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[Page 255]

 

These were my People…

[Page 259]

Shmul Chaim, the “Doctor”[1]

By Moyshe Pasklinski / Tel-Aviv

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

Shmul Chaim Levi, who later became known as “the doctor from the Gerer shtibl[2] came to Kałuszyn in 1918 as a messenger from a yeshiva[3]. He went up to the reading podium in the old beis-hamedresh[4] and with his uplifting words touched the hearts of our shtetl[5]… On Saturdays, after the sermon he led the prayers in true inspirational Sabbath fashion – lecha dodi likrat kallah…[6]

The widow Malka Kuperboym at long last lived to meet her destined. Hertzke Kuperboym brought the good tidings to his sister that he had for her a terrific match, and what a catch - a handsome, tall man with a beard “like the king of diamonds”! And a voice he has – loud and strong and sweet! Women stood outside the windows, listened and marvelled at Malka's good fortune: “Malka, thank God, had not waited in vain”. Malka – a widow with five children (from her first husband Mordche Kapote) had waited and now her prayers were answered.

The shtetl knew him as a delegate (from a yeshiva), a preacher and a leader in prayer, and suddenly – a new persona: Shmul Chaim Levi – a doctor! He visits the sick and accepts a fee. He supplies for free his needy patients with milk and medicines. The town is delighted at the news, but the doctors and the feldshers[7] are fuming and grinding their teeth… Yankl, the feldsher threatens under his breath: “The so-and-so Gerer “turk” (Chassid) – issuing shmescriptions. He'll walk in chains yet!”

All those years Yankl the feldsher was a byword among the Gentiles. He used to pull bad teeth from the sturdy peasants, after subjecting them to gehakte bankes [8]. Yankl used to say that whether the bankes were needed or not (didn't matter) – they helped to promote the trade…And now – a surprise, a new healer! Yankl threatens with handcuffs.

The wife of Yitschokl the feldsher discusses the issue in her usual fashion, with impressive “foreign” words: “You see – she says to her husband – it doesn't take much these days to become a yocter[9] (doctor) – such a tslap [10] with a beard also becomes a yocter. What a world we live in!”

The feldshers are angry but the new healer is nevertheless a healer. He writes prescriptions and the apothecary Teneboym dispenses them. The Gentile apothecary Fuksewicz appears to be angry and he too, threatens with shackles, but sends a message on the sly to the new “doctor” offering to dispense his prescriptions. And so it goes. The Jewish apothecary, all sick Jews as well as healthy people bless Shmul Chaim, the doctor from the Gerer shtibl…

At the house of Malka Kuperboym, my aunt there is now a complete doctor's surgery. A roomful of women, Jewish and Christian, sits along the walls, some with babies at the breast. All are waiting to be seen by this doctor. My aunt Malka complains to me that her husband ruins her practice, that (instead of charging) the patients he hands (the needy of) them out cash: some he gives to buy candles, other to buy milk – what kind of business is that? I try to comfort my aunt (by pointing out) that since the whole town blesses him so she too, will be blessed. My aunt replies: “some comforter you are!…” and hurries with a glass of water to revive a sick patient who unfortunately fainted.

After seeing to all the patients in his home he goes out to visit the bedridden ones. There was no electricity then in town so Shmul Chaim went around with his pockets full of candles. To the poor he would also leave a bit of money and a healing word of encouragement.

Out of the blue, one day the new “doctor” was taken away. Pandemonium broke out in town – “they've arrested Shmul Chaim”! But to everyone's relief he was soon released, and wearing a broad grin resumed the holy work.

Before the joy subsided at this miracle a new dark cloud descended on the shtetl – suddenly, after Shmul Chaim's missus drew the purse strings… he disappeared. Again everybody was overcome with anxiety, but after a couple of weeks he returned from his distant travels.

It transpired that Shmul Chaim, the erstwhile man on a mission and preacher, set out wandering from town to town, preaching and cajoling - and brought back a bundle for his needy patients.

I once saw Shmul Chaim while he was visiting the sick wife of the blind Yankev Layb - she had been bedridden for a number of weeks. Shmul Chaim set out his healing utensils together with a bottle of milk and a packet of candles and pressed a jingling little bundle into the blind man's hands. A holy joy began to shine from his unseeing eyes. He was a wise man, this blind Yankev Layb – he said to me: “you know, Moyshe, this is the best doctor in the whole world. My Gerer shtibl is blessed with everything”!

When Reb Yitzchok Simele's, the shoemaker fell gravely ill they brought in a consultation team consisting of Dr. Regalski from Minsk (Mazovyetsk), the local doctor and Yankl, the feldsher. However, Reb Yitzchok wouldn't let himself be examined unless they included Shmul Chaim in the panel. A messenger went straight away to inform Shmul Chaim that none other than Dr. Regalski himself asks for him… Well, well – people saw Shmul Chaim attired in the black gehakte kapote [11] and the stiff linen cap, walking side by side and engaged in conversation with the high and mighty goy[12] Dr. Regalski. The pair was trailed by the sullen faced town doctor and Yankl the feldsher, and it was obvious that (the latter two) were grieving over the calamity that befell them today…

Thus had Shmul Chaim joined the ranks of “royalty”. Accordingly, he began to visit prosperous patients as well – both Jews and Gentiles. The money earned from the rich, he distributed among the poor.

When Shmul Chaim lay sick in Warsaw in 1935, I used to visit him often. While I was wiping his face with a wet kerchief, I felt that I was repaying a fraction of his own kindness which he used to dispense so generously in our beloved shtetl.

I see in him an outstanding character, a warm hearted compassionate man who descended on the shtetl as a messenger and preacher and remained till the end of his days our dear healer - Shmul Chaim Levi, may his memory be blessed.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of שמואל חיים דער רופֿא, an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961. Return
  2. Gerer –Chassidim , followers of the Gerer rebbe, a Chassidic branch centered in the Polish town Gòra Kalwarii, or Ger in Yiddish; rebbe – a leader of a Chassidic stream.
    Shtibl - Lit. - a small dwelling, but used in the sense of a small house of worship. Return
  3. An institution of higher Talmudic learning. (Talmud - a record of rabbinic discussions of Jewish law, ethics, customs and history). Return
  4. Study and prayer house, small orthodox synagogue. Return
  5. Yiddish for townlet, lately used almost exclusively in relation to a Jewish small settlement in Eastern Europe. Return
  6. לכה דודי לקראת כּלה – “come my beloved to greet the bride” – hymn sung on Friday eve to greet the Sabbath.
    It is a request of a mysterious “beloved” that could mean either God or one's friend(s) to join together in welcoming Shabbat that is referred to as the “bride”. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  7. Not fully qualified healer (from German “Feldscher” for military medic). Return
  8. Bankes – from Polish for vacuum cups. Setting bankes (usually on the back) was to help overcome colds, flu', bronchitis and back pain, since it was believed that it promotes blood circulation. Gehakte – usually means “chopped”, but in connection with bankes means “cut” (as a cut in the skin). Gehakte bankes was a procedure of setting vacuum cups after making an incision on the spot where the cups would be set, which resulted in the drawing of ( “bad” or “infected”) blood. This was considered a remedy for pneumonia or high blood pressure. Return
  9. I can't recall hearing the “y” sound as a replacement of the first letter or syllable of a word in order to express disdain. It may well be that either the author or the feldsher's wife, out of a sense of propriety, refrained from applying in this instant the better known and more widely used Yiddish double sound “shm”… Return
  10. A derogatory expression for a Chassid. Return
  11. Kapote – kaftan, long coat worn in Eastern Europe by orthodox Jews. Gehakte means cut, and in this context probably refers to a certain style, say a coat with a split in the back. Return
  12. Lit. Hebrew for “nation”, but mostly used for “Gentile”. Return


[Page 284]

Alter, the Village Peddler[1]

By Yosl Sukenik / Paris

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

My uncle Alter, or as he was known in Kałuszyn “Alter Shvartzbart's”, was forced, after having tried his luck at all sorts of occupations to become a village peddler. For a time, Alter used to work in the forests – peeling bark off oak trees. The bark was used in pelt production in the Kałuszyn tanneries. However, this line of work did not put bread on his table, and Alter took the advice of his father-in-law, Eli Dovid Sosnovski, who for years was doing business in the villages Skryda (?) and Olekszyn. There, Eli Dovid used to buy pieces of forest to log for his shingle factory. Alter began to peddle haberdashery in those villages.

From the start, Alter experienced the hatred. He used to be pelted with stones, the dogs were set on him and he was subjected to other displays of malice. However, there was no alternative but to walk around with his needles and shoelaces, combs and little mirrors, trinkets and pins. For the kids of his customers he used to bring lollies and little bagels. On his way back, he would buy all sorts of produce. Laden with parcels he used to trek home daily. As a rule, the peasants bought on credit, and Alter had to rake his brain how to pay in town for all the wares.

Every Thursday Alter used to spend the night in Olekszyn, at the home of the rich peasant Galec. This honest and good-natured family always had a room ready for him. There he was able to say his evening prayers and have a bite with the (kosher) food that he brought from home. The two sons of Galec too treated the Jew, their guest with respect.

Likewise, Galec used to sometimes come into town and stay at Alter's. Once, on a Friday evening he drove in a cart with wood that he did not manage to sell and was loath to drive back into the village. The peasant thereby almost caused the desecration of the Sabbath. Alter hurried, helped to unload the wood, treated the peasant to drink, challa and gefilte fish [2]. Galec departed contented, and Alter was even more pleased that he managed not to stumble (into a transgression) – and quickly donned the Sabbath garments…

Thus, one Sabbath followed another, weeks passed and the situation in the country got worse. On a certain Thursday evening, the village elder of Olekszyn informed Alter, that the leading villagers decided to open a store where the peasants would be able to obtain everything and at bargain prices to boot. Indeed, the store was soon opened. The priest himself rolled up the sleeves of his cassock and pulled out herring from a barrel for the village customers. Alter's livelihood went into decline. On the wall of the parish house antisemitic posters called for a boycott of Jews. Alter only went into the villages two days a week and the danger on the roads increased.

Once on a hot day, when Alter on his way home sat down near a stream some two kilometres from Olekszyn, there suddenly appeared the village smith who owed Alter about 50 Złoty[3], and got into a conversation: “You know Alter, I could kill you here – you are rich and all Jews are rich”. Alter quickly produced his wallet and showed him 12 Zł. saying: “You surely are joking, aren't you too a father with a family!” The smith reflected for while and said: “I always knew you for a clever man – you straight away realised that I was joking”…

Now and then a peasant would still come to Alter, he still managed on a market day to make a sale or two. The peasants liked to unburden themselves to Alter and his wife. One complained that his son went off the straight and narrow, was stealing and spending the money on the girls at the “fun and games”, and was asking Alter to talk some sense into him when he meets him next time at the market. A woman would lament that her husband liked the bitter drop; another one would relate about the feud over a legacy, a parcel of land and the resulting bloodletting with no end. Thus, the peasants and their wives still maintained some sort of relationship with my uncle and aunt and thought well of the peddler who can give sensible advice and a word of solace.

One market-day, on the eve of Passover when peasant wagons arrived from the countryside to Kałuszyn, came also the Galec family from Olekszyn – the bosom friends of my uncle Alter. For the first time they also brought with them their six-years-old boy Wacek. As was the wont of all peasants, the Galecs went to have a drink or two and left little Wacek to guard the wagon, having promised to bring him some goodies. Left all alone with the hustle and bustle around the wagons and the servants and housewives touching and probing the wares in the baskets and bags – the little boy was overcome with dread. He recalled that his cousin once refused to take him along to the market and warned that he could not promise to bring him back alive from there because the Jews grab little Christian children and use their blood to make matzot[4] for Passover.

In fact, Jews were now walking around with sacks and one of them carrying a bag walked up to the Galec wagon to see what bargain he could buy from the little peasant boy… By a lucky coincidence, Wacek noticed Alter who had gone to the market to collect some overdue debts from the peasants of Skryda and Olekszyn. The boy ran up to Alter with a heart-rending cry: “Save me, dear Alter, take me home – the Jews want to grab me for matzot, here they go with their sacks!” My uncle tried to assure the little one – but to no avail. He had to take him home, wagon and all. Even there the boy would not calm down, not even the food and sweets could help – he would not let Alter out of his sight. My auntie had to go and find Wacek's parents and tell them what happened to their offspring.

When his parents arrived, Wacek again let out a big wail and told his mum and dad of the danger he found himself in… The parents managed to pacify him, smiling in embarrassment.

When the following week the Galec family came again to the market, they related to my uncle and aunt the troubles they had from their son days after the event. He had been feverish, had nightmares and continued to scream: “Alter, save me!” After he recovered, he had to put up with his peers, who called him a coward and ridiculed him for running for help to Jews… Wacek in turn called them liars and said that he would never trust them. Galec and his wife were apologetic and averred that they never believed those stories. They produced drinks and snacks and there were many toasts na zdrowie [5] - but my uncle was engrossed in melancholy Jewish thoughts…


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of
    אלתּר דער דאָרפֿסגײער
    an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961. Return
  2. Challa – braided bread eaten on Sabbath and holidays.
    Gefilte fish are poached fish patties or fish balls made from a mixture of ground deboned fish, mostly carp or pike (Wikipedia). Return
  3. Polish monetary unit. Return
  4. For an overview of the blood libel see: http://www.aish.com/jl/h/48951151.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_libel_against_Jews Return
  5. Polish – “to health”. Return


[Page 301]

Chanukah in Shtetl [1]

By Yechiel Granatovitch, Ramle/Israel

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

As soon as the autumn rains ended, the soaked ground was covered with frost, and the first snow dressed up the shtetl for Chanukah.

Towards the evening our streets came alive. People began to converge to the old beis-hamedresh[2] to take part in lighting the first Chanukah candle. In spite of the everyday cloth-ing worn by the congregants, their faces reflected the glow of the festival. The small candles conveyed the message of hope…

The children were the ones to enjoy Chanukah the most. Those dear bright kids of Kałuszyn that used to walk the cold autumn night from cheder[3] in torn shoes and often hungry - in the night of Chanukah they beamed with happiness, as they helped their fathers to light the candles and place them in the chanukiya[4] that here was made from hollowed out potatoes filled with cottonwool dipped in oil. The eyes of the children sparkled with joy as they played with dreidles[5] which used to be made of cotton bobbins.

On Chanukah night there were no cheder classes, so straight after the day lessons the children went into the beis-hamedresh, each class separately. First to arrive were the youngest children who learned the alephbeys[6] with Reb Nachman. They were followed by the Chumash and Rashi boys[7] who learned under the strict melamed[8] Yisroel Dovid. The last to arrive were the Gemara[9] and Tosafos[10] students, those that studied under the scholars Reb Moyshe Layzer and Reb Shmul Kalman - firmly girded by gartelech[11], wearing flat cloth caps under which could be seen curly little payes[12].

The old beis-hamedresh looked festive with bright lamps placed in the lecterns of the reading desk. The two tiled ovens gave out a lot of heat. Even the ever-grumpy beadle, who always scolded the children for the trouble they used the cause him, now looked smiling on the little ones who took all the seats near the bright brass Chanukah lamp.

Everybody fell silent when the chazzan[13], Yechiel Shmerl started to move with the shamas[14] light towards the big chanukiya. Hundreds of children's throats thundered: “He is coming! He is coming!” The shouting became louder as the flame got nearer. The ecstasy reached crescendo when the chazzan recited the blessings. In response came a mighty amen that resounded like hundreds of silver bells followed by shouts of: “he kindles, he kindles! He did it, he did it!” The fired up children stamped their little feet shrieking.

The children's joy also infected the grown-ups. You could see how the embittered toilers with faces crumpled from worry suddenly brightened up with smiles, some breaking out in laughter. Hershl Tomak and Moyshe Bedner like little pranksters have stealthily extinguished the shamas so that the entire spectacle would have to be repeated. Efroim, the melamed, the one with the bushy eyebrows and a membrane on one of his eyes kept waving his hands as if conducting thereby encouraging the children to scream stronger and louder. Even the most re-spectable members of the community, headed by the rabbi himself allowed themselves a smile, hidden by their gray whiskers - not trying to stop the kids from having some fun on Chanukah, as was once enjoined in his testament by a Kałuszyn wonder-working rebbe[15]

Soon after candle-lighting, the students of the Kałuszyn yeshiva[16] under the direction of the principal Reb Tzvi Dantziger gave a performance of songs and Chassidic dances. The face of the great noble sage was pale and full of sadness. He wasn't very keen on the latest innovations. In his splendid sermons, attended also by the youths from all movements he used to analyse sarcastically the secular cybelesation[17]. But even he so strict and refined, used to relax and enjoy himself on the night of Chanukah.

The Chanukah nights were studded with stars. The snow glistened as if to light up God's little acre. The trees in Royzman's court were covered as with white blossom and the nearby brook flowed rapidly as if to escape being frozen over. On Layzer Farber's hill squeaked little sleighs and on the sidewalks of the main street unhurriedly promenaded young couples dream-ing of their future happiness. From the party meeting halls emerged youngsters carrying books, their faces etched with hardship and meditation on the problems of the world. Life doled them out joy in very small portions, and full of yearnings they made use of such nights to let their hair down - throwing snow balls with such fervour and spirit that their pale cheeks turned red.

The Chanukah nights were bright and joyful. The smell of latkes[18] wafted from all windows until late into the night. The Chanukah candles flickered slowly; one by one the shut-ters closed, and the night enfolded the little wooden houses of the town. From a distance one could hear only the creaking of the train wheels at the station at Mrozy. Or was it already the sound of the Angel of Death flapping his wings on his way to the shtetl


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of חנוכּה אין שׁטעטל, an article in “Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961. Return
  2. Study and prayer house, synagogue. Return
  3. An orthodox primary learning establishment, where boys were taught the five books of Moses or the Pentateuch. Return
  4. A special Chanukah candelabrum. Return
  5. A four-sided spinning tops that children play with on Chanukah. Return
  6. Hebrew alphabet. Return
  7. Boys that already studied the Pentateuch with commentaries by Rashi.
    Shlomo Yitzhaki better known by the acronym Rashi (Hebrew: רשׁ“י, Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki 1040 - 1105), was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a compre-hensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  8. Teacher, educator. Return
  9. The Gemara (from Aramaic gamar; literally, “[to] study” or “learning by tradition”) is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah. After the Mishnah was published by Rabbi Judah the Prince (c. 200 CE), the work was studied exhaustively by generation after generation of rabbis in Babylonia and the Land of Israel. Their discussions were written down in a series of books that became the Gemara, which when combined with the Mishnah constituted the Talmud. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  10. The Tosafos or Tosafot (Hebrew: תּוספות) are medieval commentaries on the Talmud. They take the form of critical and explanatory glosses, printed, in almost all Talmud editions, on the outer margin and opposite Rashi's notes. (Wikipedia). Return
  11. diminutive of gartl - belt; esp. (Jewish) belt worn during prayer (Uriel Weinreich, Modern Yiddish-English Dictionary, Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, 1968). Return
  12. Side curls. Return
  13. Cantor. Return
  14. The candle with which the Chanukah lights are lit. Return
  15. Rebbe - teacher, leader of a Chassidic group. Return
  16. A higher Jewish religious educational institution. Return
  17. A pun formed from the Yiddish word for “onion” (cybele, pron. Tsibele) and “civilisation”. Return
  18. Potato pancakes. Return


[Page 303]

Purim in Shtetl[1]

By S. Ben Moshe-Aaron

Translated by Gooter Goldberg

There is a popular saying that kadoches[2] is not an illness and Purim is not a holiday. However, as I discovered in Israel a long time ago, kadoches is indeed an illness, and from my childhood years in Kaluszyn I know that Purim is, in fact a holiday.

Even before Purim started, the shtetl acquired a festive mood. The boys were released from cheder[3] earlier than usually, and we used the free time to prepare for the Megillah[4]. We stocked up on decent greghers[5] to destroy Haman the Evil[6] during the reading, and above all to prepare the masks to be worn afterwards.

On Purim you could see gangs of boys, roaming the streets clothed in all sorts of colourful costumes, disguised by masks and rattling their greghers. They prepared “to do” the shtetl as soon as the reading was finished. Child and adult took part in these preparations - cheder boys, yeshiva students and many of the grownups.

The advent of Purim was especially noticeable in the grocery and fruit shop, where housewives bought things for (m)shlachmones[7]. We youngsters were also busy buying stuff in Yosele Zimel's bric-a-brac shop: “guns” with powder, masks and makeup, coloured paper and ribbons, and other things one needs for Purim.

We were free that day not only from cheder. Our mothers and older sisters were busy preparing delicacies for the Purim feast and had no time for us, so we had complete freedom to indulge in all sorts of boyish games.

In the afternoon on the eve of Purim one could hear the voices of the adults and youngsters rehearsing the reading of the Megillah, and as dusk fell one could clearly see that Purim is, after all a real holiday.

Dressed up in satin kaftans with silk girdles, shiny kitls[8] and shtraymls[9] men were seen in the streets and lanes walking to the shtibls[10], the study houses and to the Great synagogue.

The synagogue yard was bright with the light shining through the windows of the main house of worship and all surrounding shtibls, as well as from the windows of the house of Rabbi Shmul Kopl Kligsberg. Hundreds of people flocked towards the yard, each to his place of prayer.

In the Porisow[11] shtibl the prominent Chassidim arrive on time: R' Shmul Kalman, Lozer - the shochet[12], Berl Dechnever, Lozer - the son of Pesach-Yoyne, Nochem - the shochet, Kadish - the melamed[13], Moyshe Yavorski, Peretz - the miller, Sholem Sertzyner[14], Chaim Yitzchok - the white-haired, my father (may he rest in peace), and many others. The shtibl fills up with worshipers, each taking up his permanent place, and the youngsters with the greghers and sticks flock around the reading-desk, ready to obliterate Haman. The festive spirit rises and the holiday is reflected on every face.

The women too, cease working in the kitchen, leave it for later. Dressed in their finery they hurry to the synagogue, where the women's section is full with the sparkle of lights and the smell of goodies.

The reader goes through the final preparations, and all ears prick up. Every time the word “Haman” is heard, the greghers are being rattled and the sticks rapped on the floor.

As soon as the reading of the Megillah is finished, the women rush home to finish their work and manage to prepare the treats. The children excited by the racket of the rattles, are waiting for their fathers, and then go home confident that the evil Haman will never rise again…

All houses in town are full of light. After the feast the rejoicing outside begins. Groups of disguised youngsters “divide” the town allotting each group the section in which to “collect”. They start with the prominent citizens, but don't spare the less affluent either. They “break” into houses as if drunk and intone the Purim chant:

“Tomorrow it's over, but today Purim is on - give us a threepence and we'll be gone”.

A threepence was actually not acceptable and woe was unto the misers - the kids would create such a din that you either had to give in or throw them out.

The festivities lasted late into the night. Next morning it all started again: the reading of the Megillah, the din of the greghers and the sticks, and after the feast people went out to deliver shlachmones. In our house this was a labour of love, the fulfilment of a mitzvah, a commandment. To us children it was a double mitzvah: for each delivery we received a few pennies from each side - the senders and the receivers - with which we bought sweets and nuts. We used these, together with the top layers of the goodies we were delivering, to treat each other, and thus earning an extra mitzvah

My dad, R' Moshe Aaron z”l, used to prepare shlachmones by himself for his family and friends with great deliberateness. Everything was set out on a nice platter, a Holy Land fruit in the centre and covered with a beautiful small tablecloth. When done, he handed it over to me for delivery.

The first shlachmones was for the highly respected Porisow Chassid, R' Shmul Kalman. He was my father's friend and my cheder teacher. Next I carried the Purim gifts for Lozer Pesach-Yoyne's, Berl Dechnever, Lozer, the shochet, Nochem, the shochet, Itche Meyer Furmanski, Kadish, the melamed, and others. These were followed by carrying gifts to and from relatives. This went on for the whole day and the house was filled with sweets and delicacies.

After the chores were finished, the kids took stock of the day's proceeds and counted their “earnings”.

The grownups too, were busy that day counting the donations collected for the assorted charitable societies: religious instructions, assistance to impoverished brides, hostel for homeless, loans to the needy. Among them were the volunteers of the chevra-kadisha[15] who having put on disguises that day, danced and sang into the night and collected threepence for their respective associations.

The day following Purim was the crown of the entire holiday - we feasted happily, believing that Haman was annihilated…


Translator's Footnotes

  1. This is an unedited translation from Yiddish of פּורים אין שׁטעטל, an article in“Sefer Kalushin”, Published by the “Kalushiner Societies in Israel, the United States of America, Argentine, France and other countries”, Tel-Aviv, 1961.
    Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman's plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. Return
  2. A fit of shivering or shaking, malaria induced fever. Return
  3. An orthodox primary learning establishment, where boys were taught the Chumash, the five books of Moses or the Pentateuch. Return
  4. The scroll containing the biblical narrative of the Book of Esther, traditionally read in synagogues to celebrate the festival of Purim. (www.thefreedictionary.com/Megillah). Return
  5. Rattles. Return
  6. Haman or Haman the evil is the main antagonist in the Book of Esther, who, according to Old Testament tradition, was a 5th Century BC noble and vizier of the Persian empire under King Ahasuerus. In the story, Haman and his wife Zeresh instigate a plot to kill all the Jews of ancient Persia. The plot is foiled by Queen Esther, the king's recent wife, who is herself a Jew. Haman is hanged from the gallows that had originally been built to hang Mordechai, Esther's uncle. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  7. Mishloach manos (or manot) - Hebrew, literally, "sending of portions" also called a Purim basket, are gifts of food or drink that are sent to friends, relatives, neighbours, . and any other acquaintances on Purim day. (Based on Wikipedia). Return
  8. Man's white linen robe worn on solemn occasions. Return
  9. Fur-edged hats worn on the Sabbath and holidays. Return
  10. Shtibl - literally a small dwelling, but used in the sense of a small house of prayer. Return
  11. Parysów - a village in Poland, used to be the centre of a Chassidic branch. Return
  12. Ritual slaughterer Return
  13. A cheder teacher. Return
  14. Could be a surname, or a place of birth (Sertzyn, being the Yiddish name for Sarzyna, in South-East Poland?) Return
  15. Burial society. Return

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