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[Page 30]

The occupations of the Jews of Căpreşti

by Att. Baruch Yanowitz

Transliterated by Sara Mages

The sources of income of the Jews of Căpreşti were very diverse, and weren't much different from those in other towns in the district. We don't have proven sources to the exact distribution of the occupations of the Jews of Căpreşti, but we aren't going to be far from reality when we state that about 40% of the town's Jews were engaged in commerce, about 3% were engaged in craft, and the rest were various brokers, religious ministrants (rabbis, slaughterers, teachers, cantors, beadles etc.), the liberal professionals, and those who didn't have a profession and lived on public support and the kindness of relatives in the country and abroad.

Generally, it's possible to say, that the economic situation of Căpreşti was better than the situation in other towns, and the main reason for that was the dense rural settlements that surrounded it. The town drew the bulk of its income from about 20 large villages.

The town's merchants concentrated on the trade of the crops of the environment, especially the grain trade. This was a wide layer of Jews that their entire occupation was - the purchase of grain from the farmers, and for that reason they were called - “grain traders.” At the head of the grain traders stood several large-scale traders, who had connections with the wide world. The rest, were small traders who bought the grain in order to sell it on the same day, or the day after, to the big traders for a small profit. Those lived, for the most part, at the edge of town and in its outskirts. The competition between them was fierce, and when a farmer came to town with his crop, they attacked his wagon and each one drew him toward him. This was a hard way to earn a living. At times it provoked mutual resentment, but generally, friendly relations existed between the Jews of Căpreşti despite the hard competition.

There was a type of a grain trade which was called - “green bread.” In the early days of spring, when the wheat was strewn in the fields, the crops of the next harvest were bought and the farmers received advance payment “on account.” There were farmers who knew how to exploit it to their advantage: they received an advance payment from one trader and also from a second, but in due time, they sold their grain to a third dealer. This way, a lot of Jewish money went down the drain.

The trade in sheep and lambs skins grasped an important place. A long time before the arrival of spring, the skins' traders went out into the surrounding villages and bought from the estate owners and the farmers, who owned flocks of sheep, the lambs that would be born, and when the calving time arrived they went to get them. They sold the meat to the butchers, and the skins - especially the finest among them - were marketed abroad. This trade has increased especially during the Romanian rule, between the two world wars, and those who dealt in it yielded nice profits.

The farmers sold the yield of the field and the fruit of the garden, the products of the coop, cowshed, and pen to the town's Jews. The farmers' wives sold the fruit of their labor like: coarse fabrics, carpets, towels, butter, cream, cheese, poultry, eggs etc. In exchange for the supply that the town drew from the surrounding villages, it provided their needs with great abundance. There were all sorts of shops in the town: grocery, textiles, clothing and footwear, iron, house ware and kitchen, haberdashery, etc., like in all other Jewish towns, but here, everything was in abundance. To these, we must add the restaurants and the taverns, which also earned most of their livelihood from the surrounding villages.

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Near the grain merchants houses were large warehouses full of grain. In the autumn season, from the early morning hours, a long line of wagons waited to transfer the grain to the train station in Rogozhany.

As for the industry in Căpreşti, it should be noted that there were three oil-presses - of Ayvcher, Elkis and Bernshtein, and two flour mills - of Ayvcher and his partners, and Elkis and his partners.

The industry in Căpreşti provided work to many residents. The flour mill of Ayvcher, Elkis, Skladman and Hokhman provided electricity to the town.

Generally, the commerce provided plenty of income. The rural population didn't engage in trade and manufacturing, and the Jews took advantage of this fact. But there were also years of drought, which brought poverty and hunger. Stores were closed and the number of bankruptcies increased in the town. In such years, the wave of immigration from the town to the big cities of Romania and Bukovina rose, and many immigrated to the United States, South America and other countries.

Most of the town's craftsmen worked for the local farmers. The number of tailors in the town was great. Some of them worked “by measure,” and the majority of their customers were Jews, but most of them engaged in sewing “ready-made clothing.” They were called “Tandetnikim,” and provided their produce to the clothing shops in the town or took it to fairs in towns and villages in the region. And so did the shoemakers, hatters and furriers who combined labor and trade.

There were also carpenters, tinsmiths, coopers, blacksmiths, wool dyers, painters, cobblers, watchmakers, bakers, butchers, seamstresses etc. in the town.

This is the place to mention the water-drawers, carters, porters etc. All of them worked very hard to earn their livelihood, and their occupations contradict the legend, which is also common among the various anti-Semites, about the alleged parasitic lifestyle of the Jews in the Diaspora. Unfortunately, this version is also common among us, without feeling the injustice that is caused to the truth and to the memory of our ancestors.

 

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[Page 32]

A quick glimpse on our town Căpreşti

by Israel Reshef (Feierman)

Transliterated by Sara Mages

In the town it was customary to call the sloping eastern ridge by the name “mountain.” It rose above the built-up section of the town, and along it the horizon looked like a stretched line. The one who climbed to the crest eventually reached the defence trenches that were dug during the First World War. From there, the spectacular view of the town appeared before his eyes, as if it was resting on his palm, and also the view that stretched to the western horizon, a place where the sun sets like a giant fireball. Every morning, the sun appeared from behind this mountain and sent its rays to announce the arrival of a new day. In the summer, the mountain slope was cultivated and sown, mostly by sunflowers. In the course of time vineyards were planted on it, and watermelons and cantaloupes were sown between the young vines.

The vineyards owners used to visit their vineyard, especially after the Sabbath's nap, to breathe fresh air and to derive pleasure from their “estates.”

During the ripening of the watermelons and the grapes, the singing voices and laughter of young men and boys, who guarded the fruit from the “owners of long arms,” were heard from the vineyards…

Many roads led to our town: one passed through Prodaneshti, Kazanesht, Chiscaren and Orhiyov to Kishinev [Chişinău]. There was a paved road between Orhiyov and Kishinev, so that the buses could also travel on rainy days. A second road, north of the town, led to the train station in Rogozhany - which led to the wide world. This road was controlled by Baruch-Chaim and his sons: they kept a constant and accurate connection - day and night, in the summer and in the winter - between the town and the train station in Rogozhany. They were even more accurate than the train, which was stopped in the winter by storms and snow. Even the bandits and the murderers weren't able to prevent the regular service of the carters. One of his sons, Beinus, fell victim to a murder in this road.

The rest of the roads led to the nearby villages. From there, the farmers flocked [to the town] especially on Sunday and Thursday, which were the weekly market days. Since the Romanians imposed a ban on the Sunday market day, due to the “sanctity of the day,” the policemen made sure that the shops will be closed, but they closed their eyes when they received a secret gift - “hush money.”

On the other hand, the Thursday market was different. Before nightfall the entire town center was taken over by the stall owners. They stretched tents over the stalls - to protect them from the rays of the sun or against the rain.

The stalls were arranged on both sides of the wide street. The farmers, who came from near and far, parked their wagons behind the stalls, and their horses, which were tied to the wagons, chewed assiduously barley, oats, or any other refreshment that was given to them.

In the continuation of the main street, after the stalls, the wagons stood linked to each other. They were filled with the fruits and the vegetables of the season: cherries, hackberries, apricots, various plums, melons and vegetables in abundance. The middle of the street served as a passage for pedestrians and wagons. Despite the crowding, the traffic didn't stop from early morning to sunset. Then, the street emptied, and after

[Page 33]

the hustle and bustle only the typical remains of market day were left: straw, peels, papers, damaged fruits and vegetables etc.

The homeowners and the shopkeepers, of the same street, grumbled on the next day when they had to sweep - each next to his home - the garbage that was left. The fine, which was expected during the policemen's inspection, was the most effective factor.

A special place was reserved on market day, as in any weekday, to the vegetable peddlers. Each one was seated behind his stand, which was composed from a number of boards that were placed on two crates. A scale and weights stood on the stand, and next to it were wicker baskets which contained fruits and vegetables. Among the peddlers were also those who sold fish for the Sabbath.

There was also a special place in the market for selling eggs and poultry. The farmers' wives sat on the ground and before them were eggs, chickens, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seed for cracking on the Sabbath, and all kinds of spices.

The women from the village of Prodaneshti supplied bottled milk and butter wrapped in cabbage leaves to customers in who didn't have a goat or a cow.

There were also Jews, who kept a number of cows, and supplied milk to people with a refined taste and to those who were strictly kosher. It was possible to get cheese from Gedalia the cheese maker.

Most of the townspeople earned their living from trading with the local farmers, who, in addition to fruits and vegetables, also brought the summer harvest like: corn, wheat, barley and sunflower. In the spring they also sold lambs' skins, and in the winter - the skins of hunted animals.

In exchange for their produce the farmers purchased commodities for their homes: groceries, house wares, textiles, readymade garments and shoes. They also received the services of various artisans: tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, carpenters etc.

The farmers received a special service from the oil-presses, and accompanied the production until they got the hot oil that they produced.

The oil-presses sold their produce to the big cities. The oil waste was used as food for the cattle and the pigs, and also for heating. The sunflower shells, after they were separated from the seeds, were used during the cold winter days - for heating the houses.

The flour-mills operated constantly and thanks to them electric lanterns, which illuminated the town's dark streets, were installed.

At times, the market for cattle and horses served as a place for anti-Semite incitement, especially in the period before the elections. The reaction of Căpreşti's youth to such awakening was immediate, and it deterred the instigators and the incited as one.

On the western side of the town stretched a very deep valley, and abundance of rocks and stones were scattered on both of its banks. The Răut River flowed deep in the valley.

On summer days, in the afternoon, the townspeople turned out in droves to dip in the cool water of the Răut River. The distance to the river, including the steep descent, was about two kilometers. They made their way to the river by foot and by horse-drawn wagons which were filled with passengers - neighbors, friends or

[Page 34]

just those who joined them. Also a horse-drawn carriage was not absent there, and there were those who came on horseback. All the means to get to the Răut were acceptable. The bathing places were full with people. The men - without a cover to their skins, and the women, who were some distance away - wore nightgowns or robes - so not to attract the evil eye.

Also the horses were in the crowd of bathers - without shame they dropped their droppings in the water, and didn't feel the need to “apologize.” The flowing water carried it further and further.

The area around the Răut was a place of attraction for many, especially on Saturday afternoon. In the winter, when a thick layer of ice covered the river, it served as a place for skating. While in the summer - a place for trips and a gathering place for the teenagers. The members of the town's youth movements: Hashomer-Hatzair, Gordonia, Dror, as well as non-Zionist youth who operated underground, especially liked the place.

The source of drinking water for the town's residents were two springs near the Răut River. One, which was called “the spring” by all, contained an abundance of clear water. The “water carriers” came here with a horse-drawn cart that portly barrel was installed on it and two wooden buckets hung on its side. Hard and taxing was the work of the “water carriers,” especially during the winter. The raging snowstorms disrupted the roads and hampered the walking, especially when the buckets were full of water.

With the spring thaw, when the river rose and swept everything in its path, the mud in the roads and in the streets was deep, and the travel and the carrying of the buckets turned into a nightmare.

However, the delivery of water didn't stop, because it is an essential commodity. The water carriers “chose” a hard way to make a living for lack of choice: - at home, a wife and children, it is necessary to bring bread to their mouths and fodder to the animals that help to make a living.

In conclusion: our connection with our town is only emotional. We were born, grew up and educated there, and learned to know and understand that the place is precious to us. However, as Jews, the place is foreign to us like any other place in the world. We can't ignore the memories of the past, because somewhere there's a link between the past and the future. Although we burned the bridges with what we had in the Diaspora - our present and future as Jews is here, in the Land of Israel.

 

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[Page 35]

When I remember my town Căpreşti

by Arye Koparov

Transliterated by Sara Mages

From time to time a thought is pecking in my mind: my town - is like all the other towns in the Diaspora, why most of the cities and towns in Bessarabia were granted the right that their names will appear in books and various newspapers, whereas Căpreşti was unlucky, and its name disappeared.

The fact is that the name “Căpreşti” was wiped off the geographical map. It was changed to “Prodaneshti” - after the name of the neighboring village. Therefore, we - the generation who witnessed its destruction and felt it on its flesh - must raise the memory of the town - where were born and educated, and in which our spiritual image was molded.

Many years have passed since I was uprooted from our town, and in a chapter of wandering and suffering, I carried in my heart the longings and the worries for the fate of my birthplace. Even today, when I finally arrived to the land of my yearnings and settled there, I carry within me the image of Căpreşti. Its streets, houses, institutions and people are etched in my mind, and I see them to their smallest details

Most of the town's Jews were simple folks. They were dressed in fur coats, to their heads - a sheepskin hat, and to their feet - high leather boots (the quality of the leather was according to the man's means), or galoshes over shoes. They were people with modest means, and their demands from life were limited to their concerns about livelihood, family matters and the education of their children.

There were no soaring ambitions regarding education. It was enough to know how to pray, to understand some Chumash and RASHI [RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki], write a letter in Yiddish, and if possible - also the language of the country. And all this for what? Not to belong, God forbid, to the ignorant class and the illiterate…

A significant portion of the population made its living from working the land. From them, there were those who leased land from the “landowners” and grew grain or a patch of watermelons and cantaloupes. Others planted vineyards on the hillside east of the town or grew fruit trees. There was hardly a respected man who didn't raise a cow or at least a goat or two. Those who claim that the town came to its name because of the great number of goats, which filled the town's streets and even climbed on the roofs, are probably right.

But the main component of Căpreşti's residents was the artisans, the shopkeepers and the merchants. They made their living from the farmers of the twenty villages in the vicinity, who came to town all the days of the week and especially on market day - the “fair.”

There were six streets in the town and a number of alleyways. The main street - the longest among them - concentrated within it most of the shops. Its southern end reached the boundaries of the village of “Prodaneshti, ” while its northern end continued in the direction of Rogozhany. Behind this street, to the eastern horizon, lay a ridge of farmland. Across the street, on its western side, was a vast field. A cattle market, which was bustling with thousands of farmers who flocked there, was held every Thursday. The weekly “fair,” which stretched to the length and width of the main street, was held on the same day. All the residents of Căpreşti, big and small, looked forward to market day. On this day, joy and happiness prevailed in the town.

[Page 36]

Already at dawn, and even hours before that, to the light of lanterns, the shopkeepers and the craftsmen grabbed a “plot” along the street (usually, everyone was careful not to grab a plot which was reserved for its owner from market to market). Like in a miracle, sheds, made of jute and tarpaulin, were established in these plots. Inside them, everyone arranged his goods for display, so, when the farmers arrived to the fair at sunrise, they were able to find all that they needed: clothing, footwear, household items, and equipment for the yard and for the field. The sellers equipped themselves with a pot of glowing coals, to warm their hands which held a tape measure and weights.”

A short time later, the street was abuzz. Noise and commotion rose from all sides: the cries of the shopkeepers and greengrocers hawking their wares, the voices of the shoppers arguing about the price, the fights of the drunks and the laughter of children, and above all - the croaking of the birds - chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys, which were brought to the market for the Jews' Sabbath meal.

As long as we're dealing with the Sabbath, it can be said, without a hint of exaggeration, that it was the highlight of the week. It seems that all the trouble during the week was only for the honor of the Sabbath. Friday, the day in which the women are busy cooking, baking; polishing and cleaning, is nearing its end. The Jews are returning from the bathhouse with a bundle of underwear under their arm. Children, whose hair was washed, are dressed for the Sabbath and getting ready to go to the synagogue with their father. The housewife lights the candles, and lights are shining through the windows of the houses. The Sabbath arrived, rest arrived.

After the Sabbath meal, boys and girls take a walk on the main street. The Zionist youth is streaming to the “hall,” for a conversation, an evening of questions and answers and games. This youth was the glory of the town. The Zionist movements taught the children to love the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. At the end, they were the cause that a large number of young people left for pioneer training and immigrated to Israel.

 

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Yisrael Barnea

 

[Page 47]

Our street “The New Street”

by Shifra Schneider (Borman)

Transliterated by Sara Mages

The street, in which I was born and educated until I immigrated to Israel in 1935, was called “The New Street.” It was called “new” because it was built in 1912 by a number of families who moved to Căpreşti from the nearby villages: ştefăneşti, Chutulesht', and Pohoarna. Among those families were: Peretz Gertsnshteyn, Yirmîyahu Skeldman, Yoel Borman, and others.

The entire street was built by the same contractor, so most of the houses were constructed, inside and outside, according to one style. Each house had 6-7 rooms, a kitchen and a balcony that faced the courtyard. The front of the house and also the courtyard were paved, and acacia trees grew there. Green benches, which gave a rural character to the house, were placed there.

In those days it was customary that the teachers, who taught the local Jewish children, lived for a short period of time in the villages. Since they were dependent on the parents of their students, they were called “room and board teachers.” There were only a few children in the village of ştefăneşti, where my parents lived, and for that reason they weren't able find a teacher who was willing to teach there.

My mother z”l was forced to travel every day to bring her children to the school in Căpreşti. The journey was fraught with difficulties and danger since the Răut River, which flowed between ştefăneşti and Căpreşti, constituted a serious obstacle. Indeed, the distance between the village and the town was only 4km, but at times, especially in the winter when the farmers cut fishing holes in the ice, the danger was great. In addition, the bridges collapsed when the snow melted and there were also floods. During that period, the horse-drawn carriage was placed on a ferry, and the river crossing was extremity dangerous.

In 1918, we moved to the town of Căpreşti. Most of the families had 6-7 children. The parents did everything so their children will be able to study and be ready to deal with the difficulties of the future.

*

Many public institutions were concentrated in “The New Street,” more than any other street in town, like: “The Loan-and-Savings Fund” (the Bank), the “Internal Revenue Office” and the police. I remember that there was a dancing hall at the Butkis' house, and the tunes of a guitar, mandolin and gramophone came from there.

The Post Office: for many years the postmaster was a typical Russian Gentile. He was tall with a long and wide beard, and continued in this position since the days of Tsar Nicholas. Sorotziano, the postman, filled an important role in the post office. Many people waited impatiently for him: young men - from their sweethearts, parents - from their sons who studied afar, and deserted wives who waited in vain for a letter from their husbands who abandoned them.

The Borman family lived across from the post office. Close to them were trees and benches, and it was comfortable to wait until Sorotziano came out of the post office. These benches could tell a lot of secrets.

“Internal Revenue Office”: this is a government institution for the collection of taxes that everyone must - voluntarily or involuntarily - to use. A failure to pay the taxes causes unpleasantness that we need stay away from.

The “Bank” was operated under the leadership of Leizer Haysiner. The library was housed in the same building, and next to it was the reading room.

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The Library: In my time the library was directed by Fanya Hoykhman. I remember that the first book that she had given me was “The Basis of Zionism” by Menachem Ussishkin, because she knew that I belonged to a youth movement. When the “Groshn-biblioṭeḳ” books appeared, we were eager to read them because they dealt with the biography and work of famous personalities, revolutionaries, etc. (each booklet contained 62 pages).

The Reading Room: It was possible to find various newspapers, which were published in Romania and the western countries, there. Members of the various youth movements, who argued about every subject in the world, also met there. Since I was girl then, I wasn't allowed to enter the room during the debates, but the stormy arguments about “the expulsion of Trotsky from the Soviet Union,” while Micha'le Kleiman - the town's young genius - stood alone before a group of “Salon Communist,” reached my ears through the window. Also the “Schwartzbard trial” sparked heated debates.

*

Except for one grocery store there weren't any other shops in our street. Most of the residents of this street belonged to the wealthy merchants' class. There were housemaids in the homes, and most of them came from the neighboring Gypsy village. The wife of Leonas - the director and conductor of Căpreşti's Gypsy brass band - served in our house. My mother contracted paralysis and Irina's help was very important.

There were also craftsmen in our street. I especially remember Yankel Drenboim because he sewed the children's clothes. His saying was: “Big big, wide wide - after all, the child is in the process of growing!”

I also remember Yonatan the cooper, because we always heard him complaining about the mail: “I sent a letter to America and so far I haven't received a reply.” Also Gedalia the redhead lived in this street. He didn't miss a single fire in the town. He stood at a distance and gave advice: “only water, only water…”

Kalina and Fyodor, “the known,” had to pass through our street on their way to the bathhouse and back, when they walked out to announce, by knocking on a shovel with an iron rod, that the public is invited to the bathhouse. We always saw them together as they staggered drunk. They were found frozen from the cold.

*

In our street the neighborly relationship between the merchants and the craftsmen was good, but there was a buffer according to the social status. The parents from the merchant class didn't allow their children to play with the children whose parents were craftsmen. To get married - was certainly out of the question. There were also separate synagogues. The merchants prayed in the “German Kloiz” or in the “Hasidic Synagogue,” and the craftsmen in the “Great Synagogue” or in the “Tehillim Kleizle.”

In 1936, my brother, Dr. Mendel Borman, who as a child was educated, ran and frolicked in “The New Street,” returned to Căpreşti. He opened a private clinic in the Simsovits house. He found his death during the Holocaust - together with his wife and their two-week old son - in the hands of the Nazis and the Romanian murderers.

In 1935, I parted from my town and immigrated to Israel. My brother Yosef drove me, in our horse-drawn carriage, to the train station in Rogozhany. The gate of our yard was closed before me - forever.

 

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Moshe Kolker: In the evening - from the “Heder” home
The painter Moshe Kolker is the husband of Leah Kolker (Falikas) a former resident of Căpreşti.

 

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Yafa Weitzberg (Shaindel Mer): “The New Street”

 

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