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[Page 63]

Part V - Folklore

 

A Study of Names

Sheraga Feivel Kallay

Translated by Sara Mages

The history of Jewish names is a study on its own and leaves a wide valley to wander in. Well, Yitchak son of Avraham, Yakov son of Yitchak, Reuven son of Yakov; when every Jew is being called by his name and by his father's name, there was no place for jealousy and hate, for revenge and grudge. The father named his son using his own name: Could you bring it to your mind that a father will name his son using an indecent name?

Although, there is room to ask, where did the father of Shcehm son of Hamor [donkey in Hebrew] find such a beautiful name? Maybe you will say that it was done in prevention of cruelty to animals. Did Shcehm's elderly father felt sorry for such a modest beast and placed a “memorial” for it in his family?

During the kinghood of the stupid king, there is no wonder that beautiful names like Dalfun, Prmasheta and Vaizata existed. But how the did wild animal like, Dov [Bear], Arye [Lion], Zev [Fox], and Tzvi {Deer], enter our families? Let it be so, a deer is a kosher animal, but how did the ones who do not chew the cud, or those with split hooves join us? What place do the lion, fox and bear have in our families?

It is logical that those names stuck to us when we lived in the foreign lands of Gog and Magog, in the Slavic countries. And the proof is that in the eastern countries such despicable names did not cling to Jews. You will not find Sephardic Jews, Yemenite or Kurds who are named after animals and fowl, and they did not take gentile's names. A son will be named after his father's name: Ezra son of Yechezkel, Zecharya son of Shimon, Shemuel son of David. The spirit of the European civilization did not touch them, and did not distort their names.

Among the European Jews and the cultured countries, so to speak, you will not find a Jew without a nickname that was glued to him by the authorities, and at times with malice. Everything depend on luck even the name. It is not known what their ancestors were awarded with when they were given names like;”Berg”, “Tal” of the many varieties, “Dorp” , “Boim” and “Feld”, such as: Rosenberg, Goldberg, Rosental, Zonntal, Blumfeld, Zonenfeld, Kornfeld, Nosboim, Nosdorfe, ,Birenboim, Kirshnboim, Apelboim, and also the beautiful “intellectual” names like; Kluger, Wiser, Goter and so on. The luck of those who were named after a city, was not so bad, such as; Berlin, Lvov, Berliner, Varshaver, Lemberg, Alsazer,Viner,Dauser, Hamburger - and many other natural names - without malice and without praise. Some say that the names of some of the cities in Italy are Jewish names: Kastlanovo, Lotzivita, Prato, and many more.

Those who were stuck with indecent names did not fair any better; Krazer (scraper), Smirer (spreader) Knaknisel (cracker) Kaliker (rotten) or names of all kind of beasts and animals like Bik, Ox, Kalv and many others, and the mirical of it all is - that they carried those names with love and dedication, like they were given a gift that they did not want to return.

Our town was honored and liked. Gentile names were not stuck to our names, and we carried our own names, nicknames, names that show respect towards ones mother, wife, mother in-law, the elderly, names related to our place of birth, etc.

And nicknames! How is that? - Bartzi, Yantzi, Shmueltzi, Aytzi, Shlomtzi, Lontzi, Abraham'tzi.

 

Five years in Israel

 

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with the women keeping the same rhyme; Shartzi, Hantzi, Ravtzi, Rachtzi, Yochtzi, Krintzi. Frumtzi, Malt'zi , Brint'zi Leit'zi, and many more.

Is this the only way to express fondness? What missing in the rhyme is: “Li” For example; Bera'li, Leybe'li Itzi'li, Shlome'li, Avrahame'li, Velve'li, Ahare'li Yose'li, Hershe'li.

Opposite them is a verity of women's names; Sara'li, Riveke'li, Rache'li, Dina''li ,Chana'li. Reize'li, Dvora'li Feige'li, Roiza'li, Chenke'li, Malca'li, Mira'li, Sheinda'li,

So far, we did not list the many rhymes of different nicknames like; Barka. Rashka, Sorka, Izikk'l, Duvid'l, Avrahame'l Hirshe'l - and if we want to count all of them - we don't have the time to so.

Names related to a mother, wife, and a mother in-law; How? First we list the official family names like; Dvosha's, Sorka's, Chieka's and other women's names in that order. Who does not recognize the traditional names in our town?

Shlomo Toyva-Laha's means - the son of Toyva-Leah, or, the husband of Toyva-Leah and even the father in-law of Yoyva-Leah. And; Toyva Malcha's, Michael Frida's, Berel Tame's, Neta Alte's, Moshe Chaya-Feige'is, Hirsh Chana-Yent'is. Great was the power of a woman, nearly a matriarchal power, Heaven Forbid! Matters reached a total absurdity, like: Here comes Malcha, the wife of Tovya Malcha's.

Reb Tovia is Malcha's husband and therefore he is called Tovya Malcha's, meaning belonging to Malcha and who is Malcha herself? If not the wife of Tovya Malcha's! And behold! The real meaning of the sentence is; this is Frida, the wife of Michael Frida Chaya-Rachela's, and so on.

The life wish of the villagers was to uproot and move to the big city, but only, if they were able find a job there. Saying that, through the generations, city Jews whose ancestors sat in inns in the villages near by, were stuck with the name of their place of origin; Michel Riniber meaning from Rinib, Chaim from Sokolivka wants to say Mesokolovka, Sender Strilker came from Strilka, Itzi Semoker,Yehuda Hirsh from Livovitzz, Baruch Loposhner meaning from Loposhana, Yosel Lanker, Baruch Loposhner from Lopshana, Avrahamtzi from Srenik, You did not know those Jews by any other names, only by those names.

So far we did not touch the root of the names. Because in our little town, each Jew, apart from his name he carried his father's and his mother's names and the name that was added to him from his connection to his respected mother in-law. In addition to his family name - he was also given a surname, at times in shame and at time in praise, and sometime not here not there - natural -as we say in foreign languages, because you did not know the meaning of things, if they were good or bad.

There was a certain Jew, for example, that the color of his face was not one of the lightest, so he was called Yosel the black. But from another reason they called a certain man Moshe the Red, not because of the color of his face, but the color of his beard. And if a man, Heaven Forbid! was the owner of too much flesh, even if it was totally not his fault, they gave him a name that followed him all of his life; even after the end of the seven years of plenty and fat, he was called Gershon the Fat. And I am free to explain why they called a certain man - David the Long (who never stopped growing), and why they called a certain woman Leyzale the Floy [Flea] (due to her miniature size).

Our town's Jews strictly observed cleanliness, and in addition to washing in the river during the summer days (but not during the days of the counting), they went once a week to wash at the bath house (by the way, his owner was a wise and learned student, who lost all his money. He had daughter who reached the age of marriage, but a savior was not found for her, because her father's name was “Hershel Berer” meaning Blen [bath attendant], an occupation that was not considered to be proper for match-making. Even though, he had a son in who was a Rabbi in America). However, they did not discriminate between lice and a bold head and a Jew who was inflicted with boldness, the name Lice was added to his name. During the High Sabbath [the Sabbath preceding the holiday of Passover] there was a lot of turmoil in the synagogue. The town's clowns were sending travel tickets (for free) to Egypt, the land of lice, to the owners of a bold head. It is obviously clear, that out of shame the owners of a bold head did not come to the synagogue on High Sabbath, and if they did come, they had to protect themselves from those, who suspected that they were the ones who sent the tickets - and this is the reason for the turmoil.

A certain Jew, Yakov, which the cut of his speech was not very smooth, was called Yankel Zindel, meaning, Yankel the Stammer, and the same was for any noticeable handicap. And if someone, Heaven Forbid! caught a dangerous illness, it is clear that it became his surname. Why did they call a certain man Shemuel Ba'l Shem [a miracle worker]? And why did they call an entire family by the name Tzadik? [Righteous]; Moshe Tzadik, Shalom Tzadik, all of them had the same occupation; they were cart owners the source of their income. When an accident happened, and the horse died before its time (there was no insurance then), the righteous of the generation, collected money and bought a new horse, a younger one, solely that the person won't be left without an income.

Let it be so, a certain Jew was called Leizer (Eliezer) “Shifcha” meaning slave after an event that happened. But in reality, nothing happened. But, so it was told even if nobody believed in it, and the name remained. Moshe “Maroz” and Shalom “Maroz” always traveled. The heat ate them during the day and the cold during the night. The meaning of “Maroz” is frost, so it is not difficult to understand why they were named Frost. Another Jew had a large head and wore size 11 hat on his head; so why should not the next generation know of it? And why should not he be called - Yona Elever - meaning Yona Number 11.

There was one Jew, who lived in the center of town, who was known for his great hospitality, He used to welcome visitors that came to town and ate their first meal at his house. On Sabbath he used to walk a long distance, farther than the boundaries of the Sabbath so he could pray on the Sabbath with other people. Why was he called Moshe Kutragaz - we did not know the meaning of it, it is a puzzle that will remain a puzzle!

And why was Hantzi Boston called by that name? For an event that once happened. Hantzi the young woman, eyed a young man by the name of Yankel but his parents refused the match making - as it happens in our world. What did Hantzi do? She found herself another young man, whose name was also Yanekl. While she was dancing she yelled: What the different does it make, this Yankel or the other Yankel -

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Boston (a dance of those days) as it should be, hence the name, Hantzi Boston.

Do I need to explain from where the name Chayim Klintor came from? - It is enough that the clowns of the generation called him Chaim Piper (because of his clarinet) and there was not a wedding without him all over the area.

A certain person's surname was “Paritz” why? He himself came from a worthy family and his brother was almost a Rabbi. At any rate, he was a wise student and a great scholar and he and his all family were Cohanim. But his name was changed to “Paritz” [Robber].

However, you can find tens and hundreds of Jews in our town that were only known by the surnames that were given to them by the authorities. Those were scholars, well to do homeowners, rich men or just Jews who were just a little bit above the others, or kept a short distance from Judaism and got closer to the authorities.

 

A “Shomer Hatzier” youth group in Bobrka

 

[Page 69]

The Words of the People of Bobrka

by Dr. S. F. Kallay

Translated by Michael Kallay

My uncle told me this. My grandfather Moshe Leib was a big merchant, and all his life he was on the road. There was no train in those days, and no airplines or cars. So how did people travel? They went in a carriage.  My grandfather used to go with his regular driver, who was not one a Jew. There were numerous crucifixes and icons of the Holy Mother on every hill and under every shady tree. The driver, who was very religious, never failed to cross himself and say a prayer in front of these “holy” sites, while my grandfather would mutter “Shaktz teshaktzeno etc” [a quote from the Torah meaning “Thou shalt utterly reject it and utterly abhor it, for it is a curse.” - Translator]. And this was their habit, one would cross himself and pray, while the other muttered “Shaketz”. Once they went past a famous icon while Grandpa Moshe happened to be asleep. So the goy tapped him on the shoulder and said: Hey, Moshe Leib, “Shaketz”!

My grandmother Chaya Rochel used to say: Since the Angel of Death was born, no person can be certain about his life.”

And she would also say “Your greatest enemy cannot harm you as much as you can harm yourself”.

“When God wants to punish people, He momentarily takes away their intelligence”.

“When God wants to punish the ignorant, He puts a “passuk” [quote from the Bible] in his mouth”

She used to say: “There is actually no difference between the wise and the fool. Every fool has a good deal of wisdom, and a wise person has a good deal of stupidity. The difference is only in the set up. The wise has the wisdom on top and the stupidity at the bottom. That is why if he talks too much he is bound to say something stupid. The fool has the wisdom hidden underneath his stupidity. That's why a fool who talks a lot may sometimes reach his wisdom, and say something smart.”

 

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