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The occupations of the Jews of Căpreşti

by Att. Baruch Yanowitz

Translated by Sara Mages

The sources of income of the Jews of Căpreşti were very diverse, and weren't much different from those in other towns in the district. We don't have proven sources to the exact distribution of the occupations of the Jews of Căpreşti, but we aren't going to be far from reality when we state that about 40% of the town's Jews were engaged in commerce, about 3% were engaged in craft, and the rest were various brokers, religious ministrants (rabbis, slaughterers, teachers, cantors, beadles etc.), the liberal professionals, and those who didn't have a profession and lived on public support and the kindness of relatives in the country and abroad.

Generally, it's possible to say, that the economic situation of Căpreşti was better than the situation in other towns, and the main reason for that was the dense rural settlements that surrounded it. The town drew the bulk of its income from about 20 large villages.

The town's merchants concentrated on the trade of the crops of the environment, especially the grain trade. This was a wide layer of Jews that their entire occupation was - the purchase of grain from the farmers, and for that reason they were called - “grain traders.” At the head of the grain traders stood several large-scale traders, who had connections with the wide world. The rest, were small traders who bought the grain in order to sell it on the same day, or the day after, to the big traders for a small profit. Those lived, for the most part, at the edge of town and in its outskirts. The competition between them was fierce, and when a farmer came to town with his crop, they attacked his wagon and each one drew him toward him. This was a hard way to earn a living. At times it provoked mutual resentment, but generally, friendly relations existed between the Jews of Căpreşti despite the hard competition.

There was a type of a grain trade which was called - “green bread.” In the early days of spring, when the wheat was strewn in the fields, the crops of the next harvest were bought and the farmers received advance payment “on account.” There were farmers who knew how to exploit it to their advantage: they received an advance payment from one trader and also from a second, but in due time, they sold their grain to a third dealer. This way, a lot of Jewish money went down the drain.

The trade in sheep and lambs skins grasped an important place. A long time before the arrival of spring, the skins' traders went out into the surrounding villages and bought from the estate owners and the farmers, who owned flocks of sheep, the lambs that would be born, and when the calving time arrived they went to get them. They sold the meat to the butchers, and the skins - especially the finest among them - were marketed abroad. This trade has increased especially during the Romanian rule, between the two world wars, and those who dealt in it yielded nice profits.

The farmers sold the yield of the field and the fruit of the garden, the products of the coop, cowshed, and pen to the town's Jews. The farmers' wives sold the fruit of their labor like: coarse fabrics, carpets, towels, butter, cream, cheese, poultry, eggs etc. In exchange for the supply that the town drew from the surrounding villages, it provided their needs with great abundance. There were all sorts of shops in the town: grocery, textiles, clothing and footwear, iron, house ware and kitchen, haberdashery, etc., like in all other Jewish towns, but here, everything was in abundance. To these, we must add the restaurants and the taverns, which also earned most of their livelihood from the surrounding villages.

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Near the grain merchants houses were large warehouses full of grain. In the autumn season, from the early morning hours, a long line of wagons waited to transfer the grain to the train station in Rogozhany.

As for the industry in Căpreşti, it should be noted that there were three oil-presses - of Ayvcher, Elkis and Bernshtein, and two flour mills - of Ayvcher and his partners, and Elkis and his partners.

The industry in Căpreşti provided work to many residents. The flour mill of Ayvcher, Elkis, Skladman and Hokhman provided electricity to the town.

Generally, the commerce provided plenty of income. The rural population didn't engage in trade and manufacturing, and the Jews took advantage of this fact. But there were also years of drought, which brought poverty and hunger. Stores were closed and the number of bankruptcies increased in the town. In such years, the wave of immigration from the town to the big cities of Romania and Bukovina rose, and many immigrated to the United States, South America and other countries.

Most of the town's craftsmen worked for the local farmers. The number of tailors in the town was great. Some of them worked “by measure,” and the majority of their customers were Jews, but most of them engaged in sewing “ready-made clothing.” They were called “Tandetnikim,” and provided their produce to the clothing shops in the town or took it to fairs in towns and villages in the region. And so did the shoemakers, hatters and furriers who combined labor and trade.

There were also carpenters, tinsmiths, coopers, blacksmiths, wool dyers, painters, cobblers, watchmakers, bakers, butchers, seamstresses etc. in the town.

This is the place to mention the water-drawers, carters, porters etc. All of them worked very hard to earn their livelihood, and their occupations contradict the legend, which is also common among the various anti-Semites, about the alleged parasitic lifestyle of the Jews in the Diaspora. Unfortunately, this version is also common among us, without feeling the injustice that is caused to the truth and to the memory of our ancestors.




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A quick glimpse on our town Căpreşti

by Israel Reshef (Feierman)

Translated by Sara Mages

In the town it was customary to call the sloping eastern ridge by the name “mountain.” It rose above the built-up section of the town, and along it the horizon looked like a stretched line. The one who climbed to the crest eventually reached the defence trenches that were dug during the First World War. From there, the spectacular view of the town appeared before his eyes, as if it was resting on his palm, and also the view that stretched to the western horizon, a place where the sun sets like a giant fireball. Every morning, the sun appeared from behind this mountain and sent its rays to announce the arrival of a new day. In the summer, the mountain slope was cultivated and sown, mostly by sunflowers. In the course of time vineyards were planted on it, and watermelons and cantaloupes were sown between the young vines.

The vineyards owners used to visit their vineyard, especially after the Sabbath's nap, to breathe fresh air and to derive pleasure from their “estates.”

During the ripening of the watermelons and the grapes, the singing voices and laughter of young men and boys, who guarded the fruit from the “owners of long arms,” were heard from the vineyards…

Many roads led to our town: one passed through Prodaneshti, Kazanesht, Chiscaren and Orhiyov to Kishinev [Chişinău]. There was a paved road between Orhiyov and Kishinev, so that the buses could also travel on rainy days. A second road, north of the town, led to the train station in Rogozhany - which led to the wide world. This road was controlled by Baruch-Chaim and his sons: they kept a constant and accurate connection - day and night, in the summer and in the winter - between the town and the train station in Rogozhany. They were even more accurate than the train, which was stopped in the winter by storms and snow. Even the bandits and the murderers weren't able to prevent the regular service of the carters. One of his sons, Beinus, fell victim to a murder in this road.

The rest of the roads led to the nearby villages. From there, the farmers flocked [to the town] especially on Sunday and Thursday, which were the weekly market days. Since the Romanians imposed a ban on the Sunday market day, due to the “sanctity of the day,” the policemen made sure that the shops will be closed, but they closed their eyes when they received a secret gift - “hush money.”

On the other hand, the Thursday market was different. Before nightfall the entire town center was taken over by the stall owners. They stretched tents over the stalls - to protect them from the rays of the sun or against the rain.

The stalls were arranged on both sides of the wide street. The farmers, who came from near and far, parked their wagons behind the stalls, and their horses, which were tied to the wagons, chewed assiduously barley, oats, or any other refreshment that was given to them.

In the continuation of the main street, after the stalls, the wagons stood linked to each other. They were filled with the fruits and the vegetables of the season: cherries, hackberries, apricots, various plums, melons and vegetables in abundance. The middle of the street served as a passage for pedestrians and wagons. Despite the crowding, the traffic didn't stop from early morning to sunset. Then, the street emptied, and after

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the hustle and bustle only the typical remains of market day were left: straw, peels, papers, damaged fruits and vegetables etc.

The homeowners and the shopkeepers, of the same street, grumbled on the next day when they had to sweep - each next to his home - the garbage that was left. The fine, which was expected during the policemen's inspection, was the most effective factor.

A special place was reserved on market day, as in any weekday, to the vegetable peddlers. Each one was seated behind his stand, which was composed from a number of boards that were placed on two crates. A scale and weights stood on the stand, and next to it were wicker baskets which contained fruits and vegetables. Among the peddlers were also those who sold fish for the Sabbath.

There was also a special place in the market for selling eggs and poultry. The farmers' wives sat on the ground and before them were eggs, chickens, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seed for cracking on the Sabbath, and all kinds of spices.

The women from the village of Prodaneshti supplied bottled milk and butter wrapped in cabbage leaves to customers in who didn't have a goat or a cow.

There were also Jews, who kept a number of cows, and supplied milk to people with a refined taste and to those who were strictly kosher. It was possible to get cheese from Gedalia the cheese maker.

Most of the townspeople earned their living from trading with the local farmers, who, in addition to fruits and vegetables, also brought the summer harvest like: corn, wheat, barley and sunflower. In the spring they also sold lambs' skins, and in the winter - the skins of hunted animals.

In exchange for their produce the farmers purchased commodities for their homes: groceries, house wares, textiles, readymade garments and shoes. They also received the services of various artisans: tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, blacksmiths, carpenters etc.

The farmers received a special service from the oil-presses, and accompanied the production until they got the hot oil that they produced.

The oil-presses sold their produce to the big cities. The oil waste was used as food for the cattle and the pigs, and also for heating. The sunflower shells, after they were separated from the seeds, were used during the cold winter days - for heating the houses.

The flour-mills operated constantly and thanks to them electric lanterns, which illuminated the town's dark streets, were installed.

At times, the market for cattle and horses served as a place for anti-Semite incitement, especially in the period before the elections. The reaction of Căpreşti's youth to such awakening was immediate, and it deterred the instigators and the incited as one.

On the western side of the town stretched a very deep valley, and abundance of rocks and stones were scattered on both of its banks. The Răut River flowed deep in the valley.

On summer days, in the afternoon, the townspeople turned out in droves to dip in the cool water of the Răut River. The distance to the river, including the steep descent, was about two kilometers. They made their way to the river by foot and by horse-drawn wagons which were filled with passengers - neighbors, friends or

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just those who joined them. Also a horse-drawn carriage was not absent there, and there were those who came on horseback. All the means to get to the Răut were acceptable. The bathing places were full with people. The men - without a cover to their skins, and the women, who were some distance away - wore nightgowns or robes - so not to attract the evil eye.

Also the horses were in the crowd of bathers - without shame they dropped their droppings in the water, and didn't feel the need to “apologize.” The flowing water carried it further and further.

The area around the Răut was a place of attraction for many, especially on Saturday afternoon. In the winter, when a thick layer of ice covered the river, it served as a place for skating. While in the summer - a place for trips and a gathering place for the teenagers. The members of the town's youth movements: Hashomer-Hatzair, Gordonia, Dror, as well as non-Zionist youth who operated underground, especially liked the place.

The source of drinking water for the town's residents were two springs near the Răut River. One, which was called “the spring” by all, contained an abundance of clear water. The “water carriers” came here with a horse-drawn cart that portly barrel was installed on it and two wooden buckets hung on its side. Hard and taxing was the work of the “water carriers,” especially during the winter. The raging snowstorms disrupted the roads and hampered the walking, especially when the buckets were full of water.

With the spring thaw, when the river rose and swept everything in its path, the mud in the roads and in the streets was deep, and the travel and the carrying of the buckets turned into a nightmare.

However, the delivery of water didn't stop, because it is an essential commodity. The water carriers “chose” a hard way to make a living for lack of choice: - at home, a wife and children, it is necessary to bring bread to their mouths and fodder to the animals that help to make a living.

In conclusion: our connection with our town is only emotional. We were born, grew up and educated there, and learned to know and understand that the place is precious to us. However, as Jews, the place is foreign to us like any other place in the world. We can't ignore the memories of the past, because somewhere there's a link between the past and the future. Although we burned the bridges with what we had in the Diaspora - our present and future as Jews is here, in the Land of Israel.




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When I remember my town Căpreşti

by Arye Koparov

Translated by Sara Mages

From time to time a thought is pecking in my mind: my town - is like all the other towns in the Diaspora, why most of the cities and towns in Bessarabia were granted the right that their names will appear in books and various newspapers, whereas Căpreşti was unlucky, and its name disappeared.

The fact is that the name “Căpreşti” was wiped off the geographical map. It was changed to “Prodaneshti” - after the name of the neighboring village. Therefore, we - the generation who witnessed its destruction and felt it on its flesh - must raise the memory of the town - where were born and educated, and in which our spiritual image was molded.

Many years have passed since I was uprooted from our town, and in a chapter of wandering and suffering, I carried in my heart the longings and the worries for the fate of my birthplace. Even today, when I finally arrived to the land of my yearnings and settled there, I carry within me the image of Căpreşti. Its streets, houses, institutions and people are etched in my mind, and I see them to their smallest details

Most of the town's Jews were simple folks. They were dressed in fur coats, to their heads - a sheepskin hat, and to their feet - high leather boots (the quality of the leather was according to the man's means), or galoshes over shoes. They were people with modest means, and their demands from life were limited to their concerns about livelihood, family matters and the education of their children.

There were no soaring ambitions regarding education. It was enough to know how to pray, to understand some Chumash and RASHI [RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki], write a letter in Yiddish, and if possible - also the language of the country. And all this for what? Not to belong, God forbid, to the ignorant class and the illiterate…

A significant portion of the population made its living from working the land. From them, there were those who leased land from the “landowners” and grew grain or a patch of watermelons and cantaloupes. Others planted vineyards on the hillside east of the town or grew fruit trees. There was hardly a respected man who didn't raise a cow or at least a goat or two. Those who claim that the town came to its name because of the great number of goats, which filled the town's streets and even climbed on the roofs, are probably right.

But the main component of Căpreşti's residents was the artisans, the shopkeepers and the merchants. They made their living from the farmers of the twenty villages in the vicinity, who came to town all the days of the week and especially on market day - the “fair.”

There were six streets in the town and a number of alleyways. The main street - the longest among them - concentrated within it most of the shops. Its southern end reached the boundaries of the village of “Prodaneshti, ” while its northern end continued in the direction of Rogozhany. Behind this street, to the eastern horizon, lay a ridge of farmland. Across the street, on its western side, was a vast field. A cattle market, which was bustling with thousands of farmers who flocked there, was held every Thursday. The weekly “fair,” which stretched to the length and width of the main street, was held on the same day. All the residents of Căpreşti, big and small, looked forward to market day. On this day, joy and happiness prevailed in the town.

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Already at dawn, and even hours before that, to the light of lanterns, the shopkeepers and the craftsmen grabbed a “plot” along the street (usually, everyone was careful not to grab a plot which was reserved for its owner from market to market). Like in a miracle, sheds, made of jute and tarpaulin, were established in these plots. Inside them, everyone arranged his goods for display, so, when the farmers arrived to the fair at sunrise, they were able to find all that they needed: clothing, footwear, household items, and equipment for the yard and for the field. The sellers equipped themselves with a pot of glowing coals, to warm their hands which held a tape measure and weights.”

A short time later, the street was abuzz. Noise and commotion rose from all sides: the cries of the shopkeepers and greengrocers hawking their wares, the voices of the shoppers arguing about the price, the fights of the drunks and the laughter of children, and above all - the croaking of the birds - chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys, which were brought to the market for the Jews' Sabbath meal.

As long as we're dealing with the Sabbath, it can be said, without a hint of exaggeration, that it was the highlight of the week. It seems that all the trouble during the week was only for the honor of the Sabbath. Friday, the day in which the women are busy cooking, baking; polishing and cleaning, is nearing its end. The Jews are returning from the bathhouse with a bundle of underwear under their arm. Children, whose hair was washed, are dressed for the Sabbath and getting ready to go to the synagogue with their father. The housewife lights the candles, and lights are shining through the windows of the houses. The Sabbath arrived, rest arrived.

After the Sabbath meal, boys and girls take a walk on the main street. The Zionist youth is streaming to the “hall,” for a conversation, an evening of questions and answers and games. This youth was the glory of the town. The Zionist movements taught the children to love the Land of Israel and the Jewish people. At the end, they were the cause that a large number of young people left for pioneer training and immigrated to Israel.


Yisrael Barnea


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The Loan-and-Savings Fund in Căpreşti

by Att. Baruch Yanowitz

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The Loan-and-Savings Fund was a vital institution in Căpreşti. I looked through all the issues of Dos Co-operative Vort [The Co-operative Word] at the University Library in Jerusalem, and unfortunately I did not find material concerning the existence of this Fund in town. In the “Encyclopedia of the Diaspora – the Bessarabia Jewry” p. 817 I found that the Loan-and-Savings Fund in Căpreşti was founded on July 8th 1908, as a local branch of the Jewish Co-operative Alliance in Bessarabia.

Several years before WWI, Bessarabia suffered from a severe economic crisis. Căpreşti was hard hit as well. Jews, whose livelihood was based mainly on commerce and crafts, suffered in particular. An important factor in the struggle for survival was the cheap credit provided by the Loan-and-Savings Fund to its members. It was natural, then, that in 1908 a group of Căpreşti Jews, with the help of JCA, founded in our town a Loan-and Savings-Fund, after they received the necessary permit from the Czar's authorities in Kishinev. After the formal and festive opening of the Fund, a Management and an Advisory Council were elected. The Fund received from JCA an initial loan, which enabled it to extend loans to the needy.

In 1914, at the beginning of the war, the activity of the loan fund ceased, and was renewed after the war, under Romanian rule, with the help of the JOINT and the “Foundation.”

The Fund reached the majority of the Jewish population, helping mainly the small businessman, the grocer, the farmer and the craftsman, according to their needs across the seasons.

Every member of the Fund paid a membership fee and received a savings book, where his savings were registered. The weekly or monthly savings were deposited in the Fund according to preset conditions, and the Fund used the money as capital for loans to its members.

This institution was respected and cherished by everyone. From the writing of Eliezer Heissiner, who was for many years the manager of the Fund and from the reports by Buma Yutzis in the daily newspaper Unzer Zeit (see below) we learn that the yearly meetings of the “bank” were events of great importance. Almost all members took part in these meetings, in order to hear the report of the management and elect new managing officers.

The meetings would last, in general, 2-3 nights, and were sometimes quite stormy. In general, a dispute would break out between the “home-owners” [Balebatim] and the craftsmen, who, at a certain stage, established the organization “Uniunea” [the Union], to protect their interests. Each side tried to gain a majority in the management of the Fund. Many of the members, who felt that they were deprived by the management, used these meetings to get even. There were also the characteristically quarrelsome people, who would take advantage of any opportunity to complain and get angry at everything and everyone. Because of all the noise and shouting, it was almost impossible to hear the serious discussions held at the presidential table, in the Great Synagogue.

Such an assembly would end only when the throat of the noise-makers went dry and when

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The Management, the Review-Board and the employees of the Loan-and-Savings Fund in Căpreşti (1 November 1930)

Standing (from right to left): Yakov Vollman, Mordechai Goldenberg, Leib Stein, Yakov Potik, Yosef Portnoi, Leibl Dorfman, Yechiel Guttwark, Berl Leibson
Sitting (from right to left): Shmuel Leiberfarb, Frieda Kleinman, the representative of the Center in Kishinev, Eliezer Heissiner, Yankish Gittelman, Lowa Chayes, Mordechai Peck, Elazar Greenspun
In front: Feivel the attendant

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the main speakers became exhausted. After 3 nights of disputes until after midnight, they would reach a compromise which, however, never satisfied any of the sides.

One of the important activities of the Bank, in addition to its economic work, was to maintain the public library and the reading room, located in the building of the bank.

In 1940, when the Red Army occupied Bessarabia, the manager Eliezer Heissiner and the members of the Management transferred the Bank – holdings, money and bookkeeping – to the Soviet authorities.


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What's New in the Country?

by A. U. (27 March 1928 – Unzer Tzeit [Our Time] – No. 1670)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner


On the 18th of this month, the yearly general assembly of the Loan–and–Savings–Fund took place in Căpreşti, with the participation of the instructor of the Association, Mr. Shirand.

As soon as the assembly was opened, people began to shout and, as usual, insults flew through the hall, so that it was impossible to continue the meeting. The instructor had to declare the assembly closed, and postponed it to the next day.

Sunday at 4 o'clock p.m. the assembly was reopened. The people were this time much calmer – some of them were simply tired from the occurrences of the previous night. The accountant Mr. I. Berditchevski read last year's report. When Mr. Shirand proposed the budget for next year, a big commotion arose: some of the members of the opposition demanded to reduce the salary of the cashier, to the sum of 2,000 Lei. It was nearly impossible to calm down the people and lower the noise, so the council proposed that the opposition submit to the president a paper with 15 signatures of the members – then they will submit the proposal for a vote. A paper with 15 signatures was submitted and the vote began. However, it was soon discovered that some of the fifteen signatures were forged; the vote was suspended and the situation remained as before.

After the budget was finally worked out, Mr. Shirand gave explanations concerning several problems that were raised by members, and then the voting began. Another storm ensued – many members demanded to elect a new council entirely, others demanded to replace only the three members that were picked by drawing lots. After many efforts of the chairman and Mr. Shirand, the crowd was calmed down somewhat and it was decided to elect a new council. By a majority of votes, the council members were re–elected, as was the presiding committee, except for 3 council members who were replaced by Messrs: M. L. Yanowitz, Leib Stein and S. Leiberfarb. As a representative to go to Kishinev to watch over the interests of the Loan–and–Savings–Fund were elected A. Heissinger and H. L. Bersanski.

A. U.

30 March 1929 – Unzer Tzeit [Our Time] – No. 1970


The yearly general assembly of the Loan–and–Savings–Fund in our town, to take place on the 23rd was awaited impatiently.

On the fixed date, Saturday night, the general assembly, with the participation of the Association Instructors Messrs. Suessman and Magin, was called to order. Among the gathering one could observe many members who were ready to “burst” at the first opportunity. And indeed, at the beginning of the meeting, when the candidacy of Messrs. Ch. L. Chersonski. L. Chayut and D. Fiddelman was proposed as chairmen of the assembly

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and (after voting by raising hands) Mr. Chersonski was elected chairman – a great uproar began. All efforts of the instructors to attain some calm were in vain. The noise became louder and louder, and there was no other way but to adjourn the assembly.

At the meeting next day, Sunday the 24th, the people at the assembly were much calmer and A. Iwtcher was elected chairman. Vice–chairmen were Leib Chayut and D. Fiddelman, and secretaries were B. Yutzis and A. Margalit. The main speakers were Messrs. Magin and Suessman, and Chairman of the Council was A. Heissinger. After the accountant Mr. Berdichevski read last year's report and the question of the budget came up, disorder began anew. The proposal was that the salaries of the council employees be reduced, in order to avoid “total collapse of the business.” Here it is worth noting, that in no other Loan–and–Savings bank the salaries were as low as ours (for example the cashier 5,000 L. per month, the accountant 5,000 L. per month, the help 2,000 Lei) – and here they proposed to lower the salaries ”at least” to 1,000 Lei a month. Mr. I. Sklyar explained, that with some effort of the council we could call in all our debts, and that we must not cover the deficit at the expense of our employees.

M. Chersonski proposed to leave the salaries as they were last year. Again there was opposition, and a vote was demanded.

The instructors and some of the members discussed the matter, and voting was arranged. With 148 votes against 57, a resolution in favor of the employees was approved, and a storm of applause broke out in the hall.

Several other points on the agenda were discussed, and Mr. Suessman read a report about the activity of all Loan–and–Savings banks in Bessarabia as well as a report about the Association, and concluded with the wish that next year he would find the Savings Fund on the right track and the spirit of cooperation and unity would again reign among the members.

Next day, the 25th voting for the Council took place, by special ballot, from 9 o'clock in the morning to 6 in the evening, and 4 members were elected: Messrs. Yakov Gitelman, I. Portnoy, L. Stein and D. Leibsohn. To the review committee were elected M. Goldenberg, Ch. L. Chersovski and I. Patick.

The Căpreşti “General Assembly”
(H u m o r e s q u e)

by Ozer Bronstein

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

I cannot tell you what number of Chanuka candle it was. But it was Chanuka – this I remember definitely. Although it was the beginning of the night, not a living soul was seen in the street. The new streetlamps stood lonely. Not having living people to light them the way, the lamps had to put up with shedding their light upon the deep mud, which on that year

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began to pile up right after the Holiday of Simchat Torah, and every once in a while it was sprinkled from Heaven with some new rain, so it “grew and became strong.”

Suddenly the door opened. “Welcome!” – Boris Shmoishman came to prepare my father for the event, which “Will take place, God willing, on Saturday night, if all goes well…We only ask that God may have mercy and help, that some frost may come, so that a dry path may form for us to walk on – because Leizer Geissinger doesn't like it at all when people bring mud into his bank…”

This was how Boris Shmoishman spoke in a loud voice, after he secretly and in a hushed voice discussed things with my father, over several cups of tea. Before leaving, with his fingers already on the door handle, he repeated the important instructions. My father nodded his head and finalized his understanding and agreement with the refrain:

“Understood…. of course, how else??”

“As we have spoken! Remember, Reb Yankel: When Shieke – not Shikel, clearly – Shieke, when Shieke will blow his nose, everybody must shout for the first time; but loudly, not the way you say your “silent prayer” in Shul!! And when Liova – not Liova the miller, you know who I mean! When he, the scoundrel, will roll a cigarette, then nothing yet… but when he will strike the match to light the cigarette – then all must stamp with their feet and shout the second time, but loudly, not like in the silent prayer!...”

Of course, none of this helped Boris Shmoishman and my father and all their good friends. The “General Assembly” decided to raise the capital as well as the interest – and all the tumult and shouting was to no avail…

However, some protest had to be expressed – it was impossible to adjourn the meeting without that. So, uncle Dovid'l gave a loud rap on the table and cried out: “Silence, all keep quiet! If you think, that all the decisions and regulations will keep – you are making a big mistake! If the Jewish exile would last as long as your ‘resolutions’, then our Mashiach [Messiah] would come right the next Sabbath. You all are lucky, that my Hershel is not here, but when my Hershel, with God's help, will escape from the hands of the goyim [gentiles], things will begin to fly around here! He will show you the rest of the show! And you, wise guy, when my Hershel comes home you will laugh together with the lizards! And if you ever dare coming to me to take money for planting trees in Eretz Israel, you will find yourself opening the door with your head and swallowing all your teeth. Not that I don't want to give money for Eretz Israel; I always gave and will go on giving, but you, I don't want to see you on my threshold.”

But someone retorted – “You want to hear something, Reb Dude'le? Here you can't cut two suits out of one piece of material. Although you have a Nikolayevski mustache, here we don't deal with Aaron the slaughterer, who is going from house to house for you. This is a bank, and if one takes a loan – one pays interest!”

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“May the devil take you, from inside out! Look at this “great righteous man” – how he opened his mouth! What's the matter? You are feeling guilty? Why are you shouting? Did I talk to you? I am talking to the great assembly, I am! Did you think I don't know how you use your yard measure? Well, when you do it with a goy – you can be forgiven, may he go to the devil. But when a Jew, a poor man, comes to you to buy for his boy material for a little suit for Pesach, you cut away half of the pants. And you sell him the worst ware, may a curse get you! May you be lucky in your grave, every part of you!”

This was, more or less, the way all Căpreşti “general assemblies” ended. At the exit, near the door, one could hear the following fragments of conversation:

“What do you expect, low–class people, nasty and disgusting people – go and make for them a bank and lend them money!”

And another gave support: “That's how it is – if you go to sleep in the hay, the pigs will eat you!”

And a third one, who was the Doctor's neighbor and considered himself as a member of the intelligentsia, gave the final account, in Russian – and in our language: “May God help us!”

However, we, the Căpreşti people, are not at all lazy, and we cannot remain inactive for a long time, with our hands in our laps. We were longing for a scandal, even a tiny one, or at least for some gossip… but never worry: something will come up: a small beginning, which, with God's help and the rabbi's strength, will grow and grow.

So, to settle the matter, we got together, here in Eretz Israel, all Căpreşti people and made a decision: we shall publish a book about Căpreşti. And indeed all of a sudden, a great joy came over the Shtetl. The old story began anew – a new series of friendships, societies, companies, committees, writers and negotiators, cashiers and presidents, money, a bank – and mostly talk and talk: one says one thing, the other says the opposite…

Dos Cooperative Vort
[The Cooperative word] No. 7 Kishenev, 5 July 1931

by Herzel Geissiner

Music by Avraham Dubavi

Authorized by the Kishinev First Loan–and–Savings Fund

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

It's building the bridges that are leading to happiness,
It's building them slowly, at ease,
It's building the shining and beautiful future
For the poor and suffering masses.


It's building the bridges that are binding together

[Page 44]

The lonely – stronger and firmer,
It's teaching the nations to destroy hatred
And live like brothers and sisters.


So come you all, fill up your lines,
May no one remain in the distance,
Help building the bridges that will lead to happiness,
That will lead to better times.


May we move our work with an iron resolve,
A will of the masses, which can create wonders.
May our powerful song ring forever,
The song of our united, common strength.




[Page 45]

Going Home… (A Conversation)

by Eliezer Heissinger

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Dos Cooperative Vort [The Cooperative word] No. 4
Kishenev, 6 April 1929

“How did you like the assembly?” so spoke Yankel the sheigetz[1]. to Chaim Shreyer, as they walked out from hall where the yearly general assembly had taken place.

“What's there to like? Of course a nice 'general event' – may our worst enemies have only such events. It looked and felt just like on Tish'a BeAv[2].. All were seated on the benches in the shul [synagogue], a deadly silence in the room, and the “Structor” [Instructor] read out the “Lamentations,” everybody nodding their heads. Gone was the joy that was felt in the past, when these assemblies were held: as soon as an assembly was announced and preliminary talks began, joy and happiness spread through the streets and alleys of the town. Not to speak of the holy day itself, when the assembly took place – then it was like on our Simchat Torah Holiday. And now – look and see how all go home with bowed heads, weakened and tired, and there is no sign even of a little drink…”

“A rotten world, brother! New times and new worlds. Suddenly we have a “soyuz” [union] and “structors.”

“He who invented the “soyuz” – may he never find peace and rest. Since the “structors” have come upon us, the assemblies are fit for nothing. They never let us say a word: you want to shout: yes! yes! – they don't let you. You want to shout: no! no! – they don't let you either. And if we still had our last weapon – the vote – which could help us arrive at some deal, they took this away as well.

Nevertheless, you know, the elections did throw some scare into the lobbyists. Everybody knew that “the elections” were totally in our hands, since we dragged “the assembly” until late at night, until everybody was tired and most of the people left, and then we could do whatever we wanted.

We elected the candidates that we wanted, especially those who honored us with more drinks.

But now, with the ballots, we seem to be losing everything. Exactly when the “real thing” is about to begin – stop! Go home and go to bed!”

“It's bad, brother!”

“No, brother dear,” – Chaim Shreier replied – “you are making a big mistake. Nor the structors neither the ballots are to blame; we are the guilty ones. If we would make a big noise and have loud shouting, as we used to do in the old times, we could achieve everything. The “structor” would shout and shout until he became hoarse and left the “event” and then we could do what we wanted. You had proof on the first night: when we raised a big racket: the “structors” disappeared immediately.

The problem is, brother, that we have nobody we can work with; our people became “telligents”[3]. – their heads entirely jumbled, and this is our biggest trouble.”

“It's hopeless, brother!”

“There is nobody with whom we can work!”


Translator's footnotes
  1. Rascal, lit. gentile boy. Return
  2. The 9th day in the month of Av, the mourning day for the destruction of the First Temple and the Second Temple. Return
  3. "Members of the "intelligentsia" Return


[Page 46]

The Soroca “Joint Distribution Committee”

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Căpreşti, 1 January 1920

Dear Sir,

Until today I had the opportunity to visit 6 localities in the Soroca region, where, in my presence, local committees were established, as branch offices of the American Joint Distribution Committee.

The localities are:

1. Lublin, 2. Vertusheni, 3. Vad Rashkov, 4. Mărculeşti, 5. Căpreşti.
Enclosed in this letter I am sending you the list of the committee members as well as their signatures.

With due respect

I. Radolianski

The Căpreşti Committee:

1. Rabbi David Koplivatski7. Leib Dorfman12. Yochanan Koplivatski
2. Eliezer Heissiner8. Shlomo Hackstein13. Yakov Matjevitch
3. Yakov Gorstein9. Reuven Dorfman14. David Silberman
4. Shmuel Portnoy10. Nachum Fidelman15. Meir Silberman
5. Lipa Birstein11. Dov Hitzkowitz16. Yeshayahu Feinboim
6. Yosef Sklyar  


A Letter from Kishinev

by Yosifon

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

Note of the Editors:

We are reproducing here a report that appeared in 1921 (probably in the newspaper “Unzer Zeit”, Kishinev), which criticized the “JOINT” Office in Bessarabia. According to Rabbi Kaplinski, the Office used the money, allotted by the JOINT for the aid of the poor, to work out a set of regulations, or bylaws, for the Bessarabia communities. This expense, which was meant to cover the organization of the communities as well, was opposed by many, in particular by the rabbis and religious officials.
The Soroka branch of the JOINT, (itself a branch of the Bessarabia JOINT), headed by “democratic” personalities, sent a notice to the Căpreşti branch, as follows:
“On 18 January 1921 I received from the local committee in Căpreşti the sum of one hundred and eighty Lei (180 Lei) for the maintenance of the office, which is preparing the bylaws of the Bessarabia Community.
The Căpreşti rabbi R'David Koplivatski, president of the “Căpreşti JOINT office,” one of those who want to “rob the poor Jewish masses,” writes in his letter:
“It is a great injustice to demand of us, by force, to maintain an office that is preparing a set of regulation with which we do not agree. Of course it is impossible to hide the facts, and it is important to remind the Central Committee that the sums were destined for the aid of the poor, and the Central Committee should not spend any sum of money for the requirements of the Party.”
And the respected rabbi does not realize, that the “Central Committee” should not be mentioned in this respect: he knew that very well, yet he maintained that it was possible to do that.


[Page 47]

Our street “The New Street”

by Shifra Schneider (Borman)

Translated by Sara Mages

The street, in which I was born and educated until I immigrated to Israel in 1935, was called “The New Street.” It was called “new” because it was built in 1912 by a number of families who moved to Căpreşti from the nearby villages: ştefăneşti, Chutulesht', and Pohoarna. Among those families were: Peretz Gertsnshteyn, Yirmîyahu Skeldman, Yoel Borman, and others.

The entire street was built by the same contractor, so most of the houses were constructed, inside and outside, according to one style. Each house had 6-7 rooms, a kitchen and a balcony that faced the courtyard. The front of the house and also the courtyard were paved, and acacia trees grew there. Green benches, which gave a rural character to the house, were placed there.

In those days it was customary that the teachers, who taught the local Jewish children, lived for a short period of time in the villages. Since they were dependent on the parents of their students, they were called “room and board teachers.” There were only a few children in the village of ştefăneşti, where my parents lived, and for that reason they weren't able find a teacher who was willing to teach there.

My mother z”l was forced to travel every day to bring her children to the school in Căpreşti. The journey was fraught with difficulties and danger since the Răut River, which flowed between ştefăneşti and Căpreşti, constituted a serious obstacle. Indeed, the distance between the village and the town was only 4km, but at times, especially in the winter when the farmers cut fishing holes in the ice, the danger was great. In addition, the bridges collapsed when the snow melted and there were also floods. During that period, the horse-drawn carriage was placed on a ferry, and the river crossing was extremity dangerous.

In 1918, we moved to the town of Căpreşti. Most of the families had 6-7 children. The parents did everything so their children will be able to study and be ready to deal with the difficulties of the future.


Many public institutions were concentrated in “The New Street,” more than any other street in town, like: “The Loan-and-Savings Fund” (the Bank), the “Internal Revenue Office” and the police. I remember that there was a dancing hall at the Butkis' house, and the tunes of a guitar, mandolin and gramophone came from there.

The Post Office: for many years the postmaster was a typical Russian Gentile. He was tall with a long and wide beard, and continued in this position since the days of Tsar Nicholas. Sorotziano, the postman, filled an important role in the post office. Many people waited impatiently for him: young men - from their sweethearts, parents - from their sons who studied afar, and deserted wives who waited in vain for a letter from their husbands who abandoned them.

The Borman family lived across from the post office. Close to them were trees and benches, and it was comfortable to wait until Sorotziano came out of the post office. These benches could tell a lot of secrets.

“Internal Revenue Office”: this is a government institution for the collection of taxes that everyone must - voluntarily or involuntarily - to use. A failure to pay the taxes causes unpleasantness that we need stay away from.

The “Bank” was operated under the leadership of Leizer Haysiner. The library was housed in the same building, and next to it was the reading room.

[Page 48]

The Library: In my time the library was directed by Fanya Hoykhman. I remember that the first book that she had given me was “The Basis of Zionism” by Menachem Ussishkin, because she knew that I belonged to a youth movement. When the “Groshn-biblioṭeḳ” books appeared, we were eager to read them because they dealt with the biography and work of famous personalities, revolutionaries, etc. (each booklet contained 62 pages).

The Reading Room: It was possible to find various newspapers, which were published in Romania and the western countries, there. Members of the various youth movements, who argued about every subject in the world, also met there. Since I was girl then, I wasn't allowed to enter the room during the debates, but the stormy arguments about “the expulsion of Trotsky from the Soviet Union,” while Micha'le Kleiman - the town's young genius - stood alone before a group of “Salon Communist,” reached my ears through the window. Also the “Schwartzbard trial” sparked heated debates.


Except for one grocery store there weren't any other shops in our street. Most of the residents of this street belonged to the wealthy merchants' class. There were housemaids in the homes, and most of them came from the neighboring Gypsy village. The wife of Leonas - the director and conductor of Căpreşti's Gypsy brass band - served in our house. My mother contracted paralysis and Irina's help was very important.

There were also craftsmen in our street. I especially remember Yankel Drenboim because he sewed the children's clothes. His saying was: “Big big, wide wide - after all, the child is in the process of growing!”

I also remember Yonatan the cooper, because we always heard him complaining about the mail: “I sent a letter to America and so far I haven't received a reply.” Also Gedalia the redhead lived in this street. He didn't miss a single fire in the town. He stood at a distance and gave advice: “only water, only water…”

Kalina and Fyodor, “the known,” had to pass through our street on their way to the bathhouse and back, when they walked out to announce, by knocking on a shovel with an iron rod, that the public is invited to the bathhouse. We always saw them together as they staggered drunk. They were found frozen from the cold.


In our street the neighborly relationship between the merchants and the craftsmen was good, but there was a buffer according to the social status. The parents from the merchant class didn't allow their children to play with the children whose parents were craftsmen. To get married - was certainly out of the question. There were also separate synagogues. The merchants prayed in the “German Kloiz” or in the “Hasidic Synagogue,” and the craftsmen in the “Great Synagogue” or in the “Tehillim Kleizle.”

In 1936, my brother, Dr. Mendel Borman, who as a child was educated, ran and frolicked in “The New Street,” returned to Căpreşti. He opened a private clinic in the Simsovits house. He found his death during the Holocaust - together with his wife and their two-week old son - in the hands of the Nazis and the Romanian murderers.

In 1935, I parted from my town and immigrated to Israel. My brother Yosef drove me, in our horse-drawn carriage, to the train station in Rogozhany. The gate of our yard was closed before me - forever.


Moshe Kolker: In the evening - from the “Heder” home
The painter Moshe Kolker is the husband of Leah Kolker (Falikas) a former resident of Căpreşti.


Yafa Weitzberg (Shaindel Mer): “The New Street”


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