My father, Avraham Slep, passed away in 1969 and was not fortunate enough to meet with his relatives from among the Holocaust survivors, Avraham Levitt and Rachel Friedman. It was coincidence that led him to encounter Yosef Adelman, his cousin, in 1963, when he was visiting Israel and who also belong to the Slep branch.
Yosef Adelman had left Dusiat after the fire, and immigrated to the USA. He had come to Israel as a tourist and rented a room in the heights of Mount Carmel in the home of Clara, my mother's cousin, who had recently arrived from Uruguay. There is a Litvak (Lithuanian Jew) living in my house, a tourist from America - Clara told my father, who had come to visit her with my mother. It's already late and I don't understand why he hasn't returned, she added worriedly. My father went against his customary behavior and didn't rush to return home. He was curious to see the Litvak. When the tourist, a short man, came in, the conversation developed approximately thus:
- Where are you from?
- From Kovno
- From Kovno itself?
- And if I give you the name of a small shtetl? the man hesitated.
- 'Tell me my father pleaded with him.
- From Dushat answered the old man.
- From Dusiat or from Shat? my father asked and began to grow pale.
- From Dusiat the old man stated precisely.
- Are you Yosef or Benjamin Adelman? he asked excitedly.
- I'm Yosef the old man replied in amazement.
- We're first cousins! my father said excitedly. And in a choking voice he continued: Your mother Chana-Geile (Chana-Geula) and my father Emanuel are sister and brother!
Yosef (Joe, as we called him) extended his stay in Israel. He remained with his relatives for two and a half months, and they spent many long nights reminiscing about those days. Amazingly, Yosef remembered exact details, even though fifty years had gone by since he had left the shtetl.
I will add that on the morning of that day my parents took leave of Mina, Clara's sister, who sailed for Uruguay, and they gave her a gift for Devora Korb, Yosef's sister. Devora had sat shiva for her brother Yosef long ago... The two of them, Devora and Yosef, began to communicate again.
Until his death (June, 1970), Yosef corresponded with us regularly, and in one letter (Hanukah 1968) he wrote:
It was seventy years ago, immediately after Uncle Emanuel's marriage to Chaya-Tzipa, when my cousin Nissan, son of Shmuel-Itzik Slep, and I came to visit them, and we were delighted to receive Maot Hanukah (Hanukah gelt) from Uncle Emanuel shiny new coins.
And today I am sending Maot Hanukah from America to his great-grandchildren in Israel.
|Shoshana and Matityahu,
Yosef Adelman's grandchildren, Los Angeles, 1963
Lillian Adelman: I gave my daughter a Hebrew name, as this was my only way of going back to our Holy Land
Sara Weiss (Slep): Immediately after Yosef passed away, his daughter Lillian called us from Los Angeles and asked that we get someone to say kaddish for him.
Will there be anyone to tell my children about their roots? she asked.
This is what Lillian wrote in her letter to us:
|There were two people who had a major influence on me my maternal grandmother and my father.
My grandmother, a warm woman and a beloved grandmother, used to take me to the synagogue every Sabbath. It was so heartwarming to see her preparing for the Sabbath. She was an excellent cook and baker of cookies, and baked the Sabbath challes herself. She was a faithful Bat Zion [Daughter of Zion a Jewish woman].
She was also a Litvak and a woman with much knowledge who was a good storyteller.
My father always told us about his shtetl Dushat [Dusiat], about the scenery and his family and about his grandmother Chaya-Sore who lived in their house. I loved to listen to his description of how the young children surrounded their great-grandmother, when on cold winter nights by the stove she would tell them about her French father, who had deserted from Napoleon's army during the retreat from Moscow and settled in the shtetl. My father told me that when he visited the grave on the Yorzeit he noticed that there was a Sephardic name on the gravestone.
My father brought the Eastern European ghetto into my life to such an impressive degree. The sabras [children born in Israel] are ashamed of the Eastern European ghetto and considered those Jews as submissive people who didn't fight. But in my opinion, they were extremely brave, even if it was just because they survived and held out, and continued their culture and always believed next year in Jerusalem.
A way of life that will never return has been lost, and it is better so. We will never again live in ghettos in fear of pogroms, riots and cruelty. But we must always admire our forefathers from the shtetl, who contributed so much to the United States when they came there at the end of the nineteenth century, and the beginning of the twentieth century, and who were the first to fight in the trade unions, in education, in medicine and in literature.
The loss with my father's passing away is not just the fact of his death. My father was my only connection to the shtetl.
I feel sorrow that my children no longer have a grandfather to tell them about the past.
Los Angeles, July 22, 1970
From right to left, standing: Tzofit Weiss, Aviva Crown, Sara Weiss, Pat and her husband Moshe Adelman, Ronit Weiss.
Guests of the Slep's branch:
From right to left, standing: Zeev Rodnitsky, Sara Weiss (Slep), Beata-Berta Rodnitsky (Levitt), Lola Levov (Gurwitz) and her daughter Emuna Sirkin, Avraham Levitt and Rachel Friedman
|The Adelmans house on Milner Gass in Dusiat|
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