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[Page 129]

Shmuel Goldshmid

(Autobiographical article)

I was born in Jonava on the Road of the Street, number 33. With the passage of time, our street changed its named to Ralis Street, after Dr. Jeronimas Ralis,[1] the physician of our city, who was one of the founders of independent Lithuania and the translator of Homer into Lithuanian. If I have a single connection to famous people of Jonava, it is that Dr. Ralis himself delivered me. He would often say that of all his “deliveries,” I was the only one who delved into the depths of his translation, and even knew some parts by heart. He told my mother: “Gita, you have a writer in the house. I hope that he will translate Homer into Hebrew.” People bigger and better than me did this, and I do not even know Greek. However, I did become a journalist!

My father, Reb Chaim Goldschmid, was great in Torah and an expert in the literature of the middle ages. From him I studied topics on the Rambam, Yehuda HaLevi and Shlomo Ibn Gabirol. However, he was forced to earn his livelihood from a hide shop. To this day I love the smell of leather (for soles of shoes), and understand the quality.

From the Tarbut School, I transferred to the Hebrew Gymnasium of Kovno which was run by Dr. Moshe Shava. This was one of the best schools in the Diaspora. I graduated without undue effort, and I also was able to play basketball, sail on the Vilia and the Neiman rivers, ride horses – and write humorous articles in Yiddish. I also edited the student newspaper during my final year in the gymnasium. Two articles of mine about reading Shalom Aleichem and the joy of mathematics were published in Netivateinu. The latter demonstrated that I did not pay attention to the problems of the other during those days…

When I saw my name in print, I realized – no, I believed! – that I was already an expert on everything, a great writer, and a penetrating analyst. In any case, I entered the Vytautas Magna University and studied mathematics and law. I finished the course in law, and I excelled in criminology and criminal law rather than international law.

Throughout all my years in university, I worked as the night editor of the Yiddishe Shtime. Later, I became the editor of the night edition of the Shtime – Heintke Neies. I wrote the daily column and at times even the leading article.

In 1937, I traveled to the 20th Zionist Congress in Zurich. I do not know if I reported appropriately, but I learned how to size up all types of politicians and activists. To this day, I have had more than enough of them. At that congress I learned as well that we are in need of a country, and that equal rights alone is nothing other than deception.

Czechoslovakia during the time of the victory of the Nazis over the west, the bitter and hopeless days that were a second rung in my path as an international journalist. After this England – and the breadth of the war… I was a military writer throughout all the days of the Second World War. Fate had it that I was on site during the liberation of Belsen and Dachau. From that time, my heart turned to stone, and I do not react appropriately, for these scenes were beyond the pale of conception for a Jewish person. The time of the Belsen and Nuremburg trials were days of feverish work, with the descriptions of the hell that we heard, and meeting the war criminals face to face.

My four books, one of them in Hebrew, were published and sold – established a place for me in the world of essays, political writing. However at times it seemed to me that all of this – articles, essays, columns, books, editing for the Jewish News Agency (ST”A) of Europe – was performed in the light of a giant fire from which I was miraculously saved, for I stood a few steps outside of the bounds of the flames…

The first news that I reported on as a professional journalist was the telegram about the outbreak of the civil war in Spain. From that time there was no peace in the world… However, I am not complaining about my fate. I also wrote about the War of Independence, The Sinai Campaign and the Six Day War… and I still hope to report about the peace conference between Israel and the Arabs.

Then I will “return” to Jonava, to report about it in detail.

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Noach Stern


On his visit to Kibbutz Amir


He was born in Jonava in 1912 to his father Shmerl and his mother Beila. He studied in the Real Hebrew Gymnasia in Kovno. He was among the first members of Gordonia. His poems and articles were published in Hed Lita and Netivot. He was influenced by the lyrics of Yaakov Pechman, the poems of reproof of Bialik, and the human strength in the poems of Tshernikovsky, as he said of himself. In 1929 he answered the invitation of one of his uncles. He went to the United States and was accepted to Harvard University, from which he graduated with distinction in 1934. He received a degree in English and general literature and won the gold medal. He spent close to a year conducting research at Columbia University. He published poems in the Hadoar weekly.

He arrived in the Land in 1935. He worked as the editor of Davar, served for a time as the literary advisor of the Ohel Theater, and taught and lectured at the popular university of the organization of workers of Jerusalem.

Noach was drafted into the brigade in which he served for four years. He worked as the editor of the Hachayil daily newspaper, and published some of his poems in it. He participated in the rescue work for the Holocaust survivors.

He was freed from the army in 1946 and returned to the land.

He was engaged to marry a woman, but it did not work out due to his instability. “I remained a bachelor, apparently because I did not attain sufficient harmony in order to make a permanent connection with a wife.”

In his poems, we find clear steps to an internal life and his poetic style. At first, he dealt with topics of nature and scenery, and later, his poems took on the form of his Jewish essence and investigating the movements and trends of the world. In the background of the stormy and unfortunate era, man to him was symbolized by a dual visage: “as a Cohen and as Cain together”[2]. This poetry was at times infused “with amicability and despair”. At times, the sober meditative spirit pervaded. Furthermore, the structure of his poems had free form, and they contained sections in the grey, day to day phraseology. In this style, he preceded our younger, new poets.

His poems expressed his actual response to the revolutions of the times, a form of prophetic voice to the happenings of the times: The events of 5696 (1936), Spain in flames, the Nazi atrocities, the ghetto revolutionaries, the growth of the illegal immigration, the War of Independence. His poems were full of feelings of sorrow and anger. He also wrote literary essays. He translated Eliot's “The Wasteland” and other works into Hebrew.

A severe depression took hold of him. After months of oppression, he wished to make peace with himself and occupy himself with ceramics, in which he saw the possibility of salvation and a source for extricating himself from manual labor. He was tired of teaching. He rose up against his own intellectuality. He wished to become less complex and simpler. However, this was not to happen.

He died on the 21st of Elul 5720 (1960) at the age of 48.

His works were collected into a book called “Among the Clouds” which was published in 1966 in Tel Aviv by the writers' guild. The book was edited by Avraham Braudes.

(Based on an article of Avraham Braudes).

[Page 131]

Portrait of the Young Poet

by Noach Stern

He loves himself,
The spark within him:
He loves his fellow
The reflection of the pain,
His pain:
With the burning heat of the murderer
He is feverish from his own will
For with a parched soul
He clarifies and draws forth
The poem.

His words are weakened,
As if he is negating the general principle,
His mouth moves and does not move –
He is not afraid if
The hearer hears:
However – the poem within him enlightens
A tune that no person recognizes –
How enthusiastic! How sublime!
– and ironic.

The words were lost there
Then they too, but the echo of a letter
Returns still from the forest
And comes to him –
And to the poem.

And between poem and poem,
Between the village and the city
He walks slowly
And almost forgets
The world:

Thus does he live, he who loves
Only solitude and heat;
He who loves himself –

The spark within him –
And the joy lightens him up –
Only the poem.

5696 (1936)

[Page 132]

About Two Brothers Who
Dedicated their Lives to Those in Need

by Tovia Ben-Pazi (Goldstein) Jerusalem

During the years of about 5655-5686 (1895-1926), the town of Jonava had two outstanding holy men, great in Torah, G-d fearing, who were considered to be the righteous men of the generation. These were the brothers Rabbi Yaakov and Rabbi Shimon the sons of Yosef Goldstein of blessed memory. Each one excelled in his own realm, in the traits of kindness and mercy for one's fellow, as a scholar and a communal activist without any trace of self interest.

Rabbi Yaakov, known as Reb Yankel the vinegar maker, was involved in the selling of vinegar and other such products for his livelihood. Although it was not he who was occupied with his livelihood, but rather his wife (they had no children). He was busy all day with his holy work. He himself was satisfied with little. He was occupied with fasting and prayer for most of the day. He would offer help and support to those in need, and would give of his own money. The amount was modest, so he himself would visit all the houses of the residents on set days of the week to collect donations for those in need, such as householders who had come upon hard times and did not have a morsel of bread in their houses, and were afraid to ask for assistance. He found his way to them and offered them his assistance, whether through a loan or direct grant without setting a time for repayment. There were others whom he would assist with secret gifts.

The main part of his work was dedicated to supporting the children of the poor, of which there was no shortage in our town. He concerned himself with finding them lodging in various homes, and he would pay the fees. In his own home, not one day went by without some homeless children whom he would support with food and lodging. This was for their bodies. He concerned himself particularly with their souls, by arranging for them a place to study Torah and secular pursuits. He himself conducted this. Who does not remember the child Hershele, whom he took from the hands of his mother who had gone crazy on account of her many troubles. He did not let her hurt him. Reb Yankel, with his great wisdom and dedication to the commandment of raising orphans in his home and educating them to Torah and commandments, succeeded in bringing him into his own house and caring for him until he was ready to study in Yeshiva. He became one of the top students. He also bore the yoke of many of the students at the elementary Yeshiva in the city. He also established and maintained the Tiferet Bachurim institution, an institution for young people and youths prior to adulthood, in which they could obtain torah knowledge. These young people came after a day of work to listen to classes on Torah, Jewish law, lore, morality, and proper direction. They enjoyed the splendor of Torah that was offered to them by Reb Yankel himself, and other lecturers who came to assist him. He would discretely pay the entry fee for those in need.

In this manner, he raised and educated a generation of youths to Torah and proper life. He expended great effort so that they would not spend their time for no purpose and their days in idleness. Thus was his manner in the holy work until his last days. May his memory be a blessing.

The second brother, Reb Shimon the teacher of blessed memory, was known as Reb Shimon the Melamed. Whoever had the privilege of studying with him in the cheder considered this to be an honorable and important matter. Most of the children and youths of the town from the more prominent strata studied in the cheder of Reb Shimon until they knew how to study a page of Gemara and were able to be accepted to the Yeshiva. He not only taught the children holy subjects such as Chumash, Bible, Gemara, etc., but also secular subjects such as arithmetic, grammar, and Russian reading and writing. Therefore, he was known as one of the important teachers of the town, and the parents appreciated this. They found him to be a person full of dedication and warmth, who toiled with complete dedication from morning until night on behalf of his students. They knew that here, the youths would have the proper influence in Torah and fear of Heaven, as well as in the ways of the world. They would understand their subjects completely. They knew that their children were found in the home of a prominent educator, who was filled with love and fear of Heaven.

Outside the walls of the cheder, in matters of interpersonal relations, the doors of his home were always opened wide to any guest who had fallen upon hard times, who was in need, and had a bitter heart. He would offer them lodging, food, and general assistance. Who did not

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remember the woman Freidel the deaf (Freidel Di Toibe)? In the latter times, she would wander around the town from place to place without knowledge, without a roof over her head. When she was tired, she found a place with Reb Shimon the teacher. She would sleep on a couch that was reserved for her. She would sleep this way for several consecutive days. People such as this frequented his house. He did not concern himself with his own meager livelihood, for he was raising a large family in a house that was not spacious enough. When the Rebbetzin would milk the goat in the morning, he would make sure that a glass of milk was offered first to the guest.

After a day of hard holy work, he would go to the nearby synagogue in the evenings and deliver classes on Torah to the householders, who would enjoy his classes and discussions on law and lore very much. He would remain with several children who wandered about the synagogue in a childish manner, take them to a corner, give them candies or a coin, sit them down and discuss with them matters of spirituality, fear of Heaven, and proper behavior. When he returned home, he studied Torah himself until late at night. In the last years, when his eyes became dim and he had trouble seeing, he would sit and study with youths who were not his students. They would read to him, and he would explain and interpret. Thus was his was in holy affairs until his last days. About him one can apply the verse: and he expired and was gathered to his people[3]. He died in Nissan of 5686 (1926). May his memory be a blessing.

Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov
and his Son the Artist

by Golda Sirek (Saker)

Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov lived across from our house. He was a teacher in the cheder and also the head of the yeshiva. Rabbi Yisrael was a righteous, good hearted man who sufficed himself with little. He always studied Torah and was an expert in it. He had three children. His son Alter was an artist and sculptor. I remember very well one of his sculptures – an elderly Jew full of wrinkles. Below was engraved: “From whence will my salvation arise?”[4] Once, after he finished painting a picture, he wished to show his creation to someone. He called me from my house to come to see his painting. It was a portrait of his father Rabbi Yisrael lying on the sofa, sleeping with a tallis. Alter saw his father taking his afternoon nap and decided to draw him. This was a very poignant picture. Alter's mother said that when he was a child, he would take the dough that she was preparing and mold it into all sorts of forms. They were Orthodox, and were not in favor of their child sitting and drawing. Therefore, Alter would hide in some corner, and draw away. Finally they parents made peace with the fact that their son loved to draw and sculpt.

Their daughter Alta married Yisrael Goldstein the son of Shimon the teacher. Yisrael was an intelligent Jew with a great sense of humor. Once I came to request a basin for kashering meat. Yisrael asked me: “Which basin do you want the dairy one or the meat one?” I, the girl, did not know what to answer him.

Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov studied Gemara during the evenings with simple Jews who toiled for their livelihood during the day, and went to the synagogue at night to study a page of Gemara. After they finished their studies, they made a celebration. They would take Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov on their shoulders, sing and dance in the street, and carry him home. There they ate and drank, and the joy was great.

In his old age, Rabbi Yisrael Yaakov was afflicted with paralysis. He could not speak or rise from his bed. Rabbi Yisrael lay in this situation for years. His good hearted daughter Freidka took care of him with dedication, as he deserved, until the day of his death.

May his memory be a blessing.

[Page 134]

Inside and Outside

by Golda Sirek (Saker)



I was born and raised in Jonava. I studied in the Tarbut School. This was the time of the Balfour Declaration. This was a great day, a great event, which was felt strongly within the walls of the school. Everyone spoke about the Land of Israel. The teacher Joselevich told us about the declaration. That day, the school arranged a parade that went out to the swirling mountain (Shvindel Barg). Henka Blumberg of blessed memory and I were responsible for carrying the flags, since we were the tallest in the class. To my great dismay, I was responsible for carrying the Lithuanian flag, whereas my friend carried our blue and white flag. I was very distraught about this. The teacher Joselevich noticed my sadness. As we sat at the foot of the mountain, we sang Hebrew songs and the joy was great. The teacher approached me and said: “Today is a great day for the Jews. We must be happy and festive.” On the return trip to the school, I was given the opportunity to carry the blue and white flag. She said, “Hold the flag strongly in your hands. In order to rejoice with our flag, we must also carry a foreign flag.”


Energetic Zionist Youth

There were Zionist factions of all orientations in Jonava. At night, the streets were filled with the youth, boys and girls. We walked through the streets of the city in groups, sometimes singing and sometimes debating. Everything was connected with the Land of Israel.

We had a large library that contained many books: Mendele, Bialik, translations of Tolstoy, Gorki and others – in Hebrew and Yiddish. The youth read a great deal and wished to acquire knowledge and education.

I remember the A. D. Gordon club on the Street of the Road. The youth would gather there to read, play damka[5] and chess, sing and dance. We could hear loud singing from the Maccabee club not far away. The headquarters of Hashomer Hatzair was located on the Smith's Alley. The noise was very great due to the work of the smiths, but this did not prevent Hashomer Hatzair and Hechalutz from debating and dreaming about the Land of Israel.

Moshe Ivensky was older than us. He was married and a father of three children. He was our teacher, educator, and friend. He was a great man with vast knowledge. He was good hearted, and he did not pursue honor. He was talented at the art of expressing himself strongly. He lectured to us a great deal about everything that was taking place in the world. He would say that in order to understand Herzl, one must understand the Dreyfus case. Moshe Ivensky was the living spirit of Jonava. He instilled in us a great love for the Land of Israel, and the desire to make aliya. He promoted the ideology of A. D. Gordon, and wrote about the state of “man, work, and nature.” He was a disciple of Gordon. The Communists hated him. In order to understand why no benefit would come to the Jews from the Russian Revolution, we studied the doctrine of Karl Marx and Lenin. We did this to understand what was taking place around us, and why we had only one path to choose from – to make aliya to the Land of Israel.

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In Jonava, we spoke and read a great deal of Hebrew. The Zionist movement had penetrated into almost every home, and therefore, many chalutzim (Zionist pioneers) came from this town. My heart aches inside of me as I remember my friends who dreamed like me of making aliya to the Land, but whose dreams were not realized: Chana Raska Davidovich, Rivka Sesitzky, and many others whose memory will not depart from me forever. They were slaughtered by the Nazis and Lithuanians who joined forces with the murderers. We must be their mouth and tell this to the generations that follow, so that they will know about the roots that grew the many trees that are now fruitful in the Land of Israel.


Mother and Father's Home

I remember the home of my father. Many charity boxes were tied on the walls – for Bikur Cholim, orphans, and of course for the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (Jewish National Fund). My mother Chaya Sara of blessed memory would put a few coins into each box before lighting candles on Friday. She never forgot to give her charity.

My father Pesach of blessed memory would go to the synagogue and return with a guest for dinner. They would discuss various matters. We children would listen quietly and would not dare to open our mouths.

A Yeshiva student would eat with us every Sunday and Monday – this is a custom that was common in the town. Everyone wanted to help their fellow.

I remember the large Beis Midrash in which my father of blessed memory worshipped, and the synagogue (shul) that was located opposite it, with the stained glass windows and wide steps. I also remember the Hassidic Shtibel. We loved to go to the synagogue on festivals. The atmosphere was festive. I loved to hear the cantor Shlomo the shochet of blessed memory. He had a wonderfully sweet voice. He worshipped with great feeling. He was handsome and good hearted. Everyone loved him. He earned his livelihood in a meager fashion, but he always donated to the Keren Kayemet.

There was anti-Semitism in Lithuania as in all lands of the Diaspora. In 1920, my father left the city on business. My 17-year old sister Dina accompanied him. They were murdered on their way by Lithuanian thieves, who stole their money and were not satisfied until they killed them also. My sister, who was wounded badly, said before her death that the murderers shouted “Death to the Jews,” and did not let them escape.

This incident had a strong influence on my family and was the cause of our strong desire to not continue to live in that country. My brother Shraga traveled to the United States. I made aliya to the land, with the thought of bringing my mother here as soon as possible. My mother Chaya Sara did not make aliya. She was murdered by the Germans.


The Incident with Avraka

The Jews of Jonava were united and did not abandon one another during times of trouble and tribulation. I remember very well the incident with Avraham Untershatz (Avraka), who was a member of Maccabee and loved sports. One night, he left the clubhouse late at night. On his way, he chanced upon a place where a murder had taken place. A gentile had murdered another gentile. The police imprisoned Avraham without any reason and accused him of murdering the gentile. The town was in an uproar. People were not silent, and did not abandon Avraham in his time of distress. They hired famous lawyers for him. A long court case took place, filled with the spirit of anti-Semitism. However justice prevailed this time, and it was proven that Avraham was innocent of any wrongdoing. He was freed. I will never forget the joy that pervaded in the city when he was freed. All the people of the town went out to greet him and wish him well.

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With Mixed Feelings

by Chaya Rivka Feinberg (Aaronson), United States

I left Jonava on August 2, 1936, with feelings of both hope and pain. I was sure that I would never see it again.

These mixed feelings awaken in me the memory of my Jonava: A beautiful town between the forests and the Vilia, clear summer nights, snowy winters, well-heated houses, few large buildings, for the most part small wooden houses, good people, cordial friends, primarily – in our club, the Shomer Hatzair – the movement that gave me so much that will remain dear to me until the end of my life. The Shomer Hatzair and the Vilia – these two things saved me and removed me many times from my many personal and family sorrows. Amidst the waves I forgot my sorrows. Between the banks of the river, I revealed all the secrets of my youth to its flowing waters.

One summer night, the waters of the Vilia even overturned our boat under the new wooden bridge. With me in the boat at that time were Daniel Rickless whom we saw as an adult and advisor, Dovka Dobiansky, my friend Osnat Katzenberg, Alter Khasid and Shlomo Garber, who capsized the boat. At this time I forgive him for this.

I still sense the embarrassment and fear at this time. It is simply difficult for me to image that those same gentiles who saved us from the water that night were involved in all of the murders in which our dear ones were killed.

My father was Melech the smith. My mother Rachel had two other children: a young son Reuvele and my sister Shoshana who lives to day in Los Angeles, U.S.A. Uncles, aunts and cousins also perished along with my immediate family.

May their memories be a blessing.

A Little of This and a Little of That

by Shmuel Ben-Menachem of Hadera

I alone survived of the nine children that my parents had.

Since my father Rabbi Menachem Mendel Deitz of holy blessed memory was the head of the Or Noga Yeshiva in Jonava, I was particularly close to the Orthodox circles.

Images of the teacher of the Yavneh School, in which I studied before I transferred to the Yeshiva, pass before my eyes: the teacher Levinsky, the teacher Grodsky who limped after she fell during her youth while wandering in a nearby village, the teacher Shoub and the teacher Alter Kagan who taught holy subjects in the small cheder of the shul. We would go there at night to capture doves from the attic. Rabbi Nachum Baruch Ginzberg would come to test us, accompanied by the city notables such as Reb Alter Jochovsky who had a tavern next to the market square.

Do you remember Noach the roofer, whom I called the crazy prophet? He lopped off his first wife's head with his axe. He got married a second time to a tiny woman. When the cantor would utter the word “Shalom” (peace), Noach would shake his head from side to side and say “nein” (no). We would paste the word “shalom” in large letters in the window next to his seat in the synagogue. A while ago I met a Jonaver, and when we recalled Noach, he stood still and said: “This Noach indeed prophesied the Holocaust!”

From among the wagon drivers and porters, I especially recall Itzele the Bul, who was large and fat. Once the wagon drivers bet him that he could not eat 25 rolls. After he ate 22, he felt ill and they took him to the hospital. He almost died.


The waters of the Vilia rise up to the porches of the houses



Translator's Footnotes

  1. See http://www.litnet.lt/lithuania/cities/jonav.html Return
  2. In Hebrew, these terms almost rhyme, especially in the Lithuanian Yiddish pronunciation: “As a Caihen and Cayin together”. Return
  3. The verse in the Torah used to describe the death of the forefather Jacob. This verse does not mention that he 'died' – from which is derived the concept that Jacob did not die – i.e .that his influence remains forever. Return
  4. A quote from Psalm 121. Return
  5. A form of checkers. Return

[Page 137]

Between Water and Fire

by Esther Tilmun (Novickovich) of Herzlia

The greatest experience that I remember from my childhood was the days before Passover. This was connected with the Vylia.

When the spring came with the melting of the snow, the river would overflow its banks and the water would cover the entire area and flood the streets, the houses, and everything that was there.

We lived on a street close to the river. Every year as spring approached, we felt the great apprehension prior to the flood. When the noise of the breaking up of the ice was heard, the residents of the street would hastily pack up all the moveable belongings and bring them to the upper stories of the house.

For us children, this was a time of great joy. During the preparations for the flood, the parents were not particular about out behavior. We were able to perpetrate various tricks, to go to sleep late, and first and foremost, to stand for hours and watch the river as it rose and began to overflow. We would then run to tell enthusiastically how far the water rose and where it already started to penetrate.

A photograph that I have reminds me of one morning. It was very early. Someone entered our house and called out, “The ice broke, everyone come out to take a picture!” All the members of my family, the residents of the street and everyone who was present hurried outside to have our photograph taken with the background of the overflowing river.

This photograph is the only one that I still have from my childhood.

Most of the people in the photograph were murdered during the Holocaust.

Other experiences from those days are connected with the fires. Since almost the entire city was built with wood, the houses were very close to each other, and there were many carpentry shops, fires would often break out. There were so many that it seemed to me that not a week went by without a fire. For some reason it also seemed to me that Tuesday was the day designated for fires.

The shout, “Fire” spurred us children into action. We would run to see the burning fire. Many of the people of the town would come to the place of the fire. Most came to watch rather than assist.

I especially remember Sabbath eves from my childhood. We would sit at the table in our Sabbath clothes, having bathed, shampooed, and combed our hair. The house was filled with light and warmth, and father would recite Kiddush.

My father and my family members had studied in the Slobodka Yeshiva. I studied in the Culture League School. I was also a member of their youth group which was called “Wunderfoigl” (wandering bird). Most of the youths of our street were members of that group. We would go out on excursions a distance from the town even without the permission and knowledge of our parents. Then we would be afraid to return home.

Later on I transferred to Tz. S. However, I made aliya to the Land of Israel in 1935 with the group that was traveling to the Maccabiada. Six girls from Jonava, including myself, set out, and all remained in the Land.

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Dvor'ka the Divorcée

by Israel Yaacov Pagir

Translated by Daniella Thompson

Each time I remember Yanova, I am full of wonderment at her having been blessed with everything in abundance. Take, for example, the tailors: Naftali and his sons, Israel with his sons and daughters, Yossi–Moshe, or those two–story (and higher) name bearers, like Shlomo Batya Toleda's [I have no idea how this name is supposed to sound], Yossi Feiga Leah's, Shmuel Fruma Zlata's, and others.


The African Tailor

Ovadyah the tailor woke up one morning fresh and healthy… and made his way to Johannesburg, to rake up gold. What has gold to do with a tailor? Indeed, he found no gold. It's not in gold's nature to come of its own accord. He suffered hunger to the point of desperation.

In short, Ovadyah returned home thinner but also wiser than he had been. He went to Neta the painter, and the latter made him a sign illustrated with a headless and footless blue suit and a line underneath proclaiming, “African Tailor.” He hung the sign in front of his house, in the Alley of Bentze the medic, across from the peddlers' kloiz.[1]

Our brethren, the Sons of Israel, laughed wholeheartedly: the goys won't be able to read what's written on the sign and, in any case, they weren't likely to show up near the kloiz, since there was no tavern there. So the sign was good for nothing except in serving as a scarecrow to the lads who used to return late at night from their sweethearts. When the wind blew the sign, banging it into the wall, and when candles for the souls of the departed shone on it through the kloiz windows, illuminating the headless, footless suit, it was as if a demon or a devil had appeared, and the boys were scared out of their wits.


Yossi Shimon's–Women's Tailor

Men's tailors there were more than could be counted; but for women's clothing, there was only tailor: Yossi Shimon's, unique in his generation. And if you think that he was happy with his lot, you are mistaken.

I ran into him once as he was carrying on his arm something wrapped in a white sheet. I understood that it was a woman's garment he was taking for measurements. His face looked worried.

Had it not been for his daughter, Dvor'ka, I wouldn't have paid him any notice. But since I knew his daughter–a beautiful, intelligent, charming girl with all the distinctions–I hastened to say “Good morning” to him.

That winter I traveled to America, never to return. After Passover I received a letter saying that Dvor'ka must obtain a divorce. She hadn't even been married, but they were telling her that she was the chimney sweep's wife. She didn't want to be a chimney sweep's wife.


How She Came to This

Here's how it happened. On a Shabbat after the kugel, a group got together to sing and dance as usual. Someone suggested that they hold a mock wedding and play at being bride–and–groom and in–laws. Dvor'ka agreed to play the part of the bride. Among the assembled was a lad–a new face. He took it upon himself to be the groom. It transpired like this: Leizer the chimney sweep had fallen from a roof and was badly injured. The new lad took his place.

They prepared a proper chuppah and kiddushin, with rings and witnesses. Then they dispersed.

Rumors of this event reached the ears of the religious circles. The Rabbi invited the bride, the groom, and the witnesses, interrogated them, and pronounced that, according to the Law of Moses and Israel, Dvora, daughter of rebbe Yossi Shimon, is the wife of Unknown, son of Obscure.[2]

But Dvora rejected this honor and also refused to obtain a divorce. The shtetl Yanova was in an uproar[3] until a flaw was found in one of the witnesses' testimony. They disqualified him for having been drunk. The marriage was nullified, but Dvor'ka was henceforth known as “The Divorcée.”

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Midrash house. Return
  2. The Hebrew expression “Ploni ben Almoni” is similar to the English “John Doe.” Return
  3. “Yanova was on wheels” in the original Hebrew text. Return

[Page 139]

Mosheke the “Moldy”

by Yitzchak Ben David

Who does not remember Mosheke “The Stale”[1]? He was a unique character - not an idler, but someone who toiled like most of the Jonava youth. His trade was a glassmaker, but he was short on work most of the time. Life did not pamper him.

The scoffers would say to him: “Mosheke, you have no work? Go and break the windowpanes of the wealthy people at night, and remake them during the day.”

He lived with his mother in a dismal hut on Breizer Street. The smell of mould on his clothes accompanied him everywhere.

He stands before my eyes with his glassmakers sack on his back. His hands and clothes were soiled with putty - as a sort of advertisement of his handiwork.

He would debate hotly, with beads of saliva dripping from his mouth, as his anger was roused. In the library, he was known as a regular borrower and avid reader. He was particularly interested in criminological novels in Yiddish or Hebrew. He never missed one movie in the theater. With all this, it could not be said that he had an even temperament. Some small screw in his head was not tightened sufficiently.

“According to your outlook do you considered yourself a Zionist or a Communist?” I would ask him.

“I am considered more extreme than a Communist - I am a Trotskyite,” he would respond with a sly smile.

He would go to the beach every Sabbath and tan himself from morning until evening. He would occupy himself with “making statues” in the soft sand. He would particularly make clumsy statues of women, as he would see them in his imagination as the symbol of femininity. Or he would then draw back a bit, set himself in the pose of Napoleon, and with blazing eyes and an opened mouth, he would attach himself to the image of Aphrodite that he had created with his own hands - as a replacement for the girls who kept their distance from him.

Translator's Footnote

  1. The Hebrew in the title translates best as “moldy,” whereas the Yiddish term here translates best as “stale.” Both mean the same as a nickname, though. Return

Tales and Exaggerations

by Sara Burstein

Who of the veteran Jonavers does not remember Moshe-David Mar, who would float barges along the rivers of Lithuania and outside of it? In addition to his profession, he owned an inn and a restaurant, which was run by his wife with great expertise, and was famous for its tasty delicacies. In the latter years of his life, when his difficult profession became burdensome for him, he helped his wife, especially in entertaining their guests during the evenings. He told them endless tales and stories.

Moshe David was a unique character: He looked like he was molded from steel. He was tall, fat, had the neck of an ox, a wide face, and hands and feet resembling ancient tree twigs. When he walked, it seemed as if the earth shook from the steps of his heavy feet that were covered in gigantic boots. He especially excelled in the huge capacity of his belly. This was a “stomach that knew no satiety.” His healthy appetite was famous, and many jokes and tales were spread regarding it. He knew about this, but was not sad or distressed, for he was a calm man by nature. His face was always lit up with a pleasant smile, and the goodness of his heart was expressed from it. Furthermore, he loved telling jokes at his own expense. He would exaggerate to no small degree, and he enjoyed such. When someone was overly brazen and tread on his corns regarding his belly, which protruded from afar, Moshe David would say with a laugh, as he caressed his belly: “I wish that I had the money that this stomach cost; but I will not wish that you

[Page 140]

will have the present worth of this money.” With this, he silenced the person who embarrassed him, and the friendship between them was not severed. His daughter Chaya of blessed memory, my good friend and schoolmate, was also a very intelligent and practical girl. She would follow his path and tell with a laugh all sorts of funny events about her father. Everything that I am going to relate here came from her mouth, and, as our sages have said, “Everyone who says something in the name of the person that stated it brings redemption to the world”[1]. Therefore, this “gossip” should be considered to me as a merit.

One day, Moshe-David went to visit his daughters in Kovno. Chaya convinced him to see the wonders of the movies, something that he had never seen. He agreed and went with her. He was tired, slumber overtook him in the middle of the film, and the sound of his snoring was frightening. Chaya poked him on his side with her elbow, and he woke up confused and disoriented. He looked about and noticed a wide river on the screen. Moshe-David screamed, “Woe to me, where is my raft? Where did it disappear? Apparently it was ripped away from the shore.”

On account of the girth of his neck, it was difficult for Moshe-David to purchase a necktie. One day, he entered a store along with his brother, who also floated barges, and requested a necktie. They measured all of the ties, and could not find even one that was appropriate for him. He turned to his brother and said, “Apparently, I need to buy two ties and join them, just like one joins two portion of a raft with twisted raffia rope. (This activity was known as “ Tzuzamenshver Teven” in professional terminology.)

One day Moshe-David went to Naftali, the well-known tailor in Jonava, to order a suit. As usual, they had to take measurements. However, the problem was that taking measurements of Moshe-David was backbreaking work on account of his height and girth. The small Naftali figured out a solution. He took one end of the measuring tape, stuck it some place in Moshe-David's body and held it firmly. He gave the other end to his assistant, his son Meir, who walked around Moshe-David as he was measuring him. When Meir disappeared from his father's view because he was behind the customer, Naftali the joker began to laugh, “Meir, Meir, where are you? Where did you disappear?” Meir shouted back, “Don't worry father, I will return to you shortly…”


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A quote from the sixth chapter of Pirke Avot. Return

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