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[Page 57]

The Saga of the Peppers (cont.)

The peasants led lowly lives. Their houses were low, with straw thatched roofs. Their cultural level was low - they were illiterates, but they were stable. And to us, young Jews, they seemed to be calm, healthy and pleased with their lives, and they awoke in us the longing for the life of a people on its own land. Therefore, when the first hints of the Zionist movement reached the village, they penetrated deep into the hearts of the youths who were looking ahead for something of this sort. We enthused over the idea of “aliya” to Israel.

My oldest sister, Miriam, was the breadwinner in our home. After father's death she took over the task of helping mother and the small children. She would travel to Rozhishch and even to Warsaw to bring back woven cloth and other goods which the peasant women bought in exchange for grain, chickens, eggs and other agricultural products. She was helped by my mother, my oldest brother, Michael, and my sister Faige. We wanted for nothing.

Uncle David's home was large and it was located in the centre of the village on the main road. He was a Hassid, given over to Torah, much prayer and good deeds.

He traded cattle, grain and the like, and also had a general store with goods brought from the city. Behind the house was the stable for the horse. He had a nice carriage as well as a light winter carriage. Beside the stable there was a cowshed where the two or three milk cows which supplied an abundance of milk products were kept. There was often a beef cow there too, which had been purchased to sell at the fairs.

The family's private well which supplied fresh water was in the garden, behind the house. Any passerby who entered Uncle David's house always enjoyed a generous reception there.

My uncle used to go to the fairs in Rozhishch and Kolk to sell cattle and to buy goods for the store. He had the reputation of being fair, straight and a man of his word. Although he was not rich, his home was generously managed. Any Jewish visitor passing through the village, would spend the night at his home. He did not forget us children at Hannukah, and gave us Hannukah “gelt”, and on the ordinary days of the year he took an Interest in us and made sure that we studied with the teacher (melamed) whom he had brought from Kolk to stay in the village specially to teach us.

He had a Torah in his home, and on Sabbath and holidays, public prayer was held there, with Jews from the adjoining village of Siltzes joining in, as without them there would be no “minian”.

Uncle David was a happy man, who loved to study the Holy books and particularly to look for interesting interpretations in them. His five sons grew up in the house. The older ones, Asher, Moshe, and Avraham helping him in the business, while the smaller ones, Jacob and Joseph studied with the melamed brought from neighbouring towns.

Going to the fairs on winter nights, in the cold and the rain, the mud and the snow, was very difficult. A trip of twenty-five

[Page 58]

 

Mordechal Rosenman, son of Rivka Block from Omelno, fell while in service with the Israeli Air Force in 29, July. 1954

kilometers lasted all night. The road was not paved, and the mud was thick. Here and there the road was paved with sections of tree trunks which had been laid by the army during the First World War, and although the cart passing over them did not sink into the mud, it swayed so, that the travellers were made well aware of their “kishkes” (intestines).

My uncle celebrated the festivals in the best Jewish tradition, strictly adhering to all the customs. For Pesach, all the Matzoth for all the Jewish families were baked at his home, and the “Matzah Shrnura” was baked with special grains which had been guarded against dampness of any kind throughout the year.

The High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, were observed in all their sacredness and awe by this small Jewish community. We, the little children, lived the anxiety of Judgement Day, and when we walked home with mother after the Kol Nidre prayer and a star came out, it seemed as though the sky had parted to receive our prayers. Simchat Torah, on the other hand, was very joyful and gay.

For Uncle David, learning was the most important thing in life, and therefore he encouraged the children to study diligently. He loved to test the children's cleverness and knowledge with all kinds of ingenious quizzes and tests. Once he tested us with this story: You know that it is forbidden to look at the Cohens in the Synagogue. Should a child look at them once, he would be blinded in one eye. Should he look the second time, he would be blinded in the second eye. And what would happen should he look the third time? He ,would look around the children, waiting for the reply. And when one of the bright ones came out with the answer: How could he look the third time, if he is already blind in both eyes? Uncle David would praise him generously.

I loved this uncle because he was so generous and loving. He would help members of the family wit out keeping accounts.

 

Yehudith Block (Biberrnan), the first hatlutza in the family. Studied at the Nahalai Agricultural School, run by Hannah Maizle. She is pictured on a pile of hay at Nahalal in 1922 (left)

[Page 59]

Although he was not rich, he was numbered among the givers, and was happy with his lot in life.

He was very attached to his big house, to the style of life of a well off village Jew, to the expansive scenery. His brothers did leave the village. Leibish and Nathan Block moved to Salt Lake City in the United States, Motel to Warsaw, BathSheva and Haim to Lutsk and Raisel to Osova. His three sons, Avraham, Jacob and Joseph emigrated to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, (where Joseph died in 1975). His oldest son, Asher, moved to Lutsk. Uncle David Block died before the Second World War, as did his wife, Haya-Sarah.

His second son, Moshe who, with his family, obstinately tried to continue the tradition of the glorious generations of the Blocks and the Jews of Omelno, were killed by the Nazis. Those who survived were his brother Nathan's family in the United States, the families of his three sons in Brazil, his grand-daughter, Asher's daughter, Dvorah Haichik and his nephew the son of his sister Bath Sheva, Dr. Sunik Berenblum in Israel, as well as the families of his brother Motel's three daughters Luba, Rivka and Eve, in Israel and the United States.

Yehudith Biberman, the daughter of Motel Blak makes the following family account: My father and my brother Zelik were killed by the Kossacks in 1915. My brothers, Avraham and Nathan and my sister, Chasia, were murdered by the Nazis. We three sisters, Gittel, Rivka and myself, and Madhave, my brother Zelik's daughter immigrated to Israel in the twenties and made our home in the small pioneering town that Rehovot was in those days. My sister Chana had immigrated to the United States.

 

Abe Perlmutter, his wife. and Leah Gavish at Beit Rozhishch

 

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