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[Page 14]

The “Symphony” of Erev Shabbat


The Market Opposite the Stores
In the distance, one can see the houses of: Karshel the Grain Handler (Rothford),
Malsky, Boyarsky, Feinstein and Bliakher


The Row Stores (Rad Krommen) and stands across from the Einhorn and Shiff Homes


A Corner of the Fruit and Vegetable Market


A Picture of the Wide Boulevard in 1910[1]


The Wide Boulevard[2]


The Dog Catcher, as painted by Shmuel Rothbart


The Heder, as painted by Shmuel Rothbart


A Wedding Canopy in Volkovysk
In the center of the picture, one can see Aaron Lifschitz and Ahareh the Shammes


The Millner Gasse near the Polish Catholic Church
(called Ulica Kosciolna in Polish)


The Great Synagogue of Volkovysk


A Group of Friends with Moshe Einhorn During His Visit to Volkovysk in 1921

(RtoL, First Row, Seated): Tevel Smazanovich[3], Moshe'keh Einhorn, Pearl Hubar
(Second Row): Dworetsky, Yud'l Khvalovsky, Abraham Kalman Lev, Milia Kaplan,
Sioma Gallin, Liotsha Glembotsky, Misha Gallin, Israel Hubar


The Poritzisher Gasse


A Group of Girl Gymnasium Students from Volkovysk

(RtoL, First Row, Seated): Millie Kaplan, Zhenya Frankel
(Second Row): Dora Einhorn, Frieda Halpern, Liotsha Glembotsky, Sonia Klebansky


A ‘Cruise’ on the River with the Canoe
The Picture Captures: Yankel Zuckerman, Miss Rabinovich, (the daughter of the garment seamer), and Itzel Tchopper

[Page 15]

As soon as I close my eyes, and focus my thoughts and memories on my youth, the strains of a long-dead, great symphony begin to echo in my ears – The Symphony of the Eve of the Sabbath in Volkovysk. This was a symphony in which many instruments and players participated, with their different but unique tones and sounds pervading all of Volkovysk, and giving rise to the very special atmosphere that characterized Volkovysk on Thursday-to-Friday, comprised of so much harmony and beauty, etching itself into the memory and soul of each and every Jew from Volkovysk forever.

The symphony of Erev Shabbat began as early as Thursday morning, when Jewish homemakers and housemaids would converge to begin buying provisions for Shabbos. Already before dawn, meat and cuts were brought from the slaughterhouse and the butchers. Our house was directly opposite the stores, and from the stores, benches and tables laden with merchandise, there arose a ceaseless din from the Sabbath trade – from the Erev Shabbat symphony – awakening me from my sweet youthful sleep. But immediately on arising, I was possessed by a deep feeling of joy: today is Thursday, and tomorrow is Friday – Erev Shabbat! The tumult in the street is the tumult of Erev Shabbat, the noises are those of Erev Shabbat, the entire racket is rooted in the preparations for the Sabbath. Everything is part of the Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Food Center

Opposite our home was the Food Center of the city. Most of the selling points were concentrated in a row of stores opposite us. There were found the tables piled with fruit, and the stands with bread, and challah, bagels, candies, cheese, butter, etc. The [entire] city came there to make its Sabbath purchases. And the entire area was black with people and seethed with commerce, with buyers and sellers, with bargaining, complaining and replies. The womenfolk would arrange to be there quite early – no small thing – [shopping] on Erev Shabbat! One has to produce baked goods, cook, grind, fry, braid the children's hair, and get everything ready that is needed for the Sabbath. Indeed, when Erev Shabbat comes, everybody starts early. Everyone wants to be among the first of the buyers, in order to get the very best portions, the best cuts of meat, the tastiest portion of liver, the most delicious challah, and for this reason, the crowding is great at the butcher stalls, and the final sale, without evil intent, is so satisfying. And the complaints from the womenfolk and the replies of the butchers become interwoven into the Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Butchers

Here they are, standing before my very eyes, the butchers of Volkovysk – hearty and reliable Jews, whose entire families participated in this enterprise to make a living, for example, [the case of] Yehuda Hirsch, the butcher, with his brother and sister. Often the business franchise was handed down by inheritance – from father to son – and when Thursday would arrive, the day of the big sales, when even the most indigent among the Jews made an effort to buy a little bit of meat for the Sabbath, all members of [the butcher's] household, the husband along with his wife and children, were totally occupied with work. Indeed, they stand before me even now, those

[Page 16]

ardent Jews, like bulwarks: Yehuda Hirsch the butcher who was the meat provisioner for the 16th Brigade, which was billeted in the city; His brother, Aizik the butcher, and his sister, Mirkeh the butcher; Herschel Ada's; The two brothers, Joel & Zalman; Itchkeh Sinaikeh's, Avromi'keh Sinaikeh's and his wife, Chaya; Chaim & Chana'leh Sukenik (she was also known as Chana'leh the butcher); Nakhum the butcher; Moshe'keh Yehuda Leib; David the butcher; Reyn'ehleh the butcher; Shepsel the butcher; Alter & Sarah Suwalski – who were located a bit to the side of the center. These were Jews who were all deeply rooted Volkovysk residents whose families had lived there for many, many generations, people strong in body, and with hearts full of warm Jewish feeling.


The Fish Market

And by the restaurant opposite the center where the stores were, stands the fish market. Buyers are drawn there to negotiate the purchase of fresh fish in honor of the Sabbath. Can one really have the traditional Sabbath feast without a good, savory piece of gefilte fish? And the fish trade was something of a monopoly in Volkovysk. It was concentrated in the hands of specific families: but the fish merchants did not take advantage of their privileged position, and neither overcharged their customers nor deceived them. They always had available the fat, heavy carp for their Jewish clientele. Sarah the Fishmonger (Tzal'yeh's[4] wife), Esther the Broker, and Shayna Leah (David Shlomo's wife),understood their obligation to the Volkovysk families: in the worst weather, they would come with their wagons loaded with live fish. The quiet sound of the writhing live fish, the splashing of the water from the containers in which they found themselves, and the muffled thrashing of the fish from the bundles of the womenfolk, all these wove themselves into Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Fruit Peddlers

And to the right, on a mound, are the Fruit Peddlers – and the buyers for the Sabbath wend their way from the fish market to buy vegetables and fruits for the Sabbath, fruits for a compote. Every fruit peddler has a franchise for his place of business, handed down from parents to children. One hears noise and shouting from the fruit market – the fruit peddler Esther Mochkes is arguing with her colleagues, the three partners: Leah Vigderchikheh, whose husband was an soldier impressed into the Russian Army under the ukase of Czar Nicholas I, Feyge Rokheh Shalakhmones,[5] and Mendel Maggid-Kordovri. It was not easy for poor Esther Mochkes to carry on a “battle” with three other women, simultaneously, and most difficult of all to confront Leah Vigderchikheh, who was a feisty, aggressive Jewish lady with a sharp tongue, and would often not only confront Esther Mochkes, but also the fruit peddler, Shayn'eh Rod'sheh's, and her daughter Sarah Elkeh. But what does one not do for the sake of the bitterly pitiful living to be earned? Quite often, bolts of lightning would fly from one fruit peddler to another, when they would haggle over a particularly attractive sale prospect, but fear not! Jewish robbers! [they would yell at each other]. Yet, an hour later after work, they would make up and together would go home, carrying on a conversation about decorum in the conduct of business, as if nothing had transpired. Erev Shabbat sales provided many a fruit peddler's family with an income, such as the Kvachuks, whose fruit business was to be found in the cellar of Epstein's house. David Herschel was a tall Jew, friendly, and whose cellar store was constantly full of buyers, because of the good produce he carried, and his friendly smile, with which he always greeted his customers. A warm engaging atmosphere pervaded the otherwise cold cellar store, which attracted the public. And the noise of the co-located fruit peddlers, and the straight talk of David Herschel were part of the harmoniously rich Erev Shabbat symphony.

[Page 17]

The Grinder

But now we hear entirely different kinds of sounds. The ear detects a sort of humming and scraping noise, and the eye sees sparks of fire flying in the air – it is the grinder doing his usual task, sharpening the knives of the Volkovysk housewives. He carries his entire apparatus on his scrawny shoulders – his grinding wheel – and he sets it down in its usual place, between Zalman-Leib's house and Meir Shiff's house, immediately attracting his usual customers. Primarily, he has a large demand on Thursday and Friday: one housewife is having a bread knife sharpened, a second – a meat knife. And to the side, stands a young lad, sharpening his pocket knife, with which he carves all manner of trinkets, in Heder, under the table. The clangor of the knives and the humming of the grindstone rise up into the air, accompanied by a shower of sparks, and are amalgamated into the larger Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Bakers

The grinder is sharpening the bread knives, and the housewives are reminded that the central ingredient for the Sabbath is still missing – challah and bread. And all the women move off to buy bread for Shabbos. One can tell a person's social standing by the type of bread they purchase for the Sabbath: a person who buys a simple, black bread to eat with salted herring, and the person who buys the white, soft, better quality challah; the person who buys the finer rolls, and the person who only allows themselves a bagel. But all need to acquire the principal form of nourishment – bread, and this provides an income to the bakers and bread merchants of the city; Katriel the Baker (in Slutsky's street) and Herschel Yosh'keh's – who sell bread to the peasants; Mindl (wife of Hona the Melamed) , who sells bread and rolls; the bakers of the food stands – Tzirel, Mordechai Chaim's and afterwards Mani (in the first stand), Sender Solomon (in the second stand) and Eli Chaim and his wife, Yehudis (in the third stand). Activity was heavy, and the overflow spilled over to the bakers on the Tzerkveh Gessel[6] and other streets, not far from the marketplace: Moshe the Baker; Khatzkel the Baker – in the Ostroger Gasse[7]; Ronya the Baker – in Slutsky's cellar; Meir Shosh'eh's – in the Hassid Street; Shlomo the Baker – in Yoss'l Shustak's building; Zlateh the Baker – from Zamoscheh (who had a stand in the marketplace); Feivel the Baker – near Benush's carpentry store; Aizik the Baker – near Galiatsky the shoemaker's house. But the majority of the young buyers, young people and young men, would be drawn to the Bialystoker Bakery, where three pretty daughters helped out the proprietor with the business – Slova, Ethel and Pearl, and the young folk were inclined to go shop there in order to catch a glimpse of these three good looking young women. But there were plenty of customers left over for the other bakers as well; Mot'cheh, who sold rolls; Shifra Aizik's the baker; Zaydkeh Yosh'keh's (Lazarovsky) – on the Grodno Gasse, and Yankel-Berel the Bagel-Baker. The challahs, rolls, breads, and bagels, would drop with a quiet whoosh into the shopping baskets of the buyers, and contribute their quiet, pleasant tones to the Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Dog-Catcher

And amid all these sounds, one hears the deafening bark of dogs. All the dogs of the city have gathered – as

[Page 18]

was their custom on Thursdays and Fridays – at the butcher shops, because they have smelled, that on the eve of the Sabbath, with such plenty, they will likely be tossed a bone, and possibly – in their canine hearts, they hoped – maybe the butcher himself will be in a good mood, because of the large amount of business, and throw them a particularly fat bone or a trayf piece of meat. But the canine Angel of Death, the Dog-Catcher, has also looked forward to the Sabbath eve. He knew that on Thursday and Friday, all the dogs would be gathered in one place, and he anticipated them by getting to his appointed place very early, between the houses of Joshua the Hassid and Leizer-Chaim the Tinsmith. And so he stands – tall and florid – and he looks about him, until he snares a poor dog in the coil of his noose, who tries to tear himself loose amid violent thrashing, and all the other dogs run after them barking at the top of their lungs, howling in a whining fashion, until the dog-catcher disappears with his hapless prey in the direction of Grodno Gasse, and the dogs gradually disperse – sadder and a bit more subdued than before, lost in their own thoughts, seemingly thinking that a dog's life isn't worth a pinch of snuff – first one is alive, being occupied with a nice fat bone, and suddenly one finds oneself in the dog-catcher's noose, and everything is over. The racket from the dogs and the yelping from the dog caught by the dog-catcher blend into the Erev Shabbat symphony and give it a unique character.


Sweets and Dairy Products

Sweets for the Sabbath were obtained from Drayzl Alteh's (who inherited her table from her mother, Alteh), and from Fraydeh Chaya Lytus (who had a store near our house).There were also women who bought cheese and butter from Nekha Ada's and his wife Chas'sheh (who had a store), from Jekuthiel the Dairyman and his wife Basheh (who occupied a stand), and at Yoshpeh-Chaim Nakhum Aharon's (also at a stand).

* * *

With this, the shopping for the Sabbath ended, and one returned home satisfied: thank God, everything had been made ready for the Sabbath, as it is customary among Jews. And the tread of the returning housewives sounded both tired and sprightly on the streets of Volkovysk and blended into the larger Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Weekly Torah Portion is Reviewed in the Heders

And from where, suddenly, does one hear so many sweet voices of young children? Aha! It is, after all Friday, and it is eleven o'clock in the morning, and in the entire city, in all the Heders and in the Talmud Torah, the Torah portion of the week is being reviewed. And the ancient strains of the Torah trop[8] spreads all over and fills the entire air with Yiddishkeit and Torah. From all over, from every street, the traditional notes rise up and echoes crisply and clear. Young Jewish children are reviewing the Torah portion, and the hearts of the adults grow warm, and melt from overwhelming sweetness. The ears catch the familiar strains as they emanate from the full Heder classrooms, where the instructors are teaching their students, rehearsing with them the pazair and the shalshelet[9]. For the instructors, this is the “music hour,” and each one does his duty faithfully and with concentration. Lo, it is as if they are all standing right before mine eyes: Shimon Ada's the Melamed with a blond beard (who lived on Shifra's street, at the home of Nekha the Dairyman) – a Jew who would by incantation nullify a evil-eye with a bone; Naphtali der Melamed (who lived on the Wide Boulevard) – a man

[Page 19]

who had beautiful daughters and was renown for his sense of humor; Moshe-Ber Lipa's – an exacting man who enforced an iron discipline in his classroom; Zalman Arreshtant – of whom it was said that he could make civilized people out of wild men; Nachman der Melamed (who lived in Lapin's house); Leib-Oreh der Melamed – an observant Jew, with a black beard and a very charitable individual (lived on the Mitzrayim Gessel, near the Wide Boulevard); Aizik Lulav (lived on the Grodno Gasse); Moshe Herschel der Melamed.

The young voices of the children rise higher and higher, the chorus of the children from all the Heders and the Talmud Torah mix with one another, and create one of the most beautiful parts of the Erev Shabbat symphony.

* * *

The Friday midday hours pass along, and the Jewish housewives become very busy: cooking, baking, cleaning the house, and braiding the children's hair – all in honor of the Sabbath. The air of the city becomes redolent with the sweet odors of Sabbath delicacies – the gefilte fish, the tasty cholent, and the delicious soup. And the smell of these delicacies, along with the humming from the bubbling pots tease the nostrils and tempt the ears – and are blended into the Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Musicians Escort the Bride and Groom

And suddenly, in the distance, the sound of a fiddle is heard playing a tune that awakens and calls, demands and complains, and yet ends with happiness and confidence. A wedding canopy is being erected in Volkovysk – this was the custom, that most wedding ceremonies took place Friday afternoon[10] – and the bride and groom are escorted into the synagogue, escorted and accompanied by the Jewish musicians, and the merrymakers recite their verses, making the onlookers alternately cry and then laugh. Here they are, all in order: Moshe Aizik der Fiddler – he is out front, first, he is the leader of the ensemble; Yisrael, his brother – the second fiddler; Berel-Leib der Fiddler – also a brother to Moshe-Aizik; Itcheleh der Fiddler – the father of the three brothers; Mordechai with the clarinet; Leizh'keh Bandureh[11] – tall, blond, with blue eyes – the romantic actor; Moshe der Trubashch[12], Pesach Levkov on the flute (the fife player), with black hair and black eyes; Yisrael – Moshe Aizik's son who played the cornet. The wedding procession stretches from the Millner Gasse over the length of the wide boulevard to the Schulhof. The little children, for whom every wedding is a holiday, run ahead first. The parents of the couple then come with lit candles in their hands, and the ensemble plays a freilach, which together with the noise of the dancing parents, weaves itself quite naturally into the Erev Shabbat symphony.

[Page 20]

Herschel the Scribe and Chana-Chaya the Yoreshteh[13]

It looks like it is quite late in the afternoon, because here comes Herschel the Scribe from the Kholodoisker Gasse, who is passing about reminding all the Jews that the Holy Sabbath is about to commence. He would announce, this beloved Jew, in his characteristically Jewish dress – a long caftan with a gartel,[14] and his velvet hat – never growing tired: “Jews! Shabbos! Shabbos! Jews!” In this manner he would remind all the shopkeepers that it is time to close up their stores. And from the second side, from the wide boulevard, comes Chana-Chaya die Yoreshteh (wife of Khatzkel the Yoresh). Yesterday, on Thursday, she was very busy, because on Thursday she would gather from all over the city into her wide apron: bread, challah, candles – and distribute it on Friday among the needy. But now she has finished her work and has provisioned the poor with all that is required for the Sabbath, and she appears all decked out in her Sabbath finery, in a head covering with a fully colored Turkish kerchief. She seemingly dances along, and calls out: “Ladies, Shabbos! Ladies, Shabbos!” And the calls to the Sabbath by Herschel the Scribe and Chana-Chaya die Yoreshteh mix with the clicking sounds of locks that storekeepers are affixing to the doors of their establishments – and all of this is woven into the greater Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Promenade to the Synagogue

It is dusk. The Sabbath Queen has entered the city in full regalia. The weekday cacophony has vanished, businesses are padlocked, the marketplace has been cleaned off – and from all the streets a beautiful procession begins, as the populace is drawn to the synagogue for prayer. This is the procession of the Volkovysk balebatim. Their social standing can be ascertained from their headgear: the wealthy wear cylindrical top-hats on their heads: the middle class – merchants and balebatim – wear hard hats: the workers and small storekeepers – simple hats. The same holds for the women: wealthy women wear hats; the less well-to-do throw a simple kerchief over their heads; older more observant women wear wigs. All participate in the procession, they walk with their children and hold small prayer books in their hands.

And here comes the old Rabbi, Reb Abba Yaakov Borukhov, with his long beard and proud mein. On either side of him walk the Shameses, Aharon & Jedediah. And here comes a whole row of prominent balebatim, on their way to the Main Synagogue. It looks like today, the Cantor, Koppel, accompanied by his choir, will be leading services, because among those going to the Main Synagogue are many worshipers who normally attend other places of worship. With no evil-eye intended, it looks like a mass of humanity is on its way to the [Main] Synagogue – the “cream” of the city! And the people come streaming from all the streets: from the Millner Gasse – Ephraim Zilberman, Shmuel Grodzhensky, Eli-Leib Rakhmilevich, Shaul Mintz, Aaron Lifschitz, Moshe Leib Khmelnitsky and Sholom Lev: from the Wide Boulevard – Abraham Epstein, Leib Heller (Weiss), Abraham Eli Markus, Asher Yudzhik, Abba Yud'eh Winetsky, Shmuel Chaim Bayl'keh's, Moshe Yaakov Finkelstein, Moshe Lapidus, Nissan Yanovsky, Zelig Bartnovsky, Zalman Leib Slutsky, Leizer Yudzhik, Nakhum Halpern, Nakhum Lytus, Akiva Yudzhik, Yaakov Weinstein, Zalman Isser Goldberg, Eliyahu Shaikevitzevich, Meir Shiff and Joshua Zuckerman; from Shifra's Street – Naphtali Hertz Nakhumovsky, Feivel

[Page 21]

the Shokhet[15], Katriel the Baker, Mani the Baker, Shimon Ada's and Berel Simcha's (Kushnir); from the Ostroger GasseYaakov Berestovitsky (The Dayan), Aizik Neiman, Joel Amstibovsky, Hanokh Neiman, Berestovsky (from the post office), Jesierski (the lumber merchant), Weinstein the banker, David Hubar and Sholom Vinogradsky; from the Church street – Chaim Ozer Einhorn, Joseph Berestovitsky the Beer Brewer, Galiatsky the Shoemaker , Benush the Carpenter, and Gedaliah Pereshetsky; from the Kholodoisker Gasse – Yaakov Saletan; from the Vilner Gasse – Koppel Isser Volkovysky; from the Grodno Gasse – Joshua David Papa, Tuvia Fenster, Sholom Barash, Yud'l Bereshkovsky, Shmuel David Yunovich, Abraham Zalman Kurtz and Leizer Shaliota; from the Tatarskeh Gesseleh – Aaron Shifmanovich; from the Neuer Gesseleh – Zundel Kaplan, Shimon Zamoschansky, Katriel the Tailor, Ozer Kaplan, Yitzhak Pisetsky, Moshe Meir the Teacher and Jesierski the Teacher; from across the way from the marketplace stores – Itcheh Novogrudsky, Jekuthiel Bereshkovsky, Yankel Einhorn, Ze'ev Bliakher and Israel Gershon Zakheim; from below the river – Moshe Shapiro, Zalman Chafetz, Avigdor Bloch and Leib Pines.

Most of them, as previously mentioned, are going to the Main Synagogue today, where Koppel the Cantor will be leading services with his choir (among whom the most significant were Israel the Furniture Turner, son of Jedediah the Shammes – he was the choirmaster); but many are on their way to pray at the other houses of worship on the Schulhof; Der Hiltzener Bet HaMedrash[16], “Der Mauer”[17], Die Hayyatim-Schul[18], and the Ein-Yaakov Schul, and the remaining synagogues and houses of study in Volkovysk; Kholodoisker Schul, on the Kholodoisker Gasse, Levi's Bet HaMedrash – on the Millner Gasse, Tiferet Bakhurim – on the Neuer Gessel, Zamoscher Bet HaMedrash – on Zamoscheh, Reb Meir'keh's Bet HaMedrash – on the Ostroger Gasse, Poliakov's Bet HaMedrash – on the Grodno Gasse , Karczyzner Bet HaMedrash – on Karczyzna, The Small Bet HaMedrash -- behind Herschel Yankel's house, on the wide boulevard, and the - Hassidic Shtibl – near the river.

Light streams out into the city streets from all the houses of worship, lighting up the city, and the melody of Koppel the Cantor, along with his choir, together with the lusty and fervent voices of the congregation who sing Lechu Neranenah, and the other Sabbath prayers with such great conviction, fill the air with a loftiness and a spirituality, and transport the Erev Shabbat symphony into the sanctified Sabbath atmosphere.

* * *

It is Friday Night. The collective congregation has returned home and recited the Kiddush. The Sabbath candles light up the finely cleaned table and shine out of the window into the street. The voices singing Sabbath hymns and reciting the blessing after the meal fill the entire street and create the introduction to the Erev Shabbat symphony.


The Youth Promenades and Sings

After the Sabbath Feast. A little at a time, the kerosene lamps in the houses begin to go out, and the candles burn down and go out. Only the pinpoint stars in the sky illuminate the darkened streets. The older folks go to

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bed after the sumptuous repast, but the young people flee into the streets. One is going for a walk. Party-affiliated members – Zionists, Bundists – gather in their own milieu, in the homes of friends, to discuss a variety of issues, to hear news, and to keep company. Those who are unaffiliated, take a walk, just for the sake of it, along the streets and byways – the Poritzisher Gasse, Ostroger Gasse, and Millner Gasse – and flirt with one another. [Boys] meet with girls of their acquaintance, words are exchanged, invitations, and one slips away unnoticed to the smaller streets by the riverside.

Here appears the once young David Einhorn. He lived with his parents in Kulakowski's house at the end of the wide boulevard opposite the church. Einhorn is rushing to the house of his girlfriend, Sonia Farber. Sonia Farber was an interesting young lady, and her house was a gathering place for the revolutionary-minded young people. Einhorn runs as if besotted. His pockets are stuffed full of brochures and writings on paper that contain marked up thoughts and musings from the entire week [gone by]. All his acquaintances will be at Sonia's house, and with them, he will be able to discuss and obtain their opinion on his youthful songs. It is on Friday nights, at Sonia's house, that the talent of the future author of the “Shtilleh Nigunim[19]” becomes developed and ripens. The sounds of joyful Yiddish and Russian revolutionary songs pour out of Sonia's house into the streets.

In the house of Baylah Rivka Kushnir (daughter of Berel Simcha) – in Shifra's Gesseleh – the Bundists assemble – Berel Karpovich, The Likovsky Brothers, Zaydl the Binder, Moshe'keh Zakroy, Yankel Levin, Chaim Nemzer, Rosa Einhorn, Moshe Katriel's – and discuss their party affairs and sing “The Oath” and “The Salty Sea.” In David Hubar's house the Zionists gather – The Vinogradskys, Nakhum Halpern, The Novogrudskys – and their singing of “HaTikva” and “There in the Place of the Cedars” is carried forcefully through the Volkovysk streets, and fills them full of hope, happiness and life. And at the home of Liotsha Glembotsky a rather different sort of group gathers. That Liotsha is an intelligent and remarkably pretty young lady. At her house, the so-called “golden youth” gathers – the gymnasium students, young students and other “intelligentsia” – and enjoy each other's company. Her house, on Yanovsky's Gessel seems to have been created just for this purpose. A beautiful house with a wide porch – by the riverside. Who didn't come to that place? Everyone came to visit this home that was so friendly to guests: Israel Hubar, Yankel Neiman, Zhenya Frankel, Frieda Halpern, Pearl & Frieda Hubar, Dvora'leh Einhorn, Milia Kaplan, Moshe Benjamin Shalakhovich, Yud'l Khvalko, Tevel Smazanovich, The Gallins, The Dworetskys, The Khmelnitskys – all of the so-called “Russian Intelligentsia.” From there, one could hear the strains of “Ochi Tchornaya” and other romantic Russian ballads, that would mingle with the sounds of other Yiddish folk songs, sung by the romantically involved strolling couples on the Poritzisher Gasse and the darkened side streets. And as all these young voices, along with the revolutionary and nationalist hymns, blended together in one mighty chorus, forming the coda, and final climax of the great enchanting symphony.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. The Russian and Polish Titles suggest this was known as a ‘Commercial’ Street. Return
  2. Showing the street by its Polish name, Ulica Szeroka. Return
  3. Members of this family, who emigrated to the U.S. rendered this name in many ways, of which the most common form was Smazanowitz. A part of the family, which resided in Connecticut, changed their name to Smith. Return
  4. Diminutive of the Hebrew name, Bezalel Return
  5. From the Hebrew phrase for gift giving on Purim. Possibly a reference to this person as a source of such gifts in the form of fruit. Return
  6. The street of the Tzerkveh, or Russian Orthodox Church. Return
  7. From the Russian word, ‘Ostrog’ meaning ‘fortress.’ It refers to two jail houses located on that street. See later, the memoir of Rabbi Jacob Zakheim. Return
  8. Hebrew/Yiddish for the unique musical notes used to read the Torah Return
  9. The Hebrew names of two of the trop notes. Return
  10. On re-reading this once the translation was complete, one cannot help feel that this ‘custom’ was driven by economic circumstances only. When one assesses the commitment of energy and financial resources to the preparation of the Sabbath, it is no small wonder that people of modest means would seek to gain leverage from such an expenditure if a wedding was in the making. It certainly is a far cry from late 20th and early 21st century experience in more affluent countries, where scheduling a wedding for a Friday afternoon would likely be seen as a ‘conflict’ with the oncoming Sabbath, if not an outright inconvenience. Return
  11. Some of these names are actually descriptors. In this case, they relate to musical instruments. A bandura, or bandore (Sp. bandurria) is a form of lute. Return
  12. A trumpet-like horn Return
  13. The root Hebrew word, Yoresh has to do with inheritance. It is not clear what this lady, or her husband inherited. Return
  14. A silken belt-like sash wound around the midriff, used to separate the ‘higher’ parts of the body from the ‘lower’ parts. Return
  15. A Ritual Slaughterer Return
  16. The wooden House of Study. Return
  17. The “Wall,” referring to its sturdy (probably stone) construction. Return
  18. The Tailor's Synagogue. Probably frequented by a variety of the smaller shopkeepers. Return
  19. Soft Melodies Return


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Updated 19 Apr 2022 by LA