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Memories, Experiences, and Impressions

[Page 107]


Hovering Thoughts

by Zila Rumberg, Ramat Gan

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


A) Forgotten Dreams


I participated in an assembly of the Sons of Radoshkowitz which took place in Tel-Aviv on March 17, 1951 to honor the memory of our town's Jewish community. I sat there feeling alone and lonely. I had left Radoshkowitz fifty years earlier, before any of the people present were born. I regretted being born so early, before the establishment of the school, library and other organizations which so changed life for these young people. My father used to tell me that when the Messiah comes on a white horse all the Jews will go to Israel… while people around me received an altogether different education.

It was pleasant sitting among them, hearing the different stories of their lives and the life of the town, although their stories stayed with me for days and filled my heart with dread and sadness.

To this day I love our Radoshkowitz. I am fond of every corner I remember. A day doesn't go by that I don't think or speak of it. But our early memories are mixed with our emotions and are subject to our longing for childhood and youth and our dreams and hopes of those years. We think that were we to return to that charmed place we would find the same beauty and charm, the same dreams we left behind. But regrettably, it is not so. I know it from my own experience.

I left Radoshkowitz when I was eighteen. I went to Odessa and stayed with my brother. He wanted me to enjoy the city and showed me every important building and park. But I could not get excited. I longed for Radoshkowitz, its beautiful river, bridges, trees, etc. In 1905, I immigrated to Israel. First I lived in Jaffa and later in Beersheba, but my longings for Radoshkowitz did not subside until the much awaited day came, when I went back for a visit. I reached Radoshkowitz with the midnight train. At three in the morning I reached our home on Tatars Alley. I was very happy and awaited impatiently for the sunrise, when I would see all that I had left years before. But it was not so. Everything was there, but it was not as I had remembered. It had all shrunk. It was smaller, poorer. It was the same and yet not the same. I was very disappointed, sorry and sad. What had happened?

After much thought and reflection, I understood. Everything was there, the same, unchanged, but I had changed. This must be true for every one. We long for a place or situation, but its beauty and charm are subjective. We long for our childhood, our youth, which cannot be brought back.


[Page 109]

B) The Synagogue Court


We lived on a nameless alley which my father referred to in his articles as Tatar Alley, because two Tatar families used to live there. My father would chuckle every time he received mail addressed with that name. From that alley one could reach all four corners of town: the market; the cemetery; the main street, which would lead any place – to Vilna or Minsk Streets; and also to the post office lot.

The lot on which the post office must have stood was a place for people to go for a walk. The river, which crossed town, was deeper at this point, and many people used to swim here during the summer. Since there was no building in which to dress and undress, people did so in the open, and the only cover was in the tall grass. I remember a time after a Christian holiday when a poor, old gentile man hid in the grass and peeked at the girls. When he was caught, he was chased with screams and blows and never seen again.

I was always glad to go on errands for my mother. I would love to go by way of a small bridge and would often get lost day dreaming while watching some small fish or a pretty stone in the river. Sometimes I would wade in the river and forget my mission altogether. What would bring me back to reality were the voices of the boys leaving the heder at the synagogue court across the river.

On the other side of the river stood “the cold synagogue” building. On its right stood the small Beit Midrash, and next to it the shtibel of the Hassidim – my favorite, since that's where my father would pray, and that's where I went every year for “Hakofot.” I liked this synagogue court for several reasons. In summer months when the doors were open, you could hear conversations from the workshop of Haim-Hashil, the tinsmith and from Ziré-Meré's bakery with its wonderful smells. Not far from there was the house of Shaya, the woman's tailor, and when he was away you could hear his seamstresses singing. I remember that when I was ten years old, Shaya made dresses for me and my sister for our brother's wedding. I was so happy that my red wool dress was made by the best tailor.

Nearby was the house of Eliyahu-Leib and his wife Haya-Dina. He was tall, his back was bent and his glasses very thick. When I would walk by and hear their conversation through the open windows I would pause to listen. He was known for his stinginess. When eating he was so concerned that his wife might eat too much, that he would ask her, “So, Haya-Dina, are you full yet? I'm full.” And his wife would feel obliged to say, “I'm full, too.” He would immediately carve a star of David at the edge of the bread to make sure that it would not be sliced any more. He was not poor; on the contrary, he was a money lender.

I remember another man, Zosha, the candle maker. He was tall and straight while

other men of his age were bent over. He let his wife and two daughters do all the work making and selling candles while he took it easy. The one who worked the hardest was the younger daughter, Grona. She worked hard and was difficult to marry off. It was true that she was not exactly good looking, but she was bright, quick and hard working. Finally, she was married off to a widower with six children, Netka, the melamed, who also baked matzot for Pesach. After his wife died, at the end of the thirty days mourning, people suggested that he marry Grona, and they did get married. Grona settled in his home and continued to toil, taking care of six children and baking.

One winter night her husband went on a buying trip to one of the villages. In his coat pocket he had matches, which ignited when he stood next to a hot stove. He tore his clothes off and returned home disheveled. When his wife saw him she burst out crying, and lamented her bitter fate, being married to him.


[Page 112]

C) The Women of the Market


When I was a little girl, the market day was Sunday, until it was changed to Thursday. But old habits died hard; the farmers continued to come on Sundays and we had two market days a week. This turned out to be a blessing since it brought some income at the beginning of the week and a little more for Shabbat.

I remember a few women who would buy eggs and fruit at the market and then sell them door to door for a few pennies more. They would borrow the needed money on Wednesday and return it on Friday. I remember one such loan which went bad. The woman was a black sheep of sorts, who lived at the end of Vilna Street. She needed a larger loan and had a rough time finding someone to lend her the money. Finally she found a neighbor who agreed, provided she would pay him back on Sunday. She did not show up on Sunday, nor on the following Sunday. Finally the man went to her home, but she look at him as though she saw him for the first time and said to her husband, “Itze, who is this man and what does he want?”

I remember Teibe, the Dipper, who had two lines of work: she worked at the Mikve dipping women, and at the market she bought eggs for resale. She lived with her husband in a room they rented in Sara-Dreize's house. In those days, after “the big fire,” I frequented Sara-Dreize's home, which stood across from the Provosslavic Church. I loved visiting there – the little mount on which the building stood, and the trees near the church – maybe because until the fire, that's where our house used to stand, the house where I was born.

At the time of the Dreyfus Affair, Zalman, Sara-Dreise's son, used to receive the newspaper, “Hazfira,” in order to follow the various developments. Even though I was only ten years old, I followed the affair with great interest, as did many other people whose conversations I would listen to. But Teibe, the Dipper, was interested only in her own affairs. I remember one day, Sara-Dreize's house was full of people discussing the Dreyfus trial, Teibe came out of her room and said to her husband, “Tell me, Zalmanke, who is this Dreyfus, a man with three legs?”

Let me mention the Duma (county building) in Radoshkowitz, a two story building which stood on Minsk Street, next to Boiweed Garden. I remember it well since my father used to take me with him each time he went there. He would see a gentile clerk, whom we called, “Captain.” He must have been a retired army officer. He was an older man with whom many Jews were friendly. The other clerk was Yoshé-Iché Mandles Greenhaus, and I remember him and his wife. They had five pretty daughters and a son named Mendel, who, I believe, is now in Israel. Yoshé's face was usually sad and serious, but a Jew with five daughters and one son has quite a burden. Only at the Duma did he smile and tell jokes.

There was this woman called Musha-Fayge, who did odd jobs, from kneading dough, to taking care of sick women, etc. Her face looked like a chunk of dough with finger marks in it. But she was pleasant and never argued with the women. She was the poorest of the poor, and she would break the fast after Yom Kippur with a cold potato and a piece of herring. No one ever gave her a handout, and she never complained.

One day she received a letter from relatives in America telling her to get a passport because they planned on bringing her over. She was very happy and went to discuss it with Yoshé. He looked at her, examined her looks and searched for any particular markings. She then told him that since birth she had an unusual belly button. Since that day she was referred to as “Musha-Fayge, the Belly Button.” There were other people with special nicknames, simple, practical people. Where are all those people? They were lucky to die of natural causes and not the strange deaths of their descendants…


[Page 115]

Baking Matzot

(Childhood Memories)

by Hadassa Zukerman-Zukovsky

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


My grandmother's house was a dark, old, large wooden building, which stood near the court of the synagogue. In its big room stood an oven, and everyone was always busy taking care of it. In this house lived Aunt Haya-Eta, whose husband had left her and disappeared in America with her two children. She lived from occasional jobs, like baking cakes for market day, cooking for weddings, feeding ducks during winter months and leasing vegetable gardens. Some neighbors lived behind the oven and a curtain. The big yard would turn to mud during the rainy season and when the snow melted. Then we would walk on wooden planks. There were duck coops around the yard and their sound competed with that of the nearby water plant.

During the month between Purim and Pesach , the house would become the center of activity for the entire Jewish community. On the day after Purim, the house would change. The curtain behind the oven was removed, the walls were white-washed and a large “Lux” lamp was hung. Sawhorses, with fresh smelling planks, were set up. On both sides of these planks stood young women with their tools, ready to make matzot. In the corner, one woman would mix the batter in a shining copper bowl, and two boys stood next to her, one with flour, one with water, ready to assist her. She had the most physically demanding job, plus she had to put up with everybody's advice and criticism. At the head of the line stood the woman whose matzot were being baked at that moment. She would hand out cakes of dough to the women who rolled them out. She would also order the woman mixing the dough to make it as hard as possible so that it would turn out brittle and tasty. From there the rolled out dough would be handed to young men, who, with the help of a ruler and roller with points, would line the matzot with rows of holes, to prevent them from rising. Finally the baker would put the dough in the oven for a few minutes. When they were taken out, their aroma filled the house. The matzot were put into a large box and from there went to the straw box of “Short Yoshka,” who was thin and deaf. He carried in the flour sent by each family and carried out the finished product. These straw boxes were larger than Yoshka, and when he was paid for this service he would thank the family in his usual way, “Let's hope that next year I won't be your servant, and you won't be my employer.”

The commotion generated by the baking of the matzot was especially loved by the children. Those whose family's matzot were being baked on a given day would be running around, creating a lot of noise. They were especially excited by the small matzot baked just for them. And I, my grandmother's granddaugher, would join the celebrating children. Later, machines for baking matzot were brought in from Minsk, but some people continued with the old-fashioned way, maybe for reasons of kashrut. And my memory remains of those fun-filled days preceding Pesach.


[Page 117]

The Joys of “Finishing”

by Dvora Kril

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


A candle to the soul of my mother, Sara Epstein. Shabbat. The house is full of activity before the arrival of the “Shas Society,” who are going to celebrate the completion of studying a portion of the Gemara. The long table, which on week days stands along the wall, is moved to the center of the room. It is covered with a white table cloth and piled with different kinds of baked goods and sweets. We, the women, are busy setting all thus up, encouraged by mother, who is excited and checking every detail.

“They're here,” someone calls. They are in the synagogue court coming toward our home. In devotion and honor of our dead father, the “Shas Society,” comes to our home to celebrate the completion of every portion. They come to bless mother, and ease the pains of her widowhood.

The first in line is the rabbi. Next to him is Ya'acov-Pinchas with his penetrating look. Next to him, Reb Yekutiel, who teaches my brother Gemara. Behind them, a long line of students from the Yeshiva in which my father used to study and discuss Bible and Gemara.

They sit at the table while reciting the blessings for this special occasion and for the wine and then eat heartily. Some of the young men who eat at our home on weekdays, feel at home, and after the rabbi's speech, begin singing “zmirot.” It is joyous and noisy.

Then, I remember, the house would be empty, and all that was left were empty glasses, empty plates and some left-over food here and there, and mother standing with one hand leaning on a chair. She is not moving. She does not notice us. Only her lips are moving.

“Mother,” I cry, “What is the matter?”

“Oh, my daughter, I am thanking God for the privilege of hearing Torah study in our home, as we were used to while your father was living.”


[Page 119]

Life in Town

(Women's Conversations)

by Hassia Bessin

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Hanna-Basha Gordon tells:

Do you think, my dears, that life is for playing. Not at all. When I look around these days, I do not understand the young women today. They bear two children and finished. Is this what it's all about? My midwife used to tell me, “Hanna-Basha, a chicken who lays eggs every day has a red crest, and those who lay eggs once in a great while have a blue one and cluck all day.” Today's women are like those chickens who cluck all day.

Thank God, I raised my twelve children without the help of nannies or servants, and they lacked nothing. When the children were young I used to work extremely hard. I would get up early in the morning and buy rolls from Sara Ziré-Meré's and a bag of dried beef from Yoshé, the butcher. I would cook milk-soup for breakfast and then make lunch. When I was frying potato pancakes, the children would surround me, and before I had time to remove the pancakes from the frying pan, they would call at the same time, “Me! Me! Me!”

I would bake bread twice a week and for Shabbat and holidays, hallah and sweets. In summer I cooked jellies and in winter, preserves. I would spread the preserves on bread and would give it to the children, while in summer they ate bread with cheese.

I took care of the cow, too. I cooked bran and water every day. I would let the milk turn sour in large ceramic containers, make it into cheese and finish it in the oven. I also made sour cream and butter.

I must say that after a full day's work I was too tired to clean the house. When my daughter, Bracha, would return from the store in the evening, she would clean the house.

Before going to sleep we would count the children, making sure all dozen were there. Once in a while Feychinka would disappear. After looking for her everywhere, we would find her asleep behind the counter in the store.

Yes, my dears, concludes Hanna-Basha, the years went by, and thank God, I raised my children so I could be proud of them. I should now be as proud of my grandchildren.


[Page 121]

Childhood Impressions

by Binyamin Sharzkevitch

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


In the garden beside our house we grew different kinds of flowers. Behind it was the yard where we played hide and seek, cops and robbers, etc. And then came the big vegetable garden where we grew different vegetables for our family's consumption: cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, beets and more. At the end of the garden, near the street, was the well from which the neighbors drew their water. We children played near it. In summer we enjoyed looking down at the glowing water in its bottom. In winter we took care of the chunks of ice which formed around it. We would chop it with an axe and spread sand and ashes on the ground to enable people to reach it. We admired the repairman who would go down, tied to a rope, when work was needed.

Our old and poor next door neighbor, Ya'acov Hirshel, lived with his family in a wooden house on the other side of the well. He lived from his vegetable garden. He also raised sheep, which provided his family with milk, and they also had an old goat with big horns. This goat and I were in a constant state of war. He liked to come into our garden and eat our flowers. One day I caught him finishing off some flowers. I raised a stick to chase him away and he lunged toward me and knocked me down. Who knows how this would have ended if not for the neighbor who came to my rescue.

We raised potatoes in the sloping part of the garden. The view from that point was beautiful. Green fields and meadows looked like a mosaic, and one of the two rivers which flowed through town ran through them. This river attracted us children, and every free moment, we spent swimming in it or playing alongside it.

Beyond that was the big forest behind which hid our town. There we spent our Sabbaths. Our parents would set up hammocks and rest, and we, the children, would go deeper into the forest and pick berries and mushrooms and bring them proudly to our parents.

East of the river was the estate of the matron, Shnitkova. She owned wheat fields which spread all the way to the border between Poland and Russia. On the other side of our border was a village, so near and yet so far. We wondered about the people who lived over there, did the same things we did and probably looked at us thinking the same thoughts about us.

Life was interesting in our town. The streets were lined with cobble stones, and the wheels of the carriages made a lot of noise. We did not have asphalt roads like in the cities The carriages were full of the produce from gardens and fields, and some animals (chickens, sheep, cows) would be tied to them. Traffic was especially heavy on Thursdays, market days in Radoshkowitz. In the market the farmers and business people would set up their stands, display their merchandise and continually shout to attract buyers. Once some of the farmers sold their horse or cow, they would spend the rest of the day at the nearest bar, drinking vodka. The women shoppers would walk around with their bags full of groceries for Shabbat. Once the farmers sold their products they would use the proceeds to buy necessities at the nearby stores.

On the next day, Friday, all was quiet. All business would close in the late afternoon. It seemed that even the gentiles were observing Shabbat. Town was quiet. Shabbat meant a day of rest for all.

There were two schools in town, the public, polish school, which served the Polish kids, mainly, and the Hebrew school, Tarbut, the pride of the Jews, where the Jewish students went. I was among the lucky ones to be among the first graduating class. To this day I am grateful to my teachers who taught me the Hebrew language and culture and instilled in me the love for our fatherland.

We would go on class trips and visit the town's outskirts. Once a year we visited the Tarbut school in the nearby town of Krasna. We got to know their students well. They would visit us, too, and pay a visit to the grave of the poet M. Z. Mané.

For the various holidays we would produce plays, which were always a pleasant experience. Most of the students participated, some in song, some in dance and some in recitation. These shows attracted many of the town's people and were an opportunity to prove to our parents how well we spoke our national language. Our favorite holiday was Purim, and naturally Megilat Esther was the basis for a play. We had many costumes, and the musical numbers took quite a few musicians. The one who stood out among them was Haim Itché, a violin player. Haim Itché was one of the town's klezmers. He never took a lesson and could not read music, but he played beautifully. He was tall and thin. He had a long nose and big, sad eyes. His hat was askew and he looked retarded. When he laughed he would kick with his right leg as if riding a bike. He was invited to play at weddings and parks, and the minute he began his audience was spellbound.

Haim Itché played at our plays and rehearsals. Before Purim, when it was still winter and cold outside, he would be too lazy to come to rehearsals. We had to send messengers to bring him. Most of the time the task fell on me and my friend, Hilka (Mitzik, the shoemaker's son). We would buy Haim Itché's favorite candy. We'd usually find him asleep on the stove, and he would be angry when we woke him up. He would emphatically declare that he would not come down, but after long discussions, much begging and the candy, he would agree to get dressed and come to rehearsal with us.

In the spring of 1937, the day finally came for our family to move to Israel. Our joy was mixed with sadness at having to part with family and friends. Many came to bid us farewell and saw us on our way. Hava-Bila Trigonov saw us to the train station in Alchnovitz. The carriage moved quickly as the sun was setting. I looked back at the town. Its last lights were twinkling as though wishing us well. When we entered the village of Potniki it was dark. The farmers had returned home, and we could hear cows mooing and dogs barking. We could hear young voices singing, and a short while later, we were standing at the train station in Alchnovitz. One last wave and Hava-Bila disappeared as the train moved away. All we could hear was the even noise of the wheels, and it seemed as though we could hear the song “Anu Olim Artza” (We Are Going to Israel).




[Page 126]



Fathers' Deeds a Symbol for their Sons

by Yerachmiel Rersnik

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Childhood memories leave a deep impression and help shape one's character. Two events I witnessed in my childhood were a source of strength in later years.

Who did not know my father, Reb Pesach-Haim, the tailor, whose shop was in the center of Market Square, and where eight workers were employed? He was a simple and honest Jew, like most of the people in town. He lived by his labor and would pay his workers even before giving my mother money for Shabbat expenses.

And who did not know my dear and good uncle, Reb Yechezkel (Hachi), the cloth merchant? He was an independent, conscientious Jew. So here are the two events which happened to my father and my uncle right in front of me and were a source of strength and encouragement in days to come.

In 1915, during World War I and the big Russian retreat from the German army, most of our town's people left Radoshkowitz. My father and my uncle were among the few who stayed. My uncle begged my father to stay, saying, “Don't worry, nobody is going to eat us up.” And so we stayed put and were spared the tribulations of being refugees. I remember something which happened on Erev Yom Kippur. The few Jews who were left in Radoshkowitz did not go to the synagogue, and everyone said the prayer, “Kol Nidre,” in his home. That evening a group of ten Cossacks showed up at Market Square and went looking for the few remaining Jewish families. They found our family and that of my Uncle Hachi. The Cossacks started screaming at us, “Kikes, give us money.” One of them, who was riding a horse, pulled out his saber with the intention of lowering it on my uncle's head. My uncle did not lose his cool and hit the Cossack on the head with his cane. The Cossack was so surprised by my uncle's reaction that he dropped his weapons and fled. My uncle was a hero and taught me not to surrender, but to fight.

Another case of bravery on my father's part happened in 1919, after the Russian October Revolution. Our town was occupied by the Polish army. The first to march in were Pozin's soldiers, who like the Cossacks, were known for their cruelty to Jews. Their officers gave them a few hours to rob the inhabitants as a reward for occupying the place. They spread around town and began to abuse the Jewish residents. They caught Leib Hertz, the carriage owner, whose house was at the end of Market Square, and tied him to a big dog. The dog kept biting him, and the human animals stood around laughing. One of them took out his saber and cut off the poor man's beard. My father, who was watching this from his house, couldn't take it any longer. He grabbed the large American scissors and ran out. He went to the Polish officer and addressed him in Polish, “Hurry up and tell your men to let go of this Jew, otherwise I will stick these in your belly.” The officer was so impressed by my father's courage that he ordered his men to stop, upon which my father patted him on his back, saying, “Good man.”

These displays of courage by my father and my uncle left a deep impression on me, and I learned a good lesson – to defend myself when necessary. And so there came a day when I did just that. Once during the Polish days, a Jewish sports team defeated the Polish team. The losing team got angry, and the “shkutzim” began taking their anger out on the Jews. They went to Tatar Street and threw stones into Jewish homes and stores, breaking glass windows. Seeing this, I called upon my friends to fight back, and our attackers ended up fleeing for their lives. The same spirit served me well years later when I moved to Israel.


[Page 128]

Childhood Memories

by Ester Bessin

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


I was born in Radoshkowitz, but I left it at the age of six, so my memories are fragmented.

It's winter and it's snowing. Slowly the town is covered by a white blanket; the houses are white, and so are the trees. Here and there are some footsteps and marks left by carriage wheels. But as the snow continues to fall, even those disappear. Suddenly the quiet is broken by a group of children. They are wearing warm fur coats and are pulling sleds up a hill in the center of town. We are all tired so nobody notices how tired I am. Each one sits in his sled and starts the ride downhill, hoping to be the first one to the bottom of the hill. Some sleds collide; their riders are thrown out. We get into arguments, and then the empty sleds continue their slide. Slowly darkness envelops us, and we go home.

In summer our family would go to Odernaka, a resort town nearby. The days were bright, the sky, blue, and green grass grew all over. We spent most of our days in the nearby forest, resting in hammocks hanging between the trees. Next to the forest ran a river in which we swim. Afterwards we spread on the grass and enjoy the warm sun. I remember these wonderful days like a dream.

I was six years old when my parents and I left Radoshkowitz. We received certificates to go to Israel. I can't describe our joy on that day. Maybe that was the happiest day of my life. I did not know much about Israel and did not know the importance of our trip, but I did understand some things from my parents. Most important was the commotion at home, on the train and on the ship. All this was new to me and made me very happy.

A week before the trip we started packing. Excitement filled the house. Suitcases and crates were piled one on top of another. My mother and our maid were packing, weighing what to take and what to sell, what to give to relatives, etc. In the meantime people would stop by to bid us goodbye and give us some advice. One would say, “Be careful on board ship, and watch the children so they don't fall in the water.” Another would say, “Don't let the children stick their head out the train window; it's dangerous.” Another would say, “When you reach Jerusalem, God willing, don't forget to go to the Western Wall.” So this is how we spent our last week in Radoshkowitz. Finally the last day came. I will never forget that day. Our friends started coming early in the morning. They brought us gifts and parted from us with tears in their eyes, hoping to meet again when they came to Israel. There were moments when there were so many people that the house seemed too small. At such a moment I left the house and went to visit my favorite places for the last time. When I came back a carriage was there. We got in, and it started moving slowly. The whole town was there. It was an unforgettable sight. It was dark, the sky full of stars, and on the ground, a whole convoy of people was accompanying a family on its way to Israel.




[Page 131]

The Mischief of Children

by Dr. Israel Rubin (Rivkai)

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


In educated circles it was common to think that the children of the Diaspora missed out on joy and mischief. This was based on the difficult conditions in which these children grew up. But in spite of them, just like the children in Israel, we, who grew up in Radoshkowitz and elsewhere missed nothing.

Jewish children, in all times and under all conditions, were involved in all sorts of mischief. To prove the point, let me offer some examples from my own experience.

The “Melamed from Krasna” had his heder in a room in Reb Yehoshua Avraham Itche's house. It was a lopsided house built on a slope, supported by beams set on an angle. His students couldn't resist these beams; they loved to climb, hang from them and do all kinds of simple exercises on them. The melamed suffered from these beams when his students sneaked out of heder to enjoy some physical exercise.

All melamdim had to obtain a permit, “shein,” as it was called, from the local government. No exams were involved. They were not even required to know any Russian. The only requirements were a fee of three rubles, a room with minimum cleanliness and sanitary conditions. To get around these requirements some teachers taught in secret and lived in constant fear of being discovered. The “Melamed from Krasna” had no such permit, and we, his students, knew it and couldn't resist taking advantage of the situation.

Those were the days when the first bicycles appeared in town, and the police commissioner, who was in charge of granting the teaching permits, rode a bicycle. He used to ride his bike and constantly sound his bell to warn people to get out of his way. We were captivated by this bicycle and especially its bell. One day, Kalman, the rabbi's son, who was full of mischief, suggested that we get hold of such a bell and frighten our melamed.

His suggestion was well received. Somebody got hold of a bell, and thus began the torture of our melamed. Just when he would get carried away by his teaching we would sound the bell, and call it to our teacher's attention. He would hurry and hide in great fear and we would race outside the to play on the beams. As small children, we knew no moderation, and for a while we rang the bell a few times a day. It wasn't long before the rabbi caught on, and we were punished. But for a while we enjoyed our resourceful activities.

Reb Shmuel Leib, the melamed, who was also the shamus of the Lubavichers, would stay in his room at the shtibel even after the children went home. He stayed to fulfill his duties as shamus, clean and keep the furnace going. When winter came, the children came up with a new piece of mischievous activity – sliding downhill into the market. And what did they slide on? On blocks of ice cut from the frozen river. Each child had a piece of ice and would cut a “seat” in its center and fill it with straw, so it would be comfortable to sit in. A volunteer would push them downhill, and the race would start, accompanied by lots of cheering. On their way the “sleds” would bump into each other, and this would only add to the joy. One evening one of the sleds knocked a man over, and before he had time to get up, more sleds hit him, turned over and covered him. All that was heard was the man's sigh. The children were so scared that they got up and ran home, not knowing who he was until the next day when they saw Reb Shmuel-Leib all bandaged, his face and body bruised, groaning in pain. They all felt very sorry, but the questions which haunted them was, “Did the rabbi know who had hit him?”

The rabbi went on teaching as usual, not saying a word about the incident, and the children kept wondering if he did he or didn't know. I remember those few days waiting for the rabbi to teach us a lesson. They seemed like weeks. Finally, Friday came, and he told us to stay. He arranged us in line, and one by one he put us down on the bench and gave us a spanking. “This is for your night journey in your winter sled.” As I remember, it was the first time that we were pleased about being spanked.


[Page 134]

Childhood Illusions

by M. R.

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


Itché Shalom's, a sarcastic old man, used to kid with me after services at the old Beit Hamidrash. He used to pull my leg at times and then pinch my cheeks. Once before Hanukah, while we were folding our tefillin and talit, he offered to go into partnership with me in the production of dreidels. He would provide the lead, and I would melt it and pour it into wooden molds.

“Where will you get so much lead?” I asked him. “Very simple,” answered the old man, seriously. “I will give you all our lead plates and utensils, and you will break them up and use them to do your job.”

It all seemed plausible, and that same evening, which was cold and stormy, I went to his second floor apartment in the “old city.”

The old man and his old wife were sitting at the table drinking tea, and on a chair between them sat a big yellow cat, busy licking itself.

“I came for the lead plates and spoons,” I announced in exaggerated zeal.

The old man scratched his white beard, smiled and said, “Good, my wife and I agree, but we must have the cat's approval.”

Both the old people laughed pleasantly, and at that moment I understood that the old man was just kidding me.

From an early age I had the desire to publish small books with my own small printing press. But how would I do it? The thought always preoccupied me. Then I got hold of a soft, long, black, stone to used to sharpen knives, the one used by shochatim and mohalim. One of the boys said that it could be made into a stamp. Then I had the idea to cut it into strips and make it into a press.

Enthusiastically I suggested it to one of my friends, while we were sitting on a fence outside town, and immediately we formed a partnership. He decided to cut the stone into twenty-two long, narrow strips (as many as the letters in the aleph bet) and carve one letter into each strip. We worked diligently every free minute with sharp penknives and cut our fingers many times in the process. One Friday the job was completed. We combined the letters to form words and tied these together, dipped them in ink, and with joyous shouts started printing. But soon we quieted down. We had forgotten the five final letters of “Mem,” “Nun,” “Tsadi,” “Fey,” “Caph.” We were sad and silent. We would have to wait for the next opportunity when another such stone would come our way.

One nice, summer day, on Friday morning, I talked my oldest brother into committing a sin, which started well, but had a bitter ending. A kilometer out of town, across from the dark wood, was a field planted with peas. The pods were nice and full and held the promise of delicious picking. My plan was wonderful. We would fill our pockets with the pea pods, then go to the river for a swim, spread out on the bank, half naked, and enjoy our loot.

My brother scratched his “peyot” in doubt. “What's the danger?” I said, “It's quiet, and I never saw a goy there. We'll pick quickly and run away.”

We got there all excited and hid among the bushes. We held our breathe, our fingers ready to start picking… Suddenly I heard a hoarse remark in Polish. “Hey dogs! Let's show them…”

All of a sudden a tall figure appeared, and a hand lifted our hats, our pride and joy, made of soft, brown felt. We ran away in panic, as fast as we could, to the nearby river. Not a trace was left of our original plan – a nice swim and a quiet rest on the riverbank

We rushed to empty our pockets of the few incriminating pea pods and then stood pondering how to cover up our misfortune. “We'll say that we got undressed for a swim in the river, and the wind blew away our hats.”

“Poor excuse. How will we walk into town with our bare heads?”

This was not the end of this miserable adventure. When my brother and I showed up at the synagogue that Sabbath our friends made fun of our new hats, which were a poor choice, made in a hurry late Friday after noon. But an even bigger problem awaited us. On Saturday afternoon, when we took our customary walk, we came upon our two “lost” felt hats, which had been put on display in the center of town. Everybody recognized them, and in the evening, after the Havdala service, the hats were returned from captivity.

“Sorry, Mr. Rabin” said the tall goy who held our two hats, “but the Virgin should save me, I didn't know whose hats they were.”

Only when he left, after a small drink, did the “day of judgement” really start…


[Page 140]

A Town's Legend

by Hadassa Zukerman-Zkovsky

Translated by Elisabeth Ruderman


I don't know how much truth there is in the legends told about the history of Radoshkowitz, but I have heard them from various people at different times, and I would guess that there is a grain of truth in them.

They say that the trees lining both sides of Vilna Street were planted in the time of Catherine the Great. They lined the street from Warsaw to Smolensk and ended in Kovna, in Lithuania. And the legend goes that when Catherine was visiting the provinces, she passed through our town. The soldiers who lined both sides of the street shouted, “Rejoice, fair soldier's daughter!” (Radvisia crasnia malaoliza), and these three words became the name of the three towns in the area.

Many remember “the golden hill” in our town. How did it get its name? The story goes that the King of Sweden buried barrels of gold in the hill when he was retreating from Peter the Great and his army. It relates the shining cross on Popov Street, overlooking the town, to the same war. According to the story, the cross marks the common grave of the fallen Swedish soldiers.

Tradition says that hints of the Swedes' retreat are to be found in the name of the village, Udra, and the river Udranka, and that they all came from the Russian word, “udrat” which means to run away.

Why is the part of town across the river at the end of Minsk Street called the Old City? There is a real (not legendary) explanation that I heard from my mother. Many years

ago, a big fire destroyed all the houses up to the river. Then, when the town was rebuilt, they called the houses which survived the fire, “The Old City.,”


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