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Stories from Ancient Times

 

A “Confusion” That (Threatened) Against Jews

By Nechemia Starszynski

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

Two Jews told me the following story:

It happened in year 1896. At that time there was a teacher in Klobuck, a Jew and a Torah scholar, named Reb Moshe Zalman. This teacher loved to drink strong alcoholic beverages, and he often was drunk; he was recognized by his red nose.

During Purim, when Jews are permitted to drink alcohol to the point that they cannot tell the difference between Mordechai and Haman, (the characters of the Purim story), of course, Reb Moshe Zalman went on a binge. Together with his son, Mordechai, and his grandson, Mendel, they wandered through the streets drunk and rejoiced. They hung a puppet made of old clothes, representing (the villain), Haman, on a hook used to draw water from the well, and sang: “Arur Haman, Baruch Mordechai” (Cursed be Haman; Blessed be Mordechai). So as to be understood by the Polish inhabitants of the shtetl, they sang also “Haman wiszy na szubenica” (Haman is hanging on the gallows).

This angered the non–Jews very much, seeing that Jews were happy about their victory over their enemy, and they told the priest that in Klobuck Jews were making fun of Jesus, and that they were carrying him through the streets and calling him “Haman”. The priest gave sermons in church, inciting threats and retaliation against Jews.

Immediately Reb Moshe Zalman and his son were denounced. They were arrested. There was an oppressed atmosphere among Jews. Jews started to fear that a pogrom was going to happen.

The fear about a pogrom was increased when Jews saw that in the wood pile in Jagelski's yard, long knives and other weapons were being hidden, and were being made ready to make a blood bath on the Jews. People realized that the situation was bad and it was decided to send a delegation to the Governor

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in Piotrkow. The delegation constituted Hartzke Fajga, Meir Mayerczak, and another Jew.

The Jews went to the Governor in Piotrkow, and persuaded him that he should not allow a pogrom to occur. Shortly thereafter, several Russian officers went to Klobuck. They investigated. Understandably, it was proven that the non–Jews made a mistake and created a confusion. The officers warned the priest that he would be responsible for each person arrested who acted against the Jews. If a pogrom occurred in Klobuck, a troop of Dragoon–Cossacks would be dispatched. The guilty ones would be sent to Siberia.

The warning helped. The arrested people were freed, and the Jews were relieved.


Cutting Off (A Woman's) Hair
at the Birth of Her Child

By Borukh Szimkowicz

Translated from Yiddish to English by Asher Szmulewicz

Dvorah, Nechemia Mayerczik's wife, was the first wife in Klobuck to uncover her hair. People told the following story about her:

The shtetl was “boiling” over this offense, (religious, married, Jewish women did not appear in public without covering their hair). How was it possible for a married woman to go around without a wig, which was the way it should be for Jews? But nothing could be done against the offender. An “opportunity” soon arose to remove this sin from Jewish daughters.

Dvorah had a difficult labor (before childbirth). Her moaning and yelling could be heard all over the shtetl. Jews, full of compassion, forgot about her sin, and started to recite Tehilim (Psalms) and prayed to God that He should save her from her difficult childbirth. However, the women did not forget Dvorah's sin, and they came to the conclusion that until somebody cut Dvorah's the hair, God would not forgive her sin and she could, God forbid, go from this world to the other (die), together with her child.

The courageous wife of the Gabai, Hinde Myriam Green, took it upon herself

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to save the woman with the difficult childbirth. Hinde came to Dvorah and without listening to her crying and screaming, she cut Dvorah's hair.

 

A Women Rebellion Against the Rabbi.

I don't remember when it happened, but the following happened:

People came to the Rabbi during Pesach, and told him that several teenager girls from Klobuck ate Chametz, (un–kosher for Passover food), drank beer and the like.

The Rabbi held a meeting with several well to do Jews, and it was decided that the Rabbi would speak in Shul against the frivolous young women, and that at Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, the women would not be allowed to enter in the women's aisle (in Shul to pray) because they did not keep their daughters from committing sins.

And so it was: On Rosh HaShana in the morning, when the women came to pray, they found the door to the women's aisle locked. The observant women did not keep quiet, but made a commotion, and entered the men's aisle and interfered with the men's prayers.

Several eminent, well to do, Jews intervened, and asked the Rabbi to authorize the opening of the women's aisle. The Shamash (Synagogue care–taker) opened the door of the women's aisle and the rebellion calmed down.

 

Fires and the Jewish Firefighters.

Klobuck, like the majority of the Jewish shtetls with wooden houses, often had a visit from the “Red Rooster” (fire). Jews in Klobuck, didn't seem to pay much attention to their fires, and people always spoke of fires in the neighboring village of Kamyk. As soon as there were red fire flames, people used to say: “it is burning in Kamyk”.

Klobuck had its Jewish Firefighters. As soon as a fire broke out, everyone could see the fireman, Hershl Krzepicki, in the streets with a big trumpet. He walked through the small streets to the market, blowing his trumpet and making a lot of noise. Leibke Sznajder was with him, with a smaller trumpet, cursing and calling the inhabitants to be aware of

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the enemy fire. Soon the other firemen gathered: Yankel Rypsztajn, Mordechai Rosen, Baruch Lewkowicz, Chilke Maites, Itzik Elyahu Besser, Baruch Szperling and Herztke Fajga, the commander of the firemen.

At the same time the Polish firemen also came running. When everybody was in place, they had to harness a horse to bring water.

When a fire broke out during a market day, they took a horse from the peasants that came to the Klobuck Fair. The peasants knew what was coming, and as soon as they heard the trumpet, they left the shtetl. Most of the time they had to take a horse from a local coachman, and they took the horse out of its stable, without asking its owner. With the horse they went to the Firemen's shed in the marketplace to get the barrel, and then they ran to the “Jike”, which was the name of the shtetl's stream, in order to bring water.

By the time everything was in place, and until the rubber hose was ready, the fire already had spread from one house to the next. Most of the time everything was burned. I remember a fire on Shabbat, during the day, in the house of Reb Machel Dudek.

Reb Machel came out from the fire with two chalot (Shabbat bread) in his hands. When people asked him later: Why did you only save the two chalot? He answered: according to the Shulchran Aruch, if a fire breaks out on Shabbat, nothing is allowed to be saved, except the chalot for the meal.

But the common people thought otherwise, and they removed everything from Reb Machel's house. The house burned completely.

 

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