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[Page 99]

Memories From My Mother's Stories

Deborah Markman

Translated by Irene Emodi

The thirteen-year-old boy refused to go and herd his father's horses at night. After much convincing he did go out and was rewarded. When he reached the field, a few kms. from town, he saw a beautiful girl in the moonlight who was also herding her father's horses. The girl was as beautiful as the field, as a star in the sky above.

From that meeting on it was no longer necessary to urge him, for he was happy to go and herd the horses. He would await the appointed time anxiously and with a beating heart he would take the animals out to the field. When he returned home, lay down to sleep and got up in the morning, at the "heder" and at home he would dream about the girl he saw at night. He would roam among the market stalls, in spite of the Rabbi's ban, for he knew that he would see her there.

The love story between the boy and girl went on for seven long years, until the day they had longed for arrived &emdash; their wedding day. They were very happy and after the "honeymoon", on weekdays, the daily struggle to make a living did not daunt their love for each other. Their home was always open to guests and full of light.

From time to time an "Offitzier" would stay at their home or a "Pan". A Russian or Polish official, for Dokshitz was situated on the Polish and Russian border and its rulers would often be replaced. However, grandmother was very clever and knew how to get along with everybody, therefore all those who came to her home respected her.

When their first son was born, they were very happy and hoped to establish a large family. However, this did not happen. Some of the children died when they were still young, grandmother was very sad and found no rest. She asked the Rabbi for advice. The Rabbi listened to her lament and advised her to return to her husband and when the new baby was born he should have two names &emdash; thus advised the Rabbi &emdash; which should not be revealed until the day of his wedding. The newborn baby should be dressed in white linen, until the age of three, and this should be done with all the children to whom she would give birth. Grandmother listened to the Rabbi and acted accordingly. She dressed her children in white clothes, gave them various names, brought them up with a great deal of love and even had time for "Tzene veRe'na" (religious book of guidance for women)

However, although she was very busy, grandmother did not forget the poor of the town who were unable to lay the Sabbath table and she would send them whatever she was able to obtain.

Grandfather was busy at the butcher shop, many came to consult him about all kinds of animals, big and small, for he was a great expert.

The Sabbath eve was a particularly beautiful time. Grandfather would return from the synagogue, splendidly dressed and immersed in a different world. Daily matters were forgotten, worries blown away, and the Sabbath candles on the table created an atmosphere which only a Jew at ease with himself and his God could know.

The sons would sit around the table, sing Sabbath songs or listen to their father read the weekly Bible portion. A "Sabbath guest" &emdash; a "Talmid Haham" (religious scholar), a Yeshiva boy would sit at the table and tell the children stories from the Bible.

On religious holidays all the grandchildren would come to Grandfather, proud of their new and festive attire. One would say : "look, Grandfather, I have new shoes", and the other would say: "look Grandfather, how beautiful my dress is", and little Shaulik would ask: "Grandfather, did you see my new patch?"

Such was the life of the Jews in the little town of Dokshitz: holidays and weekdays, love and struggle, new clothes and new patches.

May these few lines serve as a candle commemorating my forefathers who I unfortunately never got to know.


[Page 103]

From the Distant Past

Shaul Markam (Markman) / Kibbutz Ayn-Shomer

I don't know why I remember these very things. But so it is. I have already been in this country over 30 years. Eating oranges - without stop. And yet, every time I peel an orange I recall the first orange I ever enjoyed. It happened so:

I was already a student in the Tarbut-school [culture school] in Dokshitz. Niyumke Glekhengoz, a son of wealthy parents, always wanted to sit by me. I don't know what was in his head, but he did not listen to the bright students. Every time the teacher asked him something he remained immobile and delayed and didn't know what to answer, until I quietly whispered the answer to him.

Once he brought an orange to school and began to peel it slowly in the middle of class under his bench and gave me a piece. The first time I saw an orange and the first I ever tasted. And every time I eat an orange here I remember that specific fruit, when I tasted it for the first time. I believe that I will always remember that first orange from Dokshitz.

*

[Page 104]

You will probably say that it's not nice, but I know, just as I remember Dokshitz, this is how it was with scratching. From childhood on I used to run after my brother Nakhman-Reuven, 3 years older than I - I came, for the first time, to Rabbi Velvl "the louse's" kheyder. Why did he have such a nickname? Because he used to do the following: He used to stick his hand under his arm, take a louse out of there and say this verse with a melody, "If one finds a thief in the act and kills him," squeeze the louse between both knuckles of his thick fingers, with a sharp crack, then wipe the blood from his knuckles and end the verse, "you are not culpable for his blood."

Members of Hashomer Hatzair with their parents, the Markman family

...So, I look for the first time at Velvl the teacher's kheyder. The floor - of lime. A dark room. In one corner - a long table with benches on both sides. Small children sit there sprawled. Up front is the rabbi with his long beard. A stick in his hand. And all repeat after the rabbi, word by word, in a loud voice, the morning prayer from the prayer book. In a second corner is a big brick oven with a glowing fire, by which the Rebbetzin [Rabbi's wife] kept busy. She cursed the rabbi, the students, and the whole world with weighty curses. In the middle, a white goat walked around and little black fleas fell off him all the time onto the floor. Near him, a hen wandered about, squawking in a loud voice.

I stood still by the bench, confused by the uproar. Unable to contain myself - and wet my pants and cried hard. My brother got angry with me. He took me outside immediately. He tried to calm me down and dealt with my pants. He said that he would not allow me to run after him anymore. He would not take me to kheyder anymore. I could not calm myself - and I remember it until today.

*

The bathhouse also got me all mixed up. When our mother noticed us scratching ourselves, she would take out a few groshen [Polish currency], with a groan, and send us to the bath. We took a bucket, a towel, soap, a rag, and we went. My father held my hand so I wouldn't get lost. I looked at everything with curiosity. We came to the river's edge. A big black building - here is the bath. On the lean of the roof stood a gentile who poured water from the well and without stop emptied the buckets in the eaves.

[Page 105]

Inside - a tremendous tumult. My father urged me on - not looking around, just undressing. One must manage undressing well, sleeve to sleeve - the shirt, the pants, and especially the tallis katon [the traditional fringed undergarment worn by Jewish males]. Lice stayed especially in the tsitsis [fringes]. After one bundled it all up, one went into the big room, where the clothing was hung quite high on special poles in order to exterminate the lice with the help of a heavy steam - and then one began to wash oneself.

* * *

I looked around: a tumult, noise, one almost couldn't see because of the thick steam. Slowly I could distinguish people on the upper benches. Everyone held a little broom made of white birch branches which he beat on himself over his shoulders and belly. There were also cases when one would lie stretched out on a high bench and another would beat him and rub him with the broom. Both would groan with great pleasure. Someone kept going over to the big oven with the red-glowing stones and poured a few buckets of water — then the steam would really increase a nd it was actually difficult to breathe.

My father would see how I was looking about. He would take my little hand, soap up the rag and rub my head, my back, my whole body. When I would start to scream that the soap was burning my eyes he would pour a few buckets of water over my head — and that was the end of washing. We barely could find our clothing, we'd leave the rucfuss, go over to the other room, get dressed and — back home.

Awhen my father had tried to put me down on one of the benches, I went only to the second and quickly ran back because I couldn't catch my breath. The disinfection of the clothing didn't help much and the biting began again. Then I came upon an invention. In the winter nights, when the oven was heated up and the bricks glowed, I would pull my shirt up over my head and stand with my bare back towards the fire and scratch myself from top to bottom and bottom to top, actually until it hurt, but did not allow myself to sop. I remember it until today.

* * *

[Page 106]

The Rozov Family

[Page 113]

Committee of Tradesmen (1930)

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