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[Pages 56 - 58]


Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

Of the specific Jewish dishes that “the average Jew” ate it is worthwhile mentioning kasha – penny, which is black buckwheat cooked together with a certain kind of beans and it was somewhat thick; another very common food was a pot roast. People would dip a bun or roll into the gravy and that was what they would eat on Friday at noon. This was called mandebotchenik. (Others called it 'bulbe' or 'hamor marat').

[A dish was made] from grated potatoes and flour that would be baked in the oven and taken out before the challahs [were put in.] This was another dish people would eat on Friday morning. Since it took long for these dishes to bake, in the meantime, while the wood was burning, women would make little rolls from dough that was called “kolitchen” [small challah rolls.] It was only after the wood was burnt out that the coal was put aside, a place in the oven would be cleaned and then the challahs were put into the hot oven.

There were different styles of Sabbath challahs. One was called a “shtremel kolitch” because it was large and round. It was formed with side rolls, thirteen in number.

The challahs that were baked for the Days of Awe were round rolls with folds in them. At Purim there was a long Purim kolitch with saffron and “moon” [poppy seed] on top.

There was a large variety of kugels for Shabbos. For an ordinary Shabbos people had at least one kugel. But when it was Rosh Hodesh or Yom Tov on that particular Shabbos, women used to make two kugels.

The ordinary ones were “lockshen” [noodle] kugel, which was sweet (with cinnamon and sugar) or with fat. Sometimes they made a rice kugel with apples, sometimes one with coconut oil. The common thing that all these kugels had was that they would be wide on the bottom and narrower on top! The lockshen pan was of such a shape that it would come out like that. They baked it in the oven with the cholent.

At Passover they called the kugel a “kaisel” and it was made from potato.

To prevent the kugel from burning from the great heat in the oven when it was put in, the top would be covered with bits of bread or challah. So naturally at these times, the crumbs would come out completely burnt and the “lockshen teppel” [noodle pan] would be black as coal. Because of this [protection] the kugel itself was delicious! If there was a guest for the meal, they used to say that the kugel was a compliment for the guest.

The kugel played a great role in the life of the Jews. No wonder that there are so many proverbs about the kugel.

When the kugel was not so successful it was said that, “We rejoiced with him like a [bad] kugel.”

Another expression, “If you do not eat kugel for Shabbos, you will go hungry all week.” Every story that was told had to have the following epilogue: Though they have it good, we have it even better. They eat kugel with their hands, we eat kugel with the tip of the knife.

Kugel was the expression of the greatest well - being. If you said of someone that he eats kugel in the middle of the week, you are saying that things could not be better for him.

Kugel was eaten for the mid-day meal on Shabbos, but on Friday evening, tzimmis was eaten, which also came in many varieties: there was one that the intelligentsia called “compote.” For instance during the winter it was made out of dried plums. There was even a tzimmis that was called the Baal Shem Tov Tzimmis. It was made of farfel with fried onions, salt and pepper.

There were different baked goods for every holiday. On Purim they had something called “Purim – grate.” For Shavouth there was cheese kuchen and all kinds of knishes. They had special baked goods associated with family celebrations. At a wedding, for example, they would have sugary sweet cake (for the general crowd) and for special guests, there was a fruit layered cake.

After the morning prayers for a woman giving birth, there would be honey cake. For the children who came to recite a special prayer there was honey cake cut in thick pieces. They also served that for the minyan after the bris and at the naming of a girl.

Men would give a glass of whiskey (the stronger the better) [to everyone] in shul when they had a Yahrzeit. There would be a piece of “eyr kichel” [a plain cookie sometimes called “nothings.”] to have with it.

It is interesting that as small as the shtetls were, in every one there were different kinds of baked goods. In Borchov, for example, there were no bagels. On the other hand, the Jewish bakery there sold pretzels while in Skala that kind was sold in the street. They also had egg bagels that were baked in deep dishes. And of course, there were all kinds of rolls and buns!

[Pages 79 - 89]

How They Spent Leisure Time

By Shlomo Reibel

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

The spiritual pleasures of the Jews of Borchov of those days was primarily derived from the davening [praying] of a guest cantor who would come usually for Shabbos and very seldom in mid-week. One day before the cantor's arrival there would be a notice posted at the little “shteibel” (shul) that for the following Shabbos (mainly the Shabbos before Rosh Hodesh when special prayers were said for the new month), this world famous cantor would be davening. Congregants from other “Bais Medrashim” [houses of worship] would come to hear the cantor. These guests were usually “experts” at assessing how good the cantor was. They would first daven in their own place as usual and after that they would come to hear the special cantor. He, in turn, would stretch out his davening a lot.

Sometimes such a cantor would daven in one place Friday evening and on Shabbos morning at another place! In that way he would attract an even larger audience. Why was he interested in doing this? On Sunday morning he would go around from house to house looking for a contribution. The cantor would get a larger amount of money, if he davened twice, especially if his davening was really great. The cantor would never go alone, but would be accompanied by the Shammas to collect money. The Shammas would act as his spokesman and advertise the cantor. When the cantor came in the middle of the week, he would give a concert after maariv [evening service.] He sang prayers and immediately after the concert would circulate among the crowd to collect money. Sometimes the Shammas would do it for him. The local people would sing his melodies long after his departure. The local cantor would often pick up one of these “nigunim” [melodies] and use it in the High Holiday prayers. Sometimes the cantor would bring in another singer and that was certainly memorable. There was one cantor who came with his son who was five or six years old and the boy was placed on a step stool near where his father davened and he would accompany his father with a “bim bam” and with other techniques, such as repeating words. A modern cantor would wear a taller yarmulke.

Another pleasure was when someone would come to deliver a sermon. He would speak Saturday afternoon in the large shul. After eating the mid-day meal (the kugel) and after a nap, everyone, including women, would go to hear the special speaker. This man would be expert at really touching the people, especially if he spoke during the ten Days of Awe that were between Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. He also would go around to the houses on Sunday morning to collect money. The Shammas would accompany him.

Another kind of pleasure, a secular one, was when a performer came to a home and a lot of neighbors would gather. This man could speak using several voices. Sometimes he would cry like a child and sometimes shout like a father, sometimes he would cry like a mother. He would perform whole skits all by himself. He would not stand in one place, but moved around the house where the people were.

From time to time gypsies would come [to the market] with a bear that danced. The gypsies would have a flute and drum and they would accompany the bear that actually danced to the melody. In more recent years, the gypsies used to travel with a monkey instead of a bear.

Occasionally, someone with an accordion would come and stand in the middle of the shtetl and all the youngsters would gather around. He would sometimes have a parrot. If people wanted to know what the future held in store for them they paid a few

“groshen” [pennies] and this parrot would give them little notes. Mostly non-Jewish women and Jewish housemaids used to come to get one of these. They could not read, so they would run home and ask someone to read what was written.

There was a blind man, Mechele, who traveled around with a musical box. He was very popular. He sat on a crate in the market and would beat the rhythm of the music with his feet. He would accompany the music box by playing a little flute. He always attracted a large crowd. The people would learn songs from him. He sang a sentence and the audience had to respond. These songs were not particularly spiritually rich. They had a mixture of Yiddish, Polish, and Ukrainian words. It was said that he had been a soldier stationed in the Peshimishl Fortress and was blinded during an explosion of ammunition.

Before the outbreak of the First World War, after the news arrived that our “tronfolger” had been killed, there was great mourning in the shtetl. Goyim [non-Jews] paid Mechale to play something sad. And Mechale did this by playing the “nigun” [melody] of the “Tanach Lamentation.”

* * *

Visiting performers were another source of recreation. There were all kinds of them. They would come with a special caravan pulled by two or sometimes three horses and they would park in the middle of the shtetl and set up a platform where they would perform. Among them were those who walked on wires. Another one swallowed fire: another stuck a long sword down his throat and remained alive. Yet another broke chains and threw pieces of it to the crowd.

In previous years - I myself did not see this - runners would come. They would run, half – naked, with bells, through the streets with such great speed, that the eyes could barely follow them. People paid a few groschen for this spectacle.

Another attraction was a display that was erected on a side street not far from the market. It was just a temporary thing with linen sheeting strung up on wires making partitions. You actually needed to buy a ticket to get in to see this panorama and by looking through special glasses you would see pictures of the Kaiser's family and how the mayor in Lvov [Lemberg] was killed. In such a venue there were sometimes non-Jewish fellows who would dress up and play various parts. In order to attract the crowd a gramophone played at the entrance and each time it was played, one of the performers would come out and invite the crowd that was standing around [to come in]. On market days when the crowd was quite numerous, the performers [assured people] that it would be worth their money. In front there stood a table with numbers that was somewhat like a dartboard and behind the table there were all kinds of objects that were the prizes.

Also in order to tempt the audience to come in, clowns were stationed at the entrance and people danced with them, kissed them and spoke with them.

Another time, a menagerie came to the shtetl. You could see an actual wolf, sometimes even a lion, as well as smaller animals. Sometimes there was even someone performing tricks with them.

When the circus came, that drew a lot of interest. Half the population of the shtetl would come to watch them erect the round performance tent. There were many tricks [to be seen.] You can imagine what one saw there! Unbelievable! The only drawback of a circus was that the admission tickets were very expensive. If it were not for that people just would not leave the circus.

In the year 1912, for the first time, boxers came to the city. They would perform in the “Sokol.” [Polish organization]. Every day new placards would appear in town announcing who would be fighting that day. No sooner did one fight end, than another one would follow in the evening. The people had to come a second time, a third time [until there was a winner.]

Among the group who came there was a black man, as black as night. There was a Serb. (He even wore a red hat in the streets.) There was a Pole, a Hungarian and a Jew (Finkleshtein). Naturally, on the placards, the nationality of the boxers would be stated and there would be added a question of this nature: “Who will win, the Jew or the Hungarian?” And the crowd ran to see how the Jew would fight.

I recall when the Jew won over the Serb by throwing him over his head everybody clapped bravo and shouted, “Vivat! [Long may you live!] But when the defeated Serb got up and bowed to the public they shouted, “Phew, phoof! Not only is he a Serb, he let himself be defeated.”

* * *

A cheap type of recreation was to listen to a street singer. Usually he was a blind Jew who was led by somebody else. He would sing songs about Kishenev or Dreyfuss with the popular refrain that expresses the quintessence of the Dreyfuss Affair: Because you are a Yiddele [a Jew].”

Naturally the crowd lapped it all up and after that the songs became very popular throughout the shtetl.

But all these forms of recreation above mentioned were occasional and fleeting. Not all the Jews wanted to take advantage of and participate in all of these. A Jew with a beard and “peyes” [forelocks] was very seldom seen at such recreational activities. A Jew who was a Talmud “chochem” [scholar] would also brush them aside and considered them the equivalent of worshiping idols. According to them, there was nothing to hear and nothing to see. They simply regarded these activities as people making fools of themselves or just deceiving the crowd.

On the other hand there was a more stable kind of recreation that was more “hamish” [pleasing] and it did not cost any money; it was free. Nobody refused this. This was getting together to talk, to chat, Sometimes you would go to a neighbor, or the neighbor would come to you during the long winter evenings, or Friday nights, or after Shabbos ended on Saturday night. When people were free from work, they would gather in a home, usually the nearest neighbors, and they would have very interesting conversations. They would chat until well into the night. They did not even notice that it was getting late and they should go to bed.

There was usually one who could lead the conversation Others listened with open mouths and seldom said a word.And what did they not talk about! World events, personal stories, they would talk about Jews and also about goyim [non-Jews]. But mainly they were interested in life in Borchov itself. This was an endless source of all kinds of news, both good and bad, but in a time of great political events news from the newspapers would be discussed and commented upon.

Everybody was interested in the life of the Kaiser's family. Every particular would be talked about. Old ladies showed a rare familiarity with all the members of the Kaiser's family and cried with bitter tears at the fate of the Kaiser who, sadly, had no luck with his family.

In the later years before World War I the favorite theme of the evening was often “Kebeh.” I do not know if that was his real name or a nickname; people talked about him no end, both Jews and non-Jews. Apparently he was a murderer from a nearby village whom everyone feared. But he would not bother just anyone. People used to see him. He would appear; people would talk to him, but they could not catch him, even though there was a price on his head.

I, myself, even heard [an old woman] explain why they could not catch Kebeh. “He is like a magician. When he wishes to do so, he becomes a wolf or a dog or a cat, so how will you recognize him, how will you catch him?” People actually believed this until finally one policeman did catch him and shot him on the spot. Because of this people looked upon this policeman with wonder and they called him “Kebeh.”

So what is the true story about Kebeh? I do not know, but it is a fact that on the way to Pishtetinitz, behind the mill, there was a large wooden cross on which was inscribed in Ukrainian that on this spot Kebeh was killed. Why?

In his book, “My Grandfather's Fields,” the author, Yitzchak Metzker, who was born in Lanavitz, a village five kilometers from Borchov, tells the following particulars about our hero:

“That summer somewhere in the hilly forest around Lanavitz there was a young robber with the name of Kebbesh who the police were constantly looking for. The robber would attack Jewish merchants on the way and at night he would also attack village houses. More than once dressed as an animal he came to non-        Jewish weddings, danced with the non--Jewish girls and late at night would disappear with the most beautiful of them. Sometimes it would happen that in the middle of the day [coming] from the field or from the Dalina River, he would take a non- Jewish girl, blindfold her eyes and take her away to his hiding place somewhere in a cave among the hills. He kept the girl there on his bed overnight and at daybreak he cut off one of her braids, again blindfolded her and freed her into the field.

Kebbesh chose the most beautiful and the youngest one and every young woman in the village was full of fright when she was alone in the field. The robber made them very fearful but during the nights they thought of him and they actually waited for him to come take them with force.

That summer a few of the non-Jewish girls from the village became pregnant. Though among these pregnant ones there were such that had never even seen Kebbesh, he was accused by all of them. The villagers were very upset with the police for not being able to catch this forest bandit who always seemed to escape from them. People wished to see him hung and more than once the non-Jews set out with ropes and axes to look for him but they could not find him.

Many stories circulated in the villages about Kebbesh and there were even songs written about him. It was said that in his cave there lies buried much gold and silver that he had robbed from the Jews and that he also had a lot of skulls of people. Songs were sung about him; how he comes at night to poor villagers and he throws them sheep and calves and also how young beautiful girls succumb to him: how they quietly relinquished their virginity to him. Afterwards they would go home with a hot love for him.” (p. 239 - 40)

* * *

It was a great event when a rebbe came to the shtetl. Boys, (strong and hefty like Cossacks) went to meet him riding on horses and they were dressed up. They had red bands and bells on the horses. The rebbe would be met at the outskirts of the shtetl where the riders from the city that he had left would drop him off.

Chassidim used to hire a horse and wagon and ride out to meet him and then accompany him to the house where he was to stay. Immediately, crowds of people started to stream to that house, Chassidim and others. One would come to ask for a special prayer for a sick relative, another one would ask for work and they would give the rabbi something [i.e. money] and he in return would give them a prayer and a promise.... Very rare was it that anyone in the shtetl, while the rebbe was there, had the courage to be a non-believer.

Among the rebbes, there were all kinds: greater ones and minor ones. The greater ones would come very rarely and naturally the minor ones used to come more often. And so during recent years their attraction diminished greatly. In fact, people used to remark: “Just take a look. I did not have any idea that a rebbe was here in town.”

An ordinary Jew would house such a minor “rebbele” and nobody made a fuss over him the way they did when a true rabbi came. When a true rabbi visited people would stream in from [around] the province. Everyone came to see how the rabbi gathers the people around him and fortunate was the one who would get a little piece of what the rabbi left over from his food.

* * *

In the shtetl there also existed unofficial “coffee houses.” On a Friday evening or on a Yom Tov young adults would come, not from the “cream” of the community. Here they would chew on sunflower seeds that they bought or took on credit. They would pay the coffee house boss after Shabbos. Usually the owner of this coffeehouse was an old woman, a widow, and it was these sunflower seeds that were the attraction of the coffeehouse. Her residence was the place where they would gather. Often they would stay there until late into the night.

A Jew, whose name was Tatar, operated a more modern cafe that served tea and refreshments before World War I. He operated from Mordechai Fachman's inn. It was here that Tatar organized the “Yiddish theatre” with imported performers [and] artists. Later on, the theatre was established in one of the two large inns that were located in the middle of the market. The long houses had entrance gates from both sides and you could enter with horse drawn wagons. [There is a picture of one of these houses on the market street p. 86.] The rooms were on one side of the house (in the first room, the largest room, was the bar) where they sold liquor and on the other side, the empty side, the horses of the guests would be stabled. So many guests in Borchov were a rarity, so in the empty, sufficiently large, dark yard, a great crowd could be accommodated. Large benches would be set up as well as a stage, with a few kerosene lamps. Plays would be performed in which two to three artists participated. If they needed extras they would take people from the community and dress them up so that nobody would recognize them.

In the years before World War I young people started to perform. Around the year 1910, the first play was put on and it was Moshe Richter's comedy, “Moshe the Tailor.” This was performed with great success. The boys and girls acted no worse than the professional actors who used to come to Borchov. For many years, there was talk about how so-and- so performed. People would sing the melodies that were heard on the stage.

The admission monies from such plays were given to a “worthy cause.” In order to increase the income they would arrange a dance evening with surprises where boys and girls used to dance well into the dawn.

Orthodox Jews, very observant Jews, were not particularly inspired by this new activity. Nevertheless, the forward - looking ladies used to go to these performances and dance evenings, as “guards” for their growing daughters.

Up to that time girls would dance only among themselves. For instance [they would dance] a quadrille where one woman led the dance and gave the calls. “One lady forward,” etc. They would dance only at weddings.

Because of the new behavior they hired a dance teacher and every mother considered it her duty that her daughter learn the new dances because shortly there would be a new [dance] evening and the daughter might, God forbid, remain at home. The small shtetls around Borchov did not lag behind: Coralivka, Skala, Aszieron. Drama groups were established in these places and they used to organize “literary evenings” or perform complete plays. Boys who had been away from home for sometime and saw actual theatre performances usually organized such groups. (For instance: in 1913 in Coralivka they performed Jacob Gordon's “The Idiot” which was a great success.)

During the last years before World War I professional Yiddish troupes would come and they would perform for a packed audience. But naturally it was a small hall.

Years later the arias from the plays: “Oh the Cat” or “I'm called Nathan the Cohen” and so on [would be sung.]

Those who traveled outside of the shtetl had great emotional experiences and afterwards those who heard them tell about these wonderful experiences really appreciated hearing these reports. These people who returned from seeing such performances were invited to the house and people listened, sometimes hearing the same reports about what was going on in the world at large [more than once].

They, the reporters, suddenly felt themselves to be very important and when their rising star vanished, they would again set out so that they could come back and tell stories again.

From our area, [Borchov] in days gone by, people would travel to purchase goods. The would travel any way they could, by ox-cart until the railroad was built which changed their lives completely. With the train it took longer; in addition it cost money to bring the goods from the train and to the train. [They would bring goods] from Chortkiev which was 35 kilometers away or even further from Tarnopol which was 135 kilometers away.

A trip to Tarnopol there and back took a week - understandably there was lot to tell...

Later on, once the railway line was in operation they started to travel to Lemberg and of course that was a beloved theme for story - telling.

They also traveled to Chortkiev when they had a case in court and at the same time go to the Chortkiver rebbe.

An interesting recreational trip was to Vishnitz (to the rebbe) or to Chernovitz (to study.) They had to cross the Dniester with horse and wagon on a raft [ferry] and you can not compare the Dniester with the Natchlava....

* * *

It was quite an event when a manufacturing agent came to town to get orders for goods. After all, he had traveled throughout the world. Usually these were interesting individuals and they knew how to tell stories...for this alone it was worthwhile ordering goods from them.

The only one who could compete with such a merchant was a Jew who came from Eretz Yisroel “to empty the pushkas” [charity boxes], or an American Jew who came back from America with a fedora on his head and coins in his pocket.

* * *

Another kind of attraction was going to Loshkovitz. In the month of July every year a great market took place there for the duration of a few weeks. Not only merchants went there, but also ordinary Jews, mainly women, went to shop for things that they could not get in Borchov. It was just an excuse [they gave] to their husbands. People would spend weeks preparing for this trip. Why? Because they would have to get together with a few other friends to hire a wagon, decide on the terms, correspond with relatives in other shtetls to meet in Loshkovitz. More than once an agreement between candidates for a wedding would be arranged there. More than once a “shiddach” would result from this trip to Loshkovitz. For months people would talk about what they saw and heard there.

There were not only merchants there: handlers, agents, matchmakers, rabbis, scribes, and so on, but all kinds of magicians: “theatres, charletons, and quacks,” who knew how to cheat a few pennies. Not only were there all kinds of swindlers, but the guy who was swindled actually felt great for being gypped.

Bargains that were purchased there would afterwards be shown to guests, put out for display. “[Look at] a bargain from the thief” [I] brought from the market.

A young man stands and calls out a price for a [certain kind of] hat. Young fellows push and shout for a one and only “stiff hat” or a stiff vest, which they wore over their shirts. Or a stiff collar, a tie, or a pair of spats and the minute they put on these garments they would feel like a prince. The cost was a kroner.

During the Days of Awe one could afterwards see which of the boys had been in Loshkovitz and became a prince....

[Pages 103 - 121]

How They Made a Living

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

[Note: I've reorganized the order of presenting the material in this chapter, so some of the related occupations would appear together.]

[In the years before World War I] there were tailors, mostly for men. About twenty families sewed only for the peasants [non-Jews]. Among the shoemakers, who were fewer in number than the tailors, were professionals who could even make new shoes: a pair of elegant officers' boots as well as simple [everyday] shoes. Some people were furriers and they made hats.

Three or four Jews were hairdressers. One woman was really a specialist. She could do a bride's hair. She would curl their hair with hot irons. She was known for her skill.

There was another kind of seamstress who specialized in sewing bed linens. There were brewers of whiskey [ “bronfen” - whiskey]. That led to the name “garolnikers” [those who made alcoholic beverages. Those people had the surname Garolnik.]

In the square there were other specialists. There was one who was an economist. One family occupied itself with making saddles for horses. (How many saddles did a town like Borchov need in the course of a year?) So they also made leather bags and similar items. The family grew but more work didn't come their way. Thus the family kept getting poorer and poorer.

One family made rope; another Jew who came from somewhere else started to take photographs. Another one was a monument engraver and some of them hung around a nobleman, either as a notary or an advocate. In these ways, they made a living.

Dairy Men (and Women)

There was .....one who controlled the milk production of the cows in the market. Outside of the market, there were a few Jews who made milk products such as cream, cheese, and butter. They either had their own cow or they bought the milk from others. These were mostly women who would carry their products around to the wealthy houses. Their high season was the nine days before Tish'a B'Av and Erev Shavouth, when Jews would eat only dairy foods.

A cow was also very important for the Jews around Pesach time. During the rest of the year, those Jews who weren't so particular about Kashrut bought milk from non-Jews because they sold it cheaper or because they brought it to the house or for other reasons. A Jewish cow really provided income for the householder and his family. But at Pesach time it was the non-Jew who ran to the kosher milk supplier and paid more for the milk. The Jew was so poor that he gladly sold it because he couldn't afford to use it himself.

At Pesach time the Jews ate more “fleishig' [meat]. Butter, cream cheese and similar products weren't brought into a Jewish house because it was considered “hamatz.” In addition, the poor Jews didn't have Pesachdik dishes to change over. [About not using butter during Pesach the writer comments, “Who needed it?”]


Another “organization” was formed by the four or five klezmorim. One of them played a melody on the fiddle, and the second one joined in on the second fiddle with only two sounds [chords?] the third played a flute, the fourth played the bass. All of them were poor.

They earned money by playing at weddings, but how many weddings were there in Borchov, especially when in recent times it became fashionable to have quiet simchas. The musicians would accompany the bride and groom to the shul and afterwards would accompany them back to the house, especially when there was dancing there. In the middle of the dancing there would be an interlude and the musicians would gather money for the music.

At the close of Yom Kippur the musicians would go from house to house to play for a good year. When a theatre group came and needed music, they used to accompany the singer and play between the acts. Understandably, if after the performance there was a dance following they played a whole night.

Porters and Wagoners

More Jewish families were porters. Some had wagons with two horses. They used to take people to and from the train station, as well as to Scala and Chortkov and to other nearby shtetls.

Besides this category of “aristocratia” (called this because they sat up on the high seat of the wagon) there were other wagoners who had wagons with one horse only. With one horse there was room for three people to sit, so he could take two passengers. Another type of wagoner had a horse and wagon and transported goods such as stoves, building materials, and sand to build the roads to the train station. At the same time he was the pack carrier who also loaded and unloaded the goods. This man often died of hunger from both these jobs [because of the pittance earned.]

The wagoners used to hire gentiles to drive the horses if it was Shabbos or Yom Tov, though in those days there was very little traffic at those times.

There were also two porters (not necessarily the strongest Jews in the village) who stood in the middle of the city with a string tied around them like a garter or belt. They waited to earn some money by carrying things.

They used to be able to carry a sack of flour that weighed a hundred kilograms on their shoulders for quite a way. (In our village we didn't know what it meant to transport goods with a cart.) After he would carry the goods he waited patiently by the door to get paid a few “kreitzer.” They always had to bargain because the customer always wanted to reduce the price, even when the price had been arranged in advance.

One of these porters, a tall and thin Jew from a wealthy family, was a kibitzer and was always ready, if someone wanted to listen, to tell stories such as: Someone wanted to give him a book to carry, but it was very heavy so he had to go once and come back to finish delivering the book. Another book was so long that it took him a week to finish one page. That Jew was well known because he liked to read story -books.


The butchers were a group all to themselves. There were approximately ten families who were very closely tied together. There was a special street that they referred to as “The Street of the Butchers.” There were two rows of butcher shops on both sides of the street; one side comprising the kosher shops and on the other side were the “treif' [non-kosher] shops. In front of every butcher shop there was a large wooden chopping block that was used to cut the meat. In the morning hours there were a lot of women out, especially on Thursday or erev Yom -Tov. Later, during the rest of the day, it was “sha-shtill.” The butchers would go out into the villages to buy a little calf or a cow. Then they drove the cow through the market or else she would be tied to the wagon on which the butcher would ride very slowly so that the cow would be able to follow. A calf or two would be loaded onto the wagon and you could hear their mooing from a distance.

The butchers of Borchov were, therefore, both merchants and tradespeople, but they barely made a living from both pursuits.

There were women who would go from house to house to sell either a fat chicken, or a slaughtered goose. [The woman] used to hold the goose by the legs and turn it around and around to show how fat it was.


Aside from the official bakers (two or three families who were registered with signs outside), there were also women bakers who did a little bit of home baking. They baked “pletzlach' and onion buns. At Purim time they made Purim delicacies and they sold it half of them in secret to buyers who came to the house. [Everything was taxed, so this was how they got around it.] These women would bake for a wedding or a bris. The woman would bring what she needed for baking to the house: her grinder to grind the almonds and tins to bake a torte.

In addition there were women who used to come to wealthy homes erev Shabbos. They would heat the oven and bake the challahs.

On a Sunday they used to bake bread because most of the “balabustahs' [housewives] would bake bread only once a week for economic reasons.

Those who themselves did not bake on Fridays would carry the prepared earthenware pots with soup, cholent and kugel, before Shabbos, to put into the baker's oven (for which they paid something) or to a nearby neighbor. Early on Shabbos, after davening, they would take the cholent and run home quickly so it wouldn't get cold.

Another family, Nissenbaum, were millers. They had a large mill that could grind a great variety of flours, even the most delicate.

There were a few Jews who kept orchards. They rented a large orchard from a nobleman and sometimes these were in Borchov and sometimes they were in nearby gardens. In the autumn they sold their products to the retailers as well as to private houses. They would sell quantities of plums from which people made jam. Nearly every housewife made jam for the winter and they would put down wine for vishniev.

There was a Jew or two who worked as forest guards.

They had two glaziers in the shtetl. They put in window panes in new homes or they repaired broken ones. But again, they only eked out a living. One of them learned this skill from his wife, but he never became as capable or as good as she was. (This was Raisa and Alter Blumenthal.)

To these trades should also be added the family Dafschlager. [Their name tells you what they did because they covered the roofs with shingles.] In recent times they stopped using shingles because they burned too easily and started to use tin.

Then there were members of the family of Chaim Wolfinger who built houses without a plan or without engineers. They built residences as well as shops. They had workers who were Poles as well as Ukrainians and there were also Jewish workers who could estimate and figure out how much brick was needed, how much sand and so on. One such man was Shmuel Melamed. He would measure with his belt how much sand he needed for the area. Though these [people] never learned their trade anywhere, they knew what to do and the buildings they erected lasted for generations. But the outer form of the house and the inside walls were not always regular or conveniently built.

Along with these people, painters were employed who could make certain patterns on the walls.

There were carpenters, who would make cabinets and other items of furniture.

There were a few families that made objects for various purposes out of tin. They made locks, tins for baking, etc. and would sell them.

Long ago there were those who made soap. Amongst the rarer trades-people was one who made candlesticks. There was someone who made wax candles. In my time those products were already manufactured and bought in the store. People made the long yellow wax Yom Kippur candles that burned for twenty- four hours. Sometimes specialists who were the former candle makers made these candles. A very rare occupation that was carried out in Borchov by a Jew who came from outside was making the woven wicker surfaces for chairs and stools. The people of the village would wait for him and prepare work for him. This was a very special trade. There were also some non-Jews who did this. They went from house to house to ask if anyone needed some work done. They also would ask if you had any clay pots that needed fixing. You could use the pot for years afterwards. Some [people] made clay containers.

Three or four families were blacksmiths who made shoes for the horses, or iron wheels for the wagons. One Jew worked as a ferrier [one who shoes horses]. [A] few families occupied themselves with making the moving parts of a wheel. Two or three Jews were clock makers. They barely scraped by with the income that they got from these occupations.

In order to complete the picture we have to mention one bath house keeper. He heated the ovens and got paid for letting people into the baths. [This wasn't a mikvah, but just a bath.] He had an additional source of income: for a minimum payment he would loan you a whisk broom, which was made from the luluv fronds used at Succot. This would be used to wipe off the perspiration. This bath man had a helper, Isaacal, who looked more like a gypsy than a Jew.

The bath man belonged to the lowest level of the Jewish community. There was even a saying: “From the Rov to the bath man.”

The above list, which is drawn just from memory, does not provide exact numbers but portrays, according to our recollection, what was the naked reality.

Some things we have listed here really need clarification.

The largest percentage of Jews were busy with trade but in reality there were five larger stores in the village that employed, in addition to members of their own family, one or two employees.

During a market day all adults of the family were mobilized to help, if not in conducting the business, at least to stay there and watch that nobody would steal. These [stores] understandably provided a good living.

However, there were some stores that hardly provided a living. Husband and wife used to sit all day and look out for a customer. These merchants used to buy the very cheapest license [to do business] and even this with great difficulty because they hardly did any business.

There were also stores in the suburb that was on the way to another village. Sometimes these stores didn't even have a sign.

After World War I, the tradesmen and craftsmen suffered from a shortage of orders. There were too many of them and they could not compete with the cheaper prices for all kinds of manufactured goods that took the place of the handcrafted goods.

[Pages 113 & 151]

The Water Carrier

Translated by Miriam Beckerman

Edited by Myrna Neuringer Levy

[Note: The story of Yosef Hirsch was taken from p. 113 and p. 151. His picture is on p. 113]

The water carrier transported the water in barrels and he always had half- dead horses [to pull the wagon.] The horses strained and suffered before they could bring the water from the Dalina River.

Yosef Hirsch was one of the water carriers. He loved Yiddish papers and after he would get paid for the two cans of water, he would ask for a newspaper. He didn't care what date the paper was printed. He liked to read at home after work. He couldn't speak very well, but when he read the paper his wife would sit by his side and “shep nachas” from her man. If he managed to say a whole word, such as “fire” or figure out the headlines, he was happy. He would read one word and say, “Do you hear?” And his wife would reply, “Oy vay is mir.” She was very proud of her husband and told her neighbors that all Jewish wives should have such a man.

In winter time the whole wagon, especially the wheels were all covered with snow and ice, and wheels screeched, so that you could hear the wagon coming from several streets away.

From the distance you could [also] hear Yosef Hirsch screeching. His face was wrapped with a shawl. His horse pulled a wagon that had two wooden barrels that hung from both sides. He was pleading with the horse to pull the water up the hill and when he couldn't get the horse to do this peacefully he hit him with his whip. Generally Yosef Hirsch tried his best not to hit the horse too hard. He used to say that you have to have pity on an animal, you shouldn't plague him too much.

Caption of picture p. 113: Yosef Hirsch, Watercarrier


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