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[Page 447]

“Stories of Life”

by Golda Gutman-Krimmer

Excerpted from the book, Yedinitz, My Home, Buenos Aires, 1946

Translated from the Yiddish by Asher Szmulewicz

Donated by Ed Berkowitz in memory of his Grandparents Rivke and Itzek Berkowitz

The cold weather had already gone away and in the street, there was hard, sticky, and gray mud. Fat Jewish women ran around from house to house with strings around their cotton winter jackets, selling fat geese skins (shmaltz) and the veins of the skinned geese. In the market, teacher assistants were selling red wooden noisemakers for Purim. The sun was bright and warm. The town was preparing for Passover. People were scraping the old paint off the walls in their houses and polishing the brass and copper. Our most beautiful and happiest holiday was Passover.

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Passover Eve

And it is already here, the day of Passover Eve. The sun outside already smells like the beginning of Passover. The tight curtains on the windows and the flowery carpet on the waxed floor also smell like Passover. The silk napkins spread out on the table and the sofa stuffed with the chairs tightly covered with white paint crumpled under slipcovers. The small side table is covered with glassware. From the kitchen comes the Passover smell, of flat potato rolls and hot semolina. The Passover tableware is already unpacked and stands in the wall cupboard. My little glass is over there, a small one, a blue one. I want to touch it. My three little plates with narrow golden rims are looking at me from the cupboard. They are longing for me. The whole year they are stored in the attic, forgotten.

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I climbed sometimes to the attic to smell them in the corner of the Passover tableware and now, it is standing and waits for me.

Above the roofs, the sun stands like a red-hot piece of copper. Jews are clean from top to bottom and run from the bathhouse to their homes. The dirty laundry full of leavened breadcrumbs under their arms is now clean, and they smell festive. The gates and the iron curtains of the stores are already closed. It is late and poor women carry home from the market some garlic and a pound of inexpensively priced fish for the Seder.

[Page 450]

The Seder

There is already a place to lean on the stuffed sofa (you need to lean on the left side to drink the four cups of wine on Passover). The lamp in the corner flashes on the white table with the tall silver candlesticks. There is a glow in my mother's eyes, a silent one, who frightens me like our calm shtetl river. Quietly, the mother sits us down on the small benches around the table. Quietly, she hands our father a sky white linen robe (kittel) with a yarmulke and a new Haggadah.

[Page 451]

With the white linen robe and the yarmulke on his head, my father is more handsome, more important, and quieter. My mother sits by his side with a new robe, which suits her calm, sad face.

The painted lamp which stands in a corner under the door releases a fear. It is so cold and black. It is a big mismatch with the festive whiteness!

“Pour out your wrath...” (extract of the Pesach Haggadah). My father starts reading the Haggadah, and in the room, there is a profound and severe silence. Everybody looks at the open door. I look at the glass of wine prepared for the prophet Eliyahu. I cannot see that we can refuse him something.

[Page 452]

How can a prophet drink so many glasses of wine from so many Seders in half an hour? How does he come so punctually to all Jewish Seders? And other similar questions come to my mind.


Shabbat eve

On Friday evenings, Jews with perfumed beards run from the bath, women run back home with bags full of fruits for Shabbat, including fried fruit pits. Hair washed and dressed up, young women are already strolling in the streets with conical paper bags full of fruit pits. A white half-moon looks down from the sky shining above the hill. The moon arose early, appearing, looking around how the Jews receive the Shabbat in Yedinitz. And now, a tall Jew screams at the top of his lungs: “Jews go to the synagogue!”


[Page 447]

A Wedding in the Shtetl

by Golda Gutman-Krimmer

Translated from the Yiddish by Ala Gamulka

Donated by Allan Ira Bass in memory of his Aunt Anna (aka - Ecu/Genia) Roitman,
her husband Israel (Sol) Goldenberg and their two sons, Nuchem and Avram.

Already quite early, a crowd of poor people, wearing torn shoes, red and brown kerchiefs around their necks, stood around the porch. Filthy shirts stuck out from the encrusted skirts or hairy chests.

“Give something to the poor,” they stretched their hands to Yoske and Rayzl, the bride's parents. “Give us some clothing, we're naked and barefoot.”

Maids had lit large fires on bricks in the courtyard and were placing big, strange things on them. The soups and fish were cooking for the wedding supper.

Bayle, the seamstress, had laid the ironed clothes on the bed and, smiling, called Sorke, “Bride, time to get dressed. It's already three o'clock!”

[Page 448]

On the birch walls of the wooden hut hung black flowered rugs, with green and red roses around the crowded framework, clashing with the deep redness of the braided chains of roses hanging from the ceiling, decorating the walls around the room. In an elevated place, next to the dais, was a little table with a big, silver candlestick in which special wax candles burned, where the bride was seated among bundles of flowers.

Sholom, the joker, a tall, dried up little Jew, lively as quicksilver, with a long neck and a dancing Adam's apple in the very center, with a ragged, thin, little beard, gave counsel to the in-laws, waving his hands.

[Page 449]

“In honor of the father of the bride, Reb Yoske, may his days be long, let a fine 'Mazel Tov' be played!”

Old Jewish men and women, young women in the middle, girls and boys, hands on each other's shoulders, heads raised, danced a Bulgarian hora, weaving and stomping their feet on the trodden grass.

“Sholom, a Rusaka dance!” cried a broad-shouldered Bessarabian, already holding his hands in the air, stomping his feet on the ground, making the walls tremble.

Sholom, an expert at taking money, performed for each of the in-laws separately, old, and young, big and small. It spread about the walls, the courtyard, street trembled with the pounding of feet and the clapping of hands.

- Back from the wedding ceremony-

Yoske walked around among the tables and helped serve the food: roasted and cooked fish, roasted turkey, soup with mandlen, compote and fruit. Klezmer musicians played one freylekhs after another. People clapped and got up from their places.

Stingotsh, whom they had brought to play at the wedding supper, drew his long, bony, trembling fingers over the strings of his fiddle and various melodies were heard.

“Play, Stingotshele, a Jewish piece, a blessing on your gentile head!”

And Stingotsh closed his dark eyes and sounds of weeping, of hatred and bitterness, of pleading and humility, of pain and assurance, bewitched the hall with a deep silence.

[Page 450]

When he opened his closed, dewy eyes, they were greeted by teary Jewish faces. Stingotsh straightened himself up and began to play a soothing song, calm, as after a storm, and the melody became brighter, more comfortable, as though he were God's witness who led them over the quiet waters to still, green fields. The audience began to sigh, “God-given [his musical talent].”

Sholom the Joker stood on a bench in the middle of the room, his head back, swinging his thin neck even more with the excess bit of alcohol that he had drunk, and tried to amuse and awaken the guests.

“Men, women, in-laws on the bride's side—announce your gifts!”

“The bride's parents, may they live long, give five years of support and a half a house,” Sholom cried to everyone.

Sholom threw his head back on all sides, looking for the main in-laws.

“Announce the gifts! Reb Alter, the furrier, and his wife Khantshe, may their days be long, give a thousand Lei. Reb Moishe Oyfer and his wife and six little children, may they be healthy, five hundred Lei!”

In the blue dawn, that in its coolness, dewed under thin gusts of wind like a blue enamel, the sounds of music carried over the quiet streets, accompanying the tired parents, father and mother, and the young dreamy pair, home.


[Page 457]

Purim Party in the school of the teacher Dobrov, 1934/35


[Page 466]

Standing, from right: Mordechai Zamora (Tel Aviv), Meir Yakir (Chernovitz), Aryeh Zamora (Motsa), Breina Reich, may G-d avenge her blood, Gittel Yakir, may G-d avenge her blood, Avraham Gendelman (Paris);
Seated: Sisters Batya Lerner (Israel), Shoshana Lerner (Haifa), Sheindel Gelman, may G-d avenge her blood, Rachel Gelman, may G-d avenge her blood.


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