IN YEDINITZ (H, Y)
  • Personalities and Families
  • Tales and Folklore
  • Jews in the Surrounding Villages

[Page 389]

WAY OF LIFE

[Yiddish]

People, Facts, Events

by Yosef Magen – Shitz

Translated by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman

Without an academic introduction, without an investigative introduction, unsystematically and without a plan, whatever the moment dictates, as things are in raw life, I want to bring out from the depths of memory and write down whatever comes to mind, memoirs about people, facts and episodes, happenings, etc., without any particular order, whatever comes to my pen, so forgive my “global” paint brush.

“Nations and Ethnic Groups”

About Jews as ethnic groups, I will not speak. All Jews were Jews, except, perhaps, one convert – Yohan Kaufman… who spoke Russian like a “good” goy, and Yiddish with an echo of a goyish accent. He was fond of stopping Heder boys and ask them if they know all the “Chumash” stories…

There were also a few resident strangers, and I remember Soreh, the resident stranger, to whom I would get sent to buy yeast, boiled water and roasted pumpkin seeds.

“Shepsn”

I deeply regret that I don't remember in what connection my father used to tell me about two or three Jews, who lived at the border of the shtetl and later moved out of the shtetl to a village. I believe that they belong to the “Shepsn”… that's how in his time, in the Yiddish speaking Eastern Europe the followers of the false Messiah, Shabbai Tzvi and later his “disciple” Yakov Frank, were called. In our part – north Bessarabia and Podolia from around Kaminetz – Podolsk and in Southern Galicia – in the 17th there was a concentration of the “Shepsn.” The “Monsignor” Yakov Frank rode through before he came to Kaminetz – Podolsk and there he was given a reception by the persecuted ones, the “shepsn” amongst the Jews; the city Chatin, with its Turkish fortress, was at that time, under Turkish rule, though it belonged to Moldova. Here Yakov Frank crossed the Dniester to Poland.

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The Jews whom my father called “Shepsn” apparently believe in some ancient and hardly identifiable sign, about a wandering disappeared generation. It's a pity that I don't remember any particulars or names.

“Soslavies”

When the Russians annexed Bessarabia, they divided the country into “classes”: noblemen, for the cities and for provinces, merchants, Moldavian villagers. The Yedinitz Jews were “merchants.” Our family had a special category “Brichansky Merchants” and therefore had privileges at the border. Those who spoke little Russian were also officials, tradesmen, the gypsies. The merchants and “goyish” (Ukrainian) speaking were “Tzarones” and lived in that part that was called “Yedinitz Village.”

There was almost no social contact amongst the Jews and non-Jews. We barely knew the living conditions of the non Jews and the gypsies. The first ones were suppliers of potatoes and other vegetables, and also “platnikes” and the others – musicians at Jewish weddings. Regarding the Moldovniks and “goyim” – we knew very little.

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Amongst the more refined “Christians” noblemen, and certain Jewish girls, there was a certain communication that became a theme for gossip and for youthful jealousy… At the edge of town there were “shikses” and “goyes” who occupied themselves with the “oldest profession” in the world. The local doctors had much to tell about patients with venereal diseases as a result of “work accidents” (I quote the words of my fellow schoolmate and youthful chaver, Dr. Syoma Tolfoder, whom the Romanians and Germans murdered).

Syoma, himself a great joker, told me the following related anecdote: a young boy came to him for medical attention and left his watch in deposit for payment until such time as he will pay. When he didn't come to redeem it, Syoma, the Jewish “progressive” doctor thought: why shouldn't I visit my patient at home, request from the father to redeem the watch and at the same time try to “teach” him something. Young people, in sexual acts, somehow it led to trouble. One must be careful so why shouldn't the father pay and get the watch back. The father was busy, though, with earning a living and didn't grasp what it was all about; he called his son over and said, “Tell me, my son, what sort of business have you made between me and the doctor? Why did you deposit the watch and got a “triperl”? Quickly, return the “triperl” to the doctor and take the watch back..”

The greatest anti-Semites and Jew-haters came from those goyim who had any contact with the Jews. They played a tragic role during the destruction / Holocaust.

“Turks” and “Bulgarians”

There were also “Bulgarians” in the shtetl. These were Jews who grew vegetables near the Seminary River… they drew water from the river with a rod and did their watering; later they sold their vegetables in the market.

The “Turks,” on the other hand, were all bakers. Even Jewish bakers were called “Turks.” I think that the non-Jewish bakers were Armenians or “Greeks,” “ethnic consciousness” and tried to distinguish between Turks, Greeks and Armenians a Jew pointed out to me, “What is the difference between a Greek or an Armenian – after all, they're all Turks!”

[Page 392]

They spoke a weak Russian, and one such “Turk” used to advertise his baked goods as follows:
(in Russian) “Adin Khleb _ adin dvocktzat _ capaijek _ Dva khlieba – Dva dvadtzat-capaiyek… vaiye khlieba…(One small bread – twenty kopikes; two small breads – two twenty kopikes; all the small loaves – all the twenty kopikes.)

This kind of talk indicates that the “Turk” was Armenian.

Already at the start of the 1920's they disappeared from the shtetl and even the Jewish bakers were no longer called “Turks.”

“Chevrat Ephraim”

Originally the streets had no names. The Rumanians gave them their names: Redjeleh Ferdinand (Patch taveh), Regina Maria, etc. Who can remember them? On the other hand it's easy to remember the Yiddish street names of long ago: the Tailors' Street, the Bathhouse Street, the Study House Street, the Hekdesh Street, the Market Street, the Shul Street. I believe there was also a Seat Street…

At any rate, there were in Yedinitz all kinds of merchants and many craftsmen. I won't be wrong if I will point out that there were more than two hundred tailors in the shtetl. “Yiddishe” tailors, (that is, better one for Jews) were separate. The others, the “Goyishe,” sewed for the villagers. But there were also cobblers, bakers, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, goldsmiths, house painters, artists, confectioners.

At the end of the 1920's the craftsmen organized themselves into a “Handworkers' Association” (and not a “Farein”).

The “Farein” held meetings and argued, but the name “Craftsmens' Farein” was a mouthful, so they called it simply “Farein” … It didn't take long before the name became “Efrein” and from there to the simple, general word “Ephraim.” From this it's not far to the name “Chevrat Ephraim” and that's what the name became.

But before long “Chevrat Ephraim” became a “League of Nations” by the haughty ones. How did this happen? Just listen:

Others have already written about the “Shreyers” (shouters / announcers). Elek Shreyer had already died long ago. His stretched-out formula with which he would begin his “announcements” – (partly in Hebrew, partly Yiddish) “Kakhriz U'Modia dem oilem” ( I declare and let everyone know) without speaking clearly. Avreme took his place. His main job was “Eirike Bagle.”

[Page 393]

He didn't understand words very well, even when he spoke “privately.” When he spoke about more “complicated” matters, from the formula “Makhris U'modia” came out: “Achris U'modia.” Later he used a different formula: “Midiat hatafer.”

 

The Crier - Illustration by Peretz Weinreich [page 393]

 

“General meeting of all Nazis!”
The Crier – Illustration by Peretz Weinreich”

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Once Avreml had to announce the general meeting of the “Craftsmans' Farein” and say that members of all “professions” are invited: tailors, cobblers, etc.

“Algemeiner Farzamlung” (General Meeting) “Craftsmans' Farein.” “Professions” – these were works too difficult to understand, let alone pronounce so Arremele called out:

“Makhriz umodia dem oilem, az morgn vet zayn di obshe sabronye fun chevras Ephraim… m'betaz s'zoln zich tzuzamen-kumen alle natzies, shneiders, shusters un alle andreh.” (I hereby declare and inform that tomorrow there will take place the meeting of all nations; tailors, cobblers and all others.)

That's how the “Chevrat Ephraim got the nickname “The League of Nations.”

In Yedinitz there was also a merchants' Farband, and later, a professional farein as well, of all kinds of workers, under the influence of the communists. We, Poale Zionists, also tried to form a professional farein and organized those who worked form the merchants.

[Page 394]

Areleh Enikus

And while w're talking about “shreyers” (others have more widely written about this colorful “profession”), I recall that we once heard a voice of a new, unfamiliar “announcer.” But here also the content of the “announcement” was unique and I will convey it exactly because of its particular interest. He shouted, “I hereby announce to everyone that a new director has come, a Brichaner, and that's me in person… Whoever needs me will find me on the 'potchaveh' in kolz near the 'abuvneh' shop 'Kolker'.”

For those who don't know, or have forgotten, it's worth explaining that the concept “director” is clean language for, you should excuse me, a (closet) toilet cleaner. The word was used because of its similarity to another word that is closely related to this “trade.”

And the Jewish “director” came from Brichan, after the Jews had, after quite a few months, suffered with the goyishe “directors” ever since the long-time “director” had died – Areleh Enikus of Yedinitz.

Areleh was an “institution.” Everyone used his services. He had assistants but he was the real boss of the “trade” – the administrative director of the administrative directors…

There was no water installation in the shtetl. No flush toilets either. The saying, “Who is a rich man” meant, for us, “the one who has a 'closet' toilet near his table.” No one in Yedinitz could claim this kind of wealth. Somewhere in the yard four boards were erected, with a door and a hole in the ground with a board for the feet – and that's the whole “institution.” Also, when the ground was snow-covered, it was often difficult to reach “there” so we relied on the falling snow to cover everything. When the snow let up – the colorful “deposit” was exposed.

Areleh used to “organize” the sanitation cleaning of the “institutions.” This “trade” used to be done at night. Outside there stood a wagon with a couple of open pails. With pitchers everything used to be transferred from the holes to the wagon, leaving behind signs on the ground, stench in the air.

Areleh himself always went around dirty. You could smell him from the distance. Besides, he was always drunk. He had a wife and, I think, children too. But they distanced themselves from him.

Areleh Enikus perished in such a horrible way under circumstances that only Satan himself could conjure up.

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The Seminary of the Priests has been mentioned. The sanitation “institutions” of the seminary used to be cleaned only once a year, when the long vacation began. Areleh himself couldn't undertake such a job, so “professionals” used to arrive annually from Beltz, but Areleh was their “guide” in the large pit like catacombs. It happened that the Beltz “directors” came exactly when Jews were celebrating Shavuos. Areleh didn't observe the holiday and went “to work” in the sanitation. He was let down with a rope to the “catacombs” in order to open the “doors” in order to be able to scoop out the “goods.” When Areleh went down into the pit to open the “doors” the accumulated gasses escaped. Areleh lost his balance, fell into the pit and drowned in the messy excrement. The Belzer “directors” worked very hard to pull out the dead body.

No complaints helped, and the Burial Society had to give him a Jewish burial. Because of the horrible death his body didn't have to be religiously purified / cleansed, and he was buried near the fence.

Jews laughed and joked about the death of Areleh. And it was because of the circumstances. People spit out three times in disgust. I, though, couldn't free myself from the tragic aspect of this tragic symbolic, terrible finality of life of a Jew. No more satanic death occurred to any Jew anywhere in the world; to drown in such material in the sanitation system of the priests on the very day of the holiday of the giving of our Torah.

I know that many will turn their noses up and say that stories about “dukhi” (perfume) smell better, but life, unfortunately does not consist solely of Garden of Eden aromas.

Avraham Shweitzer

And while we are talking about the shtetl's underworld, we must not omit a person with a “name” and a “profession”. Namely, he operated a whorehouse that was on the outskirts of the shtetl, in the vicinity of the grain “silos”, the “zvadnia” it was called in the shtetl. He was not a young man and his head used to shake. The “pensioners” he would charge from time to time in a very demonstrative way. He would seat them on a coach-wagon and together with them he would lead the horses through the main part of the shtetl. Or else he would go around and declare “There's new goods.”

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It was no great privilege to speak with him. Fine gentlemen and silk-clad young men would avoid him … lest he might, God forbid, reveal that he knows one of them … others would stop him and enjoy his stories that he told.

The truth is that his main clientele was from the Christians of the shtetl and the goyim from the villages, on market days, from the soldiers who were stationed in the area and from the seminarians, that is, those who studied what is permissible and what is not, in order to be “frum”, and moral priests…

Suddenly the Rumanian gendarmes started to pick on Avraham Shweitzer and his “establishment”. They demanded “permissions”. Around the institution fights used to break out, arguments, and the gendarmes used to be called to reestablish order. Once the gendarmes grabbed Avraham and led him through the whole town, to the gendarme post. Avraham kept shouting and protesting in a language that was a mix of Russian and Yiddish: “Is it permissible to hit an old man?”

The result was that the rulers closed Avraham Shweitzer's “business”.

Gypsies and other “shikses” in the goyishe streets understood how to fill the “void” and took advantage of the circumstances.

“Mishugayim” (crazy ones)

There isn't a settlement without its “mishugayim”. The most famous mishugener in Yedinitz was Yuizeh. He was quiet and retarded and used to go around in torn and battered clothes and beg. During an epidemic he was married off in the cemetery to Frumeh, also a retarded one. They were settled into a house, furniture was supplied, but naturally, it didn't become a family home. Frumeh, in contrast to Yuizeh, could manage to string a few words together. Chevreh used to provoke her to tell something about her family life. From the description about how Yuizeh tried to be a man, people would roll with laughter.

Another “nut” turned up in the shtetl. He earned his livelihood as a water-carrier. His name was Mendl and quickly the children discovered that he becomes agitated, shouts and curses when they would call him “Mendl mit di gatkes” (Mendl with the underpants). Then they would anger him by calling “Mendl with the tallis”, etc. Later Mendl brought a son to the shtetl. I've forgotten what he was called. He couldn't speak and his behavior was abnormal.

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The “Lamed-Vovnik” (one of the 36 just men)

There was another abnormal one, or more precisely, a depressed one, or a simpleton, who distinguished himself in certain ways, however. He was called Avrahm Tzurlick. His work was to carry out on a board that hung on his shoulders soap from the manufacturers to the stores. This was dirty and not very honorable work, for a pittance. He walked around barefoot, in torn clothes, stammered when he spoke. He also used to raise pigeons. He had quite a dovecote and used to deal and exchange pigeons. But this stammering, depressed, poorly clothed simpleton could quote whole passages from the “Tanach” (Hebrew Bible), especially from the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, translating the portions both literally and figuratively, quoting commentators and adding some astonishing scholarly-like explanations that amazed people. How does he know all this? “Tanach” wasn't of particular interest to scholars, the learned. Kibbitzers like us, schoolboys used to stop him in order to listen to his “Torah” talk. At first he pretended that he didn't want to talk. “I don't have time,” he would say, being embarrassed when he was put in the spot. It was necessary to encourage him and these depths of wisdom, knowledge and incisive talk about “Tanach” flowed from him so that it was impossible to stop him.

From whence does all this come to him? Who is he? Where does he come from? Where did he live? Where and when does he look into these religious texts?

We weren't interested in all that. People would, in a vulgar fashion, refer to him as “the meshugener.”

And there was another characteristic of this soap-carrier. He could answer questions about which day of the week the “yom tovim” fell on this year. Any year, ten years from now, twenty, or, for instance, thirty-seven years from now or even more into the future…

He would stammer a bit and reflect: “Wait, wait”, he would say, and come up with the answer. “Pesach in such and such a year will be Tuesday. High Holidays – Monday… Shavuos – Wednesday, etc.”

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People with perpetual calendars for fifty years checked and confirmed - “He's right.” If, however, the calendar dates were beyond the extent of the perpetual calendar, he had to be taken at his word.

“Such a meshugener … one of a kind, but for sure there is something to him.”

A “lamed-vovnik” – we young ones said. Our parents rebuked us because in their opinion we had dishonored the holy concept.

“Butchers & Slaughterers of Treyf”

There were butchers who employed helpers. Some of them came to our Poale-Tzion organization. One of them taught me nice folk songs that originated in the butcher shop – songs related to events in the shtetl that I wrote down but that have unfortunately gotten lost. One of these butcher boys once wanted to hit me because at one of the “Reading Evenings” I read Sholem Asch's “Koiler Gessl” (Slaughterhouse St.) and in his opinion I insulted the butchers. He was a skinner by trade.

There was another “class” of merchants who were called “Katzavim” (butchers). These were livestock dealers which they sold for meat. Their work consisted of traveling throughout Rumania, attending the fairs where cattle were sold and buy oxen for the Jewish “lord,” Asipovich, who had sugar factories in Ripichen – a village near the Prut River in Moldavia, not far for Yedinitz – and in other locations as well. Sugar was produced from sugar beets and with the remains the Jewish “lord” fattened up his cattle. The “butchers” used to shop for him and his cattle food.

When they talked about the “lord” – precious oil used to drip from their lips. After all, he was their bread provider! And they had more than enough income.

The “butchers” themselves used to like feasting and enjoying meals with varenikes, meat-filled knishes, and dairy bagels that used to swim in oil or butter. They themselves were broad-shouldered, with stuffed bellies and their wives were also rolly-polly, heavy-set.

They weren't very learned and their language was a mundane one, with “German” words that they brought from the secular world, but with all the signs of vulgarity.

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When their spirits were “high from wine” in this “comfy” meal enjoyment, they used to hug their fat wives and make ambiguous remarks; their wives used to laugh loudly at this, but acted as though embarrassed… To this day, I remember the answer that one of these “butchers” gave his supposedly embarrassed wife:

“Good brothers Yenke. It's a Jewish act, even the religious judge (Dayan) enjoys it…”

Here you have grammatical play of words, folk philosophy, cynicism, Germanization, and how would we say it today? --- “Sex” … nearly all the humor elements of Yiddish hanky-panky theatre.

The “butchers” as previously noted, brought from the “world” expressions of German politeness. They even used to address the Jews in this way: “Herr Chayim-Leib …” The concept “Herr” “Herrn” didn't exist in the shtetl. One would simply say “Reb Zalman” or simply “Zalman,” using the first name. This intelligent fellow disappeared with the Russians.

But particulary charming was the story of one of the butchers about his conversation with the female Doctor Shoot in Yedinitz, who was also called the “Red Doctor” because of the color of her hair.

“So I told her,” the butcher said, “Herr Doctor, you must understand…”

The Jew several times emphasized this expression “Herr Doktershe” in case he hadn't been heard. He picked up this expression in Chernowitz where the Austrian expression “Herr Doctor,” which is their way of addressing a doctor, a male, so for a woman they thought it should certainly be Herr Doktorshe.

His wife stood beside him and beamed with “naches” from his worldly knowledge about how one should nicely speak.

And there were also Jews who dealt with pigs. They didn't usually slaughter pigs or sell pig meats as the gentile pig dealers. They were pig “wholesalers.” They used to go to the fairs all over the land, purchase full-grown pigs, slaughter them in special slaughterhouses. Sometimes they bought pigs for marketing to be raised. These slaughterhouses existed in various towns. They would export the meat abroad, especially to England.

The most representative “pig dealer” was Avraham Yekl Bronstein. He was an old bachelor, slovenly dressed, with a wrinkled face. He himself used to tell that during the famous strike in England in 1926, a ship with his pork wasn't unloaded. The meat got foul and he and his partners suffered a great loss.

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He lived with his parents – well-off people, who had a nice house on Patchtova St. The father, the old Reb Yekl was a Jew from Shpilchev with his own one of a kind principles, not particularly mild ones. It used to be told that his wife had a hard time getting him to change his underwear at least once a week. But Yekl didn't want to obey her.

“It's not necessary to change underwear weekly. What am I, a child? Have I filled my pants?”

Jews used to repeat the story and add: “Correct!”

Avraham Yekl's son was a genteel young man, never bothered anyone and contributed I believe for communal needs or gave an alm if asked.

We heard his name mentioned a few years ago in connection with very tragic circumstances. The Kishanov Soviet radio announced (afterwards so did the telegraph agencies and newspapers) that a terrible speculator had been caught on whom there was found foreign currency and gold. His name: Abrosha Bronstein. He was an old bachelor, lived alone and didn't socialize, was miserly. He admitted that he used to deal in “illegal” (black) exchange in the synagogue. He was sentenced to death and executed.

The execution wasn't simply that of a “speculator”. In the announcement there was instilled a few drops of antisemetic poison. Reading and hearing about this tragedy my heart pained me. The episode and that person are also a part of the Jewish diaspora-destiny.

Water Carriers and Wagoners

These were two “trades” in which tens of Jews were occupied, not of the “upper class”. Amongst the wagoners there were several “classes”; owners of horses and wagons, who had hired “shmeisers” (wagon drivers) because they themselves never went “driving”. Those who rode with their own horse and carriage and those who handled the horse and wagon for others. There were also carters. There was one wagoner who thought he was “high and mighty” not an ordinary wagoner… The various gentiles and the “Christians” used to call the wagoner “balahorrchik”. This wagoner used to have publicity sheets printed in Russian, as follows: “Intelligent Igvanchik”.

Zalmen, the wagoner, was also called “Zalmen Parech” because of his large bald head that reached down to over his ears. His hat he used to wear pulled down over his ears, both summer and winter. Zalmen used to brag that he doesn't have to buy a hat. He gets them free. How?

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Here, take off your hat and don't make any funny faces [page 401] “Here, take off your hat and don't make any funny faces…”
Illustration by Peretz Weinreich

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When, in Zalman's wagon there sat someone who had just arrived in town, a man with a nice hat, Zalman would “act smart” and take off the man's hat and put it on his own head… When the stranger would start to get mad at the mean gesture and for the chutzpah, Zalman would answer. “Take your old hat and don't make such a racket.”

But when Zalman uncovered his bare head on which there were wrinkles and signs of healed sores, the passenger, of course, didn't want to take the hat back, because a hat that had been on Zalman “parech's” head, nobody wanted to don on his own head.
Zalman got drowned in a flood into which he fell, together with his horse and wagon somewhere between Yedinitz and the train station.

With the arrival of autos and autobuses the fate of the wagoners went downhill.

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Our childish fantasy, however, teased the water-carriers. Why? Because their water-carrying was dramatic. During the winter frosts long icicles would hang down from their barrels and cans, just as they did from the roofs. The water-carrier who generally wore a short pelt/jacket and high leather boots, would put the cans down and start to slap his hand and try to warm himself. When it was muddy he would shout loudly in order to hurry the horses, so that they would pull the heavy load further. “Vyo, n'veilah, Vvyo pgirah”, you've stuffed yourself with oats, so do something. “

“From hiding some pranksters would play a trick on the water-carrier and pull out the cork from the barrel…He cursed and went to the house of the “mshumad” to collect for the damage, that the prankster had caused.

An unwritten law was: during a fire the water carriers were obliged to arrive with full barrels of water for putting out the fire. Later they would go to the neighbors of the “burnt” premises and request payment because they were the ones who benefited.

And we especially envied the little Feisl who helped his Zaide, the water-carrier, to hold the whip and even to pull the reins and drive the horses. His Zaide had provided two small dippers for Feisl, in order to slowly introduce him “pedagogicall” to the trade. Feisl's mother had given birth to him without “chupah and kidushin” (out of wedlock) from a wealthy son of parents whom she worked for as a servant. He grew up “hefker” (randomly). He didn't learn any Yiddeshkeit in “cheder”…The cheder boys used to call him “mamzeruk” so his grandfather took him in hand .

Feisl wasn't drawn to his grandfather's trade, however. Summertime he wanted to play with nuts, and winter—to skate on the ice. The Zaide could always be heard shouting, “Feisl, Feisl, where are you? The horses have gone wild.”

And when Feisl appeared the Zaide would scold and curse him and end with the desperate finale:

“Oy Feisl, Feisl… If you ever become a mensch you'll sit with me on the wagon. If not, I'll give you away, to hell, to tailor.

Feisl, already a grown youth, became, so I was told, quite a “bigshot” in the lagers/camps of Balta, Transnistria. The end was that he disappeared. It is told that he perished at the hands of the Germans.

The Rov and the Rebbitzin

First there were only “dayanim” (religious judges) in Yedinetz. Afterwards a Rov was selected and brought down. Michael Burshhein, or “Meckel the Rov, as he was called.

[Page 403]

 

Illustration by Peretz Weinreich [page 403]

 

“Those “heretics,” a demon went into their father,
and they pulled the plug out of the barrel.”
Illustration by Peretz Weinreich

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He used to daven in our “Husyatin” prayerhouse, and after a minor dispute his true character emerged. The young members thought very highly of him. He was handsome, tall, clean, his silk capote always shone because of his good care, he was very trendy. He elicited respect not only from the Jews but from the goyimas as well. Even the chief Postmaster and other authorities showed him respect.

“He's not your ordinary run-of-the-mill Rov", his young followers boasted.

The elders, on the contrary, didn't think very highly of him. He's too grand, over dresses, is snobby…not at all the way a Rov should be…

Michael used to like to chum around with the young men. He also liked to read secular books, even took an interest in astronomy and even liked to study Newton's law of gravity and other such wonders and that shy one blurted out:

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Don't think that the non believers don't have facts on which to base their beliefs.

But immediately he caught himself that he had said something unwise to express
and attempted to correct himself.

“But, on the other hand we can respond to them that… (and at this point he quoted all kinds of familiar religious quotations).

He was a good speaker and used to mix in many “interesting” words, cultural, psychological, logistic, philosophical etc.

Yedinitz was proud of him. His son became Rov in Botchan, Old Rumania and in the shtetl his religious learnedness was often mentioned as was his general knowledge and his business sense. He died in Israel (read about this in another portion of the book). On Simchas-Torah the Rov used to cover his head with his tallis, take a Torah and dance with it. He danced excitedly, bowing here and there…just like a ballet dance.

It would happen that Jews sometimes needed “documents” so that a “Ukrainian” could for example become a citizen, etc. The local judge used to issue such documents. He was incidentally, quite a bribe taker. Usually there were Jews in the judiciary who would, for a small fee, give advice on any matter demanded a sacramental oath: that the witness should swear, in front of the Rov, that he's telling the truth.

Once, such a witness had to bear witness for a Jew who had to legalize himself…the Rov knew this as did the judge, but for a bribe he kept quiet. That's why he called upon the rov to put the responsibility on him.

So Michael, the Rov, opened the Tanach, donned his tallis and accepted the swearing of the witness with these words:

“Don't answer your neighbor falsely, but if you must…”

Actually the Rov took this swearing oath upon himself, forgiving the man, in order to save a Jewish soul.

The Rebbetzin was someone special. She was a “tzadkanit: (saint), active in the community, a kind soul. Of interest is the “committee” that she established: “Malbish Arumim” (Clothing the Poor). She gathered around herself some twenty or so girls who used to go around to the houses on Friday to collect donations for the Rebbetzins Committee Erev Pesach and erev the High Holidays she used to go to the yard-goods storekeepers in order to buy from them “yellow linen”. The girls used to sew shirts and underwear and the rebbetzin used to distribute it amongst the poor. This was holy work for her…as it was for all inhabitants of the shtetl.

[Page 405]

The “Gazetchik”

We, young people, tried from time to publish “journals”, hectographic ones, around 20-30 copies at once. Contents consisted of literary works, songs, poems, meditations. One such journal was called “Funkn” (Sparks). Somewhere I still have a few pages of the first issue. No well-known writers emerged from these debut attempts.

Mainly Kishinev newspapers were read. Russian and Yiddish ones. First “Der Yid” (The Jew) and later “Undzer Tzeit” (Our Times). From a journalistic point of view the Russian newspapers were “better” with more news and more sensationalism. Later we began to read Rumanian newspapers from Bucharest. Though it sometimes took five days for the Bucharest papers to reach us, the news in them was still fresher than in the Yiddish papers of Kishinev.

For the Yiddish papers the subscription would usually be shared by two and sometimes even three. It would go from neighbor to neighbor. There was one neighbor who didn't take the papers all week, only on the Sabbath. Shimon, the gazetchik used to be the treasurer for the subscribers. Later a collector would arrive. Shimon would also let people read the papers. He also dealt with the Russian and Rumanian press that one could also get to read for a third of the price of a newspaper.

Shimon understood to whom to give the most recent papers and to whom he could give a paper from the past week. Gentiles would, sometimes during one of their holidays, buy a Russian or Rumanian paper…so if Shimon had such, he would even sell them a paper that was a year old. The goy was happy because he got the newspaper dirt cheap.

The “Limenik”

Amongst all the other interesting “parnoses” (livelihoods) there was also the parnose of “limenik”. He used to bring from the large city a few cases of lemons to sell, going from house to house. Lemons were used with tea as well as to revive someone who had fainted. Pieces of lemon peel used to be stirred into preserves. This fellow would also deal with oranges which were sent at Purim for “Shalach-Mones”. Also various fruits that were brought from Eretz Israel for “Chamisha-Osar B'Shvat. Also peanuts to crack on Shabbes one could get from him. This fellow had extra income from selling the boards of the cases of lemons and oranges. They were made from solid wood that were used as chopping boards. Quite a few housewives owned chopping boards that they purchased from Limenik.

[Page 406]

Chavaleh (Eve)

I won't name the girl. For the sake of my telling, I'm describing a certain type, a naïve girl….let's call her Chavaleh…after the first woman on earth (Eve). She was naïve and therefore an old maid. Her father would send her to a neighbor to ask for a loan or for an interest free loan. Her mother would send her to borrow some parsnip, some sour-salt or a stick of cinnamon. When she would come into the house of the tailor, Maier Kapendis, a smart Jew, a kibitzer, he tempted her to drink a glass of whiskey that was ready on the table to serve to some goyim who were coming to pick up some tailoring he had done for therm. Maier Kapendis told her to taste it.

“No, why not?” he asked her when she refused.

“Foolish girl” Maier persuaded her. “Have some. Why leave the whiskey for the “Kaporanik”.

Chavaleh took a glass. The second glass also. Then the third one…When she went out of the tailor's shop she staggered and couldn't walk.

Her mother wanted to “kill herself” when she saw her daughter in such a shape…

“Woe is me.. What happened to you?” her mother asked, wringing her hands.

“Mama,” Chavaleh declared, “it's nothing. It was simply a waste to leave the whiskey for the “Kapornik”

It's not desirable to hear repeated the curses that Chavaleh's mother poured out on the head of the “mean tailor”.

[Page 407]

When Chavaleh was already not so young she suddenly got a groom, an out-of-towner, a handsome fellow with a head of black hair, fashionably dressed, leather belt, patent leather shoes…the whole bit. Chavaleh's father promised a good dowry…He sold everything to put together the dowry money.

So the groom would go with Chavaleh into a room with no windows and close the door. Mother and father stood outside and wrung their hands.

“What can they be doing there so long?”

In a little while the groom and the bride came out of the room flushed and sweating.

When the mother remained along with Chavaleh she tremblingly asked: “Chavaleh, what was going on so long?”

“Mama,” Chavaleh told enthusiastically, “he loves me so much that he actually kissed me.”

In a few days the groom convinced his future father-in-law to give him part of the dowry money in order to do some business. The father let himself be convinced. The groom, with part of the dowry in his pocket, got on a carriage-wagon in order to return in a few days with goods.

He disappeared to the present day…Chavaleh believed that something happened to him because how could he run off? After all, he loved her so much that he even kissed her.

Language

Reb Moteleh Klugman was short. He also distinguished himself with his uniqueness of speaking when he spoke to the goyim—the customers in his yard-goods store when they bargained about the price. He wanted to show them with wisdom and in a gemara cadence, that he can't lower his price. He would use this language, a mixture of Yiddish and Goyish:

“Dake nu tie unkapike zarbotais to sidks ie treigesh na sciete un vidke am se am na Shabbis?

Such a Scandal

Dr. Paul Baratov came to the shtetl with his theater group. He performed “serious” plays. One of the performances was “The Father” by Strindberg. In the play there is the famous scene where he father throws on his wife, who wants to drive him crazy, a burning lamp. Baratov—as the father—threw the lamp very ingeniously and that electrified the audience in the hall. I remember that I also was aghast. But suddenly a woman arose from amidst the audience and shouted out her reflex.

Such a scandal in front of so many people..Fie. A decent person doesn't do such a thing.

[Page 408]

You Remember our House?

 

Illustration by Peretz Weinreich [page 408]

 

“What a scandal! This is no good for so many people.”
Illustration by Peretz Weinreich

Return to Photo Index

Here in Israel someone from Yadenitz met me; she arrived after the war. She complained to me that she and her family had been given poor housing and indication of which is that in their bathroom the wall is only tiled half way up etc. This was accompanied by a deep sigh:

“Yosl, Yosl, I don't have to tell you how nicely we lived back home…”

“Certainly I remember!”

Her father was a “rimmer”, in good-spirit he was called “Khayim Zodik”.]

[Page 409]

Their dwelling was opposite the church. It consisted of two rooms. In the front room there stood a sewing machine. Light entered from outside only when the shutter was opened. A few steps down one went into a shop…from the shop one went up three or four stairs into the one room in which they lived. There there were a pair of beds for the parents and a few couches for the children.

In this room there were no windows. The houses in this row had no yard or indoor toilets. If one “needed” one took the special “pot” and went down to the basement with it…If one saw that the shanty door to the basement was open it was a sign that somebody was there with their “pot”. Then the “pot” was brought up from the cellar, covered with paper, or not…one looked around right and left to make sure that nobody was passing by, and then cast the “contents” out onto the street….

In front of the shop there was a container of water. Beside it, on a footstool, a tin
“clean” water, one was already not so careful…

Whether I remember how “nice” her dwelling was in Yedinitz?! And how… And here she is complaining about a bathroom in an apartment that she was housed in.

[Page 410]

Illustration by Peretz Weinreich [page 410]

 

“What a great life….”
Illustration by Peretz Weinreich

 

Return to Photo Index

A Perfect Carpenter

The leader in the carpenter shop of “Hekhalutz" in Yedinitz was a short and stubby man who was called “Benny Beich” (Pot-bellied Benny). He used to teach the “halutzim” carpentry and also look after the operation that produced furniture. Once it was decided that we also should learn carpentry and thus be drawn into “Hechalutz”.

Benny was a joker and was constantly wisecracking. One he said to someone:

“Do you know carpentry? How to “zegen” (saw) you know ever since you used to “zaig” nurse at your mother's breast… and you also know how to put one foot into bed, even two…so you're a true carpenter.

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