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They All Stand Before My Eyes (cont.)

 

These gravestones still exist in the old Jewish cemetery in Dusiat:
(Courtesy Sara-Weiss Slep, 1991)

 

 
Double gravestone of Masha (daughter of Dov-Ber), died 13 th of Nisan,
5684 and Shraga-Feivish (son of Kehat), died 24 th of Shevat, 5691

Standing on right: Sara Weiss (Slep), left Ela-Elka Grobman

 

 
Broken Gravestone of Elke Daughter of Kehat

 

My memories of my grandfather are mingled with holidays:

Our grandfather used to bless us on the eve of Yom Kippur. He used to look at us lovingly when we swung the chicken around our heads, a hen for the girls and a rooster for the boys.[5] My grandfather would stand beside us, help us and calm us down so we were not afraid of the chicken, and together with him we used to say “this is my atonement…”

At Sukkot – we used to go to our grandfather holding the lulav [6], and that was an experience. Grandfather would take the etrog [citron] out of its box, and it always seemed as though his etrog smelled better than anyone else's.

At Hanukah Grandfather came to our house and handed out “Maot Hanukah” [Hanukah coins].

And at Purim – we went to our Grandfather to hear the reading of “Megilat Esther” [Scroll of Esther]. We would leave our house with a plate full of goodies, and return with full plates…[7]

At Passover – we held the Seder at Grandfather's house. I clearly remember his seat, a real armchair, covered in a white sheet. Grandfather read from the Haggadah. The grandchildren asked the “Four Questions” – “Ma Nishtana”, and almost near the end they went and opened the door for the prophet Elijah...

I recall one Seder Eve, when uncle Bertchik Chatzkel (my mother's brother) came with his wife Sara-Breine and children from Utena. We all sat crowded together in my grandfather's house. The house was small, but nevertheless held everyone. The room was lit with candles and kerosene lamps, and the hall was dark. To this day I remember the noise and the crying when the children wandering around in the darkness fell and cried. There was a commotion, but it was warm and pleasant. There wasn't enough room for everyone to sleep there, and some of the guests came to sleep at our house. The road between the two houses was so long… I remember that walk as a real experience. What fun!

 

 
Miryam Chatzkel daughter of Bertchik
and Sara-Breine in her youth

 

Miryam was a kindergarden teacher in Panevezys. After her marriage to Dr. Israel Mehlman, principal of the Hebrew Gymnasium [high school] in Ponivezh, they made aliya and settled in Jerusalem.

Footnotes

  1. The ritual of Kaparot where the chicken serves as the scapegoat, to absorb the sins of the atoner. Return
  2. Date palm fronds, which are combined with myrtle and willow branches. Return
  3. It is customary at Purim for people to give, especially to the poor, gifts of food or drink. Return

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