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[Pages 92-94]

A Wedding in the Shtetl

Translated by Judy Grossman

A wedding in Ushpol (Uzpaliai)

The wedding ceremony took place beside the synagogue and all the family and kleizmer came there…

Left of the arrow: Shulamit Shterman, nee Zimmerman.

(Photo courtesy of Reuven Milon, Jerusalem)

 

Rivka Levitt: There wasn't a wedding in Dusiat that didn't last for at least two days, and there wasn't a wedding to which everyone in the shtetl wasn't invited. The wedding was always arranged by the “bride's side”, and it was almost always “a shabbesdike chasene”, a Sabbath wedding. The festivities began on Friday, and the bride and groom fasted that entire day, and both of them came to the wedding canopy as white as chalk.

The bride was led from her house to the synagogue square, with the kleizmer [musicians] ahead of her, playing the fiddle, accordion, “bomba” (drum) and recorder, and dancing. The kleizmer used to jump and dance facing the bride, and in this way they made their way to the synagogue. The groom was also accompanied in this way.

The rabbi presided at the marriage ceremony; the groom stepped on the glass, and calls of “Mazal Tov! Mazal Tov!” were heard from all sides. The people dispersed, and the invited guests made their way to dinner at the bride's home. The next morning there was a festive meal, the seuda shlishit[1], and then we reached the conclusion of the Sabbath.

On the Saturday night, after the Sabbath, the guests began to gather for the dancing, usually in a rented hall. They sat on benches at full laden tables covered in white tablecloths. The young people sat in one corner and the elderly in another. And what did they eat? All the special dishes made by Rochel-Leah, the specialist in weddings. I can still recall the taste of the teiglach – moist and dry – the eingemachtes, and more. Everything was absolutely delicious, like wafers in honey

The moment arrives, and the kleizmer begin playing the dances: the sherele, quadrille and waltz. The dancers throw coins on the kleizmer and ask them to play more, and the entire shtetl dances with joy. And the young children push up against the wall and peek through the cracks, absorbing the sight with their eyes.

Rasya Tal (Kagan): And now the jester comes. I remember that he used to stand beside the bride, amuse her and say that she should change her mind, because she is likely, heaven forbid, to become a widow. The people hear this and break out laughing.

Henia Sneh (Blacher): A wedding in the shtetl was always a special event, and I was at almost all of them, as we lived beside the synagogue.

I especially remember the wedding of Feigitzke, Zipora Zeligson. The tables were set up in their yard, groaning with delicacies, and at the center was a very long, braided and decorated halla. The big moment arrived. The canopy was ready, the kleizmer arrived, headed by the fiddler, following them came the wedding party, and after them the whole shtetl, each one holding a lit candle. Drums and a trumpet accompanied them, and I can still hear the sounds.

Beile Klem (Simanowitz): The last time I was in Dusiat before the war was in 1940. I came then to attend my cousin's wedding. Dovid-Leib Aires and Baruch Krut came to Rakishok (Rokiskis) in a bus and picked me up. There were no bounds to the happiness…


Footnote

  1. Literally “the third meal”. This meal must be eaten before sunset. Custom required eating three meals on the Sabbath, including the Friday night meal. Return

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