Translated by Yocheved Klausner
Every town has its own ways, figures and personalities, with all sorts of names and surnames. The unique way of life in our town was expressed by the somewhat mocking nicknames given to some of the Dubno people, while for others the nickname would be an asset, making his personality lovable.
Many and varied were the types walking around in the Jewish streets of Dubno. A great number of them deserve to be remembered forever - they have earned that. These figures are standing now before my eyes, as if they demand rehabilitation: please tell our tale, so our nation would know about us, because everything flies by and vanishes, new people and new events come about, a new generation turns up and the old one goes away, and all is forgotten. And it is a pity, a great pity, that so many are not any more.
It may happen, that your child will ask you tomorrow: How did the Jewish town in the Diaspora look? Or, out of ignorance, the child will mock and ridicule the residents of the little towns and villages of bygone days in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and elsewhere.
So you must tell the child, explain and describe the life of the Jewish community, which did not have a tight budget or many paid clerks - and still the community would make sure that every hungry person would have a piece of bread and every needy would have some clothing, and the sick would be seen by a doctor and given the needed medicine. Even the dying and the lonely were not abandoned. All this, thanks to willing and warmhearted people, always ready to help others.
Days and years will pass, and our children may not be aware that in the town where their parents were born such compassionate people existed, Jews with good qualities, respected and of good spirit. They are the ones who have forged the Golden Chain of the generations, and later they pitched their tents in the Homeland that has come to life again.
So, who were the Jews of Dubno?
Most of them were simple Jews, modest, without pretensions or special demands. Not many well-to-do among them; many of them were poor people. Providing for the next day was everyone's worry, and their living conditions forced them to work hard and be content with little. Together they pulled the livelihood-cart: the head of the family, the mother, the children - who were mostly undernourished. They were peddlers, day laborers, handymen and middlemen; they made a living by trading with each other and bartering with the peasants from the surrounding villages. They tried to educate their children as best they could - in the Heder, in the Talmud Torah or in the public state-school, and tried to make sure that the child knew Yiddish and a bit of Yiddishkeit and not abandon the ways of their father-and-mother and the Jewish 613 commandments.
The densely populated narrow streets created close neighbors and brought together the hearts. Everyone had a good friend, with whom he could talk heart to heart and share his joys and sorrows. This nearness caused people to assign their friends nicknames, sometimes mockingly sometimes fondly - all according to the circumstances and the feelings. Sometimes the nicknames were taken from their occupation or their origin. When a Jewish woman would say I am going for a while to Black Bashe or to grandma Yente she meant that she went to her closest friend.
The names would be inherited from generation to generation, from the great-great-grandfathers or grandmothers. From those who originated in certain places, I remember the names: Shmuel Matchever [from Matchev], Leibke Patchayever. Or by the character or a special trait of the person - Shalom God-forbid, or Don't-worry, or The-money-smells. There were nicknames by the occupation or profession: Binyamin the carpenter, Welwel the cobbler and so on.
This was how the nicknames became a matter of everyday use. Through them, a special feeling of closeness and sympathy for the person was expressed.
In general, the biblical verse in Genesis 3 In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread can very well refer to the majority of the Dubno Jews, who have been chasing after their livelihood - parnasa - and never fully reached it. Their occupations were numerous and varied: commerce on a big scale as well as small businesses, brokers, peddlers, grocers; doctors, lawyers, teachers and the like; employees and independent workers; and a significant number of people whose profession or occupation could not be exactly defined. They were the people who have been laboring hard, doing difficult physical work - the water carriers, the carriage drivers, occupations that were practiced only by Jews.
They managed to keep proper and respectable relations, in spite of the harsh competition. A special group of people, albeit not officially organized, was able to protect the interests of the workers, just as if they belonged to official unions. Actually there were three such unions: the carriers or porters, the carriage drivers and the cart owners. The more privileged among them
were, naturally, the carriage drivers. They, too, could be divided into those who possessed beautiful, ornate and well kept carriages and those who had the old and worn out ones, which begged for repair and refurbishing. Their work was to drive passengers to the train station (a distance of 5 kilometers from the center of town) and back, bring the sick to the doctor, or take families to a joyous event - a wedding or a party, or just a visit. Thanks to their type of work they were in contact with many residents of the town, and befriended many of them. They were always ready to tell a joke or some funny characteristic story about one person or another. They were the primary source of every secret that had ceased to be a secret, because it was told secretly in the ear but it rolled from carriage to carriage and from street to street, and of course every person added a bit of information to the story..
Another type of people were the balagules [owners of hauling carts] whose work was to transport heavy loads or deliver merchandise that would arrive from other towns. They were simple folk, everyday Jews, but their material situation was a better one. Their center of activity was mostly in the suburb of Surmitch, but they worked in other neighborhoods as well. Their apartments were better and more comfortable those of other people in the same social class.
The main assembly-point of the carriers and porters was at the end of Shiroka Street, near the court house, always ready to go at the first call to load or unload wares, carry loads from one place to another or transfer furniture from one apartment to another. Their clothes were simple - an old and mostly torn jacket, pants tucked in their boots, which they wore summer and winter, a cap and a long rope tied around their middle: this was their working tool. Their back betrayed their occupation: it was always bent - this form given to it by the sacks of flour it had carried. In the hot summer-days they would catch a short nap in the shade of some house, in the winter they would jump and dance and pat themselves on the shoulders to get warm.
All those Jews, however, simple and humble as they were, possessed a strong Jewish-national consciousness, warm hearts and a feeling of sharing in joy and compassion in sorrow. They were hard-working Jews, who made their living with what God in Heaven had given them, friendly, ready to help each other and forgive and make peace in the case of a conflict or misunderstanding. They had their own synagogues and prayer-houses where they would feel at home, and on the Sabbath and Holidays they felt certain that the Shechina [the Divine Spirit] was dwelling upon their houses of prayer.
But dark days have reached the town - not days of reverence, but of horror and pain. And all those strong, robust men have perished, died Al Kidush Hashem - for the sanctification of the Name of God.
[Pages 661- 664]
|Avreimenyu||With the papers|
|BARUCH||Ide||From the eggs|
|Itzik Eli||The smart|
|Binyamin||The kid (young goat)|
|The little weasel|
|The cotton dealer|
|Henie||The buck (goat)|
|Henie||From the geese|
|Hersch||The rope turner|
|Hersch||The Shames (synagogue attendant)|
|Herzl||The Torah reader|
|Zibele (born prematurely)|
|Chaia Machle||With the blue lips|
|Chaim||The bridge maker|
|Yankel||From the eggs|
|Yankel||without the hand|
|Yosel||The rag dealer|
|Meir Moshe||Chaia Feige's|
|Menye||The fat woman|
|Mechil||The tavern keeper|
|Malka||The fat woman|
|Sofer||With the base [music]|
|Stisie||The fat woman|
|Srulik||The world lier|
|Shamay||The rag dealer|
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Updated 14 Aug 2011 by LA