Translated by Tina Lunson
Binyumin Vaynrib, Secretary of the Kurow Landsmanshaft in Israel, greets the writer Meyshe Grosman, at the anniversary celebration in the Bustan coffeehouse in Tel Aviv, which was observed by the Yiddish and Hebrew writers in April 1954, for Grosman's turning 50 years old.
In the picture one can see, from left to right: Dr. Mark Dvorzshetski, the elder writer Dovid Pinski, the master of ceremonies Meyshe Grosman, Yankev Kohen (chairman of the Hebrew Pen), Dovid Shmeuni, Y. D. Berkovitsh, Nosn Gurn, Dr. Yosef Kruk. B. Vaynrib is standing. Near him are the wife and daughter of Krize.
From left to right: Meyshe Gros-Tsimerman, Yoel Mastboym, Dr. Mark Dvorzshetski, Dovid Pinski, Meyshe Grosman (standing), Yankev Kohen, Dovid Shmeuni, Y. D. Berkovitsh
On the other side of the table in the middle is Mark Epshteyn
by Avrom Aron Shtern, Bogota
Translated by Tina Lunson
Hersh Mekhl Lekish was an ordinary Jew; he had, as usual, some learning, more than a little Ayn Yankev and exegesis, a reading from Torah with RaShI, and also a little Talmud with its commentators and Rabbi Edlash.
On winter mornings, when the shingled roofs cracked with the cold and the population was still sleeping soundly under their quilts, perhaps only Hersh Mekhl heard the voice of Ayzikl the caller, his waking shout Get up, holy little Jews, get up, get up to the Creator's service!
He promptly got up, washed his hands, rinsed his eyes, recited the Asher yoytser, quickly dressed and left for the study-house.
So, it is already warm in the study house, heated up, Jews are here already, Meyshe Osher reciting the psalms of the day and rubbing his shoulders against the warm oven. Avrom Ber Oks arrives with his boiling samovar and sells bavarke a little glass of hot water with milk for three groshen.
I sit with Meyshele Alter Yosef's and Yosef Leyb Avrom-Mayer's (Grosman) at the Kotsk table and leaf through the Talmud. We are studying the section Nedarim with Rabbi Leyvi's commentary. Hersh Mekhl really helps us to understand the vagaries, and he studies with us until the first minyen stands up to pray.
What did Hersh Mekhl do for a living? He dealt in boar-bristle, rabbit pelts, skunk. And if he was sent to buy a marten, then it was obvious that there was a God in heaven! Hersh Mekhl never had any money of his own for his trade, but as long as Leybish Lozer's had his interest-free loan shop, he borrowed 20 rubles and traded with that all week. On Friday before candle-lighting time he gave it back and on Sunday morning borrowed it again.
Hersh Mekhl does not pray with the first minyen, but today it is Monday, the day of the Markushov fair, and he hurries to pray with the first minyen. It is five viorsts to Markushov and riding on a sleigh costs a six-piece so he goes by foot. He always brings a six-piece, money for three pints of brown bread, but besides that it is easier to take a walk because then his head works pretty well and he can review in his mind the questions that he answered today for the young men at the study-house.
Hersh Mekhl strode over the road with a sack on his shoulders, with a sheepskin hat over his ears; the frost stings but his thoughts burn too they are far away. Soon he has passed the yellow house, now he is at the linden trees, and over the bridge that is the border between Koriv and Markushov, and distracted he drifts a little to the side and lands smack in the snow. He lifts himself up, brushes the snow off, wanting to pull his boot out of a pile of snow but is hard to do. When he does get his boot out of the snow, a leather travel-bag comes out with it.
Hersh Mekhl takes the sack off his shoulders,
tosses the big handbag inside, and Hersh Mekhl continues walking.
Arriving in Markushov, he goes to Tobele Yoyne's tea house and there lays the sack under the bed. He trades the whole day in any deals he can, then comes back to the tea house, takes the sack out from under the bed and goes on home to Koriv. Entering his house he unties the button of the sack, takes out the found travel-bag and looks into it a treasure! Crisp hundreds and crisp new fifties and smaller banknotes. He counts and counts and counts and counts up more than four thousand rubles! There are also several shviadetstves for horses and some medicines.
He goes to afternoon prayers in the study-house; it is full, the whole crowd is already back from the fair, the old clothes dealers, the shoe merchants and other fair-goers talk about what they did at today's fair and suddenly three heavy claps on the table are heard. Shmuel the beadle calls out:
Gentlemen, I must announce publicly that Hersh Mekhl found a large sum of money today. Whoever lost it should provide a sign in order to fulfill the mitsve of returning a lost article.
There is great tumult in the study-house. No one speaks up. A whole week passes, it is already the end of Shabes and no one has spoken up. Sunday morning Hersh Mekhl goes to the priest and tells him to announce in church that a Jew has found a large sum of money and whoever had lost it should let the priest know. No one spoke up.
Another week went by, then two, and no one spoke up. But Hersh Mekhl did not rest. He went to announce it in the study-houses in Konskivolia and Pilev, and (not in the same breath) also in the local churches. One afternoon a sled harnessed to two lively horses draws up to the study-house and a tall non-Jew in a hooded fur coat approaches the door of the study-house. Not daring to open the door he cracks it a little, peeks in and calls out, Is Hershko there?
Hersh Mekhl is standing by the hot oven warming himself, and goes up to the uncircumcised one and asks him what he wants. The man grabs him. Dear Hershke, you righteous Jew, I lost that money!
He recounts all the evidence, how much money in hundreds, how many in fifties, everything agrees. Hersh Mekhl gets into the sleigh with the man. He directs him to his home and gives him back the travel-bag with the money. The man counts it over and sees that it agrees to the groshen. He takes out five hundred-ruble bills and gives them to Hersh Mekhl. Hersh Mekhl does not take them. Hersh Mekhl does not want to take any money.
The man is confused, he does not understand it, he gets angry and shouts, Take me to the rabbi.
The old rabbi Rov Yekhiel Goldberg begins to argue with Hersh Mekhl, advising him that the mitsve
of returning lost goods is valid not only for Jews but Hersh Mekhl does not allow that.
Just listen, my whole life I begged God to show me a true miracle, and now should I not retain the miracle?! Hersh Mekhl will not buy the miracle for money!
But the gentile would not back down, he must give five hundred rubles to the Jews if such a righteous person is found among them.
They called in Leybele Mekhele's and Alter Yosef and they took the five hundred for providing the poor with Passover goods. And poor Jews had mitsves for Peysakh.
The Orphan Must Be Married!
Among us in the town the title sheyner yid [beautiful Jew] was not bestowed lightly; one had to be a scholar, religiously observant, a welcomer of guests and a giver of charity, do something good for the community and have all the other good Jewish characteristics.
One of such Jews that I recall was Simkhe Mayer Vaynman. He lived by the Lublin road, in his own large house with two gardens, one on each side. In their middle was a large anteroom, on the sides of which were two benches which were heavily used by passersby on summer strolls along the Lublin road. One could hide in there when there was a summer cloudburst of rain while on a summer stroll. Simkhe Mayer's house was generally open, both for poor guests and for any needy Jews. Simkhe Mayer Vaynman served each one, with charity or with good advice.
|Keyle, mother of Avrom Aron Shtern, who died in Jerusalem
Friday evenings in the study house after praying, he did not hurry to go right home although he lived some distance away. He would wait until all had left, only then stand up from the Lublin table, close the Talmud, look around and see how many strangers remained. He took them all to his home as guests.
Simkhe Mayer was the reciter of afternoon prayers for the Days of Awe
in the study house. The morning prayer leader was also a sheyner yid Abele ha'Koen Rapaport. He had a certificate from the lips of a holy priest that stemmed back to King David himself.
|Shifra Flusfeder, sister of Avrom Aron Shtern, lives in Tel-Aviv
A third sheyner yid was Yosef Lerman (Shmuel Leyzer's son). A fiery Hasid, a scholar, a good disposition. His home was a gathering place for wise men. Josef's house was near the study house but the voice of Torah was heard from his house no less than from the study house. His sons, Leyvi from his first wife and Meyshele from the second wife, did not study in the study house but in their home, the father taught them himself, literally day and night. He was not greatly wealthy but was a man of charity even beyond his means.
The day came when a town Hasid, Meyshe Khayim, died and left a widow and a daughter, a pubescent girl. The widow's livelihood was from baking cookies, rolls and other homey baked goods. Anyway, there was a difference between the livelihood that she had and how much she needed so that she melted an ounce of fat that she bought from Rekhl Tsipe Eydl's, into a hot soup that warmed all the limbs. On Shabes, if God helped and she could, she bought a little scrap. And if heaven forbid one could not, well, a quarter of a sweetbread for ten groshn can also a celebrate the Shabes. But when it came to gathering and having money for a dowry, or to marry a daughter…
In this only the Master of the Universe can help. And he did indeed help though his messenger Yosef Lerman. But how did that happen?
The day came again: It was a Friday, one of the long Fridays of the month of Tamuz, candles were already lit thank God, the Hasidim came to pray in their silk waistcoats, some in velvet hats and some in big fur shtreymlekh. Some studied the Zohar, some recited Psalms. Yosef Lerman stood at the cantor's stand, peering into a book and nothing. It got later, some called out So, Yosef, say hodu and welcome the sabbath!
But Yosef did not pray. Just look at how they race to the feast! We will not pray! We will not pray until we collect five hundred rubles for Meyshe Khayim's widow!
The wealthy yard-goods seller Yisroel Gozshitshenski call out, Huh? Why don't we pray now. It's getting too late to welcome the sabbath, let us put this off until after Shabes.
Yosef answered sharply, Just look, the pride of God, who got rich, who got to have lovely children, everything comes to him! Convince yourself that this is your daughter. We will not pray until we have collected the five hundred rubles. The marriageable girl has a proposal from Pilev, and a dowry must be settled on¬ three hundred rubles, plus wedding expenses of two hundred rubles. I'll give the first fifty rubles, and you, Yisroel, must give two hundred rubles!
And he gave it. Each one committed himself and after the holy sabbath, right after havdole, Reb Yosef accompanied by Shluman, Shmuel the shames's son-in-law, went to each contributor's home and collected the money.
The orphan was married with good fortune at the agreed-upon time.
by Shleyme Vakhman, Tel Aviv
Translated by Tina Lunson
There was once a case in the town when a poor girl … may you not know of such … became pregnant. The whole town was electrified by the news. It went on for the certain number of months and she came to term. She went into labor. Someone ran for the midwife Yute Naftali's who had compassion for al living things. The girl moaned and screamed in pean and Yute the midwife worked with her for a day and a night. And the pregnant girl died as well as the child. Some were even happy for the death.
No one paid the midwife, although some said that the guilty celebrant had said her, and at a good price. There were even some who wished that they would earn it, however much the midwife should be paid, at a Markushov fair.
The laboring mother died on Monday night and now it was Wednesday evening and the khevre kadishe could not bring itself to bury the body. The debate in the khevre kadishe was hot. There were also those who insisted that they must do right by the deceased and bury her, but the majority was against it. One of the members of the khevre kadishe was a strike-breaker. That was Gutman the second-hand clothing dealer, who smoked a pipe, and lived in the ________. He cut out the burial shrouds and several wives of the khevre kadishe not the fine ones but the ordinary wives, sewed the garments. Several young men organized themselves and determined that they would not let the body lie and must bury it today, Wednesday, between afternoon and evening prayers. The organizer of the group was Gedalye Taytlboym and Shaye Yankl Rokhenshvalb. They gathered Gedalye Glezer's son, Yudl Katsev's son, Meyshe Tsedok's son, Meyshe Dovid Yisroel Katsev's, and And a few more well-to-do youths. They gave money to the father of the deceased girl so that he could pay the khevre kadishe and receive the body from them.
When the funeral procession left for the cemetery it was already getting dark.
I was 13 or 14 years old at the time and was interested in this case the whole time, and followed along with the funeral, because the unfortunate girl used to come to our house often, she was good, and everyone felt sorry for her.
As the procession proceeded no resident opened their door, no one looked out, no one else joined in to accompany. And so we went to the cemetery. It got dark. The grave was already being dug. Just as the digging was finished, one of the members of the khevre kadishe came running up and in the name of the head of the society demanded that she should lie outside the fence. Gedalye Hertske's replied in the appropriate manner (by cursing the messenger roundly), the body was buried normally, the father recited kadish for his daughter, and everyone apologized to the deceased.
People went home and all the young men spoke with the father and comforted him, that he not know any more grief.
by Zive Vardi Rozenberg-Melhendler, Netanya
Translated by Tina Lunson
Already more than twenty years since I left our shtetl Koriv. Can I remember anything from then? But just as I touch the pen and begin to recall Koriv, all the images spring up easily before my eyes and I begin to see and see:
Here is a Friday evening, one throws off the week and begins to be enveloped in the holy Shabes. Here are our fathers going with their sons to pray. All the Jews pray.
Now I remember how we take a [new] Torah scroll into the shul, it is a holiday for all the town's Jews. When there is a wedding in town, the whole town was happy too. Even the poor little houses with the patched tin roofs rejoiced at such an occasion. Nu, and the Koriv muds? They too shine today more than usual, and they fool us, so that running after a wedding khupe more than one person is left with their shoes stuck in the mud and could barely extract their feet.
I will just mention the community work by my pious father, Zaynvil Melhendler may he rest in peace. He did that work with such passion and energy. He decided to install a fence around the cemetery. It was difficult enough to make it happen but he carried it through. Here I see the image of how Yisroel Gozshitshanski and Neyekh Lerman begged my father that they would give tax money as much as he wanted as long as they did not have to go door to door to collect money in a pushke; but my father stood fast by his decision that it is important to give money yourself, and that one must also go around collecting from others and that rich and poor are equally obligated to do so. Every Friday two different householders had to go out with the pushke and collect money for the cemetery fence.
Our landsmanshaftn [countrymen groups] in America used to send various sums of money to his address for aid to the poor, especially for the holidays.
Now we are left with only memories no one of my family survived, all were murdered by the Hitler horror-death: My brother Yosef with his wife and child, my sister Frayndl with her husband [Nataniel] Nosaniel (Sane) Grosman and their two children Velvele and Khanele, and more and more relatives and dear ones.
by Yankev Yosef Shifman, Rio de Janerio
Translated by Tina Lunson
My short biography. The murder of my near ones.
I was born the 28th of December 1905. I was a son of Simkhe, Simkhele the tailor, my mother was named Khaye Freyde, we lived in the hoyvilitse. We lived in want, it was hard to earn a bit of bread which we always lacked at least one day a week and yet our life was homey and warm. I studied in a kheyder with Simkhe Peysakh, we called him Simkhe Plakhte. I recall how we used to walk home on the winter nights with little lanterns in our hands, splashing in the mud and singing latotay latotay! We came home with joy and satisfaction to our parents, sister and brother.
Koriv, Koriv, I will remember you forever!
In 1914 when the war broke out, my father was taken into the military as a reserve. We began to suffer from real hunger, we were eight children in the house but not one us yet suitable for work. My mother was the provider.
In 1915 the Germans invaded. We could already see their bestial work. One German stuck a revolver against my mother's breast and wanted to shoot her. My older sister Tsviye stood in front of him, indicating all the children to the German and shouted at him, Shoot me! And not the provider, a mother of eight children!
At that point the commandant liked my mother. They did not kill anyone then, but robbed many valuable things from the residents of the town.
I went off to learn shoemaking. I worked with Mordkhe the pesky and his wife Ester Feyge Kozak. They exploited me well. I left shoemaking and learned tailoring. When the professional union was founded I joined as a member. My father was sick with asthma, I had to work and earn for the whole family, ten people, bless them. I decided to leave and thought to take the whole family. I went to Brazil. After I arrived I was very sick and had two operations.
Once I began to normalize things and had the opportunity to bring my family over, the Second World War had broken out. The German exterminator had invaded.
After the war I received a card from them, written in German, that they had fled to Miekhov and they begged for help. But they had not given any return address. And who could anticipate such a quick and terrible end! They were killed along with the whole Jewish community there.
Let me mention their names for their eternal memory:
My mother Khaye Freyde and my father Simkhe Shifman; my sisters and brothers-in-law Sore Perl and her husband Matia Gelbart, Ester and her husband and children, Feyge and her only daughter Hese, Tsviye and her husband and children they all died as holy victims honor their eternal memory!
by Avrom Rozenshpir, Tel Aviv
Translated by Tina Lunson
The chaos in town. The Black Hundreds are afoot!
In the year 1905, when the big strikes were raging, I was studying in kheyder with the teacher Khayim Itsikl (his nickname was pi…er). The little town was very excited, everyone said that the Black Hundreds were coming. They were sent by the Russian tsar to make pogroms. Jews and Christians prepared. They created self-defense units, to prevent such slaughter as happened in Kisheniev.
Khanele, our Rebi's daughter, is walking about outdoors, watching, protecting. We boys sit in the house. Suddenly there is pounding on the door and we hear a heart-rending cry:
Father, they are coming! Lock up the children! Hide them!
Now we hear wailing. Vey iz mir! Woe is me! The rebi quickly drives us into a dark room. Be still! And he closes the door from the outside. He runs to find the hatchet. In the room we hear cut-off, wailing screams:
Mama, they are already here! Roza, put on an apron! Menashe Ber, quick get a book in your hands!
Give me the hatchet, the hatchet! We hear the shout from Avrom Elye Give me the rolling pin Rokhl!
We go to self-defense
Avrom Elye goes to fight in self-defense:
Khayim Itsik, are you going? Faster!
Wait, I want to let the boys out first, what the hell, they are laughing in there, gevalt, boys, why are you laughing?
The door is abruptly yanked open and the rebi orders with a shout, Each of you run home, do not stop anyplace, God forbid!
And he dashes off with Avrom Elye to the self-defense with some kind of packages in his left hand. The wailing weeping from the women gets louder. In the market square it is literally dark. I run to Yone Montshezsh's shop at the beginning of Pilver Street. Yosl Ikir comes in from Konskivolye. And he is coming riding on a horse. They say that he rode from Konskivolye in just ten minutes and the horse collapsed soon after.
Soon the strikers a going around with revolvers in their hands. I hear how one says to another, The bariban in my revolver is not working.
I want to know what kind of thing a bariban is. I am informed and I run further, not towards home, but to see and hear. The strikers wait for a watchword from Markushov. I run to the study house, I must be everywhere and must know everything. The gabay at the study house, Mordkhe Mekhl, shouts at me Run home, Avremele!
I look at the study house clock with the vivid numbers. Outside it is cold, dark and slippery. I run home the shop is closed. I run to the shul, it is closed and hanging on its door
is the chain which you use to knock three times before going into the shul. I see that in the old cemetery around the shul, where there is a large mausoleum to a great sainted rabbi, several Jews are busy with something. Astride the cemetery fence sits the gabay's wife Elkele Shleyme-Zelke's as though she is riding on the fence, and in one hand she holds an unlit yortsayt light, in the other hand a high-holiday prayerbook and a willow twig, and shouts and pleads and laments, Dear God, take me over this fence and I will do your command!
But one of the strikers, the redhead Avrom (Yisroel Monis's) takes her down from the fence. She quickly runs away and hides behind the gravestones and there continues to wail and pray.
|Dvore Nisnboym, one of Elkele Shleyme Zelke's grand-daughters. Murdered.
Terrified, I run home. At home they are overjoyed with me that I found my way home, because they had already been out looking for me. The depressing mood in the town got a little lighter. Night fell and people prepared to be on town watch duty all night, each one holding a lantern in one hand and in the other a hatchet, an iron bar, a crowbar, and piece of wood. I could not sllep and did not want to go to sleep.
The night passed, the Black Hundreds did not come, the black clouds cleared from the town, and I had to go back to studying in the kheyder with Khayim Itsikl pi…er.
The Girls Too
In 1905 young women carried a red flag through the streets and demanded rights for women. In the first row marched Khaye Mulie's and Sheyndl Mulie's (sisters) and Manye Lasman.
Meetings are held and the girls demand, through the revolutionary committee, that the tailors not have to work until midnight every day, and all night until dawn on Thursdays. They also demand that they not work Saturday night.
They create worker-courts, Pilev gives orders, Meyshe Kliske rules that Beyle Hendlen, Leyb Mekhele's daughter, should pay the servant girl Royze Pzshednosek the debt that she owes her.
Afterwards, Meyshe Kliske has to flee to America, as a whole troop of Bielavski soldiers arrives in Koriv to protect against protests and strikes.
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