|1||VIGODA - (Polish) comfortable, cozy. Return|
|2||HEDER religious grade school for boys only. Return|
|3||MELAMDIN, pl. of melamed - teacher of children in a heder 2 Return|
|4||MAFTIR reading of the haphtarah (lesson from the Prophets) in the synagogue. Return|
|5||SHABES-GOY gentile hired to perform domestic chores forbidden to Jews on the Sabbath, e.g. lighting a fire. Return|
|6||GEMORE Hebrew Gemara, that part of the Talmud 25 which comments on the Mishnah (post-biblical laws and rabbinical discussions of the 2nd century B.C.E.) Return|
|7||MASKIL, adj. Maskilisher An adherent of the Haskalah (enlightenment movement. Return|
|8||YONKIPPER (Hebrew, Yom Kippur) the Day of Atonement the most solemn Jewish holiday and fast day, when every person's fate for the coming year is to be decided. Return|
|9||KAPOTE - kaftan, gabardine, long black coat traditionally worn by observant Jews. Return|
|10||DER KOYEN - pl. Koyenim priest in ancient Palestine; descendant of the priests, accorded certain privileges and obligations by Jewish religion. Return|
|11||HESHAYNE RABE - Hebrew Hoshanah Raba (lit. great hosanna) The seventh day of Sukkos (Tabernacles) on which seven circuits are made around the synagogue reciting a prayer with the refrain, Hosha nah! (Please save us!). Every person's fate for the coming year is irrevocably sealed in Heaven on this day. Return|
|12||SIMCHAS TORAH - Hebrew, rejoicing with the Torah. A festival that celebrates the conclusion of the annual reading cycle of the Torah. Return|
|13||DER KOYEN GODL - High Priest in ancient Palestine. Return|
|14||OLEVASHOLOM rest in peace. Return|
|15||BESMEDRESH prayer and study house; small synagogue, also used for meetings. Return|
|16||MENDELE MOKHER-SFORIM the father of Yiddish literature. Return|
|17||RASHI Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (1040-1105) Torah scholar unequaled in his commentaries. Best-known for his commentary on the Torah. Return|
|18||TOYSEFES important commentaries on the Talmud 25 written between the 12th and 14th centuries. Return|
|19||SHAS - pl. Shasn abbreviation of shishe sedorim meaning six books. The six parts that make up one Mishnah and one Talmud; the Talmud 25 Return|
|20||MEDRESH, pl. MEDROSHIM commentaries on the Hebrew Bible, as well as legends and fables compiled in the Talmudic and post-Talmudic era Return|
|21||YORI-DEAH'S second part of the Shulkhan Arukh put together by Joseph Caro 16th century as a compilation of Jewish ritual law. Return|
|22|| SHEILES UN TSHUVES books written by Rabbis expressing their analysis
of certain questions regarding Jewish religious
|23||MOYRE-NEVUKHIM title of a well-known philosophical work by the Rambam. Return|
|24||KUZRI - title of an important philosophical book by Yehuda Halevi. Return|
|25||TALMUD there are two Talmuds: one known as Bavli Babylonian is the most famous, completed about the 5 th century; the second is Jerusalem, edited around early 4 th century. The core of both is the Mishnah 26 and Gemore 6 (Heb. Gemara); has become term used for Talmud.|
|26||MISHNAH the collection of post-biblical laws and rabbinical discussions of the 2 nd century B.C.E , forming part of the Talmud 25.|
Only small incidents remain in memory. Perhaps this will give everyone a picture of the once existing and now destroyed Jewish Slutsk.
It is understood; I am a Slutsker, born on Vigoda at the home of my zayde [grandfather], Reb Szaia Zhitkowitcher. I remember that opposite our house was an empty field, on which was later built a wooden city jail for petty criminals.
The smotritel or supervisor of the jail tormented the Jews unmercifully, but he more or less tolerated my zayde as a neighbor. This smotritel had two sons, gymnazia [Polish high school] students, tall gentiles with honest faces and naturally just as cunning as their father. It occurred to my zayde to ask them to teach me Russian. We both went to see them. The two gentiles took us into one of the empty cells. They sat down on the cot and they left my zayde standing. There was only one other piece of furniture to be found in the room: a wooden pail used as a stool by the prisoner.
The chat lasted a long time and my zayde found it difficult to stand, but neither one asked him to sit down, so he sat on the stool.
This incident has such an impression on me that when we had left I said to my zayde: Under no circumstances will I study with such anti-Semites!
I started going to heder when I was 5 years old. My first melamed was Hirshel Berl an emaciated Jew, who simultaneously was also the shamas [beadle] in the Vigoda shul. As I recall, the heder was built directly on the ground, and the front door just cleared the ground. The house next door to the heder belonged to Y.D. Berkowitsh's parents just higher and somewhat roomier in comparison to the rebbe's (teacher's) house.
Now an episode from my second heder also on Vigoda, close to the cemetery:
One autumn morning somebody ran in to tell the rebbe that the nadizatel [superintendent] was going around to all the houses demanding nalog [taxes]. The rebbe should not have been afraid because he rented the space for the heder and the house was not his; but in any case, a melamed needed to have a certificate that cost three rubles and this he did not have. The rebbe yelled to the children that they should run. The children ran out onto Vigoda.
I, along with another boy, ran to the Yatzeva, far behind the shul and sat there hungry the entire day. When it began to get dark, we decided that we could return home. But not feeling entirely safe, we hid behind the shul and looked out around the corner to see if one could go into the street and go home without meeting up with the superintendent.
When I came into the house, my mother was very upset. She did not know where else to look for me and she was taking out all her evil nightmares on the rebbe's head.
I would like to mention an interesting fact about the police. A new bridge was being built over the river on Zaretzer Street. Only the support poles for the new bridge had been put in place, and boards were laid over the poles providing two narrow passageways over the bridge. By chance my mother and I were crossing the bridge when suddenly we noticed that from Zaretzer Street, on the road to the market, soldiers were running, their faces exasperated and impatient. And of course we, along with the others who were crossing the bridge, were in their way. They said nothing and did not harm us. But their running had worried my mother and we turned back.
It turned out that the soldiers were running to the market place to carry out a pogrom. They managed to beat a number of Jews who were not able to run away and hide. But the strange thing was that they had not bothered anybody on the bridge. With very little effort they could have thrown a dozen people from the small boards into the river. But they had been told that the pogrom had to start in the market place and as the bridge was before the market place, this was not part of their mission.
I would also like to mention my third heder. It was located opposite the Zaretzer shul. The melamed's name was Itshe Note's, from his father-in-law's name, Note Tomback, the well-known educator and Hebrew writer who was also the uncle of Yehuda Grodzovski. He was different from all the other melamdin I knew, intelligent and wellread, and he read Hebrew newspapers as well as Hebrew books. I do not remember if he did this for everyone, but when he taught me grammar, he never stopped me from bringing reading books to heder. He even translated for me the difficult words when I didn't understand their meaning. (His wife Tille was known in Tel-Aviv for philanthropic activities).
At that time there was another event. There was not a legal library in Slutsk! There was only an illegal one in the house of the Khapashker shul. This library had to be open two or three times a week in the evening. It had to open at 8 o'clock, but the librarians were not in any hurry and would arrive at 9 o'clock.
At that time I was 8 years old and was caught up in reading Y. Levner's Kol Agodas Yisroyel [All the Israel Legends] 36 books. I would get the books at the library.
I remember that I would leave heder 2, in the winter, at 6 o'clock in the evening, I would go to the library, and the room would be locked. Only the anteroom of the shul was open. I would stand there in the dark and cold until the library opened. And as soon as it opened, all the young boys and girls would come to get books, or simply to meet and enjoy oneself for a while. Naturally the librarians would meet girls there and a small boy standing quietly off to the side, was never noticed. Only when they had to close the library would they notice that a young boy stood waiting for a book and give it to him.
I had to go home late. I walked with the book, lifting the hem of my coat through the dark streets. Many times walking over pieces of wood, laid out over muddy or wet places instead of a footbridge, my heart would tremble from fright on hearing the barking dogs and the drunken voices of the gentiles who often came from the opposite side.
Another incident that was characteristic of that time:
I was then 6 years old and I was sick. My mother took me to Dr. Bildrzhikevitsh, a Pole. I remember that his apartment was on Shausayne Street on a corner opposite Folke the tailor. (Later the lawyer Rep lived in that house). The doctor wanted to see how I digested food, so he ordered the servant to bring a glass of milk and a piece of black bread for me to eat while I sat in the waiting room. But I said to him, A gentile calls this food?
Therefore they got me ready for the second order of the doctor to go to a datcha [cottage].
In the Khorker forest it was very gloomy. Aside from us there was only one other cottager, a consumptive and my mother wanted to avoid sitting close to him. Mainly we would go to an isolated corner and sit by ourselves. But once we encountered an unexpected visitor, Iser the crazy man. Iser was a wild crazy man, and it was dangerous for me to be alone with him. He was a Slutsker, had brothers there and one of them was on Shausayne Street opposite Haim Mikhel's mill. But the brothers had sent him away to Khorki and he became a resident there. He walked around with long, uncut hair, a disheveled beard, and a bag that he never took off. From time to time he would remember his brothers, and he would make a pilgrimage to Slutsk and create a tumult there until his brothers would send him back.
And there I sit with my mother in the forest and Iser arrived. He was not just passing through; he came and sat down near us. Our blood turned cold from fear. What should we do? Should we get up and leave? Would it be more dangerous? So we sat scared to death until he got up and left. But before he did, I had to say that in the morning I would repair his bag.
The next day, he arrived early in the morning, and I can still picture it today how I sat on the ground with Iser next to me and I sewed up his sack. (Going outside to meet Iser, I knew I made sure to see where my mother was) My mother did not take her eyes off us the entire time.
We never went into the forest again and returned home.
Neither the doctor nor the datcha helped me. But I got well nevertheless.
My mother had a relative in Starobin, who was known as a big charmer. I can still see him in front of my eyes: a tall, older man, with a gray beard, rings under his eyes and the forehead of a wise man.
People had to watch out for him when he came to town to buy merchandise and simply "catch" him. When he would come to town, he would go to ten market fairs. At the inn he would grab [food] and put away all the packages in a minute and run out to continue.
To be sure that one could catch him, we would go to the inn at 6 o'clock in the morning, when he was just getting up. He heard my mother, and she said that she must see him alone before he prayed and drove away two hours later.
What did she have to do now? She had to get a new knife from a store that nobody had ever used and a fresh apple. Well, a knife is a knife. My mother went to wake a storekeeper in order to buy the knife. But where could one get an apple since it was still early in the season and there were not any apples:
My mother had to search for one, and she had to pay fifty kopecks for the apple, but she had found the things and ran back to the inn.
The charmer took the knife and cut the whole alphabet around and around the apple. He handed it to me to eat. He ordered me to bite letter after letter, beginning with the tof [last letter of Hebrew alphabet] and ending back at the aleph [letter A in Hebrew alphabet].
I obeyed him and did it, as he ordered. And believe it or not in a very short time I was healthy again.
Yet another melamed lived on Ostrover Street, where he taught. But such teaching this was that he charged thirty rubles a school term, and this was considered a good term. But for the most part he only took in around twenty rubles or three rubles per child for he never took enough children.
Possibly because of this, he had only one day a week to be with his children. This was Shabes. He had two old-maid daughters who worked all week in a workshop as dressmakers. Shabes was the only day that the two could expect to look decent and perhaps meet a young man. But how could one expect to look respectable when one must not use a comb?
Blood would pour every day in the house. Two young women who wanted look decent had only one day a week when it was possible, but on Shabes, one had to go around with uncombed hair, which they did, because they were not strong enough to go against the iron will of their father.
I remember another Jew from Ostrover Street Yonah the shadkhan [marriage broker], a tall, dried up fellow, always with an umbrella. He had a daughter, an old maid, and a dried up son who later died of consumption. People would life at him and tease him to his face that he should be able to at least manage a shidukh [a match] for his own daughter.
There was another person once in Slutsk who should be remembered, Aliotke the thief. He looked fine, respectable and had a beard.
I did not know him. My mother told me what her mother had told her about a personal experience.
This happened during a winter night. The winter was a terrible one, with very cold temperatures and storms and blizzard. My bobe [grandmother] was lying in bed and heard something scratching in the stable and the goat, the only possession that she had of substance, was restless and bleated loudly. It occurred to her that there must a wolf. The house was at the edge of the city. Probably a wolf got lost and detected the smell of the animal. She did not think long, did not wake anybody, grabbed her shoes and an old garment, found a stick and ran out to drive off the wolf and to save the animal.
She was not able to find the animal in the stable, and she did not see a wolf. So she raced out over the white field, to see if she could find a clue. Not a small thing for a poor person to have an animal!
Who know what my bobe wanted to find that night. As luck would have it, a thought came to her: what was she doing, the wolf would throw away the animal and catch her too?
She went back.
The entire night, understand, afterwards she did not sleep and with the gray light of morning she went with my zayde to the stable. There was no sign or a clue that they could find the snow had covered everything.
My bobe then figured that it could not have been a wolf because there was no sign of blood in the stable. What then? It was likely Aliotke the thief and she quickly dressed and went to see Aliotke.
What do you mean, Reb Aliotke? she demanded of him him: How could you do this to me? There was not a richer person to go to, only to me ?
At first Aliotke played innocent, denying everything: Who me? He did not know what to say. Only when my bobe would not give up he said, So, nu, Dina-Keila, you will give me ten rubles to get the animal back. Someone else would not give it back for under twenty-five rubles; indeed such an animal could not be bought for fifty rubles!
But you are an honest Jewess, so for you I will give it back for a tenner. What do you say? For all my pain and trouble on such a cold winter night?
The main thing was, they bargained and bargained until she had bargained him down to five rubles. She gave him the five rubles and brought the animal back to the stable.
(Remarks from the editorial board: According to older Slutskers in Israel, he repented in his old age and led a respectable life).
A couple of words about my mother who was from a poor house but a proud family the Rakhmilievitshes (her maiden name was Leah Rakhmilievitsh). She was never bitter, never thought of herself, and always shared her last penny with others.
She had only one brother, Itshe, a son-in-law of Reb Zacharia. the paloshnik , who was also a scholar and a man of knowledge. In his twenties he had already written for HaMelitz. My mother was their sister's landlord, the one he taught to read and write and learn vocabulary. My mother was the intelligent one in her family, and from the beginning sought to teach me Yiddish and worldly knowledge.
She died in New York.
The law profession, which properly meant writing petitions, seemed to be well represented in Slutsk. I can count the following names:
Ratner, Perkal, Rep, Tshiptshin, Bakaliar and Salop the writer (more card player than writer.)
Seldom did anyone have only given name in Slutsk. Just about everybody was known by a nickname. I remember the following:
Judel der zaidener [from a silk family] served in the uprava and lived on Vigoda.
Shimon der trif'er (has a variety of meanings) was assistant sexton in the house at the Zaretzer shul.
Itche-Niek (Yelin) teacher in the Evreiskoye Utshilishche. Hardly large than a dwarf.
Matrenka der shuster [the shoemaker] later had a son, a doctor.
Yoshe Gon (Gaon ) der shneider [the tailor].
Hershl Tzitzke a rimizshnik [perhaps harness-maker] lived on Ostrova.
There were Hebrew speaking families in Slutsk by the name of: Aliashev (Alishib), Migdal, Ayolo, Yelkut, Gabai, Hofetz, Shur, Ofres, Efrun, Yorkhe (Yorkha), Mas (Mo's), Berkut, Minker.
Nishke Kvasnik was once a tavern keeper whose formal name was Nisen Ratner. He was an enlightened Jew and a Lover of Zion. His children were raised with the love of Israel and the Hebrew language. After his death, his sons opened a restaurant. They were well known Zionists, Moshe and Isik Ratner, and they had a sister Henie Ratner who was very fluent in Hebrew.
On one side of the street was a high hill with large trees behind which stood the large Sobor Church. My mother would tell me that on that spot once a church sank, so the gentiles built the Sobor Church in the same place The church made the Jews tremble from fear with the constant ringing of the large bells. The gentiles would come to church and then get drunk, and the residents of the street would shake in terror. Our house was not far from the long bridge.
I remember our Jewish neighbors on the street, such as: Leib the Tzadik [pious man], Grinvald the bookseller and owner of a private library, and Podlipski Mordchai, the shtumer [mute]. Also, Feiwel Zelda's, (the Russian soldier); Nechama, the hardware storekeeper; Sholem, the melamed [teacher]; Zelik Klotz, the kirzshner [cap-maker]; Nachum Dan Baron, the yeshiva dean; and Sara Kushes.
Nishke Kvasnik's brick house was the only two-story building and because of it brought prestige to our little street, and so it was named for him and we did not call it Soborny Pereaulok. My father, Tuvia Mechanik, [Tevia, the carpenter], employed six workers. He made furniture: benches and chairs for schools and government institutions in Slutsk. His relationship towards his workers was that of a father; he gave charity generously and gave loans without interest to those in need. Never once did he fail to pay what he owed. My mother, Chana Chaia, collected money to give a Torah scroll to the yeshiva. I remember the celebration for the Torah and my mother's joy on that occasion. Who was as honest as she?
Our house was a large one. In the courtyard my father planted trees and raised hens and turkeys. There was a pond with fish and in the stable a cow with a calf. In one word my father was a mensch [good person]. During the summer we rented boats to row on the river.
My father was of the opinion that the real exile would happen with the coming of the Messiah, and yet he longed for Israel so much so that he pushed his sister to go Israel and sent her ten rubles a month. My mother loved Israel body and soul. For her the pushke [charity box] for Keren Kayemet [Jewish National Fund] was as noble as the pushke for Reb Meier Bal-HaNes [money collected for Orthodox scholars living in Palestine]. With trembling hands she would put money in all the charity boxes. Her lips would quiver as she choked on her tears: Because of Shabes and the Land of Israel Jews should help. She understood
When we became members of Tseirei-Zion [one of the many Zionist Youth movements], my mother would say, You should be worthy of living and building our Holy Land. My brother Josef olevasholem [may he rest in peace] who died in America, was from the first year of this century [twentieth] an activist and devoted Zionist in Slutsk and belonged to Kdima.
My mother's prayer was fulfilled. We earned enough merit so that some of us could live in Israel.
It was a week before Passover, during a nice, clear, starry night. The weather was clear and dry. My mother, may she rest in peace, woke me around 2 o'clock in the morning.
Look, see, it is burning!
Through the window I saw how red the sky was. Sparks were flying in the air, falling on the roof of our house. My mother, brothers and sisters were busy gathering together the bedding, household goods and taking them out to the street. I got dressed and went outside. Panic reigned. All the neighbors were busy packing, dragging large pots, chests and bundles into the open field. The women sent up a lament, and we were screaming, the children were crying, and the men were busy trying to save everything possible, grabbing a look from time to time at the red flames whose hot breath could be heard coming closer and closer.
Neighboring houses had burned quickly and soon our house also began to burn. The children were sent away far from the street to a courtyard. From there I saw the terrifying tragedy: Slutsk is burning!
When the sun rose the fire had calmed down. That afternoon when I went with my older sister to see our street, it was enveloped in flames and smoke. The house was no longer there, had burned to the ground, and our family had to stay at a relative's house. This lasted for months.
There was enormous crowding. Three or four families lived in a house with five or six rooms. A lot of families remained homeless. They took corners in the anteroom of the shul the walls of the Kalteshul [Cold Shul] sheltered about fifty families with their children and bundles for a long time.
After a fire people get rich, joked the graying Artshik, the tavernkeeper. A Jew, a scholar, with a handsome face and a long, well groomed beard, he also had a brick house built where his had burned. It had a deep cellar and modern arrangements.
It cost my mother, a widow, a lot of trouble, sweat, and heartache until our new house was ready and we could move.
During reconstruction the streets were widened and paved with cobblestones; new, better wells were dug and the mud was done away with. In short this part of newly built Slutsk had a new, nicer look.
When we were out of the house, I remember a red world. The air was filled with smoke. We went to the field. The street was full of people who had come to help save something from the fire, and one after the other they ran with a pail of water to help the firemen put out the fire. Others ran with children into the field, as did my parents. Some good people saved some cushions and curtains from our house and brought them to us in the field. Half the city had been burned. We were left naked, without a roof over our heads. Early in the morning we were taken to the shul that had not burned. Every family had a corner between two benches. Food was sent from the city and from surrounding villages. I remember that at noon cooking was done in a large kettle; a krupnik [dish of groats] from large pearl barley and a few pieces of fat were floating in it. We stayed for a couple of days until my parents rented an apartment on Zaretzer Street.
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