They changed an annual tradition in town.
The Carnival from 1931 or 1932.
|All names, from right to left:
Top row: Chaikel Weiner, Dov Dondushansky-Dori, Rachel Shkolnick, Devorah Schwartz, Natanel Shachar, Reuven Schwartz, Moshe Tsarabnick, Eliyahu Bichutsky-Naor
Bottom row: Yissachar Rosenthal, Malka Dondushansky, Leah Schwartz, Chantsa Finkelstein
People, Facts, Events
by Yosef Magen Shitz
Translated by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman
Without an academic introduction, without an investigative introduction, unsystematically and without a plan, whatever the moment dictates, as things are in raw life, I want to bring out from the depths of memory and write down whatever comes to mind, memoirs about people, facts and episodes, happenings, etc., without any particular order, whatever comes to my pen, so forgive my global paint brush.
Nations and Ethnic Groups
About Jews as ethnic groups, I will not speak. All Jews were Jews, except, perhaps, one convert Yohan Kaufman who spoke Russian like a good goy, and Yiddish with an echo of a goyish accent. He was fond of stopping Heder boys and ask them if they know all the Chumash stories
There were also a few resident strangers, and I remember Soreh, the resident stranger, to whom I would get sent to buy yeast, boiled water and roasted pumpkin seeds.
I deeply regret that I don't remember in what connection my father used to tell me about two or three Jews, who lived at the border of the shtetl and later moved out of the shtetl to a village. I believe that they belong to the Shepsn that's how in his time, in the Yiddish speaking Eastern Europe the followers of the false Messiah, Shabbai Tzvi and later his disciple Yakov Frank, were called. In our part north Bessarabia and Podolia from around Kaminetz Podolsk and in Southern Galicia in the 17th there was a concentration of the Shepsn. The Monsignor Yakov Frank rode through before he came to Kaminetz Podolsk and there he was given a reception by the persecuted ones, the shepsn amongst the Jews; the city Chatin, with its Turkish fortress, was at that time, under Turkish rule, though it belonged to Moldova. Here Yakov Frank crossed the Dniester to Poland.
The Jews whom my father called Shepsn apparently believe in some ancient and hardly identifiable sign, about a wandering disappeared generation. It's a pity that I don't remember any particulars or names.
When the Russians annexed Bessarabia, they divided the country into classes: noblemen, for the cities and for provinces, merchants, Moldavian villagers. The Yedinitz Jews were merchants. Our family had a special category Brichansky Merchants and therefore had privileges at the border. Those who spoke little Russian were also officials, tradesmen, the gypsies. The merchants and goyish (Ukrainian) speaking were Tzarones and lived in that part that was called Yedinitz Village.
There was almost no social contact amongst the Jews and non-Jews. We barely knew the living conditions of the non Jews and the gypsies. The first ones were suppliers of potatoes and other vegetables, and also platnikes and the others musicians at Jewish weddings. Regarding the Moldovniks and goyim we knew very little.
Amongst the more refined Christians noblemen, and certain Jewish girls, there was a certain communication that became a theme for gossip and for youthful jealousy At the edge of town there were shikses and goyes who occupied themselves with the oldest profession in the world. The local doctors had much to tell about patients with venereal diseases as a result of work accidents (I quote the words of my fellow schoolmate and youthful chaver, Dr. Syoma Tolfoder, whom the Romanians and Germans murdered).
Syoma, himself a great joker, told me the following related anecdote: a young boy came to him for medical attention and left his watch in deposit for payment until such time as he will pay. When he didn't come to redeem it, Syoma, the Jewish progressive doctor thought: why shouldn't I visit my patient at home, request from the father to redeem the watch and at the same time try to teach him something. Young people, in sexual acts, somehow it led to trouble. One must be careful so why shouldn't the father pay and get the watch back. The father was busy, though, with earning a living and didn't grasp what it was all about; he called his son over and said, Tell me, my son, what sort of business have you made between me and the doctor? Why did you deposit the watch and got a triperl? Quickly, return the triperl to the doctor and take the watch back..
The greatest anti-Semites and Jew-haters came from those goyim who had any contact with the Jews. They played a tragic role during the destruction / Holocaust.
Turks and Bulgarians
There were also Bulgarians in the shtetl. These were Jews who grew vegetables near the Seminary River they drew water from the river with a rod and did their watering; later they sold their vegetables in the market.
The Turks, on the other hand, were all bakers. Even Jewish bakers were called Turks. I think that the non-Jewish bakers were Armenians or Greeks, ethnic consciousness and tried to distinguish between Turks, Greeks and Armenians a Jew pointed out to me, What is the difference between a Greek or an Armenian after all, they're all Turks!
They spoke a weak Russian, and one such Turk used to advertise his baked goods as follows:
(in Russian) Adin Khleb _ adin dvocktzat _ capaijek _ Dva khlieba Dva dvadtzat-capaiyek vaiye khlieba (One small bread twenty kopikes; two small breads two twenty kopikes; all the small loaves all the twenty kopikes.)
This kind of talk indicates that the Turk was Armenian.
Already at the start of the 1920's they disappeared from the shtetl and even the Jewish bakers were no longer called Turks.
Originally the streets had no names. The Rumanians gave them their names: Redjeleh Ferdinand (Patch taveh), Regina Maria, etc. Who can remember them? On the other hand it's easy to remember the Yiddish street names of long ago: the Tailors' Street, the Bathhouse Street, the Study House Street, the Hekdesh Street, the Market Street, the Shul Street. I believe there was also a Seat Street
At any rate, there were in Yedinitz all kinds of merchants and many craftsmen. I won't be wrong if I will point out that there were more than two hundred tailors in the shtetl. Yiddishe tailors, (that is, better one for Jews) were separate. The others, the Goyishe, sewed for the villagers. But there were also cobblers, bakers, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, goldsmiths, house painters, artists, confectioners.
At the end of the 1920's the craftsmen organized themselves into a Handworkers' Association (and not a Farein).
The Farein held meetings and argued, but the name Craftsmens' Farein was a mouthful, so they called it simply Farein It didn't take long before the name became Efrein and from there to the simple, general word Ephraim. From this it's not far to the name Chevrat Ephraim and that's what the name became.
But before long Chevrat Ephraim became a League of Nations by the haughty ones. How did this happen? Just listen:
Others have already written about the Shreyers (shouters / announcers). Elek Shreyer had already died long ago. His stretched-out formula with which he would begin his announcements (partly in Hebrew, partly Yiddish) Kakhriz U'Modia dem oilem ( I declare and let everyone know) without speaking clearly. Avreme took his place. His main job was Eirike Bagle.
He didn't understand words very well, even when he spoke privately. When he spoke about more complicated matters, from the formula Makhris U'modia came out: Achris U'modia. Later he used a different formula: Midiat hatafer.
The Crier Illustration by Peretz Weinreich
Once Avreml had to announce the general meeting of the Craftsmans' Farein and say that members of all professions are invited: tailors, cobblers, etc.
Algemeiner Farzamlung (General Meeting) Craftsmans' Farein. Professions these were works too difficult to understand, let alone pronounce so Arremele called out:
Makhriz umodia dem oilem, az morgn vet zayn di obshe sabronye fun chevras Ephraim m'betaz s'zoln zich tzuzamen-kumen alle natzies, shneiders, shusters un alle andreh. (I hereby declare and inform that tomorrow there will take place the meeting of all nations; tailors, cobblers and all others.)
That's how the Chevrat Ephraim got the nickname The League of Nations.
In Yedinitz there was also a merchants' Farband, and later, a professional farein as well, of all kinds of workers, under the influence of the communists. We, Poale Zionists, also tried to form a professional farein and organized those who worked form the merchants.
And while w're talking about shreyers (others have more widely written about this colorful profession), I recall that we once heard a voice of a new, unfamiliar announcer. But here also the content of the announcement was unique and I will convey it exactly because of its particular interest. He shouted, I hereby announce to everyone that a new director has come, a Brichaner, and that's me in person Whoever needs me will find me on the 'potchaveh' in kolz near the 'abuvneh' shop 'Kolker'.
For those who don't know, or have forgotten, it's worth explaining that the concept director is clean language for, you should excuse me, a (closet) toilet cleaner. The word was used because of its similarity to another word that is closely related to this trade.
And the Jewish director came from Brichan, after the Jews had, after quite a few months, suffered with the goyishe directors ever since the long-time director had died Areleh Enikus of Yedinitz.
Areleh was an institution. Everyone used his services. He had assistants but he was the real boss of the trade the administrative director of the administrative directors
There was no water installation in the shtetl. No flush toilets either. The saying, Who is a rich man meant, for us, the one who has a 'closet' toilet near his table. No one in Yedinitz could claim this kind of wealth. Somewhere in the yard four boards were erected, with a door and a hole in the ground with a board for the feet and that's the whole institution. Also, when the ground was snow-covered, it was often difficult to reach there so we relied on the falling snow to cover everything. When the snow let up the colorful deposit was exposed.
Areleh used to organize the sanitation cleaning of the institutions. This trade used to be done at night. Outside there stood a wagon with a couple of open pails. With pitchers everything used to be transferred from the holes to the wagon, leaving behind signs on the ground, stench in the air.
Areleh himself always went around dirty. You could smell him from the distance. Besides, he was always drunk. He had a wife and, I think, children too. But they distanced themselves from him.
Areleh Enikus perished in such a horrible way under circumstances that only Satan himself could conjure up.
The Seminary of the Priests has been mentioned. The sanitation institutions of the seminary used to be cleaned only once a year, when the long vacation began. Areleh himself couldn't undertake such a job, so professionals used to arrive annually from Beltz, but Areleh was their guide in the large pit like catacombs. It happened that the Beltz directors came exactly when Jews were celebrating Shavuos. Areleh didn't observe the holiday and went to work in the sanitation. He was let down with a rope to the catacombs in order to open the doors in order to be able to scoop out the goods. When Areleh went down into the pit to open the doors the accumulated gasses escaped. Areleh lost his balance, fell into the pit and drowned in the messy excrement. The Belzer directors worked very hard to pull out the dead body.
No complaints helped, and the Burial Society had to give him a Jewish burial. Because of the horrible death his body didn't have to be religiously purified / cleansed, and he was buried near the fence.
Jews laughed and joked about the death of Areleh. And it was because of the circumstances. People spit out three times in disgust. I, though, couldn't free myself from the tragic aspect of this tragic symbolic, terrible finality of life of a Jew. No more satanic death occurred to any Jew anywhere in the world; to drown in such material in the sanitation system of the priests on the very day of the holiday of the giving of our Torah.
I know that many will turn their noses up and say that stories about dukhi (perfume) smell better, but life, unfortunately does not consist solely of Garden of Eden aromas.
And while we are talking about the shtetl's underworld, we must not omit a person with a name and a profession. Namely, he operated a whorehouse that was on the outskirts of the shtetl, in the vicinity of the grain silos, the zvadnia it was called in the shtetl. He was not a young man and his head used to shake. The pensioners he would charge from time to time in a very demonstrative way. He would seat them on a coach-wagon and together with them he would lead the horses through the main part of the shtetl. Or else he would go around and declare There's new goods.
It was no great privilege to speak with him. Fine gentlemen and silk-clad young men would avoid him lest he might, God forbid, reveal that he knows one of them others would stop him and enjoy his stories that he told.
The truth is that his main clientele was from the Christians of the shtetl and the goyim from the villages, on market days, from the soldiers who were stationed in the area and from the seminarians, that is, those who studied what is permissible and what is not, in order to be frum, and moral priests
Suddenly the Rumanian gendarmes started to pick on Avraham Shweitzer and his establishment. They demanded permissions. Around the institution fights used to break out, arguments, and the gendarmes used to be called to reestablish order. Once the gendarmes grabbed Avraham and led him through the whole town, to the gendarme post. Avraham kept shouting and protesting in a language that was a mix of Russian and Yiddish: Is it permissible to hit an old man?
The result was that the rulers closed Avraham Shweitzer's business.
Gypsies and other shikses in the goyishe streets understood how to fill the void and took advantage of the circumstances.
Mishugayim (crazy ones)
There isn't a settlement without its mishugayim. The most famous mishugener in Yedinitz was Yuizeh. He was quiet and retarded and used to go around in torn and battered clothes and beg. During an epidemic he was married off in the cemetery to Frumeh, also a retarded one. They were settled into a house, furniture was supplied, but naturally, it didn't become a family home. Frumeh, in contrast to Yuizeh, could manage to string a few words together. Chevreh used to provoke her to tell something about her family life. From the description about how Yuizeh tried to be a man, people would roll with laughter.
Another nut turned up in the shtetl. He earned his livelihood as a water-carrier. His name was Mendl and quickly the children discovered that he becomes agitated, shouts and curses when they would call him Mendl mit di gatkes (Mendl with the underpants). Then they would anger him by calling Mendl with the tallis, etc. Later Mendl brought a son to the shtetl. I've forgotten what he was called. He couldn't speak and his behavior was abnormal.
The Lamed-Vovnik (one of the 36 just men)
There was another abnormal one, or more precisely, a depressed one, or a simpleton, who distinguished himself in certain ways, however. He was called Avrahm Tzurlick. His work was to carry out on a board that hung on his shoulders soap from the manufacturers to the stores. This was dirty and not very honorable work, for a pittance. He walked around barefoot, in torn clothes, stammered when he spoke. He also used to raise pigeons. He had quite a dovecote and used to deal and exchange pigeons. But this stammering, depressed, poorly clothed simpleton could quote whole passages from the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), especially from the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, translating the portions both literally and figuratively, quoting commentators and adding some astonishing scholarly-like explanations that amazed people. How does he know all this? Tanach wasn't of particular interest to scholars, the learned. Kibbitzers like us, schoolboys used to stop him in order to listen to his Torah talk. At first he pretended that he didn't want to talk. I don't have time, he would say, being embarrassed when he was put in the spot. It was necessary to encourage him and these depths of wisdom, knowledge and incisive talk about Tanach flowed from him so that it was impossible to stop him.
From whence does all this come to him? Who is he? Where does he come from? Where did he live? Where and when does he look into these religious texts?
We weren't interested in all that. People would, in a vulgar fashion, refer to him as the meshugener.
And there was another characteristic of this soap-carrier. He could answer questions about which day of the week the yom tovim fell on this year. Any year, ten years from now, twenty, or, for instance, thirty-seven years from now or even more into the future
He would stammer a bit and reflect: Wait, wait, he would say, and come up with the answer. Pesach in such and such a year will be Tuesday. High Holidays Monday Shavuos Wednesday, etc.
People with perpetual calendars for fifty years checked and confirmed - He's right. If, however, the calendar dates were beyond the extent of the perpetual calendar, he had to be taken at his word.
Such a meshugener one of a kind, but for sure there is something to him.
A lamed-vovnik we young ones said. Our parents rebuked us because in their opinion we had dishonored the holy concept.
Butchers & Slaughterers of Treyf
There were butchers who employed helpers. Some of them came to our Poale-Tzion organization. One of them taught me nice folk songs that originated in the butcher shop songs related to events in the shtetl that I wrote down but that have unfortunately gotten lost. One of these butcher boys once wanted to hit me because at one of the Reading Evenings I read Sholem Asch's Koiler Gessl (Slaughterhouse St.) and in his opinion I insulted the butchers. He was a skinner by trade.
There was another class of merchants who were called Katzavim (butchers). These were livestock dealers which they sold for meat. Their work consisted of traveling throughout Rumania, attending the fairs where cattle were sold and buy oxen for the Jewish lord, Asipovich, who had sugar factories in Ripichen a village near the Prut River in Moldavia, not far for Yedinitz and in other locations as well. Sugar was produced from sugar beets and with the remains the Jewish lord fattened up his cattle. The butchers used to shop for him and his cattle food.
When they talked about the lord precious oil used to drip from their lips. After all, he was their bread provider! And they had more than enough income.
The butchers themselves used to like feasting and enjoying meals with varenikes, meat-filled knishes, and dairy bagels that used to swim in oil or butter. They themselves were broad-shouldered, with stuffed bellies and their wives were also rolly-polly, heavy-set.
They weren't very learned and their language was a mundane one, with German words that they brought from the secular world, but with all the signs of vulgarity.
When their spirits were high from wine in this comfy meal enjoyment, they used to hug their fat wives and make ambiguous remarks; their wives used to laugh loudly at this, but acted as though embarrassed To this day, I remember the answer that one of these butchers gave his supposedly embarrassed wife:
Good brothers Yenke. It's a Jewish act, even the religious judge (Dayan) enjoys it
Here you have grammatical play of words, folk philosophy, cynicism, Germanization, and how would we say it today? --- Sex nearly all the humor elements of Yiddish hanky-panky theatre.
The butchers as previously noted, brought from the world expressions of German politeness. They even used to address the Jews in this way: Herr Chayim-Leib The concept Herr Herrn didn't exist in the shtetl. One would simply say Reb Zalman or simply Zalman, using the first name. This intelligent fellow disappeared with the Russians.
But particulary charming was the story of one of the butchers about his conversation with the female Doctor Shoot in Yedinitz, who was also called the Red Doctor because of the color of her hair.
So I told her, the butcher said, Herr Doctor, you must understand
The Jew several times emphasized this expression Herr Doktershe in case he hadn't been heard. He picked up this expression in Chernowitz where the Austrian expression Herr Doctor, which is their way of addressing a doctor, a male, so for a woman they thought it should certainly be Herr Doktorshe.
His wife stood beside him and beamed with naches from his worldly knowledge about how one should nicely speak.
And there were also Jews who dealt with pigs. They didn't usually slaughter pigs or sell pig meats as the gentile pig dealers. They were pig wholesalers. They used to go to the fairs all over the land, purchase full-grown pigs, slaughter them in special slaughterhouses. Sometimes they bought pigs for marketing to be raised. These slaughterhouses existed in various towns. They would export the meat abroad, especially to England.
The most representative pig dealer was Avraham Yekl Bronstein. He was an old bachelor, slovenly dressed, with a wrinkled face. He himself used to tell that during the famous strike in England in 1926, a ship with his pork wasn't unloaded. The meat got foul and he and his partners suffered a great loss.
He lived with his parents well-off people, who had a nice house on Patchtova St. The father, the old Reb Yekl was a Jew from Shpilchev with his own one of a kind principles, not particularly mild ones. It used to be told that his wife had a hard time getting him to change his underwear at least once a week. But Yekl didn't want to obey her.
It's not necessary to change underwear weekly. What am I, a child? Have I filled my pants?
Jews used to repeat the story and add: Correct!
Avraham Yekl's son was a genteel young man, never bothered anyone and contributed I believe for communal needs or gave an alm if asked.
We heard his name mentioned a few years ago in connection with very tragic circumstances. The Kishanov Soviet radio announced (afterwards so did the telegraph agencies and newspapers) that a terrible speculator had been caught on whom there was found foreign currency and gold. His name: Abrosha Bronstein. He was an old bachelor, lived alone and didn't socialize, was miserly. He admitted that he used to deal in illegal (black) exchange in the synagogue. He was sentenced to death and executed.
The execution wasn't simply that of a speculator. In the announcement there was instilled a few drops of antisemetic poison. Reading and hearing about this tragedy my heart pained me. The episode and that person are also a part of the Jewish diaspora-destiny.
Water Carriers and Wagoners
These were two trades in which tens of Jews were occupied, not of the upper class. Amongst the wagoners there were several classes; owners of horses and wagons, who had hired shmeisers (wagon drivers) because they themselves never went driving. Those who rode with their own horse and carriage and those who handled the horse and wagon for others. There were also carters. There was one wagoner who thought he was high and mighty not an ordinary wagoner The various gentiles and the Christians used to call the wagoner balahorrchik. This wagoner used to have publicity sheets printed in Russian, as follows: Intelligent Igvanchik.
Zalmen, the wagoner, was also called Zalmen Parech because of his large bald head that reached down to over his ears. His hat he used to wear pulled down over his ears, both summer and winter. Zalmen used to brag that he doesn't have to buy a hat. He gets them free. How?
Illustration by Peretz Weinreich
When, in Zalman's wagon there sat someone who had just arrived in town, a man with a nice hat, Zalman would act smart and take off the man's hat and put it on his own head When the stranger would start to get mad at the mean gesture and for the chutzpah, Zalman would answer. Take your old hat and don't make such a racket.
But when Zalman uncovered his bare head on which there were wrinkles and signs of healed sores, the passenger, of course, didn't want to take the hat back, because a hat that had been on Zalman parech's head, nobody wanted to don on his own head.
Zalman got drowned in a flood into which he fell, together with his horse and wagon somewhere between Yedinitz and the train station.
With the arrival of autos and autobuses the fate of the wagoners went downhill.
Our childish fantasy, however, teased the water-carriers. Why? Because their water-carrying was dramatic. During the winter frosts long icicles would hang down from their barrels and cans, just as they did from the roofs. The water-carrier who generally wore a short pelt/jacket and high leather boots, would put the cans down and start to slap his hand and try to warm himself. When it was muddy he would shout loudly in order to hurry the horses, so that they would pull the heavy load further. Vyo, n'veilah, Vvyo pgirah, you've stuffed yourself with oats, so do something.
From hiding some pranksters would play a trick on the water-carrier and pull out the cork from the barrel He cursed and went to the house of the mshumad to collect for the damage, that the prankster had caused.
An unwritten law was: during a fire the water carriers were obliged to arrive with full barrels of water for putting out the fire. Later they would go to the neighbors of the burnt premises and request payment because they were the ones who benefited.
And we especially envied the little Feisl who helped his Zaide, the water-carrier, to hold the whip and even to pull the reins and drive the horses. His Zaide had provided two small dippers for Feisl, in order to slowly introduce him pedagogicall to the trade. Feisl's mother had given birth to him without chupah and kidushin (out of wedlock) from a wealthy son of parents whom she worked for as a servant. He grew up hefker (randomly). He didn't learn any Yiddeshkeit in cheder The cheder boys used to call him mamzeruk so his grandfather took him in hand .
Feisl wasn't drawn to his grandfather's trade, however. Summertime he wanted to play with nuts, and winter—to skate on the ice. The Zaide could always be heard shouting, Feisl, Feisl, where are you? The horses have gone wild.
And when Feisl appeared the Zaide would scold and curse him and end with the desperate finale:
Oy Feisl, Feisl If you ever become a mensch you'll sit with me on the wagon. If not, I'll give you away, to hell, to tailor.
Feisl, already a grown youth, became, so I was told, quite a bigshot in the lagers/camps of Balta, Transnistria. The end was that he disappeared. It is told that he perished at the hands of the Germans.
The Rov and the Rebbitzin
First there were only dayanim (religious judges) in Yedinetz. Afterwards a Rov was selected and brought down. Michael Burshhein, or Meckel the Rov, as he was called.
and they pulled the plug out of the barrel.
Illustration by Peretz Weinreich
He used to daven in our Husyatin prayerhouse, and after a minor dispute his true character emerged. The young members thought very highly of him. He was handsome, tall, clean, his silk capote always shone because of his good care, he was very trendy. He elicited respect not only from the Jews but from the goyimas as well. Even the chief Postmaster and other authorities showed him respect.
He's not your ordinary run-of-the-mill Rov, his young followers boasted.
The elders, on the contrary, didn't think very highly of him. He's too grand, over dresses, is snobby not at all the way a Rov should be
Michael used to like to chum around with the young men. He also liked to read secular books, even took an interest in astronomy and even liked to study Newton's law of gravity and other such wonders and that shy one blurted out:
Don't think that the non believers don't have facts on which to base their beliefs.
But immediately he caught himself that he had said something unwise to express
and attempted to correct himself.
But, on the other hand we can respond to them that (and at this point he quoted all kinds of familiar religious quotations).
He was a good speaker and used to mix in many interesting words, cultural, psychological, logistic, philosophical etc.
Yedinitz was proud of him. His son became Rov in Botchan, Old Rumania and in the shtetl his religious learnedness was often mentioned as was his general knowledge and his business sense. He died in Israel (read about this in another portion of the book). On Simchas-Torah the Rov used to cover his head with his tallis, take a Torah and dance with it. He danced excitedly, bowing here and there just like a ballet dance.
It would happen that Jews sometimes needed documents so that a Ukrainian could for example become a citizen, etc. The local judge used to issue such documents. He was incidentally, quite a bribe taker. Usually there were Jews in the judiciary who would, for a small fee, give advice on any matter demanded a sacramental oath: that the witness should swear, in front of the Rov, that he's telling the truth.
Once, such a witness had to bear witness for a Jew who had to legalize himself the Rov knew this as did the judge, but for a bribe he kept quiet. That's why he called upon the rov to put the responsibility on him.
So Michael, the Rov, opened the Tanach, donned his tallis and accepted the swearing of the witness with these words:
Don't answer your neighbor falsely, but if you must
Actually the Rov took this swearing oath upon himself, forgiving the man, in order to save a Jewish soul.
The Rebbetzin was someone special. She was a tzadkanit: (saint), active in the community, a kind soul. Of interest is the committee that she established: Malbish Arumim (Clothing the Poor). She gathered around herself some twenty or so girls who used to go around to the houses on Friday to collect donations for the Rebbetzins Committee Erev Pesach and erev the High Holidays she used to go to the yard-goods storekeepers in order to buy from them yellow linen. The girls used to sew shirts and underwear and the rebbetzin used to distribute it amongst the poor. This was holy work for her as it was for all inhabitants of the shtetl.
We, young people, tried from time to publish journals, hectographic ones, around 20-30 copies at once. Contents consisted of literary works, songs, poems, meditations. One such journal was called Funkn (Sparks). Somewhere I still have a few pages of the first issue. No well-known writers emerged from these debut attempts.
Mainly Kishinev newspapers were read. Russian and Yiddish ones. First Der Yid (The Jew) and later Undzer Tzeit (Our Times). From a journalistic point of view the Russian newspapers were better with more news and more sensationalism. Later we began to read Rumanian newspapers from Bucharest. Though it sometimes took five days for the Bucharest papers to reach us, the news in them was still fresher than in the Yiddish papers of Kishinev.
For the Yiddish papers the subscription would usually be shared by two and sometimes even three. It would go from neighbor to neighbor. There was one neighbor who didn't take the papers all week, only on the Sabbath. Shimon, the gazetchik used to be the treasurer for the subscribers. Later a collector would arrive. Shimon would also let people read the papers. He also dealt with the Russian and Rumanian press that one could also get to read for a third of the price of a newspaper.
Shimon understood to whom to give the most recent papers and to whom he could give a paper from the past week. Gentiles would, sometimes during one of their holidays, buy a Russian or Rumanian paper so if Shimon had such, he would even sell them a paper that was a year old. The goy was happy because he got the newspaper dirt cheap.
Amongst all the other interesting parnoses (livelihoods) there was also the parnose of limenik. He used to bring from the large city a few cases of lemons to sell, going from house to house. Lemons were used with tea as well as to revive someone who had fainted. Pieces of lemon peel used to be stirred into preserves. This fellow would also deal with oranges which were sent at Purim for Shalach-Mones. Also various fruits that were brought from Eretz Israel for Chamisha-Osar B'Shvat. Also peanuts to crack on Shabbes one could get from him. This fellow had extra income from selling the boards of the cases of lemons and oranges. They were made from solid wood that were used as chopping boards. Quite a few housewives owned chopping boards that they purchased from Limenik.
I won't name the girl. For the sake of my telling, I'm describing a certain type, a naïve girl .let's call her Chavaleh after the first woman on earth (Eve). She was naïve and therefore an old maid. Her father would send her to a neighbor to ask for a loan or for an interest free loan. Her mother would send her to borrow some parsnip, some sour-salt or a stick of cinnamon. When she would come into the house of the tailor, Maier Kapendis, a smart Jew, a kibitzer, he tempted her to drink a glass of whiskey that was ready on the table to serve to some goyim who were coming to pick up some tailoring he had done for therm. Maier Kapendis told her to taste it.
No, why not? he asked her when she refused.
Foolish girl Maier persuaded her. Have some. Why leave the whiskey for the Kaporanik.
Chavaleh took a glass. The second glass also. Then the third one When she went out of the tailor's shop she staggered and couldn't walk.
Her mother wanted to kill herself when she saw her daughter in such a shape
Woe is me.. What happened to you? her mother asked, wringing her hands.
Mama, Chavaleh declared, it's nothing. It was simply a waste to leave the whiskey for the Kapornik
It's not desirable to hear repeated the curses that Chavaleh's mother poured out on the head of the mean tailor.
When Chavaleh was already not so young she suddenly got a groom, an out-of-towner, a handsome fellow with a head of black hair, fashionably dressed, leather belt, patent leather shoes the whole bit. Chavaleh's father promised a good dowry He sold everything to put together the dowry money.
So the groom would go with Chavaleh into a room with no windows and close the door. Mother and father stood outside and wrung their hands.
What can they be doing there so long?
In a little while the groom and the bride came out of the room flushed and sweating.
When the mother remained along with Chavaleh she tremblingly asked: Chavaleh, what was going on so long?
Mama, Chavaleh told enthusiastically, he loves me so much that he actually kissed me.
In a few days the groom convinced his future father-in-law to give him part of the dowry money in order to do some business. The father let himself be convinced. The groom, with part of the dowry in his pocket, got on a carriage-wagon in order to return in a few days with goods.
He disappeared to the present day Chavaleh believed that something happened to him because how could he run off? After all, he loved her so much that he even kissed her.
Reb Moteleh Klugman was short. He also distinguished himself with his uniqueness of speaking when he spoke to the goyim—the customers in his yard-goods store when they bargained about the price. He wanted to show them with wisdom and in a gemara cadence, that he can't lower his price. He would use this language, a mixture of Yiddish and Goyish:
Dake nu tie unkapike zarbotais to sidks ie treigesh na sciete un vidke am se am na Shabbis?
Such a Scandal
Dr. Paul Baratov came to the shtetl with his theater group. He performed serious plays. One of the performances was The Father by Strindberg. In the play there is the famous scene where he father throws on his wife, who wants to drive him crazy, a burning lamp. Baratov—as the father—threw the lamp very ingeniously and that electrified the audience in the hall. I remember that I also was aghast. But suddenly a woman arose from amidst the audience and shouted out her reflex.
Such a scandal in front of so many people..Fie. A decent person doesn't do such a thing.
You Remember our House?
Illustration by Peretz Weinreich
Here in Israel someone from Yadenitz met me; she arrived after the war. She complained to me that she and her family had been given poor housing and indication of which is that in their bathroom the wall is only tiled half way up etc. This was accompanied by a deep sigh:
Yosl, Yosl, I don't have to tell you how nicely we lived back home
Certainly I remember!
Her father was a rimmer, in good-spirit he was called Khayim Zodik.]
Their dwelling was opposite the church. It consisted of two rooms. In the front room there stood a sewing machine. Light entered from outside only when the shutter was opened. A few steps down one went into a shop from the shop one went up three or four stairs into the one room in which they lived. There there were a pair of beds for the parents and a few couches for the children.
In this room there were no windows. The houses in this row had no yard or indoor toilets. If one needed one took the special pot and went down to the basement with it If one saw that the shanty door to the basement was open it was a sign that somebody was there with their pot. Then the pot was brought up from the cellar, covered with paper, or not one looked around right and left to make sure that nobody was passing by, and then cast the contents out onto the street .
In front of the shop there was a container of water. Beside it, on a footstool, a tin
clean water, one was already not so careful
Whether I remember how nice her dwelling was in Yedinitz?! And how And here she is complaining about a bathroom in an apartment that she was housed in.
Illustration by Peretz Weinreich
A Perfect Carpenter
The leader in the carpenter shop of Hekhalutz in Yedinitz was a short and stubby man who was called Benny Beich (Pot-bellied Benny). He used to teach the halutzim carpentry and also look after the operation that produced furniture. Once it was decided that we also should learn carpentry and thus be drawn into Hechalutz.
Benny was a joker and was constantly wisecracking. One he said to someone:
Do you know carpentry? How to zegen (saw) you know ever since you used to zaig nurse at your mother's breast and you also know how to put one foot into bed, even two so you're a true carpenter.
by Asher Goldenberg
Translated from the Hebrew by Naomi Gal
|My second hometown, where I spent eleven years of my life from a young age, left me with memories and pictures of characters whose personalities emit rays of a special light and therefore, should be memorized in a book.
I would like to describe three clans, three great pillars of the Jewish community in Yedinitz. These are the families of Lipa Schorr, Nissan Weissman, and Yaakov Dorf.
Let me begin with the extensive Schorr Family which I joined when I married Pearl, who was called Pearl Schorr even after her marriage.
The Red Meir
I did not personally know Meir, the grandfather of my wife, Pearl Schorr. I heard stories about him that were often told by my family members and veteran Yedinitz natives. The man, who was very popular and greatly influenced the village's residents, came from Podolia, next to Bessarabia, when he was young. He taught Torah and Talmud to the town's youngsters, and they nicknamed him Meir der Roiter, Meir the Red, due to his red beard and his healthy pinkish complexion, unlike the usual Melamed, who was skinny and pale. Meir had lots of energy and initiative and dealt with barters between Yedinitz and the villages in Podolia, his birthplace. He used to take agriculture products to Podolia, which were abundant in Bessarabia, and bring back from there different merchandise. For instance, he was the first to introduce in Yedinitz the oil lantern and he also established the first press for olive oil production.
Meir was not successful in business, so whenever he was in debt he would go back to teaching until he paid off his debts, and so he continued all his life: as a merchant and a teacher.
When I came to Yedinitz in the sixth year of the current century (editor's note: 1906), Meir the Red was already dwelling with heaven residents for about twenty years, still, the plant residents in the village never stopped talking about him with delight and warmth. They remembered this Torah scholar, robust, and always willing to bestow his strength and energies on the suffering and poor, although he himself had livelihood struggles.
Another story was about the riots in Balta, his hometown, during the eighties of the previous century (editor's note: 1880s). A rumor spread in town that the local hooligans and gypsies were getting organized to attack the Jews. The frightened Jews began running; old, young, women, and children to the synagogue street, among them, was Meir the Red and his family.
Once they arrived there, his family sensed that he intended to leave them with the crowd and return to the village. They started to cry, holding on to his coat to prevent him from leaving but he took off his capote, left it in the hands of his weeping daughters, forcefully yanked a wooden rod from a fence, and begun running and screaming: Jews, do not let yourselves be slaughtered! When the young people saw Meir the Red yelling with a rod in the hand, all the butchers, laborers, and those Jews who were strong attacked the rioters who were already breaking windows and beat them with vengeance. Since then, the hooligans and the bullies were afraid of the Jews.
He was a man who knew how to turn religious fanaticism and judgment into forgiveness and compassion. When he once noticed his wife congregating with other women in the street, animatedly arguing, he understood that something unusual occurred. When she returned home, he asked her what happened, and she responded stuttering and embarrassed: Why should you be interested? The daughter of Hirsch the tailor gave a harlot's birth.He told her at once: Go, Hannah, slay a chicken, cook a soup, and take it to the woman who just gave birth, to fortify her, since she is Jewish and suffering. We should not judge her.
On Shabbat evenings when leaving the synagogue, he used to run to all the town's synagogues and check if there were any poor, visitors, or others who were not dining at one of the landlords, and quite often, he would gather a whole group of poor people and went knocking on the landlords' doors asking them to accept one at their table, and those who were left without a place to dine, he would take to his home for the Shabbat.
Once, when he was already old, on a Passover Evening, he was about to lead the family Seder at the house of his eldest daughter, but after the prayers, Meir disappeared and did not come back from the synagogue. The family members were worried, they put on their boots and went out to search for their father in the empty streets, typical for a Seder night. Next to the corner leading to the synagogues' street they saw a young man walking alone. He told them that he saw Meir carrying a poor man on his shoulders. A few minutes later the old man appeared, and it turned out that he ran, like he always did, to check the synagogues in case there were homeless people, and indeed, he found a traveler who was sick. Since the man was too weak to walk, he carried him on his shoulders. At first, he intended to bring him to his own house but fearing the irritation of his family members, he decided to find someone else who would be willing to treat the man for a fee. But many refused. Finally, he found a widow who agreed to take care of the poor man but demanded three rubles in cash, a large sum in those days. Since Meir had no money, he took off his holy day coat and left it with the woman as a guaranty until he could pay her back.
He was unable in his lifetime to fulfill his dream to re-build in an abandoned building in his backyard a shelter for the poor. However, when he was sick during the cholera epidemic in 1885 and felt his end is nearing, he asked his friends who gathered in his house, to estimate the value of the house he wanted to build as a shelter for the poor. He ordered Osnat, his oldest daughter, to bring the sum of money that was set and ordered her to establish a shelter for the poor after his death. He died while holding the money in his hand. His daughter Osnat, who inherited his vigor and his good qualities, executed his will.
Lipa Schorr, Meir the Red's oldest son-in-law, was a very interesting character with superb qualities, a Torah scholar, an expert on holy writings, serving as arbiter in religious debates when the rabbi was out of town. Despite being wealthy, he was like a brother and a friend to the common people. They all came to him for advice, trusting his logical mind and honesty. He was always willing to help and was charitable to his neighbors and friends, although he was not at all a spender. Despite being God-fearing and traditional, he was a freethinker by nature and loved to browse educational and philosophy books that came his way. He especially liked reading the book Each Generation and its Scholars by Isaac Hirsch Weiss, and then discuss it with us, arguing Weiss' advanced ideas. But in his debates with us, who were open-minded, he always tried to stay tolerant and logical. He had a great talent for expressing himself and was an impressive partner for discussions.
During World War I, refugees from Bessarabia-Bukovina, as the Jews called the north of Hotin District next to the Austrian border, arrived at our town after being forced to leave their homes by orders from the Russian army commanders. Lipa organized a committee to assist the refugees and managed the fundraising and distribution among the needy with the help of his friends. His right arm man was Issical Yankevshayas, a brilliant yeshiva student, respectable, a well-tempered scholar, one of the Kishinev's Yeshiva alumnae. In his conversations, he liked to lay out plans for preventing wars in the world. He believed that if all governments cut the customs tax limitations and conducted a free commerce among them, the war in the world would end. I, on the other hand, was close to a socialist worldview, argued that if money rules the world, wars will not end. Now and then, interesting, and animated discussions about it flared up.
World War I ended for our town with riots against the Jews. At the beginning of December 1917, the Christian suburb inhabitants robbed all businesses of the commercial center with the help of the soldiers, who were staying in town on their way back from the front. One evening we found out that the suburb inhabitants and the soldiers were getting ready, and most probably, something would happen. Under my father-in-law's store was a secret cellar that was difficult to discern for a stranger. We, the young ones, decided to take the merchandise down to the cellar.
When my father-in-law came back from the synagogue he stopped us, claiming that the merchandise is registered in the local Soviet bureau and that if they came to check it and did not find the merchandise, they would begin with riots and raid all the commercial centers. He made us bring back up everything from the cellar. And indeed, that same evening, my father-in-law's store was the first one to be robbed. Afterward, all the stores in the commercial center were robbed, as well as the wooden stores on the old square, which were raided and then burned.
When we went out to the square that night, we found my father-in-law lit by the burning shops, having a philosophical discussion about the world and the meaning of life.
Lipa Schorr's only son was Neta. Despite his success in business after World War I, he did not abandon the good qualities he inherited from his father. He was a popular man and very outgoing. While still young, he was attracted to Zionism and, after the war, encouraged the Zionist endeavor with his generous donations to funds, and his assistance, to pioneers who had a training center in our town. In 1929, when he celebrated his 50th birthday at a party with friends in his hometown, he was already a Kishinev citizen. His native friends inscribed him in the Golden Book in appreciation of his Zionist activities.
In 1932, he organized a group in Bessarabia that signed a contract with the Yachin Company to plant in Israel two hundred and forty dunams of orange orchards worth about twenty thousand sterling. The group had twenty members, seven of them from our family, who were getting ready to settle in Israel once the orchards bore fruits.
In 1939 Mandil, Neta's youngest son received a visa for Israel because of the money his father invested there. He graduated from a medical school in Europe and enlisted in the British army.
When World War II broke, the Yachin Company ended their tending of the orchards, which were passed on to the family members.
Then came the turn of Neta himself to make Aliyah, but the Mandate Government did not grant certificates back then. With the help of the writer Nathan Bistritzky, who took the case to Menachem Ussishkin, he was given a certificate as a Veteran Zionist.
After Passover of that year, Neta and his wife arrived in Israel. He could even bring Meir, his oldest son, to Israel. Meir left Kishinev one day before the occupation of Bessarabia by the Soviet Union. Neta was lucky to reach an old age in Israel. He was respected by all who knew him in Givatayim. A few years ago, Neta Schorr and his wife died of old age in Israel, as well as Meir, their son, who died in Israel during the sixties. As for the rest of the family, some perished in the Holocaust and others stayed in the diaspora.
The Pearl Family and Asher Goldenberg
Another branch of the family, Asher Goldenberg and his wife Pearl, who was called in town Pearl Schorr, came to Israel in 1934 with their three daughters. Pearl planed the family's Aliyah two years in advance when she traveled to Israel during the Maccabiah. The family arrived at Hadar-Am, a middle-class settlement next to Kefar-Haim in Emek-Hefer. Three out of the eighty families that were going to settle there arrived. The orange orchards were in fact cultivated by the Yachin Company and the fruits were marketed by Tnuva. The whole village was covered with wild weeds and so it remained that way until the War of Independence. After the war, new settlers arrived, and nowadays there are about 70 families there. At the present, Hadar-Am is considered a thriving Moshav. Until 1950, when his lungs were affected, Asher worked as a farmer in the orchard milking the cows and raising poultry. When he lost his eyesight, he went on for several years feeding the chicken and performing easy farmer's tasks while continuing his literary and scientific research. His first article, Reading Rambam Theories, was published in the Davar newspaper in 1955. In 1961 he published a compilation of reviews articles in the Hearing Ear booklet, and an essay, A Proposal to Reconstruct Job's Poetry, was published at the same time. Lately, his book Rhythm and Meanings in the Bible came out and received positive reviews from critics and Israeli scientists
Pearl and Asher's devotion to implementing Zionism and to Hebrew culture was transmitted to their three daughters, who gained Hebrew knowledge while still abroad.
The daughters Osnat, Rivka, and Hannah graduated from high school in Israel and were active in the Haganah, and later in the War of Independence. One daughter is a member of the Moshav Merhavia and another one is a lawyer.
Penina Goldenberg (Pearl Schorr) died in a nursing home in Tel Aviv and was buried at the Moshav Hadar-Am on March 2, 1972. We lost a wonderful role model, a wife, and a mother. She was among the builders of the Zionist Movement in Yedinitz and spoke Hebrew from her youth.
In the last two years, Asher and Pearl Goldenberg lived in a nursing home in Ramat-Aviv, where Pearl died.
Nissan Weisman's family
Nissan Weisman was tall and slender, assertive, with a convincing booming voice, and shining, hypnotizing eyes. His enthusiasm was passed onto his descendants. While he was immersed in Chassidic devotion and was faithful to the rabbi's court in Sadigura, his children were engaged in Zionist and cultural activities that developed in town between the two World Wars. Very much liked by everyone was Nissan's oldest daughter Bat-Sheva Kliger, who funneled all JNF activities among the women in Yedinitz, and her house was a center of Zionist and cultural activities in town. Bat-Sheva had three talented sons. Two of them made Aliyah as pioneers. Yosef, the oldest, left his studies at Ia?i University, made Aliyah, and worked for decades as a farmer in the Moshav Ein-Iron. Nissan's oldest son married Lipa Schorr's oldest daughter. Nachum's house was the second home for the family and also a center for the Zionist activity in the village.
Still remembered are the balls and parties that took place in this house when visitors from Israel arrived, like the singer Friedman-Lvov, the actress Miriam Bernstein-Cohen, and others. They moved most of their family to Israel and purchased an orange orchard from the Yachin Company, but did not get to Israel on time. They found their tragic end in the Transnistria diaspora.
Last but not least, the youngest son Avraham inherited his father's sharp and critical tongue and his stormy and bubbly temperament. As a young man, Avraham was bright and studied the Torah with devotion given to extreme piety, with a tendency to mystery and asceticism. He objected to Zionism when he was young and was even granted a slap from Mordechai Schnidelman, the Zionist educated tailor in town, due to some disrespect he expressed about Zionism on the day Herzl died, when he was 12 years old.
Growing up, he went through all the stages of searching for a new modern God when he was affected by Hebrew and Russian literature, which both influenced him in a harsh and complicated way. When he could not find his equilibrium during his adolescence between the two World Wars, he poured his fiery spirit into the Zionist activity in his hometown and Zionist centers in Bessarabia and Bukovina, Kishinev, and Czernowitz. He made Aliyah close to World War II. He stayed alone all his life and died during the first years of the State of Israel.
In 1934, Yosef, Nahum Weisman's son, made an illegal Aliyah. At first, he worked in Haifa in the construction industry and became at once a Haganah member. When World War II broke, he responded to the Jewish organizations' call and volunteered for the British army. He served in Egypt, where he married a woman from a Jewish Cairo family. When he returned from the war, he settled in Jerusalem and continued his activities in the Haganah. During the War of Independence, Yosef fought as an officer in the IDF defending Jerusalem during the difficult days of the siege. As a reserve officer, he fought in the Sinai War, and in the Six-Day War, he took part in the occupation of Jericho. Nowadays, he is a commercial manager of the Taham Company, which markets kibbutz products, and he is an active member of the United Laborer Party.
Meir, Yosef's brother, was a jurist, and during World War II he and his wife took part in the Evacuation Plan in the Land of Israel. When he returned to Romania, he was active in Bucharest as the Union secretary and helped to organize the Aliyah from Romania after the War of Independence. He arrived in Israel as a delegate of the Union Secretaries of the Diaspora. In 1950 he received an immigration permit from Romania and made Aliyah with his wife and only daughter. Meir is active in the Labor Party among Romanian emigrants, and as a lawyer in his private practice.
Lea, their sister, arrived in Israel in 1937 with the pioneers' Aliyah of Hashomer Hatzair. She settled in the Kibbutz Ruhama and is the mother of three sons.
The two sons of Michal and Bat-Sheva Kliger made Aliyah as well as the grandchildren of Nissan Weisman. In 1923 Yosef Kliger settled in the Moshav Ein-Iron. His son, who was born close to the day Ahad Ha'am died, bears the famous writer's name. He too established a farm in Ein-Iron. His daughter studied sociology and Peretz Kliger is in Pardes-Hanna.
The family Dorf-Kafri
Shmuel Dorf, the son of R' Yankel Kazelaver, a distinct Chassid of the Sadigura Chassidic dynasty, was one of the three establishers of the Yedinitz families who were considered the three pillars of the Chassidic and Torah in Yedinitz. Shmuel inherited his energy and wisdom from his grandfather.
Shmuel grew up in an ultra-orthodox house and studied for a while when he was young in the Mogilev Yeshiva on the Dniester River. He went through all the phases of the educated and advanced men in the village at that time, and eventually, he found himself at the Halutz home in Kishinev and made Aliyah with the group from Bessarabia-Ukraine, a group that arrived in Israel in 1920. In 1921 he changed his name to Kafri.
Kafri knocked on Israel's gates when the Aliyah was stopped by Herbert Samuel, the first British Commissioner in Judea after the riots in Jaffa and Jerusalem. It is the year known as Stop Immigration.
Kafri's group was sent to Alexandria and arrived in Israel only a few months later. Kafri was one of the laborers of Hadera. He worked in Hadera's orange orchards, went through the deliberations every Hebrew laborer went through back then, of lack of work and grueling work, all at once. He immediately stood out as a diligent laborer, an expert in the different branches of agriculture, and was well-liked by his employers.
With his savings, he bought a piece of land, built a house with his wife, who was born in Israel and was the niece of Eliyahu Hazanov from Gedera, and could develop a thriving dairy industry. With time, they could use their savings to purchase orchards in Hadera, which they mainly cultivated themselves.
Kafri had three children, they are well known in Hadera as a working family, and as respected citizens of their city.
by Asher Goldenberg
Translated from the Hebrew by Naomi Gal
|Close to my father-in-law's house lived together two in-laws: Elia-Liebe and Moshe'le Yizis, whose life stories were full of moral content. Elia-Liebe was a grocery merchant and sold honey and wax. He was medium built, with a small thin beard, his face always happy. Moshe'le, on the other hand, was a peddler, traveling with his wagon from one village to another, buying grain from the farmers. He had a large innocent face and an impressive beard, comparing to his small stature.|
Both were Jews who knew well the Talmud, both traveled to the same Rabbi, and hence became such close friends that while still young made a match pact that Avraham, Elia-Liebe's only son, would marry Moshe'le's daughter. The groom and the bride were then one year old. The matchmaking went well. When they grew up, the son and daughter married and lived in peace and quiet under Elia-Liebe's roof, who meanwhile lost his wife and managed the store with his son. But then, World War I broke out. Avraham, who had to enlist, worked in an ammunition factory in Russia. There he entered a public bath, got burned by steam, and died.
Elia-Liebe continued to run the store with his daughter-in-law and her little son from Avraham. Soon after, Elia-Liebe's grandson, Avraham's son, fell in the street, hurt his head, got meningitis, and died. Instead of sending his daughter-in-law away so that she would not inherit his other grandsons' heritage, who also lived in Yedinitz and were part of his household, he invited Moshe'le, his in-law, to live with him, since he was by now too old to travel from village to village. With him came his wife and all their daughters. He welcomed his in-law's cow as well, who remained Moshe'le's only source of income. They all lived in the same house in harmony and peace, and Elia-Liebe, despite all the disasters, went to the Husatian synagogue across the street with a happy face and continued to study the Talmud as if nothing had happened. He begun to worry that his daughter-in-law would not remarry, and promised to host the man, too, as long as he would be honest, religious, and educated.
One day, a Yeshiva student arrived in Yedinitz, and the young widow agreed to marry him.
But the new husband turned out to be lazy, and the woman was smart. The marriage failed, and the couple divorced.
The widow married a third time, to Kalman, her brother-in-law, who lost his wife, her sister, leaving him with six children. Kalman was not ignorant but was considered a heretic since as a young man he was part of a revolutionary party. Elia-Liebe gave up on the principle of being a religious man so that his daughter-in-law could be happy. Finally, Kalman and his six children moved to Elia-Liebe's house, and they all lived together. Harmony reigned in that house. The two in-laws, the nimble, happy Elia-Liebe and Moshe'le the innocent, the small man with his gray beard, walking together morning and evening to the synagogue, learning the Torah, and praying. Even Kalman, the heretic, began going to the synagogue on Shabbat with his Tallit, showing respect for the elders.
A few days after Kalman married Itta, the forests where Kalman worked were closed due to Bessarabia agrarian laws and Kalman became unemployed. Since he was known as a trustworthy money expert, he became a partner and a director in the Hotin district of lime incinerators and made a good living.
At the beginning of the thirties, Kalman's three daughters made Aliyah. The oldest settled in Gan Yavne and the two younger ones in Avooka's Group. Later, two of his sons made Aliyah, too. In the winter before the riots of 1936, Kalman and his youngest son came to Israel to see if he could make a living here.
At that time, I was living in Haifa, and he came to see me and said he is afraid to be a burden on his daughters since he is not as strong as he was. We decided to meet after Passover in Tel Aviv and that I would talk to the manager of the lime incinerators in Migdal Zedek, who was my relative, to check if he could give him a job as an expert. However, when I arrived in Tel Aviv, they were bringing the dead bodies from Jaffa. Kalman could not come from Gan Yavne, where he was spending Passover with his daughter. In the morning, when I went out to Allenby Street, I learned bad news from my relative, the manager from Migdal Zedek s: the lime facility was burned down by Arab rioters. In that first summer of 1936, Kalman went back to Yedinitz and continued his work as the manager of the lime incinerators. His five pioneer children are nowadays in different regions of Israel, part of the labor and the creative life of the country.
by Pinchas Mann
Translated from Hebrew by Yariv Timna
Elickel Shraier passed away. At the time he was standing at street corners with a drum, announcing the Mikvah is ready for its clients, a new tasty herring is in some shop, or a guest Chazan will pray at some synagogue. Two people were battling for his position as the town announcer: Avraimel Shraier and Leib Shraier.
It's hard to tell who ordained them this job, what school taught them pronunciation and voice development. Anyway, it was very seldom the town's people understood what they were saying, and false rumors abounded.
It was customary to send the announcer to talk before sundown, when the farmers left town and the bored Jews were sitting at their storefronts, their hearts ready for the news. This made it possible for announcers to work at two jobs. Avraimel was selling pretzels in the mornings, and Leib was selling Quas-nitzas (pickled apples).
Avraimel was a tall Jew, without teeth and always in a hurry. At dawn, he went through town streets calling Frishe bagel, get yours! without stopping for a moment. After waking up everyone and making them angry, he stopped. At times he would turn around and kept selling his pretzels, which were always fresh and tasty.
Leib was short and broad-shouldered, with one eye and a face full of holes, showing his parents did not vaccinate him against smallpox. He walked slowly. Before announcing the news, he would put one foot forward, hands on his sides, a look of importance on his face, as if his words were very crucial to town people.
Even when it was already customary to hang signs on the streets, no one thought to give up the announcers, just as no decent society in America would settle for a newspaper ad and give up television.
I don't know if they had a union. But I do know prices were fixed and agreed upon by both. I do remember two exceptional cases.
The first case was when they had a competition, and both agreed on half price. It was short and settled quickly. The second case was in autumn when a famous Vilna band showed in town, and the mud was as it is during autumn. Despite the mud and the dark night, the band was successful, and the hall was full every night. Then the announcers decided to take part in the band's success and income. What did they do? They declared they would not announce the show for less than 400 Lei. It was an unimaginable price, as usually they would announce for 30 50 Lei. When the famous Vilna actor, Stein, heard it, he said that for this price he would announce the show himself. And the deal was done.
Stein did not go all over the streets, only the nearby street, but it was enough. The news that Stein himself will announce the show spread quickly, and many came to the show that night, despite the mud.
Leibel was the regular announcer of the Gordonia organization. Usually, we would get along with him, but one time he insisted, and we had to accept, and so it went:
The organization's leaders concluded with the movement's member, Elkana Margalit, (today a lecturer of political science in Tel Aviv University) to come for a public lecture in town. The lecture was about Modern Psychology or Pseudo-science. We were very impressed with the lecture's name and expected moral and financial success (we were in great need of money for the summer's activities). To give the needed effect on the youth of the town, it was a must that Leibel would announce the lecturer's name and the name of the lecture in fullness. We invited him to rehearse the declaration. After 15 minutes of hard work with no results, when the words Modern Psychology or Pseudo-science came out distorted, as if they were Chinese words, Leibel smiled, sweat pouring down his face, and said: Don't talk nonsense, I am not saying these words. I can say: The world-famous speaker, admission free.
We had no choice but to give him a big sign with the name of the lecture in big red letters, and Leibel went to announce about Modern science to the town.
May this article be a modest monument to a profession and people gone forever with the town and its culture.
by Yosef Diamand
Translated from the Hebrew by Ala Gamulka
|One Sabbath during the winter when the entire surrounding area was covered with thick snow and it was extremely cold, the Jews of Golian came to the home of the elderly couple Berl and Rissel to do the morning prayers. Their house, located at the edge of the courtyard of the farmer Nio, had a long corridor and a large room which served as the dining room, living room, and bedroom - all together in one. Next to it was the kitchen, a small room with an oven. The house stood at the crossroads on the road from the train station of Donduseni towards Yedinitz. Every weekday around ten in the morning, wagons stopped by the house filled with passengers going from Donduseni to Yedinitz. The travelers would go inside to drink something hot and to rest a little from traveling on unpaved roads. It was many years before World War I.|
The only Torah scroll in the village belonged to my father and his brother. It was an inheritance from their father Zvi. They took good care of it. Occasionally, they would take it to Yedinitz to have a scribe check it. When it was the turn of the elderly couple to have the Torah scroll, they welcomed those praying. The four Jewish families in the village took turns keeping the scroll for one year. There was an issue to be solved: how can the scroll be brought to their room, which also is their bedroom? The Shulchan Aruch did not permit it. After a consultation, an idea emerged. They used a cupboard as the Ark, and this was a way to use the room.
That Shabbat, all the Jews of the village assembled. It was after my Bar Mitzvah, and I joined them. In addition, the tailor Motel and a furrier, who worked all week in the farmer's house, came. There were only nine men, and they waited for the arrival of Jews from a nearby village, Ruseni. These were the old Moshe-Leib, his sons Zvi and Reuven, and Fishel, son of Hodel. They always joined the Minyan on Shabbat, but because of the bad weather, they did not come. After waiting some time, it was decided to begin the prayers, individually, until Baruch sheamar. When they reached that point, they continued until Nishmat, hoping the tenth man would appear. No one came, and they completely stopped praying. They were sitting, covered with their tallitot and being silent, since after Baruch sheamar one is not allowed to speak.
They had almost despaired and were ready to finish the prayers on their own.
Suddenly, a sled stopped near the house. A man, not looking as if he were one of our own alit. He was clean-shaven, had a mustache, and wore a fur hat on his head. He was wearing an expensive fur coat, the high boots were shining on his legs, had golden rings on his fingers, and a golden chain peeking out of his front pocket where one keeps a watch. He was a real gentleman. This gentleman enters the house, stops near the door, and looks at the men assembled. He is a bit surprised but comes to and says simply: Good Shabbes!
No one said a word, but they bent their heads. Only the lady of the house replied to his greeting and brought him a chair. The gentleman sat on the chair and looked at the Jews enveloped in their tallitot, sitting silently. He, too, kept quiet. After a few minutes he opened his mouth and, in proper acceptable Yiddish, said:
I understand your situation as I see it here. You are only nine Jews who wish to pray together, and you need a tenth for a Minyan. I propose, therefore, that you include me in the Minyan in spite of the fact that I travel on Shabbat.
They were all surprised at what they heard. Doubts and confusion abounded. First, perhaps he is not a Jew but a gentile who knows how to speak Yiddish and knows the customs of the Jews and wants to fool them. If, let us say, he really is a Jew, is it permissible to count a Jew who openly desecrates the Shabbat?
Each one thinks these thoughts in his head, and no one says anything. They move their heads, are lost in thoughts and do not know how to get out of this problem that was caused by the uninvited guest. The guest understood their confusion by seeing their faces and he said:
If you want to know who I am, I am a Jew just like you, from Yedinitz. My family name is Morgenstern. I am the son of so and so and most of you know him. I studied in the cheder in Yedinitz and most of the prayers are well known to me. I know them by heart. As far as I can recall from my studies, it is permissible to count a Jew like me in the Minyan.
It turned out that he really was a native of Yedinitz and had received his education properly, as was the custom in those days. It was also known that when he grew up, he sought a secular education in Russian language. He left Yedinitz and went to the big cities. During his studies, he found himself to be a fortune teller and a guesser of inner thoughts, a palm reader. As such, he paved his way to high society in Tsarist Russia and this fact allowed him to reach Petersburg although it was not permissible for Jews to live in the capital.
It was written up in the newspapers and he was even received by Tsar Nikolai to tell him his fortune. Now, after a long absence from Yedinitz and his family, he decided to stay in Golian until the evening stars came out.
The nine Jews had heard about him and his fame in the great world. By inclining their heads, they showed their approval to count him in the Minyan. The prayer ended with his joining. There was only one restriction to his participation: he was not called up to the Torah, as would have been a regular visitor. He was not allowed to do it because he did not follow the rules of Shabbat.
In the afternoon, when the news of the visitor spread in the entire area, all the Jews of Golian, as well as Ruseni, came to Berl's house. The guest demonstrated his magic powers to them. Finally, the guest remarked:
In the morning, you did not have enough Jews for a Minyan and now, when it comes to showing the powers of Palm Reading, there are more than enough people. It is all my fault.
It is our many sins, replied the elders.
Remarks from the editors:
There is another version of this story that says that the Palm Reader Morgenstern was born in Brichany and not in Yedinitz. The writer Sh. Ernest says that Morgenstern began his career as a bagel seller, and then wandered into villages with his music box. In 1900, he suddenly appeared in Petersburg and enchanted the court of Tsar Nikolai II with his magical powers. Even Rasputin, women of the court, princes, and counts bowed down to him. He also wrote a periodical on Psycho-graphology. During the Russian Revolution, he escaped to America and continued his appearances there. The late author Shlomo Hillel described the fabled character in a wonderful story called The Wandering of a Man (1928).
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