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Notes and Addenda
These notes and addenda by the present editor incorporate supplementary information and reminiscences from other Yiddish manuscripts written by Saul Miller on various occasions. Some of these details may seem trifling. However, they constitute sociological and anthropological data which will never again be available if not now recorded, and valid data is never trifling. Where significant, S.M, indicates material derived from other manuscripts of Saul Miller's, and L.M. indicates matter supplied by the editor. Matter which is common knowledge in Jewish circles is not attributed.
- Shtetl, (in Galitizia pronounced shtaytl; plural, pronounced shtaylach) is used in this translation, rather than town to refer to a specific type of settle community in an East European region, usually surrounded by a rural area and villages inhabited by a majority of another nationality. By 1880 there were large urban communities in many cities, Odessa Vilna, Warsaw, Vienna, Berlin, and many other, which were much less ingrown in outlook, quite cosmopolitan in culture; but somewhat as rural America has long colored the civilization of big-city industrial United States so the shtetl dominated the image of Eastern European Jewish life for centuries, until its annihilation in the Hitlerian holocaust of 1939-1945.
Pronunciation: in Hebrew and Yiddish words herein, ch always represents the guttural sounds of clearing the throat, as in cheder, churban, cherem, Chanukah. The sound of tsh, the combination of the Yiddish letters tess-shin, is always so spelled here: tshdent, koiletsh. The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet is here transliterated as s whenever it was so pronounced in Dobromil (so: s as in Beis, not the th as in Beth, and not t as in current Israeli usage.
Dobromil is pronounced as if it were composed of the three English words dub-roe-meal, accent on the first syllable. I spell
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Galitsia as it was pronounced, rather than Galicia as is customary.
In his Yiddish writings, Saul Miller often used Hebrew phrases for emphasis or for irony. These are herein indicated by italics in the English translation. When they are from the Bible, the source is given.
Dobromil as a settled community may go back to the eleventh century, and its Jewish population likewise, although written records are available only from much later. In popular etymology, the residents said that its name derived from dobro, good, and mil, a mile because of the generous measurement of the area when it was allocated in antiquity to a feudal lord; or said other, as good mill, because of the availability of stream water for the mills refining the salt mined there. Grandfather Reuben (Reeven) Mehler said Gall-itsia was so called because life there was so bitter; others said it was because in the eighteenth century partition of Poland, the poorest part fell to the weakest power, Austria. Return
- Fires: although it was Nazism and war which finally sealed the doom of Dobromil, up to then it remembered mainly disaster by fire and flood. Since many houses were roofed by dried out wooden shingles, and some by straw thatch, they were ready tinder for sparks. Saul Miller witnessed one entire street aflame one July day, during the time he was in reb Naftali Fuchs' cheder. People in adjacent streets rolled up their bedding packed their moveables and fled to the open meadows. The column of smoke was seen by other villages and towns, which sent volunteers to help fight the flames.
His mother often spoke of a great fire which had occurred the first night of Slichos (midnight prayer services during the month before Rosh Hashanah, New Year's). An historic fire which leveled much of the town is recorded in the Yiskor Book. Dobromil's volunteer firemen were ordinarily summoned by the Magistrat bell, but for really big fires the bell at the main church was tolled. Return
- A greitzer was the smallest coin, more like a farthing than a penny; properly, kreuzer. Among the small shopkeepers were dealers in dry goods, notions, groceries, kosher meat, tobacco, leather and shoes, ready to wear men's clothes, ladies' wear, tinkers, watchmakers, hat makers, coopers, wood turners and cabinet makers, coal dealers. There were also meckler, middlemen or brokers; klezmer musicians available for weddings, etc. Return
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- In the shtetl, life was ethnically hyper-sensitive. The Jewish townsfolk lived side by side with their non-Jewish neighbors in worlds apart. Yiddish terminology within the Jewish community reflected this separation. Thus, in common conversation, Yeed, properly a Jew, meant simply a man. Yeedena, properly a Jewish woman, in common conversation meant only a woman. Yeeden, the plural, meant simple people. (In Sholem Aleichem's drama, Hard to Be a Jew, a delegation is addressed by a rabbi with the greeting Yeeden, meaning Gentlemen. To convey these complex senses, I use the Yiddish words in this text. When Saul Miller used the word Yehudim, the formal Hebrew word for Jews, wit ironical purpose, the word is retained in the English, as here. Return
- The stream was the Wirwa (pronounced Virva) often torrential from rain or melting snow. The name means rampaging. Homes were frequently carried away in flood time. On one occasion, Saul's uncle Yusha was conveying a local tax official by horse and wagon when flood waters swept them away, but they were saved with the help of Yusha's brother Hersh. The stream also served for Tashlich, the Rosh Hashanah rite casting sins away into running water. (S.M.) Return
- Shabbos after Kiddush: when it was supposed to be especially quiet. Kiddush, a blessing said over the wine at supper, begins the Sabbath at home. This street, its name pronounced Sheester Gass in Galitzianer dialect, was the Skalka Ulitza. Saul Miller's boyhood home was there, in a house belonging to Pinchas Kramer, three doors from the beginning of the street, near Katz's tavern. Return
- As in the ninth plague in Egypt, Exodus 10:21. The broken leg was first treated by Dr. Brauner, the non-diploma'd Jewish doctor, mentioned elsewhere herein, with not quite satisfactory results. At that time the Sappover Rebbe was in Dobromil, conducting what American would call a revival, and collecting handsomely. Friends urged Maier Treiber to carry his boy Saul to the Rebbe, and reluctantly he agreed. The Rebbe put a red kerchief across the boy's knee, blessed him, and sent him home. Nothing happened to the leg. Urged again,
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Maier Treiber again carried him to the Rebbe, when the latter, about to leave town, was surrounded by people crowding for a last chance to see him. This time the Rebbe sent them away brusquely, saying I took care of you already. Humiliated and embarrassed, Maier Treiber left, and never again approached any Rebbe. A peasant acquaintance of grandfather Reeven the glazier heard, came to the house, and with the practical know-how of the countryside showed them how to treat the leg daily in hot water baths and to bandage it properly. Two weeks later Saul was out of bed. (S.M.) Return
- Sanctification of the New Moon: a rite rarely practiced by Jews in the United States. It is a recital of a liturgy at night out of doors. It seems to have been incorporated into Jewish tradition from practices customary in ancient prehistoric Canaan. (L.M.)
Once in his childhood Saul Miller took part in a Blessing of the Sun, Birkas-HaChamah, a rite performed only once in every twenty-eight years. That devout Jews M'chadesh dee l'vunah (renew the moon) from long since, and do to this day, is no news. We 'cheder' boys knew that at the beginning of each month when in a clear night the darkling sky there appeared a new moon, Yeeden come out into the street after 'Maariv davening' and they m'chadesh dee l'vunah.
But that Yeeden m'chadesh the sun – that for us little 'cheder' boys was big news, and that it comes about only one time in twenty-eight years that was a truly great honor conferred on us boys, that we seven and eight year olds had lived to witness such a celestial manifestation. We eavesdropped to the older men talking among themselves by the warm stone stove in the Beis Medrash all about that phenomenon. Among ourselves we began to fantasize and try to imagine in our conception how indeed the New Sun would look when she would come out from her great winter wrappings in her full power and radiance.
I do not know how the author of that almanac came to compute the renewing of the sun precisely for the month of Adar and exactly in that time of bad weather to come and greet such a most welcome guest who arrives only one time in twenty-eight years. Nu, no such questions will we now address to that author, and if that almanac so indicates then most likely it must be so. All the Yeeden in shtetl set themselves in readiness for the great day as they would to a truly great Yontif 'Shteitsh', (golly goodness gracious) such an event happening one time in twenty-eight years.
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And lo came the day of that great Yontif. It was 'a Sunday morning after 'davenin of Shacharis', (the morning service). Outdoors was wet wintry penetrating chill. Everyone was shivering blue with the cold. The heavens were enveloped in dense gray cloud, and still drizzling a fine wet snow. Everybody went tramping through the muddy snow sloughs to the bridge which goes to the Rinnies meadows, where on Rosh Hashanah was said 'Tashlich'.
My father of blessed memory was there with Reb Luzar Fabricant, with me between them, standing in the midst of all Israel. Everyone's eyes were somberly focused to the big sky. The snow let up, and with deep feeling all began to recite the blessings from the booklets specially printed for 'Kiddush-Ha-Chamah'. And the heavy dense gray clouds became thinner and as through a veil just for a few seconds the sun came into view. There was just enough time to say the 'Brochos l'Chamah', the Blessings for the Sun, and so the Dobromiler 'Yeeden' had renewed the sun. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief and gave thanks to the One Who Lives Eternally for the grace which had been show to us, verily, a miracle marvel from heaven.
For weeks afterward we 'cheder' boys kept talking about it, reassuring ourselves that we were young enough to be able again to join in another renewing of the sun. (S.M.)
This particular occasion probably took place on Wednesday (not Sunday, despite Saul Miller's recollection from sixty years later and not Adar, unless there was something very different in Dobromil) the fifth of Nisan, 5657 by the Jewish calendar, April 7, 1897. The event is supposed to commemorate the creation of the sun on Wednesday. The almanac calculator unknown to Saul Miller was Samuel Yarchina'ah, about 165-250, who aimed to set it at a particular position of Saturn in relation to the spring equinox, but it became formalized at the fifth of Nisan. It has been observed in the United States, although it is almost unknown. Return
- Mincha-Maariv: religious services conducted every day of the year, Mincha just before sundown; Maariv, theoretically when the first stars appear, but in congregational worship, after sundown, so that worshippers remain assembled for both Pillar of cloud: as in the desert wandering after the Exodus from Egypt. Return
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- Yahrzeit: anniversary of someone's death, commemorated by lighting memorial tapers in tumblers of about eight ounces. Return
- Chometz is leavened, ordinary bread, or any other food not prepared exclusively for Passove use. All traces of such food must be eliminated from the house before the Pesach (Passover) holiday begins, during which only unleavened bread (matzos) and similarly specially prepared foods may be used. A holiday begins at evening time, Erev in Hebrew. Return
;Nebich: an interjection meaning it is a pity (on him, on her, on them).
- Chaleh is home-baked white bread for the Sabbath (Shabbos), often one domed loaf, and one koiletsh, a braided or twisted loaf. Return
- Melamdim is the plural of melamed, a teacher of Hebrew language and religious literature, usually teaching in his home (cheder), paid privately for tuition; sometimes teaching in a community supported school.
Menachem-Mendl is a folk character in Yiddish literature, a man without sure prospects, waiting for something to turn up, something like Micawber in Dickens' David Copperfield. Bonkes are small glass cups, about one ounce size, made to adhere to a sick person's chest or back by igniting alcohol vapor in them to create a vacuum. This was considered an infallible remedy for pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. To my knowledge, it was still used in the United States into the 1930's. (L.M.) Return
- Bar mitzvah: confirmation at thirteenth birthday when the boy become a man responsible before God for his own conduct (until then, the responsibility of his parents). In the twentieth century, and in the United States, this became an elaborate ceremonial followed by a family festivity. In some Jewish circles, it has been extended by analogy into the development of a bat-mitzvah ceremony for girls. Return
- Naprzod, pronounced Napshud, means Forward in Polish: Forward was a favorite name for socialist-inclined papers. This was published by Dashinski. There was no newspaper published in Dobromil. As Saul Miller indicates, the Zionist paper was read by the youth of the better off families, Naprzod by the working youth. In those years there was no
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bookstore in Dobromil. Itinerant booksellers came from time to time with prayer books (siddurim for every day, machzorim for holiday) and occasionally a maase-buch, a Yiddish story book for a greitzer. (S.M.) Return
- Yomtov pronounced Yontif in Yiddish, is a religious holiday. To daven is to recite or participate in the recital of the set liturgy of psalms, piyyutim (post-Biblical religious poetry) another ritual texts. Although these rituals for weekdays, Sabbaths, and holy days fill several volumes, observant Jews by dint of constant repetition can often recite much, or even most, from memory. I use davenin for the noun, davening for the present participle. Pronounce the a in daven as in art. Return
- Tshortkover and Belzer: These were splinter quasi-sects among the many Chassidic quasi-sects, taking their names from the towns where their founding rebbes lived. Typically they maintained separate synagogues; frowned upon intermarriage with an adherent of the other Chassidic group; disputed over which shochet (meat and poultry slaughterer) was ritually acceptable and whose meat was kosher, (a matter of business economics as well as of religious); argued which Rabbi could decide a Shaale (a disputed question) with an authoritative Tshuvah (response with the effect of law) and which could better bring influence to bear on the Ribbono-shel-Olam, the Master of the Universe. Although between them these two were not a majority of the population, their factional hostility repeatedly divided the town, particularly when there was an election of the tow Dayanim (judges) or the Moreh-Hora'ah (expounders of rabbinical law, assistants to the rabbi). When the rabbi at the main synagogue was of the Belzer persuasion (in Saul Miller's time), Tshortkover Chassidim were uncooperative and even mocking. In Dobromil there were also some followers of other rebbes, Sassover, Rumanover, etc.
Maier Treiber was one of the many who stood aloof from these factions, as well as from the misnagdim, traditionalist who actively opposed all the different Chassidim, who openly scoffed at their rebbes and who criticized the needless emotional and economic distress caused by their bickering.
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The Groise Shul or Big Synagogue, used the Ashkenazi prayer-book, while the Beis Medrash used the Sephardi prayer-book. (These terms, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, did not mean in Dobromil what they mean in Israel today.) The Misaskim Shilechel, Little Synagogue of the Study Group, conducted by Reb Naftali Fuchs, met in part of the Groise Shul, and the Schneider Shilechel, (tailors or workingmen's synagogue) was some kind of offshoot of the Big Synagogue. The Chevra Linah Tsedek, the Society for Visiting the Sick, which was led by Maier Treiber and Luzar Fabricant, used to hold services in a private house, lent by Leibish Brik. Maier Treiber seems to have rotated among all of these.
The shtreimel is a hat made out of fox tails arranged in a circle. A legendary figure in Dobromil was Reb Itzik'l Brieftrager, long time postman in the mid nineteenth century, so appointed because he could read all the local languages; his descendants wre also noted for scholastic attainment, and even in America have been referred to as Itzik'l Brieftager's great grandchildren. One Saturday night to catch up he worked all through till morning when he emerged on Sunday to the street still wearing his Shabbos Shtreimel. A group of Polish people, on way to church, saw him, were surprised at his shtreimel on a Sunday and called out, Itzik, bei dir heint briss? - are you celebrating a circumcision feast today? That question became a Dobromil proverb for any occasion when someone was unusually dressed up.
Apart from the established synagogues and chapels, on some occasions Dobromil was visited by mussar-zugger, revivalist preachers, who delivered their calls to repentance in sermons at the Beis-Medrash in the time between Mincha and Maariv. Among the workingmen, wrote Saul Miller, they were little heeded.
Also on rare occasions, an itinerant chazzan (cantor, chanter of the synagogue liturgy) stumbled into Dobromil and was admired and praised for his sweet melodies and inspiring interpretation of the prayer-book; but then on Sunday volunteers had to beg donations to help cover his expenses. (S.M.) Return
- Dobromil under Austrian rule had separate public schools for boys and girls, roughly from age six to ten, four years. There
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were several reasons why parents might keep children from school. One was religious: Catholic prayers were regularly recited by the children in class, twice daily. Even if Jewish children were not under compulsion (usually) to say these prayers, they soon knew them by heart and willy-nilly were participating; to them, sacrilege. Another reason was poverty: especially this was in winter, when poorer children did not have the boots or coats to wear.
These truancies would receive the attention of the municipal police force, (which consisted of three or four men with very little to do.) They would once in a while proclaim a new ordinance to the beat of a drum in the Ring Platz; conduct sanitary inspections; blow whistles in the alleys to help hunt for a stray dog or a missing sow; and on market Mondays, when the influx of countryside peasants created an opportunity for thievery, they would disappear from sight. Most of the time they dozed.
In enforcing the public school attendance regulations, they would enter the cottage and seize either the wife's Friday evening Shabbos candlesticks or the husband's shtreimel, being certain that greater hostage or bail bond was needed to compel the father to respond before the Sabbath came. Sometimes, a ten greitzer tip redeemed these essentials of the Shabbos. More often the Yeed would accept a one day detention penalty, agreeing to do his sitting from Shabbos midday to the next morning, when he would not be at work anyway. (S.M.)
Chad Gadya, referring to the cell in the Magistrat, is an intentional joke here. It is actually the name of a folk song, a round chanted at the end of the Passover evening seder. Return
- There were Yiddish theatre performances in Przemsly, to which some Dobromiler, including Saul Miller, went on occasion. Generally, in Dobromil, theatre was classed as olom hazeh'diger hana'ah, this worldly enjoyment, inconsistent with piety; even as chilul ha'shem, sacrilege.
A major diversion each summer (from Sivan into Tammuz, two week) was the annual Austrian army maneuvers in the nearby mountains. The soldiers wore the same uniform, with distinctive arm colors, light green for the Tenth regiment, dar green for the 9th, light red for the 7th. Defending forces wore white banded caps, attacking no band. Army officers were quartered in the better quality homes, servicemen in barns. Daily bugle calls for reveille, and parades led by bands of martial music livened up the shtetl, with half-dressed toddlers running
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after the excitement. At two in the afternoon, the troops returned for their main meal of the day, at kitchens set up by the banks of the Wirwa near the swimming hole. At four in the afternoon the army bands performed a public concert of military marches in the Ring Platz. The only other public concerts in Dobromil were trumpet solos by a police officer in the Ring Platz, usually in May.
A Shabbos afternoon pastime was to stroll after tsholent on the road to the railroad station, a pleasant walk. On one side of the road there were level ploughed fields, while the other sloped uphill. (S.M.) Return
- Zemiros: verses chanted or sung in celebration of the Sabbath. Although Saul Miller's later library in the United States included many volumes of Yiddish literature, in none of his manuscripts about Dobromil is there any mention of Mendele Mocher Sforim, I. L. Peretz, Sholem Aleichem, or any other Yiddish writer, nor of any Hebrew poetry other than of the synagogue, reflecting the abysmal level of secular culture in that community.
Tsholent: food cooked in a stew pot, a wide variety of possible concoctions. Kugel: a solid pudding of potatoes, or noodles, or other ingredients. Return
- Chevra: any association ranging from a formally organized congregation of the synagogue, to any amorphous group assembled for a single event. Dobromil had chevras which were cooperative burial societies; free loan societies, lending money without interest charges; grops collecting and dispensing charitable funds; groups for visiting the sick (Chevra Linah); informal study circles, such as Chevra Mishnayes, studying the Mishna, Chevra Misaskim, studying the Torah; Chevra Charitzim, workingmen gathering to pray together; and others.
Aliyahs: The Five Books of Moses, (the first five books of the Bible, constituting the Torah in the narrowest, technical sense of that word, as distinguished from Torah encompassing the whole of Jewish religious teaching) are divided into weekly portions which are read, in succession, in a one year cycle, at synagogue services, supplemented by selections from the later books in the Hebrew Scriptures. These weekly portions are subdivided further into (usually) seven sections. At the synagogue service, seven men, in turn are ceremoniously summoned to go up (=aliyah) either to read one section aloud, or more often
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to recite several blessing, while the text is read by someone who is better practiced in correctly reading the vowel-less Hebrew at sight. Aliyahs are honors, and ordinarily conferred on the local pillars of society; also on a thirteen year old on becoming a bar mitzvah, and a bridegroom about to be married. Return
- Mishna: the collection of rabbinical teachings, composed immediately subsequent in time to the Holy Scriptures (roughly, from -200 to +200), which became the nucleus of the later Talmud. Pirke Avos is a part of the Mishna, but the reference here is an adaptation from the remarks of Rabbi Chananyah ben Teredion in its Chapter 3. L'Chayim is the drinker's toast To life! Return
- In summer time, the stoves would not be used to home and therefore the tsholent had to be cooked at the baker's.
The most serious tsholent at the baker crisis happened once at Pesach, Passover. In excessive concern not to have any chometz (non-Passover) food in the house, while not beginning to use the Passover food till the evening seder, it was customary to skip the midday meal, or to restrict it to a neutral potato in the borscht. When the first seder eve fell on Saturday night, there was a problem. It is improper to fast on a Sabbath, and forbidden to cook. The solution was to deliver the tsholent pot on Friday to the bakery, where the baker would seal the oven and pray that all would come out well. On one particular occasion when the housewives came to collect their pots, as often a disagreement arose over the identity of a particular pot. When it was uncovered by way of determining the contents, an outcry arose that it contained kashe (buckwheat groats), which was chometz and therefore everyone else's tsholent was equally rendered chometz. Horrifying as this was to those who had not yet taken their food home, it was infinitely worse as the word spread to those who had, and had eaten chometz on Shabbos-Pesach eve, a most fearful sin on their conscience. In this crisis appeal was made to the town rabbi who directed that a precise inquiry be made into the contents of the suspect pot. It proved to be chicken and kneidlach (matzo meal balls). Notoriously the art of matzo balls is beyond many housewives, and in this case the matzo ball had disintegrated, giving the appearance of kashe. Once again Dobromil was saved (S.M.). Return
- The Polish, or large church, was Roman Catholic. Dobromil also had a Greek Orthodox church serving the Ruth-
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enian peasants, and a small chapel for (a dissenting sect?) of poor peasants. Another Polish institution was the Dom Narodni, or people's house, housing their nationalist-patriotic association, and their athletic Sokol (Falcon) organization. As far as the Jewish population of Dobromil was concerned, all of these institutions might as well have been on the planet Pluto. (L.M.) Return
- Having acquired in Imperial Austria-Hungary and Imperial Germany, a passionately anti-militarist outlook, reinforced by hearing August Bebel in Berlin, Saul Miller treat these Lag B'Omer excursions rather negatively. These observances are related to the unsuccessful uprising against Roman rule led by Bar Kochva (about 131-135) and supported by the martyred Rabbi Akiva. According to one tradition, Lag B'Omer marks one day in the tragic struggle in which Rabbi Akiva's pupils won a victory, in what was otherwise a long series of defeats. This tradition seems to have been bowdlerized by some later rabbis (who, for reasons both good and bad wanted to play down the idea of armed struggle) into a story that a plague raging among Akiva's students ceased on that day. Further tradition says that when the uprising was crushed, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, disciple of Akiva, hid in a cave for many years. His pupils came to consult him, surreptitiously, and they carried bows and arrows in case they had to defend themselves against a stray Roman patrol. To me, this tradition of an outing into the woods, connected with archery and a pilgrimage to a cave, suggests roots far deeper, in Stone Age times, when hunters gathered for rituals at caves like Lascaux and Altamira. (L.M) Return
- he Tenth of Tevess, the Seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av (=Tisha B'Ov) are anniversaries relating to the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. The siege of Jerusalem by the army of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon began on the Tenth of Tevess. On the Seventeernth of Tammuz the city wall was breached and the city thereby taken. On Tisha B'Ov the Temple was burned. Return
- Honored mention must be rendered to the Jewish ‘Bies-Olom’ or ‘Beis-Hakvuros’ as they called the consecrated ground, the cemetery. Somehow it had come about that the cemetery just had to be located near the peak of a steep hill. Not enough that everyone shivered with fear from the various tales told by the cemetery, from the peak there stared down the isolated white tombstone of a deceased physician, Doctor Bick.
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Because he was not religiously observant (‘nisht a frumer’) he was interred there at the highest point, where no one else was buried. (It was said that his restless soul could be seen there walking at night.) Quite opposite, in contrast, was the white-wahsed little hut over the graves of the shtetl's Tzaddik, reb Shimon Deitsh and his wife. Every ‘Tisha B'Ov’ all, young and old, would enter into that little hut. The town ‘balebatim’ poking around the old tombstones said the shtetl was some hundreds of years old. Overseer of the consecrated ground was a ‘Yeed’ with the name Yakov-Melech-the-Beis-Olom-Yeed. He lived with his family in a cottage on one side of the cemetery. On the other side was the tent into which were brought the Jewish dead from nearby hamlets. Characteristically, this cemetery family was different from the shtetl dwellers. By them they ate only black rye bread, white ‘chaleh’ only on Shabbos. I used to drop by there almost every Shabbos because I had a good friend who was a grandson of Yakov-Melech-the-Beis-Olom-Yeed. They were considered rather uncultured (prost), only on Shabbos were they seen at the Big Synagogue, on the side where the poorer folk were found. They were all bronzed from the sun, like real peasant people. They were free from any fear at all, and even used to go to sleep on a pile of hay right near those who were buried. With my father I would always visit the grave of my grandfather Berish-Issachar of blessed memory who lived of his choice always in the big city of Lemberg but asked to be buried in Dobromil where he was born. (from other mss by Saul Miller). Return
- Chalilah: a frequent interjection in Yiddish, when used seriously means God forbid or perish the thought. Here used ironically, hence translated perish forbid. Return
- In the Bible, in Numbers 15:38-40, the Children of Israel were directed to wear tzitzis or knotted strings, or fringes on the corner of their garments as a constant reminder of their religious faith and duties. Accordingly, religiously observant Jewish men, as a symbol of this constant awareness, wear a garment (as a practical matter, more often, an undergarment) consisting of an oblong cloth with an opening to go over the head and shoulders, like a bib covering front and back, with the knotted strings (tzitzis) at each of the four corners. Arba-kanfos means four corners, the Hebrew name for this undergarment, which in colloquial Yiddish is called a leib-tzu-dekel, which
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means little body covering. When worn as an outer or publicly visible garment, it is called a tallis-katan, a small tallis (tallis being the large prayer scarf or shawl worn by men during the services in the synagogue). Return
- Koiletxh is the kind of chaleh (white bread loaf) made in twisted braids of dough. The Fast of Gedaliah is observed the day after the second day of Rosh Hashanah, on the third of Tishri, in commemoration of the assassination of Gedaliah, appointed by the Babylonians to govern Judea after the fall of Jerusalem, as told in the book of Jeremiah, chapters 40 and 41. Return
- Honor thy father: fifth of the Ten Commandments, which adds and mother. Return
- Kol Nidre: This is the opening chant of the Yom Kippur service, in a very moving melody and very moving words, variously interpreted, but reflecting the persecutions endured through the centuries. The major implication is that any and all oaths (Kol, all nidre, vows) imposed and taken under duress, meaning in particular forced conversion to other religions under threat of death, are null and void: a most painful declaration to have to make. Return
- Succah: A strictly temporary booth, with a roof left incompletely thatched or covered through which stars must be visible, commemorating the tents in the desert wanderings between the exodus from Egypt and the settlement in Canaan. Return
- The lulav is an assembly of long palm leaves, something like a sword held in a hilt of myrtle and willow leaves, in
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this ceremony held in the hands together with an esrog, a citron like a lemon. Return
- Simchas Torah is the festive day of rejoicing in the Torah. It comes at the end of Succos, and marks the completions of the year-long cycle of reading the Five Books of Moses in weekly installments. (This cycle of reading begins again on the Sabbath following.) On Simchas Torah the hand-inscribed scrolls of these five books are paraded round the synagogue in circular processionals, with children bringing up the rear waving paper banners, or a stick to which often lit candles used to be attached. Atto Hareiso are the first two words of the passage taken from Deuteronomy 4:35 which is recited at the start of these processionals (Hakafos). Mussaf is the additional prayer service at midday, one of the distinctions between any ordinary day and a holy day. K'dushah (sanctification) is ordinarily considered a particularly sacred moment, not to be interrupted even by a whisper. Auctioning - to raise funds. Return
- The Fast of Esther precedes the Purim festivity, commemorating the fast day recorded in the Book of Esther. Once on a Monday or Thursday reading of the Torah in the synagogue, the heavy scroll was dropped while being ceremonially held up high. That day the whole shtetl fasted (S.M.). Return
- Draydel, a four sided spinner or top used in a children's gambling game for beans or other tokens. The initials determine winnings and losses, put and take. The initials are also read in the sequence of nun, gimel, heh, shin. Return
- Children went from door to door with the traditional jingle: Heint is Purim, morgen is ois, git mir a groschen, und varft mich arois, (Today is Purim tomorrow not, give me a penny, and throw me out).
In his youth Maier Treiber was a Purim-shpieler, playing Yehudah (Judah) in Joseph and His Brothers. Do texts of any of these survive? At age eighty-nine, Saul Miller repeats with pleasure a song from that playlet taught to him as a child by Maier Treiber, originally sung by a juvenile character, Serach, who comes to tell grandfather patriarch Jacob the astounding good news that his long lost son Joseph is alive and ruler in Egypt. It is in mixed Hebrew and Yiddish rhyme.
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I Serach come before you
To tell you great good news
To gladden your heart.
(Such tidings to relate
Is really something great).
Lo, Uncle Joseph is still alive.
(Bringing someone such news
God rewards double, and how)
And he is ruler now
Over all the land of Mitzraim,
Yes ruler over all Mitzraim,
And now has two sons also
Menashe and Ephraim.
Serach was a daughter of Jacob's son Asher, but the role may have been sung by a little boy.
The meoir omits Chamishah Osor B'Shvat although on the fifteenth day of the month Shvat Dobromilers did observe the traditional New Year's Day of the Trees by eating dried figs, dates, raisins, and buckser (carob, St. John's Bread). Return
- Winters in that region are severe. People going out on the roads towards country villages would be warned not to stop to rest lest they fall asleep. I remember one old clothes dealer who was found frozen to death that way, and there were others: (S.M.). Return
- Maier Treiber was quoting Joshua 6:1 about the siege of Jericho. Return
- It seems characteristic of an ingrown society that it tends to accumulate patterns of enduring hostility in behavior. I have seen such patterns in university faculties, in trade union locals, in associations of hotel executives, and in families, where the same people face each other and few others over long periods of time. From former Dobromiler in America, I have heard both stories of charity, love, warmth and devotion, and incidents of kriegereien, feuds; opmasseren, tale-bearing; sin'as chinom, unprincipled factional hatred; and plain cruelty (L.M.).
An instance of their mode of thought I heard told with respect and admiration by an ex-Dobromiler in America: The most highly revered woman in Dobromil in the late nineteenth cen-
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|Saul Miller's birth certificate, with parents' names in 6 and 7.
The dates in 2 and 3 were entered wrong, late by a week.
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tury was Feige Tshupper, who name was taken by the Ladies Auxiliary to the Dobromiler Men's Verein in the United States. On the occasion of a great and joyous family festivity, when all the guests were at their happiest, she suddenly appeared wrapped in a shroud, evoking loud screams and general disorder, while she harangued the assemblage on the importance of always remembering their mortality (L.M.) Return
- #147;Tol'dos: this is Genesis 25:19 through 38. Return
There was a particular reason for this practice of nicknames. The civil authorities did not recognize a Jewish religious ceremony as validating a marriage, only recognizing Christian church ceremonies or civil weddings. Birth certificates for children of Jewish parents married only in Jewish ceremonies would list both parents but gave to the child the mother's family name, not the father's name. Hence Saul Miller (originally: Mehler) was the son of Maier Treiber who was the son of Berish Sacher, and received as surname his mother's maiden name, the name of his maternal grandfather. However, these practices were not uniform, and not all children had birth certificates issued, so that practice varied from family to family. The Loewenthals of Dobromil who came to America used their father's surname. (L.M.)
- Saul Miller never knew his father's parents, who both died early, the mother first, Berish-Issachar Sacher later of a heart attack. Berish was survived by a second wife, who continued Berish's trade of traveling the circuit of market days and fairs selling red coral beads on commission. Maier Treiber never acquired any skilled trade, but also followed their footsteps selling coral beads: hence his nickname, Maier Koralnik. As a youth, in winter, when these fairs were not available, he also worked as a belfer, that is, a bei-helfer, an assistant in the cheder of Kuppala Melamed, giving little children their first start in Hebrew studies.
Maier had a brother Leib and a sister Devorah, who always lived in Przemysl. Leib was a cobbler who made boots and shoes to sell at the Friday market in Przemysl. He had a son who became a bookkeeper and two daughters. Saul Miller visited him twice in Przemysl. Once it was in a Chol Ha-Moed (middle days) of Succos, when he went to see a play (possibly Joseph Latainer's David's Violin). Hot-tempered Leib was shocked: it
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was sinful to travel all the way from Dobromil to see a stage play. The other time it was to say goodbye, before leaving for America.
Devorah was married to Leibush, who could not make a living (he was a shtekel drayer, a cane-twirler), so she worked hard as a fruit peddler. They had a blond freckled daughter with aching eyes, and a son and a daughter all younger than Saul.
Saul was named for his mother's grandfather Shaul, father of Reeven the glazier. Reeven travelled all week around the countryside installing and repairing windows and on the side sold icons to the peasants. His first wife, Zlata, mother of Roise Perl (Saul's mother) died when Roise Perl was six or seven. Reeven's second wife was Chaye Milka's, with whom he had two daughters Zeesel and Breindel, and two sons Yusha and Hersh (they brought their glazier trade to Columbia Street in Manhattan.) Reeven had a horse and wagon, a dog, and a bird in cage, but no parnossa. (S.M.) Chaye Milka's helped by peddling pots, dishes, apples, cider, anything.
Roise Perl began to do sewing for her living at an early age, earning a greitzer for a child's dress, working for Tsipporeh Mechel's. Later she also worked on men's clothes. She never had any schooling, but by her own efforts taught herself to read and write Yiddish.
Maier Treiber was first married to a cousin, by family arrangement, to a girl stricken by a disease known to be terminal, so that she would not be compelled to arrive in the other world without having had a wedding ring (S.M.). She died a few months later. Maier and Roise met rather romantically: he was at his stand vending coral beads when she came over to buy herself a sting. She was considered good looking: a bit taller than he. She was then already working a sewing machine, making dresses and aprons for peasant children. Since corals were beginning to go out of fashion, she taught him also to use the machine, and he added these articles to his market day circuits.
In Hebrew and Yiddish he was well taught, but not in Polish or German. (He first learned to sign his name in those scripts when he was married.) About 1906 he was chosen to be schoolmaster (melamed) at the newly founded communal school for Jewish children whose parents were too poor to pay tuition, teaching Hebrew language, Chumash, the prayer book, and reading and writing Yiddish.
Maier Treiber was also called the Kranken Vater, father of the ailing, because as a prime mover in the Chevra Lina, he
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used to not only visit the sick, but in severe cases he would sit up all night caring for an invalid so that the family could sleep and be able to care for the sick person during the next day. He also helped bereaved families in arranging their funerals, professional undertakers not being available. (S.M.) Return
- He was quoting the blessing from Genesis 48:20. Tefillin, mentioned above, are phylacteries, small cubical containers in which Scriptural passages are enclosed, attached to leather straps, which are worn at morning worship, one on the arm and one on the forehead. Return
- Leib Itzik was a tall, thin man with a sparse black beard, married to Beiltshe Kuppala-Melamed's, a pale, ailing woman. He ran a dardaki cheder, a beginners' school. Among his belfers (he usually had one at a time) were Yossel Hoiker (=Joey the Hunchback) and Krumer Avraham (=Lame Abraham): the latter afterwards married Saul's aunt Zeesel. Leib Itzik used to say that little Saul had a goot Keppel zum lernen, a good head for learning. Saul's sister Zlata also began cheder with him. Chumash study began at age five, and in Sefer Vayikra, (Leviticus) in the very difficult chapters on priestly ritual and temple sacrifice (probably because that was the portion of the Torah being read that week at the synagogue.
Difficult as it was for them to make a living, Saul's parents still found the money to pay tuition to the melamed, and to give a meal to the belfer and firewood to the unter-belfer (assistant) who came in the morning to pick up the child and with him go through the children's morning liturgy, the Brochos (blessings) on arising, the krias shma (reading the profession of faith) and kissing the tzitzis on the arba-kanfos. The other dardaki melamed in Dobromil, Melech Melamed, had two belfers and was used by wealthier families. (S.M.) Return
- At Hershele's there was also a little dipping into Bava Metzia and Bava Kama, the beginner's introduction in Talmud. The cheder room was also the family bedroom and living room, occupied by Hershele, his wife and three children, and a second couple who shared the quarters. (S.M) In 1966,
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in Rostov-on-Don I visited a family of cultured, professional people, five adults of three generations, sharing a similar hovel, no better being available. (L.M.) Return
- On beginning his second year at the public school, Saul had got a new pair of boots measured and made to order by Elye the cobbler. On this occasion when he was sent into the priest's class, he was required to take off the boots to make sure that he stayed. The questions asked by the priest were more than just the names of the patriarchs: the lesson happened to be the first books of the Bible, which Saul could answer very well, making a good impression on the priest. (S.M) Return
- Reb Naftali Fuchs figures prominently in the Dobromil Yiskor Book. (He was grandfather to Joseph Fox, who contributed largely to that volume, using the signature A Dobromiler.) He used to lead the prayer service in the synagogue and act as the ba'al-kore, reader of the Scriptures. He also had a one room cheder, but large and bright. He had five children, Kalman, or Kalmaleh, was one, a maskil, (an intelligent fellow of worldly outlook by Dobromil standards) who read German and Polish books. On occasion, when Reb Naftali was called away for other duties, Kalmaleh would take over the cheder, and on the quiet would share some of his German and Polish readings with the boys. Reb Naftali also taught his pupils letter writing. (S.M)
Rashi is the most famous of commentators on Hebrew Scripture, Rabbi Shlomoh Yitzchaki, Moses Alshech, a sixteenth century rabbi at Safed, also wrote commentaries, which must have had a specific appeal to Reb Naftali; the name of Alschech would ordinarily not be twinned with the name of Rashi. Return
- The Kriftscher Melamed had married a Dobromil girl and settled in her town. They shared lodgings with Yusaka the Apple-dealer, in one cottabe divided by clothes shafa (wardrobe). (S.M.) Return
- From the time I quit my last harsh Kriftscher Melamed, my father of blessed memory used to study with me at home. Each ‘Shabbos’ we would review the weekly Torah portion, with Rashi. In winter, we added a chapter or two of Psalms, in summer Pirke Avos, the Adages of the Fathers. As I approached thirteen, he taught me from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (Manual of Observances) the rules of ‘tefillin’. On a Monday or Thursday nearest my birthday, I was called to the Torah with
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an ‘aliyah’ for Bar Mitzvah. That morning at the big synagogue I first put on ‘tefillin’ and after the services, the worshippers joined in a toast with a fine aquavit, responding with a long ‘ah, ah, ah’ followed by an ‘oh, oh, oh, the real goods’. Father has brought a very special brandy for the occasion. At home my mother Rose of blessed memory had ready an outstanding repast. That day I did not have to go to work at my apprenticeship. (S.M.) Return
- Chicken feathers abounded, being used in pillows, mattresses and bed cover, as well as coming from the fowl whose feathers were plucked at home before cooking. The yarmulke is a small skull cap, worn at all times by orthodox Jews in accordance with ancient decorum which required that the head be covered in the presence of higher authority, and since one is always in the presence of God, at all times the head is to be covered. Actually, this incident in the classroom happened only once, but in that milieu, taking a yarmulka off someone's head was a tremendous offense to his religious sensibilities. (S.M.) Return
- The third and fourth years in the public school were hampered by economic distress at home. Saul peddled writing paper to his classmates for his bread. His apprenticeship began during his fourth school year. Since neither father nor mother had any such schooling, they could offer no help. German came easy, but Polish and Ruthenian were a problem, so that at times he had to turn to other schoolmates for help. The Przemysl uncle, whose son became a bookkeeper, made some suggestion of a higher school in Przemysl. But Maier Treiber demurred: in addition to the family's financial difficulties, he worried that in such an Advanced and modern city, his son's Yiddishkeit (adherence to tradition) would be affected. (S.M.)
In a schedule of public school mornings and cheder all afternoon, Saturday restricted by religious observance, and Sunday a workday, it is clear why there is no mention of sports, athletics or play anywhere in these reminiscences (and perhaps an explanation for the boisterousness sometimes tolerated in the synagogue). One game that Jewish boys played was ik, somewhat as follows. A stick about two feet high was stuck into the ground. At the top a small piece of wood, about two or three inches long, notched on one side, was balanced. This piece was struck a glancing blow by another stick, so that it flew some distance forward. The piece which flew furthest won. A variant,
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using a larger cross stick, was kitshke. The order of players, or sides, was decided by a counting out rhyme of uncertain etymological origin which sounded something like this,
ooh-er boo-er abba
kvantin kvintin dzhaba
kvantin kvintin ess
ooh-er boo-er dzhaba
kvantin kvintin pyess. (L.M.) Return
- The ready-to-wear tailor was Itzik Sura-Rivala's, whose wife Ettel was sister to Zlata, mother of Roise Perl who was Saul's mother. They had a son Shoil named for the same ancestor as Saul Miller; a daughter Raisel, after a grandmother; a son Aaron-Samuel, and a son David-Hersh. After the incident with the rolls of cloth, Saul's mother made him gloves. With characteristic pettiness, the privilege of collecting the cotton waste was after a time taken away and reserved to the tailor's son Shoil. It wold seem that this was connected with Saul's leaving this tailor, and working, shortly before his thirteenth birthday, as mehlmester (flour measurer_ on matzos for Rivvy Moshele's. When it was arranged for Saul to return to Itzik for a second year after the Passover, it was with the understanding that he would receive fifty greitzer weekly for his work finishing by hand sewing what could not be done on a sewing machine. This was for his own clothes (he was able to buy himself a coat, hat and shoes; his food came from his own parents). In addition at the following Pesach he got the (for him) memorable top coat made to order at the custom tailor's for whom he later worked as an apprentice. (S.M.)
Shir Ha-Maalos: literally, the title of certain psalms (Psalms 120 to 134) which is variously interpreted; but also the name for an amulet using Psalm 121 with superstitious inscriptions added. Meila: = well, so. Return
- Second apprenticeship at Leizer's shop: This was a formal apprenticeship, with a workbook issued by the Magistrat, and retained by the master tailor as total control over the apprentice. Schneider ben Schneider; a joke, since there is no such scriptural verse. Return
Leizer was married to Sura and they had five sons: one had his own separate shop, two worked as journeymen with their father; one, of Saul's age, was also there learning and was a good friend; and one was still in cheder. At times there was also a
deaf-mute apprentice, who had been to a special school for the deaf in Vienna.
In one room there they had three sewing machines, a cutting table, a sewing work table, two beds, two bench-beds, a commode, a wardrobe closet, a cloth storage closet, a bread closet, a wicker chest, and the essential keg of water. They also had a small aron-Kodesh (cabinet for a Torah scroll) because they sometimes held services there. Six adults slept there, with a few chickens for good measure. Leizer was asthmatic and had a violent temper. It was told of him that with his bare hands he had once torn apart an unfortunate chicken that happened to flutter on to the worktable. In contrast, his wife Sura was a good natured and warm hearted person.
In another manuscript Saul Miller wrote at great length even more bitterly of his sufferings here, where he was bound without any hope of release, kept busy with menial chores so that there was little time to learn the skills he wanted and was entitled to learn, and constantly subjected to sarcastic abuse from Leizer: Such a topcoat you need to wear already, burlap sacking isn't good enough for you?
The ensuing winter was especially sever and Leizer became very sick. On a Thursday the whole household stayed up all night reciting the Psalms over and over on behalf of his recovery. Next day Dr. Zwicklitzer, the physician-burgomeister, examined him, and with his too well known double cough pronounced the fatal prognosis. Suspending all work, they sat with him till he died at eleven that night. After the week of mourning (shiva) it was decided that the older brother Berele would continue as journeyman, while the younger David would take over as master tailor. David was modern-worldly, cut his hair German style, trimmed his beard, talked politics, read the Naprzod, but yet he was the master in the facings incident. (S.M.) (There is no reason to doubt the accuracy of these reminiscences, but in other relationships some of these persons may have been most exemplary. (L.M.) Return
- These three verbs are from the Book of Esther 3:13, where Haman proposes to annihilate the Jewish population of the Persian Empire. Return
- In spite of agreement, at the end of that years the master tailor refused to give Saul the journeyman certificate to which he was entitled, only releasing his workbook. (S.M.) Return
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- In another manuscript, Saul Miller elaborates on the political life of the time. Dobromil was governed by a burgomeister and a rada (town council), chosen by the vote of the property-owning householders. For a long time the burgomeister was Dr. Zwicklitzer, a tall stooping figure sporting a pince-nez on a black ribbon. (As a physician, he tried to enforce the sanitation regulations strictly. He was known to be taciturn, examining the sick, saying nothing, but writing a prescription; but if he would say hm, hm, and cough twice, this was understood to indicate that the patient was on his way to the other world. His fee was two crowns, one gulden, but he often did not charge the poor.) Jewish interest were represented by two prominent Jewish residents who served in an adjunct capacity to the Rada. One of these was Reb Yosel Gershtler, a Tshortkover chassis who wore the typical black cloak, short trousers, high white stockings, leather slippers, and a long Irael tallis-katan with long wool fringes, and very long payos.
About 1905 was introduced elections by manhood suffrage for representative to the Parliament in Vienna. Election was to be by ballot distributed to the voters, to be returned in envelopes on a certain date. There were two main candidates for the district which included Przemysl and Dobromil: the establishment (reactionary) candidate, a rich and titled landowner who lived most of the time in Paris, and the socialist Herman Lieberman.
In Przemysl police turned off street lamps and broke up workingmen's meetings by using truncheons on their heads. In Dobromil the police ruled that no meeting could be held on the one day that workingmen could attend on the ground that it constituted a disturbance of the Sabbath, but Lieberman's supporters assembled to hear his spokesman in a barn on a Saturday.
In Dobromil, the local powers, relying on the inexperience of the Jewish voters, issued the ballots with the name of the reactionary candidate entered by a rubber stamp. Saul Miller, teenager, came home for Friday evening from his apprenticeship work, saw the ballot so marked, tried to erase the name, spoiled the ballot and created a family panic till Maier Treiber obtained another pre-marked ballot from the Magistrat on Monday. (S.M.)
Peculiarly enough, it was from the harsh tailor employers that Saul heard about May Day demonstrations in Przemysl, and it was their copies of Naprzod that he used to snatch a glance at when they were out at Mincha-Maariv. Lieberman was elected
in 1907, was spokesman for the Social Democrats for many years, dying in World War II as a member of the Polish Government-in-Exile in London. He is prominently mentioned in the Przemysl Yiskor Book, but not in the Dobromil volume. Probably Dobromil never heard of Lieberman's association with Freud's noted disciple Helene Deutsch, née Rosenbach in Przemysl. (L.M.)
During the same years elections were held in Dobromil for a Jewish communal body, the Kultus. The community split on class lines, with the 'well-to-do' forming one party, the small traders and workingmen another. The latter nominated Zeisig the tailor and Hersh Flank the cobbler, but in a campaign marked by extreme hostility they were not elected.
Petty as were the differences in wealth between employers and employees, or between property owners and property-less, class hostility was all the more acute in the tight confines of the small town where everyone knew everyone else. (A poor trager, a carrier of burdens, went to his landlord's door on Yom Kippur eve on the way to the synagogue to wish him a good year, and was answered: Whether you beg out for yourself a good year or not, your house rent, 'dire gelt' you must pay me tomorrow night as soon as Yom Kippur is over.)
Despite their defeat in the Kultus election, the faction of the poorer and their sympathizers pressed their desire for a Talmud Torah (Hebrew School) to be set up afternoons with free tuition for the many children whose parents had no money for the cheder melamed and so were growing up ignorant of the traditions which the Kultus was supposed to guard. Chosen as spokesmen were Jonah Schmul-Leib's, Aryeh Drucker and Moshe Schmul Leib's. They first had to track down where the Kultus was holding its meetings in private, almost in secret. With Jonah, a sick man, coughing as he banged on the table, they emphasized their demand that the Kultus live up to its responsibility. They won agreement. Dr. Brauner, then vice-chairman of the Kultus, was deputed to get it under way. A tax of two greitzer a week was levied on all balabatim (householders) to support it, and Reb Mendele Spatz, an old dedicated man, volunteered to go from door to door to collect the tax. Maier Treiber was appointed the melamed. (S.M.) Return
- Porborcia, mispronounced podbortza by the Jewish population, was the local office representing the central government on taxes, military conscription and other matters. Apart from obtaining the workbook, there had probably never been
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any reason to enter the building. On the wall, the Austrian flag, a large portrait of Kaiser Franz Josef; a desk; leather upholstered chairs, the first I had ever seen. The official, tall, thin, sixtyish. My mother fell to her knees. I had never seen her on her knees to anyone before. He asks her to rise
. (S.M.) It was July 1907. The invitation to Chirov was also an exploration of the marital prospects which did not materialize. Return
- How long, the Hebrew words usually addressed to the Almighty asking how much longer the wait will go on until the Messiah comes.
Saul's sister Zlata joined him for a time in Berlin, but returned to Dobromil, where during World War I she died of typhys contracted while caring for her finacé ill of the same. Roise Perl died soon after, of grief, it was said. Hersh and Liebe were still children when Saul left. They grew to adulthood, married, had children, and all of them, with Maier Treiber, and most of the community, perished in the Hitler holocaust. Z'chor: remember. Return
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