It was in the 1880s of the previous century that a wave of pogroms was swept over Russian Jews. The skies had clouded over the Jews. The future of the Jewish people deeply touched his heart. Grandfather, my uncle Itzal'eh, and my father were regarded as the intellectual leaders of Rakov in those days. When they gathered in our home their conversation usually revolved around the state of Jews. Grandfather and uncle were the pessimists while father, the businessman, well versed in the current affairs of the world and the country, was among the optimists. Father used to travel far and wide in his extensive business dealings, to Kavkaz, Moscow, Warsaw, Tiplis, Vilna and more, and there he viewed the issues with a more optimistic view.
Upon his return from these trips he would talk about the commercial and
industrial developments in Russia and about its technical developments. His
words were like a light reflected from all he had seen and heard in his
You are yet to see, he used to say, that the 20th century will bring a tremendous development in technology and will march the human race towards a happier life and a new world, and the Jews will advanced along with the world population. I do not know on what he based his words, but that these were his words is a fact.
In my childhood I had the privilege to see one technical invention, an invention that was going to be part of the future civilization. We lived then in Bukhraka and we used to light up the house with kinlakes branches from the pine tree, dry and thin, that were cut specifically for kindling. One day my father brought from Warsaw a great invention, an Oil Lamp. The oil lamp was a sensation in town.
The fact was that ready-made shoe stores or ready-made garment stores were not common then, also applied for furniture. It was a custom in the village to give a daughter that was about to marry a commoda (dresser) as part of her oischteir (dowry). My mother did not discriminate between a son and a daughter. When my eldest brother, Berel Zalmen, was going to marry my mother invited Moishe Yechiel the carpenter to prepare for him a commoda. The whole work was done, of course, by hand and took several weeks. And when the carpenter successfully completed his work he brought the furniture to our house. All the neighbors came to marvel and they all noted that the furniture was a real antiquel, never seen before.
Years later things had advanced so that for my sister Shosa's wedding my parents bought her a ready-made commoda from a Minsk furniture store. And when my mother came home and told her neighbors about purchasing a commoda, it was again a sensation. One of the women said, Who knows, maybe there will be times when there will be no need to order a custom-made suit, but one could enter a clothing store, and buy himself a ready-made suit.
(From Unzer Shtetl, 11.21.1941)
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