Yehezkhel Ben Moshe (Plaksin)
Translated by Ann Belinsky
|There once was Steibtz, and it is no longer
The pain and the catastrophe are enormous.
Her inhabitants were a blessing to all
Scholars of the Law, traders and artisans.
Once there were five synagogues in Steibtz
Yedidia the Shoemaker organized midnight prayers
Shmuel Tunik had a bound raft
The mayors are remembered for the good
Tamar Amarant (Rabinovitz)
Translated by Ann Belinsky
I would like to recall my many branched family, which was cut down in the days of the Holocaust. I see a large house, in a wide street known in Polish as Shruka. We lived for several years in this house - 5 children (3 girls and 2 boys), father and mother. Father was always concerned with his business. In the town he was called Der Rezervarnik, that is to say, he had a container of oil at the end of the street, which bordered the railway line. Via an underground pipe, the oil was transferred from a special railway car to this container. Father would always record the debts that people owed him, in his large books.
I loved the evening of Sabbath in our house. My parents were not so orthodox, but the Sabbath was evident and felt as in a pious Jewish home. The house was clean, polished, sparkling, mother's eyes smiled opposite the candles and expressed goodness and generosity.
Father would look over all his precious belongings, his five children, dining at the big table, erect, clean and enjoying the splendor of Shabbat.
I always said: Mother, look, the angel is hovering above us in the house. And mother said: The angel hovers everywhere where peace exists The smell of stuffed fish filled the whole house. After the meal, when the table was emptied of the Sabbath delicacies, Father would take out a book from the large bookcase and read us a story. His quiet voice was heard in the large room, his forehead became un-creased from its worry lines, his eyes looked at us with pleasure, and by the way he also checked if we were listening. He enjoyed our laughter and our understanding and encouraged us to explain how we understood the previous story. Each one gave his opinion. Sometimes he laughed and corrected us, sometimes he said: Well, well, so! And he would finish the story, which was always interesting, with a joke.
Finally, he would turn to us quietly: Well children, who is washing dishes tonight? Mother would get up first. Jokingly, Father would move the dishes and we competed between ourselves, who would help Mother. Despite his tiredness, he would always be ready to help Mother in small household chores. And this example educated us to relate with honor to our parents.
Mother didn't receive our help willingly. Go, children to study, to read these were her words.
The neighbors would say to her: Eizka, ir hut gebentshte kinder (You have blessed children). Mother would smile and answer: I only wish that they will be healthy.
On Saturday night Father would take the Heiynt newspaper, point at an article and say Well, children, whoever translates this article to good Hebrew will get a prize! We would sit down - 2 girls and a boy (the older ones) and sweat over it, helped by a dictionary. A bar of chocolate, a good word and heartwarming laughter smiled on the winner. The prize did indeed charm us.
In ways such as these, he (Father) knew how to arouse in us the wish and desire to learn and deepen our knowledge of the Hebrew language.
The lovely relationship and respect that our mother showed us, educated us not only to love our parents, but also to honor and to admire them. We knew to tell our parents about everything that bothered us, and Mother with her good smile and her clear eyes knew how to quiet every pain in our childhood. After we had told our mother about an imagined or real failure, the thing seemed, in our eyes, much easier and simpler.
Where are you, my wonderful parents?!
In their life they were never separated, and only the cruel death separated them. You, my dear father, fell in the Riga Ghetto in Latvia, when leaving on a journey related to your many businesses, and you, my dear mother, your delicate soul went up in flames in the Rakov Synagogue, together with all the martyrs of the town.
May this brief article serve as a memorial candle for your dear souls till the end of my life.
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