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[pp. 259 -310]

A Walk through my Devastated Shtetl

by Avrom Lev

Translated by Neville Lamdan

Edited by Stephen Warshall

Linguistic Consultant: Chanan Burdin

[with clarifications in square brackets]

Writing in Tel Aviv in about 1952, Avrom Lev has yet not come to terms with the fact that his home shtetl, Lechovich, has been brutally destroyed by the Nazis, together with virtually all the Jews who remained there during the War. He takes us on a “guided tour” of the town, ostensibly as he remembers it as a young man growing up before World War I. In reality, he is penning a moving testimonial to the many Jews he remembers from that period. In a tour de force, he manages to mention by name (or nickname) over 220 of them in the space of 50 pages of Yiddish, describing several individuals at length. He cannot comprehend how some of them went meekly to the Nazi slaughter without putting up any resistance. He is particularly saddened by those committed Zionists who failed to emigrate to Eretz Yisroel - and died.

In the process, he offers intriguing glimpses of Lechovich before 1914 – of Jews, balle-batim and bal-agoles, merchants and manufacturers, rich and poor, learned and illiterate, wise and naive, observant and less so (often from within the chassidic orbit). He recalls vividly events and places which impacted on him as a youngster – the agony of having one's hair cut, the ravages of a local quack-doctor, the nightly social gatherings at the post-office; the annual visits of the Koidanover Rebbe, the drama group, swimming in the river, scrambling up a mighty hillock just outside town He also reveals a traditional Jewish community being touched by modernity, secularism, Russification, Zionism and radical politics, not to mention “big town” fashions and affectations. And unwittingly he knocks down various myths about the shtetl: some of the local Polish gentry were decently disposed towards Jews; Jewish toughs occasionally beat up local peasants; there were folk given to the bottle; not all women were faithful; a man could keep a gypsy girl; teenagers flirted deep in the woods; while ideological hot-heads were violent and capable of murdering their “enemies”.

Neville Lamdan,
Jerusalem


[Page 259]

[author's preface: not translated]

{photo of Avrom Lev}

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…Let's gather together hand in hand, all of us orphaned, saddened, crushed remnants of our splintered “nest” [home town] and begin our “Yizkor” walk. You ask: “From where to start?” What's the difference? The whole devastated “shtetl” [small town] is like a single wound which, wherever touched, gives you the same enormous pain.

* * *

We're beginning from the “Mizrach”, where one finds the real “balle-batim” [prominent Jews in Lechovich who, in this case, would have seats of honour in the “Mizrach” or “Eastern Wall” of a synagogue]. Here is the Market Place where, right in the corner, stands the two-storeyed stone house of our most affluent Jew, Reb Avrom Yaakov Kaplan, with a whole row of shops on the lower level.

Among the shop-owners is our warm-hearted Shloimke Rozovsky who, having been left an orphan from youth, became the sole provider for his family and therefore, even in his latter years, loving life and cheerful, he is still a father to his children. He is so hearty and full of gusto that on every occasion he is singing Zionist songs, giving expression to his strong “Love of Zion” - where he was not destined to go since in the Nazis' time, as a leader of the community, he paid with his life as a martyr.

{Photo of Shloimke Rozovsky}

Here is the second two-storeyed stone house (in the Market Place), that of Reb Itshe Cohen – [who is known by] his nickname “Itshe the bandit”, although in his whole life he never harmed a fly on the wall. He came by that nickname only because, although a cohen [of the priestly tribe], he was quick to anger. His house was the decent “guest-house” in town, where itinerant preachers, cantors, travelers, Zionist speakers and propagandists were found, as well as brides and grooms who used to go there with their future spouses. And the encounters there were so very innocent, free of any tint of impurity, God forbid, as is usual in big-town hotels …

Bal-agoles [carters, or horse and buggy drivers] had their pick-up stand there, taking their passengers to and from the railway. Between trips they used to grab a drink with a little something to eat – a piece of good gefulte fish [stuffed fish] or

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pickled herring which Reb Itshe's unassuming wife Chamme (Nechome)-Reizel had handily and tastefully prepared.

And everything (was done) without a lot of bother and scandal, God forbid. Only once a year, at Simchas Torah time [Festival of the “Rejoicing in the Law”], when the non-Jewish ruffians from the surrounding villages began to assemble for [military] conscription and found the “new recruits” from other nearby districts in Reb Itshe Cohen's guest-house, did a minor scandal break out from time to time, when the sorry, drunken louts became unruly and began to show some wild anti-Semitism. But they were soon silenced with the help of local Jewish fellows – butchers, carters, grooms, with Chaim-Azri'el at their head. Some used to drive straight into the frenzied roughs and mete out murderous blows with whatever came to hand.

Here is the third two-storeyed stone house that is like an “add-on” to Reb Itshe Cohen's guest-house. In the first storey of the house is located the “Monopol” [state liquor store] where embittered and forlorn souls seek consolation in a small flask of booze which they buy there. Upstairs, on the second storey, lives alone Reb Yisroel Mishkovsky, the town's “zakonik” [legal expert], the “Starosta” [Director] of the Jewish “Bourgeoisie” Administration [most Jews were classified as “petits bourgeois” in Czarist Russia]. The fortunes of the Jewish inhabitants very often depended on him: which of them will, or will not, go to the army; who will receive an inheritance; who will be granted the rights of an only son or a single bread-winner in a family after a father's death - and who will not. In general, the whole Jewish community is in Reb Yisroel Mishkovsky's hands, because he is a great expert in law. (It is said that) he can “reach the Czar himself”. Hence he is not dressed at all in a provincial fashion. A lanky Jew, cleanly and elegantly appareled, with a dressy hard hat even on weekdays, with a neatly trimmed little beard, a broad golden ring on his finger and a golden pince-nez on his nose.

Another two-storeyed building extends there, the continuation of Reb Yisroel Mishkovsky's house. It belongs to Reb Mich'l Dodes or Mich'l Agushes, a rotund, solid Jew, already of advanced years but still completely sturdy, always with a “bim” and a “bam” in the “sh'moine esre” [prayer composed of eighteen blessings], as is fit for a Chabad chossid.

Also here is a “guest-house” which his son, Dode (Dovid) runs. It is however much more modern than Reb Itshe Cohen's [place]. Christian guests often lodge there, such as

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magnates [landed gentry], inspectors and other state officials. Consequently, Dode was always cleanly dressed with a high stiff collar, even during the week - and he had even been seen without a hat. His wife Temme was a completely modern lady with a high coiffure, long earrings like bells, absolutely always powdered up and almost always with a cigarette in her mouth. And (what of) their older daughter, Hode? She is already a “super-modern”, big-town “mademoiselle”!

However, their entire attentions are directed at their one and only son, Meir'ke – a fine young man with a curly head of hair, pink cheeks and a pince-nez on a neat little nose. Meir'ke had studied courses in a big town where he completed the “Opticians' [Academy]” in order to become an optician subsequently. He was the first to turn up in Lechovich on the High Holydays from the “big town” in a cap with a lacquered peak, making a big impression, you understand, among the young folk.

With the onslaught of World War I, that warm family “nest” [unit] was also among the victims – and the very precious, ben yochid [only son] Meir'ke passed away before his time, leaving much grief among his friends and admirers.

Not far from Temme Agushe's stone house, as if cuddled up to Reb Idel Monye's two-storeyed house, stands Peretz Alezer's tailor-shop, built of wood. Peretz Alezer is a tall, handsome, broad-boned Jew with a black beard. He also wears a dressy hard hat, even on weekdays. (He is) the father of a tall, large robust son and an excellent prayer leader (in synagogue), especially on the High Holydays, when he used to pour out his soul in his smooth, heartfelt voice and transport with him even the biggest scoundrels, filling their hearts with belief and hope. Without regard to the fact that in his daily life, Peretz was a stutterer, no-one was his equal in (delivering) velvety, sweet Hebrew before the praying-stand. People argued vehemently about whether the wonderful transformation should be explained by the effect of the “awe of the community” [a Talmudic expression] or “know before whom you stand” [an admonition from the Mishnaic work, “Pirkei Ovos”].

All of us greatly missed Peretz when he left the shtetl and went off to America to his children. He traveled there because of his business difficulties, which even his fervent prayers could not resolve.

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There stands in front of us the stone house of Reb Idel Monye, a saintly Jew, who cared ceaselessly for the health of his brother Jews. To that end, he actually founded in the shtetl the [so-called] “Hekdesh” [literally, a “religious foundation”], a kind of hospice for any poor and lonely (folk). Not without reason have we devoted a special chapter to this righteous man in our book. Very briefly, one could say of him that he was the “Angel Raphael” in human form. After his death, a cooperative bank was set up in the upper storey of his two-storeyed building and in the lower storey a road-house [an inn], which had nothing to do with people's health!

{Photograph of a street in Lechovich, showing joint Kantorovich-Bogin house in rear}

And there stands before us the shared building of Reb Leibe Kantorovich and Reb Yosef Bogin. The first is a fervent “Stoliner” chossid, in whose house was a place for the Stoliner chassidim in Lechovich after the revolt against the “dynasty” of the Lechovicher “Rebbes” [Chassidic Rabbis]. (It was) not an especially large “minyan”, [being made up] of important chassidim and God-fearing Jews, [imbued] with “flame and fire”. On the High Holydays, Succos [the Festival of “Tabernacles”] and Simchas Torah, the large dwelling of Reb Leibe

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Kantorovich was too crowded to contain the hundred or so “davenners” [people praying] and curious onlookers, [taken] by the enthused dancing and singing of those Stoliner chassidim. In particular, I cannot forget the sincere and dignified Jew, Reb Yitzchok Aron, the “melamed” [the cheder teacher] with his fine, silvery beard, when before the “hakoffes” [Procession of the Scrolls of the Law], he used sit among his fellow chassidim before a little tumbler of spirits – not, God forbid, to get drunk, but only to be able to serve the Lord of the Universe with more devotion and enthusiasm. With his hoarse but sincere voice he used to sing the “Awm ani chawmo” (song) of the “Hoishannes” [part of the ritual on the festival of “Hoishanno Rabbo”], tapping his fingers on the table slowly, in time with the accompaniment of his “chaverim” [companions]:

{Hebrew text of the “Awm ani chawmo” liturgical poem, with “prompts” in Yiddish}

The other partner (in the building), Reb Yosef Bogin, was also a chossid but, by contrast, a “Koidanover” [chossid], well-versed in worldly matters. (He was) a big flour-merchant who had links with the largest flour companies in Russia. Besides the Hebrew press,

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he also received a big Russian daily, (either) “Novoii Slavo” or “Virzhvevii Vedomosti”. He displayed a strong disposition towards Zionism and was the founder of the first “modern” cheder [religious school for young boys] in the shtetl. That cheder, by the way, caused not a few problems and “scandals” from the side of the local (old-fashioned) “melamdim” [cheder teachers].

While mentioning these two esteemed balle-batim, one should also not neglect Riva “di Almone” [the widow], who was well-known to all of us, and her charming daughter Shaindel with her husband Berl Postan, an intelligent young man who had taken the small shop below the stone house and sold soda water or, as we called it, “Seltzerske” [seltzer], mixed with good sour-cherry syrup or currant juice. After a heavy and greasy “cholent” [a dish generally eaten on the Sabbath], on a hot day, we really felt the taste of the paradise in that drink … you see, even without emptying the whole glass to the very bottom, the gas soon gives you a sharp clip in the nose, eliciting a deep and hearty belch. You quickly feel light in the soul – (it is) a real “life-saver” (“mechaye nefoshos”).

Moreover, while the [soda] trade would go on Shabbes at full blast, Riva would not, God forbid, desecrate the Sabbath. Hence, instead of money, she used to take a something in pawn – a household teaspoon, or small scissors, or even a fork, on condition, you understand, that shortly after Shabbes they would all be redeemed for cash. There were also those who had an open credit with Riva and they could drink to their heart's content. Moreover, she did not wish that those so-called Shabbes-pleasures of a cold drink of [soda] water after cholent on a hot summer's day should denied even to complete strangers and thus everyone who chanced by profited from her goodness, through those “pawns”.

Here we take a turn right and stand before Mich'l Noah's house - a simple, plain (“one of the people”) Jew, who left dear, mild, pious children and grandchildren after him. Some of them are in Eretz Yisroel [the Land of Israel] and some are in America. Among them are devoted Zionists who are taking a productive part in the development of the Land. One of them is the Chaverah [“comrade”] Tzipporah Bat-Ami, who was to be found among the first in the ranks of “He-chalutz” [a pioneering youth movement] at the beginning of the Third “Aliyah” [wave of immigration to Palestine] and who straightaway assumed a prominent place in the Women Workers Movement in the Land (of Israel). Also her brother in America, M. S. Mallov, together with his wife, are very active on the development of our country, putting out great sums of money for it.

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{Photo of M. S. Mallov and his nephew Yoisef}

{Photos of Reb Avrom Mallovitsky and his wife Sora}

Not far from Mich'l Noah's house and the little house of his son Avrom, a really saintly Jew and a great God-fearer, stands the two-storey stone house, which faces forward, that of the Vinograd family - all fervent chassidim and important merchants of wax, pig's bristle and wood. Their merchandise even went in big shipments abroad, reaching as far as America. A small fellow, Reb Shlomo Vinograd or, as he was called: “Reb Shlomo Feivel's”, but a righteous Jew who was always ready to help another, despite the fact that he was not a very affluent man.

Although he himself was an ardent chossid and very much believed in the Stoliner Rebbes, he did not prevent his daughter, Gitel, from being a fervent Zionist. Nor did he stop his son Yitzchok from going on his free(-thinking) ways. His brother Boaz was also a staunchly devoted chossid of the Lechovicher

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Rebbe, Reb No'achke. Of all his brothers, Boaz was the biggest merchant and had large connections abroad. And really because of that, in contrast to his brothers, (Boaz) was elegantly fitted out, (also) with a hard hat – even his beard was well rounded off.

A bit further on from the Vinograd's stands a little wooden house, divided with a wall into two. In the back is a dwelling and in the front, looking out onto the market, is Reb Cheme (Nechemyah) Shaiyel's shop for cobblers' needs. He was known as an upright Jew. It was said of him that every Pesach [Passover] “he splits the sea”. On each seventh day of Pesach, he used to stand a trough full of water in his house. Then taking off his boots, slinging them over his shoulders, and striding barefoot in the direction of the trough with a stick in hand, he turned to his wife, Bashe – a dear, little, “kosher”, Jewish woman – with the words: “Bashinke, my wife, ask where am I coming from”. And when she did as her husband requested and asked: “Chemele, my husband, from where are you coming?”, he replied: “From Egypt!” Then she went on and asked him, according to the script which she remembered from previous years: ”And where are you going to, my husband?” He responded: “To Eretz Yisroel!” And then she called out and asked: “And what do you want to do, my husband?” – and he replied: “To split the sea!” …

Then, without further thought, he started with the stick and gave a clout to the water in the trough and the “sea”, you understand, was “split”, just as Moishe Rabbenu [Moses, our Teacher] (did) to the Red Sea!

(Oy, such) dear, naïve, kosher, Jews!!!

A little further (down) from them [Cheme and Bashe Shaiyel's] is the single-storey stone house of (Cheme's) brother, Reb Mordechai Shaiyel's, which is much better kept than his brother's. Besides his own business undertakings, which are not simple, he manages the shtetl's (public) “chest” in his place (that is funded) by the “candle tax” [a special tax imposed upon Jews], from which the salaries of the town's Rabbi and Dayonim [religious judges, sometimes assistant rabbis who ruled on certain issues] are paid. Although not at all wealthy himself, he had children who later became big and prominent merchants and also warm Jews. Of them, two are in Shanghai, while the daughter who stayed behind, Beroche, (was) a pious Jewess with a warm heart, ready to help anyone in need until the last day of her life when the accursed Nazis put her to death.

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And there stands the Chazanovich's stone house – first the father's, Reb Yehoshu'o Chazanovich; and after that, his son Moshke's. Apparently both were clever Jews – but not so clever in planning their lives. For his whole life, Moshke was an ardent Zionist – but he got stuck in the shtetl until he perished.

And there is the stone house of Reb Leibe “Pelzel” [the fur-man, furrier]. (He was) a sturdy little Jew, a joyful chossid. However, his two sons, Yona and Yankel, although they went in their father's ways, were “caught in the act” [of stepping out of line]: They became fervently devoted Zionists and at every opportunity spoke Hebrew with their friends. However, (making) a bare livelihood was so hard that they did not even think about traveling to Eretz Yisroel, like their cousin Yosef Busel. They stayed in Golus [in the Diaspora] and died in the greatest misfortune.

And there is the long courtyard of the brothers Shimmel and Berl Berkovich, well-established market balle-batim, simple, down-to-earth Jews. One of them, Berl, had a daughter, Malke, who was a “God's prayer”. Darkly lovely, with a pair of blazing black eyes, full of energy, well brought up and also very educated. She was one of the leaders of the Socialist Zionist Movement in the shtetl. She would certainly have taken a leading place in the [Women's] Emancipation Movement even in a larger town [similar to the “Suffragette Movement” in England?]. She was, by inclination, a kind of Jewish Vera Zasulitsh or a Vera Figner [non-Jewish women's leaders]. In the end, she left the shtetl and went away to Switzerland. Her family who remained behind perished at Hitler's hands.

And not far from there stand the stone house of Botche “der Hoicher” [the “Tall”], a big merchant who even had business abroad, and the house of the Malavitzky's, merchants in pelts and wood. There is always tumult and noise in their home. They were continuing an argument over an inheritance, even though they were market balle-batim and had appearances to keep up!

And there is the little house of Libe “der Geller” [“the Red Head”], with a tiny (cod)fish shop (facing on) to the market. Opening the little door rang the bell (that was) a signal to the “saleslady”, busying herself inside the dwelling, that there was a customer there. Or she could sit completely quietly by herself because customers very seldom come and the bell seldom rings. The whole little shop, you know, is only a sideshow while Libe's husband resides the whole year round in the Crimea where he makes a decent living.

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He was a very bashful person and when he came home to his wife and his one and only son, Lippe, for Pesach or the Yomim Nawro'im [High Holydays], one almost did not notice him, either in the market or in shul [synagogue]. As silently as he came [to town], so he departed for his distant parts. Oy! Why did he not take away his wife and son with him? Simple – he could not separate them from their little shtetl.

And there on the street-corner is the home of Reb Zundel Gedalyo's Karelich, a melamed and a great scholar, who did not understand [anything written in] a non-Hebraic script [literally: in a Goyyish letter] and [for whom] speaking a simple “Goyyish” [Russian] was [like] “splitting the Red Sea” [a virtual impossibility]. Once the town constable apprehended his wife, Tzippe, for some “crime” against the law in their little tailor-shop – and he, her husband [Reb Zundel Gedalyo's], raced to rescue her from Goyyish hands. However, he could not reason with the constable and when the latter turned to him with a question: “Who are you?” he replied briefly: “Tzippe, mai muzh” [muzh means a mouse in Russian], which should have meant “I am Tzippe's husband” … Hence, God had blessed him with sons who knew fluent “Goyyish” really well – both were good “external” (college) students, one of whom later became an important doctor. Before he became a doctor, he was one of the leaders of the Socialist Zionists' Party, a friend of Malka Berkovich. He himself, a sturdy, solid fellow, often used to come out with a theory that one also had to take part in “practical” work, whereas his opponents in the Bund Party used, in discussion, to incline to “manual” work – and would get a “double portion” [a vigorous reply] from him.

Blessed be your memory, dear, good-natured friend, Yudel Karelich, who with your diligence and energy was a model for our shtetl youth who aspired, like you, to culture and education.

There, on the opposite street corner, is the large house of Reb Pinye Gavze, a chossid and a great God-fearing Jew. He could serve as a model for wealthy Jews, both near and far, of how fortune [literally mazel – luck] plays with an individual. Actually, he was a little fellow, Reb Gavze. At the beginning [he was] a big pelt merchant, (with business) reaching as far as foreign lands (and) a home full of everything good. Anyone who has not seen how money was distributed at his home, at the banquet for Purim [the Festival deriving from the “Book of Esther”], with the customary pile of large platters that stood on the table filled with all kinds of coins, copper and silver, has not seen how tzedokke [charity] is copiously handed out. And the banquet itself? A real banquet “fit for kings”. And suddenly this little fortune took a turn [for the worse] and Reb Pinye

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was a pauper. After his death he left a home full of distress. Some of his surviving children were dispersed over the big, wide world, searching a livelihood, and some perished with the remaining Jews in the shtetl [in World War II].

Not far from Reb Pinye Gavze's house, steps lead to Leibel Avrom-Yitzchok's. A happy-go-lucky fellow – making a living, not making a living. A Yiddish joke, thanks be to God, is always to be had …

* * *

And there are the houses of the Kurchin and the Churgin families. Both houses had the same lot, in that they had been inherited by children from their fathers. In both houses, shouting and loud argument were constantly heard from the heirs. Mostly it came on Friday evening when Jews were eating their Sabbath dinner and looking for the opportunity to have a joyful time … The grandchildren [of the original Kurchins and the Churgins] get on well together and they do not even care about the whole feud. Only someone should go and give the parents some advice on what they should do and how they should behave!

The grandchildren are very mischievous. One of them, Faye Churgin, an extremely gifted young lady, was very popular among the shtetl's young people. Wherever there is a simche [celebration], she is there with her Zionist songs which she finishes up by collecting money for the Keren Kayemet le-Yisrael [the Jewish National Fund]. She was also one of the first “Froebelists” [followers of liberal educator Friedrich Froebel, who invented a kindergarten system]. The well-known pedagogue, Yechiel Halpern of blessed memory, graduated (Faye) from his first Froebelist courses in Warsaw. To (our) great regret, she did not have a long time to apply her pedagogic skills: she became ill and her young, idealistic soul passed on – leaving all her friends in deep sorrow.

And there is Sander der Ainbinder [the Bookbinder's] house. With him worked Yankele Shmuel, the Weiner's lad. He is a leader of the local Bund Party [a socialist, Yiddishist, anti-Zionist organization]. An energetic fellow. After spending a short time in the city of Minsk and being very taken there with revolutionary fervour, he came back to the shtetl and got straight down to work – organizing the Bund among the locals. By and large, he agitated among the common Jews who had very little comprehension of the “fine print” in the revolutionary booklets but understood very well how to take shots at the “bourgeois” kids - the “little Zionists”. Yankele had his mouth screwed on all right. He railed thunder and lighting [literally “fire and water”] and especially [harangued] about the “class war”, until one of his party friends [was killed in a brawl.]

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{photograph of Shmuel-Shaiye Busel's funeral, incident described below}

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In the course of a violent brawl with his rival, Shmuel-Shaiye Busel, from the Socialist Zionists' Party, Yankele the “trouble-maker” came to the aid of his comrade, Gedalyo the Melamed's son. (The fight broke out when someone had wanted to eject Rochel Kapel, a party comrade of Shmuel-Shaiye Busel, who sold pastry.) Then (Gedalyo the Melamed's son) drove a dagger into Shmuel-Shaiye's side, causing the death of his stabbed “enemy”. The incident had a depressing effect on the entire shtetl. In great grief, the whole shtetl accompanied the victim on his last journey and the murderer [Gedalyo the Melamed's son] swiftly left town in great trepidation. Also his “rebbe” [spiritual mentor], Yankele, did not stay around long and, since it only took one good blast of cold air [to blow him away], he fled to far-off America.

Over here, we find ourselves in Sore Kalman-Yosel's little café – all of “four cubits by four” [Talmudic expression]. The whole business is made up of a glass of soda water with different fruit syrups, plus a bun or a cookie and, on hot summer days, a sweetened ice cream as well. The main thing was actually getting together in the summer evenings, sitting and passing the time until late in the night. Everyone in the shtetl slept well only if the café at Sore's (place) was open[!]. Young folk sat and told all kinds of stories and jokes. Sore listened to everyone, smoking a little cigarette nearby, while her husband, Zerach, always carefully dressed, clean as a needle, became chummy with the young people and whistled smartly all the little ditties – a pleasure to hear - despite the fact that he was already the father of adolescent children. Sore, it seems, loved him dearly and so was ready to take on the burden of making a living, just so that things should go nicely for her husband.

And there is the house where Alter Gavze resides – an unassuming, intelligent young man who, whenever he isn't busy with manufacturing glue, (spends) every free minute peering into a book or a page of Talmud. He is proficient in everything to do with world literature.

Next to him, in the second house, lives Yosel Malevitzky. (He) in no way resembles a shtetl Jew – [he is] tall, well-formed, fine, a pleasure to look at, a wood-merchant and a gentleman who is always ready to do a favour. His wife too is prepared to do everything so that their visitors should feel good and comfortable, and should enjoy their hospitality.

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And (over) there is the house of Moshke der Druker [the Printer] who, besides printing - and dyeing the peasant women's linens - is also a book-binder. He is an extremely taciturn Jew. One never hears a word from him. Even on Simchas Torah when his friends dress him up as a rebbe with a streimel [chassidic hat] and a silk kapote [gown] and lead him through the streets with singing and dancing, dropping in from one house to the next in order to pull out of the oven (some) kugel mit kishke (a Jewish delicacy) and eat it on the spot – even then (Moshke) is as silent as a fish. He speaks not, sings not, dances not – nothing, as though people are nothing to him. Then God helps - the day of Simchas Torah comes to an end, he sheds the whole hurly-burly and goes back to the books and pamphlets that await him for binding. And once again “sh-shhh” - he does not say a word, even to his own neighbours

But his son, N'yome [Benjamin] is not at all retiring. He is a “big shot” in the Socialist Zionists' Party. He leads debates and discussions with his rivals about what the world is up against and if, as is usual, the discussion comes to blows, he stays (in the thick of things), not holding back and “replying” just fine. By nature, he is quite a strong young man and always holds a stout stick in his hand. And anyone who starts up with him has to be thankful for (getting away with) his life …

Where are you now, dear N'yome? Did you also go with everyone else to the slaughter, without putting up any resistance to those blood-thirsty animals? Hard to believe!

And here we take a little turn to the right and we are standing next to Pesach Hinde-Reizel's house. Although he himself, Pesach Ditkovsky, has his own yiches [social standing] (he is a well-established balle-bos, a Jew and a merchant and a fine bal-keri'oh [Torah reader] in the shtib'l [prayer-house] of the Koidanover Chassidim) people call him by his wife's name “Pesach Hinde-Reizel's”. She was a Jewish woman of “fire and flame”. She ran a pelt store, a business which is not easy to undertake even for a male. She ran that business with a lot of energy and a loud voice. She spent from early morning to late at night in the store. And when she used to bargain with a customer, especially with Gershon der Shuster [the Shoemaker] or Nievyadomsky (a goy whose whole non-Jewish family spoke Yiddish “like water” and with whom she haggled raucously in Mame Loshen [Yiddish]), she was heard in the middle of the street.

But she had another great distinction: she was the first who allowed Feivel Rivkin, a young man with a strong revolutionary drive, and his friend Raphael

[Page 274]

Kurchin, to organize an undercover library at her place for the use of Lechovich youth, something which involved great risk.

And here we move on beside Aharon-Itshe Brevda's large house where, because of his big, extended family (residing there) it was always difficult for outsiders to make out who was the father or the grandfather, the mother or the grandmother, the married daughters or the daughters-in-law. One's head was turned by the powerful odour of beer coming from the brewery deep in the yard. And then one could not but notice that everyone's faces were fair and fine – especially the face of the younger daughter, Mala (Malka) with her constant smile.

Here we take a few steps forward and we are standing before a low house, where the exquisitely precious Jew, Reb Bayrech Rozovsky, or Bayrech der Goldshmidt [the Goldsmith] - a wonderful Jew - lives with his family. “Sweet as a dove”, but a terrifically obstinate person and firm as a rock about just one thing. That was his extreme, unbounded love for Eretz Yisroel. God Almighty, how was such a strong yearning for Eretz Yisroel given to such a Jew! (It was) a Land which he had never seen but his longings for it pulled him away from his family circle on more than one occasion and carried him off by different ways to his Land of Zion.

There was great hardship in his home, despite (the fact) that everyone (there) was employed in his trade, gold-smithing. He was continually pleading with his wife, Sore, about emigrating to Eretz Yisroel. After having encountered her opposition as usual, he would suddenly disappear in the middle of the night – and after a couple of months a letter would arrive from him, already from Eretz Yisroel, in which he implored his household to come over to him in Jaffa, in dirty Jaffa of once upon a time.

But his wife Sore did not even want to hear about his meshugasen [madnesses] and remained in the shtetl until Reb Bayrech came back – but, again, not for long. And so, sitting at his work at home in the shtetl, he would throw a longing glance from time to time at the embroidered mizrach [icon on the eastern wall of a traditional Jewish house] with the Koisel Ma'arovi [the “Western” or “Wailing” Wall in Jerusalem], which hung on the wall. And when no-one was in the house, he picked it up cautiously, touched it to his trembling lips and let drop a fervent tear – and within a short time he had disappeared again and, yet again, his wife would receive a letter from him, from Jaffa.

Thus the conflict continued for a long time, until on one occasion after his disappearance

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a letter arrived in which he categorically demanded that his family come to him and in which he declared that he would never go back to goles [exile]. This time his demand was met– after a short while his whole family traveled to him in Eretz Yisroel And whoever has not seen Reb Bayrech so jubilant as a “welcomer”, rejoicing at (having) his household in Jaffa, has not seen a contented Jew. However, his joy was soon marred – his wife Sore died on him. He himself lived on to advanced years and derived great pleasure from his children and grandchildren who had great success in Eretz Yisroel. They really provided a fine old age for him until the very last day of his life, when his idealistic soul passed away quietly and silently, with praise and thanksgiving to the Eternal for the grace He had done unto him [Reb Bayrech], by granting him the honour and privilege of being (buried) with his holy forefathers in the Holy Land.

And there, not far from the (previously) mentioned house, stands a second “market” home, which belongs to Reb Zalman Yitzchok Pinsky. The home has a wooden bench outside on which Jews sit and warm themselves on summer days and are happy to be completely scented with the fragrance of tobacco. One of his sons, Gedalyo, is a devoted member of the Socialist Zionists' Party, a confirmed “territorialist” [prepared to settle Jews anywhere], (forever) debating hotly with the Zionists [who would only contemplate a Jewish homeland in Eretz Yisroel]. In the end, he left the shtetl and traveled to thee territory he longed for so much – to America. Thus it is that his brother, Aron-Nisel, was a devoted Zionist. He opened a modern book-store where, besides writing materials, there was a lending library for the old and for children, who read under his supervision and instruction. He was also the book-keeper in the shtetl's Lending and Savings Office [Bank]. His mission in life was spreading enlightenment and education among the Jews of the shtetl.
And here we see Reb Gedalyo Miletzky's two-storey wooden house. Below is a large manufacturing business, while in the courtyard is the owner's apartment. (He was) a Jew, a merchant and a Lechovicher chossid. One could never know which interested him more - the business or his Rebbe [Chassidic Rabbi], because he did not show a decisive preference for one or the other. He was always as engrossed in one as in the other, obscure world.

Here is another two-storey house, (belonging to) his sister Frumke or, as she's called, Frume Naftolke's. (She was) an agent for a large “colonial” business [dealing goods, probably dry goods, from the “colonies” = Russian provinces],

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whose main clientele was drawn from Polish gentry around Lechovich. Why that business was actually called “Renskovoy Pogrev”, God alone knows! It could be because it was [simply] a nice (sounding) name – but what matters is that it provided a real livelihood. With their mother, the children were always occupied and busily attending to the orders (for merchandise) of the gentry. But the children did not become just ordinary shop-keepers. The only daughter, Dina, stood out especially – she, you see, had adopted her fine manners from the society ladies. Not for nothing had our greatest “local patriot”, Yitzchok-Gedalyo Goldberg, a dentist by profession, fallen so deeply in love with Dina. He remained a bachelor his whole life - his great, pure love rejected, to his sorrow.

And here we take another couple of steps and come to Shmuel Moldshadsky's “Pharmacy Warehouse”. The Moldshadsky's were an exceptionally idealistic and intelligent family. They had moved to (Lechovich) from the city of Minsk. And with their arrival, our shtetl was enriched with another cultured family. In their home, Russian was spoken – and, in addition, the father was a Jew and a talmed chochem [a Talmud scholar]. The shtetl's wealthy men straightaway filled up the school which he opened with their children, as they were sure that Toire [Torah – Jewish learning] and [worldly] wisdom were (to be found) there, in one (and the same) place. The oldest son, Reuven, had become distanced from traditional Jewish ways and administered the state Yiddish primary school which he had taken over from the previous director, Botvinik, where he introduced a very interesting atmosphere. His sister, Lize, was also imbued with the fine qualities of her family.

And now, before us, is the yard of Moshke-Chayim-Ber's or Moshke Varshal. Also there, as at Aron-Itshe Brevda's, there is a beer-brewery deep in the yard. And as the family is also an extended one, it is difficult to distinguish between the daughters and daughters-in-law, sons and sons-in-law, mothers and grandmothers. All (of them) are so sturdy and well-formed. On the face of it, the beer had a really [healthy] effect on all of them who worked with it …

And here we take a couple more paces and we're already standing before the shop of Stir'l [a diminutive of Esther] der Kezeles ( “of the little cheeses”), where are sold pungent white cheese, soft or hard cheeses and cheese dumplings, fresh, fragrant butter and milky-white little candles which her husband, Noah Leib,

[Page 277]

a deeply God-fearing man and a saintly Jew, produces by himself in his small candle factory, while reciting by heart the whole (Book of) Psalms as he works, as a remedy against an “ayin-hore” [an “evil eye”] from a goy!

Now we come upon Alter Brevda's “half”, a single-storey stone house with a couple of stairs in front and a glazed building in the yard. That is his photo-studio. He is the only photographer in town. Previously he was just a bystander and a helper of itinerant photographers – but after he had taken their measure, he became an independent photographer and served the shtetl's population, mainly the “American” wives [women who had husbands in America?]. Outside (his studio) there hung a display of his photographs with a sign in Russian: “Bad weather doesn't hamper being photographed here”. Inside the house reside the parents of Levi ben Amitai, the poet of the “Work on the Land” (Movement) in Eretz Yisroel.

{Photo of Levi ben Amitai}

Now we are approaching the Lemtshich's two-storey stone house with its broad and shady entrance. On the second floor live the “bankers”, Yehudo Gellin and Nachmen Levin, with their families, among whom was a fine and distinguished son-in-law, Soloveichik, from the well-known Soloveichik's who stem from the Brisker Gaon [genius] Chayim'ke. The two aforementioned Balle-Batim ran a “Banking Counter” in Mottel “der Blecher's” [the tinsmith's] fine house. They lend money for a percentage [interest] and are reputed to have made a good living from all the Jews. Below live the Lemtshich's themselves with their children, except for the older son, Moshe Dovid, whose father had taken him across to America. The father himself has been in America a long time and has scant desire to return to the shtetl, except that he has a wife and children here. To have a livelihood, his wife has opened a bar for bal-agoles and policemen. She, you understand, is not thinking about traveling to America!

And there is another two-storey stone house, which belongs to Reb Yitzchok Yosel Pintshuk, a tall giant of a Jew, with a long, broad yellow beard –

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the very opposite of his tiny wife, who works together with him in the big “colonial” store at the intersection of “Riyad'n” Street. Because of what they sell to cheder kids as “paint” to make ink, their faces are always smeared over – something frightful. Their son, Yeruchem, sad-to-say, has been “punished” by God – one foot has been amputated, so he goes around on crutches. However, he strides along at a dangerous pace, so that it is really impossible to catch up with him. Small folk are actually jealous of him on account of his powerful stride.

And here, opposite, is a two-storey wooden house where Reb Avrom Yankev's son-in-law lives, Mich'l Rabinovich, a Jew, a great talmed chochem and an even greater God-fearer, about whom our colleague, Nisen Tokatshinsky, has much to say [elsewhere in the Yizkor Book].

* * *

And now, my dears, we let's go forward, but not without stopping for a while at the “Three Riyad'n Stores” which were such an important centre in our lives.

From there close to a hundred and twenty families made their livings. Some of them were very hard pressed and some of them, just the opposite, lived spaciously. Here we encounter lots of shops where a husband and wife have borne the burden of making a livelihood (together). Here we also meet women among the widows who are the sole providers for their little orphans. And here one also comes across women shop-keepers whose husbands have dropped out from this world and sit the whole day and night in the synagogue or in the shtib'l [chassidic prayer-house]. Here we see the women who sit around and sell all kinds of baked goods, from pure white rolls to crusted black bread. Not far from them, the sellers of different vegetables and fruits sit by little bins – with the famous Shifretz'ke at their head. A tall Jewess with an energetic face and a fiery mouth, (she) always wears big men's boots. She casts one look around and terror (descends) not only on the Jews but also on tough goyyim - (and) that's enough. Should a goy just try to steal a little apple from her bin and if she should spot him, she yanks a boot off her foot and batters the thief so that he will be (very) careful in the future.

And here are the stone stores and meat-shops which, after a long quarrel with the shop-keepers and the butchers, the building contractor N'yome Zayetz put up instead of the former dirty wooden structures. Oy, our Lechovich

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butchers! They were some thing! Before them everyone cringed - young men, every one of them. They (sure) knew how to hoodwink the inspector, luring him into a dark alley and battering him with murderous blows, [just] because he had forbidden the sale of a piece of meat. A whole market full of peasants would flee in terror when they, the butchers, with help from our young jackasses let loose on the peasants and began to dish out blows right and left! Oh, yes – thanks to them, all the peasants from the surrounding villages were of one opinion: that (it was) the “Lechovich Jews (who) crucified Jesus”!

Oh, our Lechovich heroes, did you also go to the Nazi slaughter without putting up any resistance? It's hard, so very hard, to believe.

And here is Reb Chaim Bashe's store for various “colonial” goods. A Jew burdened with children – always weary and preoccupied. His wife, a silent dove, bore the yoke of making a living with devotion. He once managed to win a considerable sum of money in a lottery which he soon lost in a whiskey deal with America. From that time, he affected to be a bit of a “modern” gentleman but he really was an extremely decent and good-hearted Jew.

Here is the flour-store of Alter Molovitzky or Alter “Bande's”. Beside it (there was) a kind of second storey which at a distance looked like a pigeon coop. Alter was a hefty Jew – tall, large and broad, casting fear on everyone with his thunderous voice. But at bottom he was not as hard a person as people believed.

{Photo of Reb Chayim Bashe's with Yitzchok-Gedalyo Goldberg in a wheel-carriage}

[Page 280]

He always became extremely angry at young folk with their modern ideas such as Zionism, socialism, etc. However, he had to face the fact that his only daughter was taken with Zionism and his son, Yankele, a hale and hearty fellow, who looked like his father, had become a Socialist Zionist. Once this Yankele, influenced, it seems, by his socialist cronies, noticed how his father gave a poor man a kopek as a donation – (whereupon) he said to his father “Why are you giving him a kopek? What's it worth? Give him a ruble!” and his father thundered back in his (stentorian) voice, ”You fool, if I were to begin to give poor people rubles, instead of kopeks, I would quickly become impoverished myself and have to go out begging!” His son, the convinced socialist, responded completely unperturbed, ”Nu! Then people will give you rubles as well!” So is it any wonder that Alter Bande was angry at the young folk with their new-fangled, crazy ideas?!

And there is the shop of Reb Zelig-Shimel's or Zelig Ittel's (as his wife is called). A rare Jew: always very distressed, “as though his ships were about to sink”. People say that his distress stems from the fact that he has the head of a genius. Who knows? Maybe they're right. [For instance,] once a fire broke out in the village. [Reb Zelig's] wife as well as her daughter Yoch[eved] worked like devils in order to save everything possible of the goods in the shop. They were very worried about the “heads” of sugar and the packages of tea that remained in the place - (and) then Reb Zelig came running in, with “good tidings”, announcing that he had dealt with the sugar and the tea in the best possible way. How so? He had tossed them into the water-well in the yard!

And another example: once, on a spring evening, after a light shower had by chance occurred,

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people detected a Jew groaning very loudly outside, searching and groping for something in the mud. Folk went out of their homes and saw that it was Reb Zelig Shimel's. So they asked him: what's going on? He replied in great desperation that he had lost a golden, ten ruble coin “over here or there” in the mud and could not find it anywhere. The people had great compassion for Reb Zelig and helped him search. When they asked him if he had first looked carefully in all his pockets, he replied “yes, indeed”. So together everyone looked and groveled in the mud once again for a good couple of hours. They brought out lamps and lanterns – but the “tenner” piece was not there. It was completely lost. When everyone had gone back home and had continued to console Reb Zelig and (tried to) calm him down, someone requested once more that he should make a thorough search yet again in his pockets. He acceded to the appeal – and that “tenner” was found in one of his vest pockets. To the question: “Why had he not searched all along in his vest pocket”, he replied like a man who had just been rescued from death: “You see, my dear friends, I did not look in that pocket, as it really was my last hope because, were I not to have found the “tenner” (there), I would have done myself, God forbid, grave harm”.

Oh, dear, sincere “genius”, Reb Zelig, you should enjoy an illustrious “Garden of Eden” [world-to-come or “Paradise”] for your extraordinary naivety and delightful absent-mindedness!

And now we go in the opposite direction, to the right, and we are beside Yitzchok-Yosel's dairy, which was run by his wife Beroche. She dealt there in cheese, butter, cream cheese, just like her sister, Stir'l Noah-Leibe's, in the other row of shops. It seems that the family trade was fine by the two sisters!

* * *

And here we take ourselves inside (the area called) “Between the Granaries”, where the storekeepers deal in flour and hence they are all covered in white flour for six whole days a week. Here one can also obtain clay and wooden kitchen vessels. At the very end of the granaries women sit with bins full of fresh baked cakes, decorated with poppy seed; pure white bagels for a farthing or a penny and even egg bagels for a wealthy pocket or, God forbid, for a sick person. Towards evening one gets here fresh, hot “traitshe” [twisted rolls?],

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baked from a little dark flour which taste like heaven, when smeared hot with butter.

The Jews were very thankful to Reichel di Bekerke [“the Bakerwoman”], with her daughter Bashe, who were the owners of that “concession”. You should have a radiant life in the world-to-come, dear Reichel and Bashe, for the great pleasure which you provided our town's Jews “in this world” through your baked goods, of which almost none were touched without a beroche [a religious blessing].

To the right of the granaries is a tiny shop, one yard wide, which formally belongs to Reb Shmuel-Dovid Tzimmering, a Jew with a golden robe over his vest, who is very taken by Zionism. In practice, his quiet wife, Feige-Dine, deals with the business in the little shop.

From there let's go off left again, making our way past three or four stores (selling) grease for wagon-wheels, preservative [?] to smear on boots, tobacco, kerosene, matches, reins, whips and other articles for the use of peasants. Of these, one shop belongs to Reb Shaiye-Bere-Velvel's and another to Reb Yayrshel-Borech-Meir's. The latter tops all the affluent folk (in town), being really over-loaded with cash. He is a father to sons and daughters, all strapping and healthy, who help him assiduously in all his business ventures in order to increase his capital.

* * *

Now we take ourselves into “Between the Stores” – a combination of two rows of businesses, one opposite the other, for various merchandise: lime, mortar, haberdashery, ready-made clothes, manufactured goods, ironmongery, cotton, leather (and) blacksmith's goods, beginning with Shimen Vapnik's little shop and ending, on the other side, with Reb Yitzchok Brevda's shipping [?] business. The second row begins with Hinde-Reizel Ditkovsky's leather business and ends with Reitze-Sore's little vaulted shop, packed with axes, little hatchets, manufactured glass buttons and beads for non-Jewish village girls.

There, between the shops, we run into ordinary Jews and Jewesses, who throughout the year are involved and busy in business. Here we have Jews bursting with Toire [Jewish learning], for whom the store is only a means to make a living, in order to keep their souls in their “sinful” bodies.

[Page 283]

Here is Reb Yosel Ratner who, besides (studying) a page of Gemorre [Talmud] a day, is also influenced by Haskoloh [the Jewish “Enlightenment” Movement]. A good Jew and a Hebraist, he can even “tear to bits” a correspondent in a (Hebrew) newspaper like Ha-tzefiroh or Ha-tzofeh.

And here is Reb Shloime Rivkin, the manufacturer. A rich Jew, he can also “learn” [study Talmud] and, moreover, is a superb Baal Tiki'e [Shofar-blower for the High Holydays]. Although strongly inclined towards Zionism, he and a large part of his family ended their lives in darkest “Goles” [literally “Exile” – here a reference to the Holocaust].

And there is the haberdashery shop of Devoire Yaakov-Moishe's, the same Reb Yaakov Moishe who is one of the spiritually-endowed Jews in our town and who has been so masterfully described [elsewhere in the Yizkor Book] by our dear landsman [fellow-countryman], the great Yiddish writer and journalist, Dr. A. Mokdoni.

{Photo, taken in a local back-yard, showing Rivke-Leah di Almone [immediately below] with her family. The people in the group are Rivke-Leah di Almone herself, her sons Shmu'el Shaiye and Asher, with Asher's wife Mindel, daughter Chaye Rochel, with her husband Shloime, and their daughter Sloyke, Sloyke's husband Moishe, Sloyke's daughter Gishele and her sister Sora, Asher's daughters Dina and Bashke and youngest son Gedalyo, Shmu'el Shaiye's children Bashke, Freidel and Betzalel. No surnames given.}

Here is the second store belonging to Rivke-Leah di Almone [the widow], Reb Shaike the Dayen's daughter. During the whole year it is a store like every other store but on the eve of the High Holydays, it is

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converted by her son, Asher [Lev], and his younger brother, Avromele, into a real exhibition of various artistic pictures of life in Eretz Yisroel: the Herzliya Gymnasium in Jaffa, picture reproductions from the Betzalel Art School in Jerusalem, historical images of Yiddish writers. All the pictures were sent to Asher Lev from the Odessa Committee “For the benefit of Yishuv [the modern Jewish settlers] in Eretz Yisroel and Syria”. This is Lev's legacy in Lechovich – and because of it Asher has even acquired a nickname: in town, he is called the Keren Kayyemet “Pushke” [Jewish National Fund “Charity Box”].

Yes – that legacy did a lot, a great deal, for Eretz Yisroel. Several (people) were influenced by his devoted work but unfortunately Asher Lev himself came to an end far from his ideals and, together with his extensive family, was killed by the Nazi criminals. Just a few words must suffice as the memorial of all (of us) for this man of action for Eretz Yisroel and the victims in his family.

And there is the shop of Mendel “der Kalt-shmid” [the iron-worker]. Here is Mendel – even though he has had a long life dealing with wrought iron, he is always full of softness, good-hearted Jewish humour, mainly for the cheder children, for whom he used to promise a new “cart” before every Pesach, made from two iron wagon rollers, to play at “nuts” [name of a local children's game ?]

There is the store of Yosel Ratner's brother, Ortsh'kel, and his mother Etel-Gitel. Why are they, and not Reb Noah himself (Etel-Gitel's husband), engaged in business? Because Reb Noah is a deaf melamed [!] and is not fit for business. Ortsh'kel, poor thing, is a midget. In town, he was called “stumpy”. His mother, pity on her, was very miserable and lamented her bitter lot, that her Ortshik had such a defect. She used to reproach him, (asking) him how come he had not listened to her and, as a child, had not kept his little feet tucked under his chin as he slept. In her naivety, she believed that that might be the reason for her misfortune. However, the defect did not prevent Ortshik from being full of Toire. On days when there was no “market”, one used to see him sitting on a bench with his short feet in the air, peering into a big (volume) of Gemorre.

And there is the glass-store of Reb Mich'l Kaile's. (Actually) his children and wife are engaged in the business. Reb Mich'l himself is a teacher of advanced Talmud students. A tall, handsome

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Jew with a silver-white beard – one can say, a physically imposing Jew and no mean Torah scholar as well.

There is the tailor-shop of Reb Pesach Altvarg, the only Slonim chossid in the shtetl. He suffers not a little from that, it seems. Among the Jews, he feels like a ger [a complete outsider, even a non-Jew] but no matter! He eases his sadness with a page of Gemorre or a chapter of Psalms. In the shop, very little is needed of him. He has a good number of children with an efficient wife who can take the place of five men, so he can devote himself to Torah study.

Not far from them is the tailor-shop of Reb Zundel Gedalyo's, a great scholar and a talmed chochem.

Oy, my dear Lechovich shop-keepers, did you lack Torah? Would that you had as little lack of a livelihood! It is really no wonder that a livelihood was lacking. How could it be otherwise when, in such a small shtetl as ours, there were so many shops? Besides the hundred and twenty shops in the Riyad'n, there was a similar number in the surrounding streets and alleys. And for whom? Except for market days, not even a stray dog [from out of town] was to be seen in the shtetl. Lechovich shop-keepers just sat around the entire day on their door-steps or on little benches set up beside their doors and stared at one another. Hence people were extremely happy when a blind Jew with a fiddle turned up from somewhere, led by a small boy, who sang his sad songs as if from the heart, that ended with the plaintive refrain:

Oy, tell me, you (bewitching) eye, what ails ye so - that, when you laugh from sheer delight, you shed a tear?”

Wives, widows and even their young daughters heaved a deep sigh and gave some pennies to the blind man.

Frequently a magician arrives, surrounded by a whole bunch of youngsters. He spreads out a cloth on a cobbled pavement and does different tricks, attended by an organ-grinder with a drum on his back and with little bells on his head.

And there is the famous “Manke Ganef” (the Thief), also an organ-grinder with a little bird, who sings less refined songs, such as:

{2 lines in Russian, spelled out in Yiddish characters}

“Weep not thou, Marussia, be thou mine,
my army service is behind me!”

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