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[Page 96]

The Brody Singers

by Yosef Parvari (Leiner)

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

The great Folk Poet Itzik Manger said:

The birds are singing for the fields,
The crickets – for the corn,
For the Jews we are the singers –
The singers of the town of Brody.

It can be said that the last century was “the Golden Age” of our town Brody. It was expressed by the fact that several cultural trends developed simultaneously – the enlightenment movement, the revival of the Hebrew language and the Yiddish folk music. The beginning of this music constituted also the pioneer steps of the Yiddish theater. Many of the “Brody Singers,” who performed their shows in wine–cellars and restaurants, became actors of Goldfaden's theater.

The founder of the Brody Singers was Berl Margaliot (born in 1815 in Podkamin). He wrote the lyrics and composed the music of many songs, and toured with his band through Galicia, Poland and Rumania. Among the local singers we know about Yakov Dubianski: after his release from the Austrian army in Vienna he organized, together with his friend Berl a band, who first played in “The Red Tavern” which belonged to Berl Stock (grandfather of Dov Sadan) and then in Stari [Old] Brody and in Pinkus' Restaurant, where merchants, agents and clerks would gather to spend a few hours on a glass of wine. Among them were the cantor Efraim Broder who would sing and dance Hassidic dances; Moshe Teich, an actor in Goldfaden's theater; Moshe Weintraub, a jester who joined “The Brody Singers;” R'Naftali Gramenzuger (rhymester, versifier); the jester Yosef Baumhol, who was known as “Yosl Broder”; Yosl Zeshof the Melamed; and Alter Kleitnik, who has written many songs for the Brody Singers.

The songs deal mostly with public and social matters, and also “Amcha” [simple folk] of all levels. They are joyful and full of jest and good humor, but also mixed with sadness, pain and sorrow, as was life itself in those years. They are a treasure of Jewish folklore, which has not been fully researched yet and was not given the appreciation it deserves.

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Below are three of these poems–songs:

A. Rest and Joy
[Menucha ve'simcha– from a Shabbat song]

By Shalom Podzamtche

1. God Himself has given us
– To sweeten our lives –
A present, very beautiful:
The good and holy Sabbath.
It gives us rest
And brings us joy,
O, rest, O, joy
Light shall shine for all the Jews!

2. The beautiful times have gone,
Gone far, far away,
The Jew is eternally wandering
But always keeps the Holy Sabbath.
No rest for him, no joy…
O, rest, O, joy
Light shall shine for all the Jews!

3. Joshua His messenger
With his strong hand
Has taken us to our land.
At home we became a nation,
So there was rest
And there was joy
O, rest, O, joy
Light shall shine for all the Jews!

4. Brothers, believe and hope
Our troubles will end indeed!
Exile will not last forever.
We shall not lose our hope
That rest shall come again
And joy shall come again.
O, rest, O, joy
Light shall shine for all the Jews!

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B. A Jewish Melody

Presented by Yosl Glantz (Pitche), the oldest of the Brody Singers,
who lived in Lwow and perished in the ghetto at the age of 85.

1. The Jewish melody
Shines in my heart,
As if a ray of sun
Is bursting from a heavy cloud.
The world is your altar
Where you can always pray
And be the messenger of your people.

2. Through days and nights
On the long road –
Who is wandering
From place to place,
Cold and hungry?
This is the Brody Singer
Who carries with him
All his possessions.
The road is dark and black,
And when he is tired
He sings a song
And feels relieved.

C. The voice of mirth and the voice of gladness [Jeremiah 7:34],
the voice of rejoicing in the tents of the righteous [Psalms 118:15],
the honest and the innocent – may they all be blessed by God,
and Mazel–Tov from the soup–kitchen.

“Open your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul” [Isaiah 58:10]

If a man is blessed by God,
He shall hear the cry of despair of the poor.
His heart and his soul shall hasten to aid his brothers,
Blessed with a good eye he shall add gifts.
Those who are generous of heart shall give with joy,
And shall dedicate their wealth to the poor and needy.

Born to be father to the poor and brother to the troubled,
I founded, from the donations of the charitable,
The “Bread for the Hungry” Association.
Remember me when you are happy and help me,

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Come to me, your righteousness and generosity shall support me,
You are planting a seed that will bear fruit for the poor.
Prepare food, and bring it to my treasure–trove,
Come to the aid of your brethren, make their heart happy,
Help them with a meal and they shall bless you!
A sound of rejoicing they shall together create
Their heart shall thank God and you shall be blessed.
For one silver coin that took their hunger away they shall remember you.
Do it for them and live, and they shall pray for you,
To bring blessings to you homes.
“The Soup–Kitchen for the People” in the city of Brody.


[Page 100]

The Brody Singers and their Inheritance

by Dov Sadan

From Bimah II (9-10), 1961-1962, pp. 27-33

Translated by Moshe Kutten and Sara Mages

Researchers of the history of the Jewish theater wrote various reference texts about it, and if to place the difference from end to end, here before us are two outstanding examples. Hence, a rather known book, and it is the book of Yitzhak Schiper “The history of the Jewish Theater and Drama” with its two volumes; and hence, a book, that is hardly known, and it is the book of Noach Prylucki “Why the Jewish theater emerged so late.” The first - his knowledge is extensive and he wove in everything that he accumulated on the subject that is clearly dear to his heart. He unified a long lineage, and even though its links are scattered and even set apart, as required by the fate of an exiled and wandering nation, it does portrait a picture of a prolonged, or prolonged-like, reality. The last, his writing indicates that he had changed his earlier opinion, reduced his review, and values the broad lineage adopted by his predecessor, which was previously his own, with the assumption that its image is realistic. It is obvious, that this disagreement between the adjudicators requires an examination on all sides, and as expected, it can be assumed, that at the end of this investigation the extreme view, which is too wide, will be sentenced to a sizable cut. At the same time, it will undermine the other extreme approach, which grasp a little, and sentence it to a decent completion.

The Jewish theater was born as an institution in 1876, and it was its art since its creation. Here is a declaration, which comes out from the last essay of Noach Prylucki, and there is no need to conduct a thorough investigation in order to say that this assumption needs an expansion, a little or a lot, in several important points. We now settle for one point, namely, the affinity point between the institution, which was created by Avraham Goldfaden and his assistants, and between a band of singers from Brod [Brody in Yiddish MK] and their founder, Berl Margaliot[1], who is called Berl Broder after the city in which he lived. The discussion on this point, although a bit late in coming, is also timely - three years ago this small group was a hundred years old. After many appearances in its hometown, the group wandered between the Jewish communities, mainly along the rail line Odessa- Kusta [Constantinople or Istanbul MK] and its impact was divided in three different directions. One direction, the simple one, is the singers' students and the students of their students, including those who pretended to be their students, and of them, the imitators and those who imitated the imitators. They took for themselves the well known name which was held as a tested and proven talisman. Hence, the various groups who called themselves by the name Brody singers. They shined and withered, and returned to shine in different places and different times. Those have risen in two different ways, and those descended in two different ways, and so on and so forth, and existed right up to our generation. Their impression emerged hither and thither

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as the image of the podium of songwriters and their bands. Researcher of miniature art will find their foundation in the format of the repertoire and also in the composition of the actors, and will also be influence by the attempts of the small stage in our country. Another direction, composed of its predecessor, is the theater of Goldfaden and his descendants who had to incorporate songs in plays, initially mechanically and later by organic integration. They used the tradition and conquests of those singers, that through them - the monolog, or better yet, the dialog, was expended to a play with a great plot and a large number of characters. In short, the transition from the podium of Berl Broder's singers to the stage of Avraham Goldfaden's actors, is the transition between the so called, Bankelsanger (a street singer), that his performance is swaying between temporary and permanent, in an inn and in a fair, and between an organized and unified troupe of players. The last direction is dialectic, and it is the connecting line between the first and last, kind of a belated repentance to the singing of the first singers, repentance in the presence of genius, meaning, rolling their inheritance and repairing it to a level of art by deepening the program, enriching the tools and polishing them as thin as possible as we have found in Itzik Manger, who redeemed and purified it in the field of lyrics and drama.

Of course, the centennial was noteworthy, a review of the long and colorful road of the temporary podiums of the first singers up to the end of their triple continuation. However, several reasons caused that the memory of the double anniversary was ignored and passed as if it never existed. We do, however, owe thanks to the decedents of R' Berl – his granddaughter, Mrs. Krasel, and his grandson, Shimshon, who live in New-York. They assisted and encouraged their brother, who was named Berl Marguliot, after his grandfather and protégé, and he who added and wrote a book called: “Drai Dorot” [The three generations]. As the name implies, the book is divided into three parts, and indeed, one part, two printed pages, was devoted to their grandfather, the famous singer. Another part was devoted to their father, R' Yitzhak, and it is told, that he was known in his circle for his feuilletons (especially in his nickname Yam HaZioni[2]). The last part is devoted to the grandson's songs, the editor himself. Of course, the reader was interested in another proportion of the division of the book, and especially wished to use this window of opportunity to group together all of the singer's songs that aren't to be found, and those, who want to read them, must search in archives where only a few copies remained. He was probably responsible for the two editions that were printed during his life, but, of course, he's not responsible for the late editions. However, the twelve songs, that were given in the book “Sheloshet HaDorot,” serve a precious present for the reader.

It is possible, that we wouldn't be mistaken if we assume that the encouragement for that collection came from Dr. Yosef Tannenbaum, who published an important book about his homeland, Galicia, and its introduction testifies it. It says, that in the last three generations “the world rose and the world sank - and in the middle, three tiny shining dots, two or three tiny pearly stars – three generations of the Margaliot family. And if I write about them, it's not only because I compose a personal essay about two of them, but because each of them is a representative of a unique period – three road markers in the great railroad of the last one hundred years.

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Since our attention is devoted to the head of the trio, we will be satisfied with the words of his predecessor, to emphasize the background of his growth he mentions the community of Brody as the center of the Haskalah [Enlightenment Movement], and tries to inform us that the Haskalahwas a movement that its maskilimembraced the language of the people [Yiddish, MK], wrote in it, and their writing was juicy and good. He counts these maskilimby their names - Mendel Lefin, Yaakov Shmuel Byk, Ayzik Ozer Rottenberg, and Yashaya Meir Finkelstein. He especially emphasizes the latter, who contributed a lot for the revival of the Yiddish language as the language of literature. However, in his opinion, the special Galician contribution to poetry and prose in Yiddish, during the Haskalahperiod, is of the comedians, singers and their leader, Berl Broder, who put his mark on that period.

We interpreted the words of the predecessor in order to remark, that if his intention was to explain the background of the group of the singers, and Berl Broder as their leader, he didn't illuminate the overall atmosphere which might explain this unique phenomenon. Mendel Lepin is obviously a household name - the same native of Podolia who went to Berlin, befriended the Mendelson[3]group, returned to his native roots, and wherever he stood, a center of the Haskalah was founded. The impact of his activities was felt a little in Poland and a lot in Belarus and Galicia. His right, for advancing our two national languages is greater than what was attributed to him by his greatest advocates. Of course, his students are also household names - Yaakov Shmuel Byk, who fought for double revision inside the Haskalah, alongside the recognition of the value of the Hassidut, and also alongside the recognition of the value of the Yiddish language, and he is almost the firstborn of its ideologues. The same applies for Ayzik Ozer Rottenberg and Yeshayah Meir Finkelshtayn, the guardians of the memory of their rabbi[4]who also published “Moreh Nevukhim” [“The guide for the perplexed”]. The first became the patron of Yiddish writers in Romania, and the last became a Yiddish author. Nonetheless, we can't explain how Berl Broder associated with them, and not only that, we cannot prove a real connection between Mendel Lepin's writings and him. On the contrary, from the language of his songs and Berl's language it is obvious that he didn't know the greatness of R' Mendel, and his absorption is from the language spoken at home, in the street and in the city, however, since there is no proof of a line connecting him to a typical educated writer who also wrote tastefully in Yiddish, and the main emphasis is on the “also” - because we cannot include Berl Broder among the few maskilimwho wrote in the people's spoken language. And not only because of that, his growth isn't their growth, and his education isn't their education, but mostly because that his affinity to Yiddish as the language of his writing, or more precisely: the language of his singing. He had the affinity of a person that the spoken language of the people is the only language that he's able express himself. Out of his biography, which was written by N. M. Gelber who also returned and completed it, we learn about the unique circumstances of his growth, a son of poor family, who was orphaned in his childhood and had to start working as a laborer from a relatively early age. Later, when he became a merchant, he wandered in the cities of Russia for his livelihood. In any case, he was deprived of the time needed for Torah studies and embedded singing talent encouraged him to compose songs during his work. He energized his friends in his journeys and his singing in hostels helped him to seize a good name for himself. Townspeople and artists apprentices gathered around him and thus, the institution-non-institution, which has since gone through many transformations, came about.

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Whoever examines the articles in the biography, both of Gelber and others, finds several differences, either in the matter of the year of his birth date (1815 or 1817), in the matter of the place of birth (Brody or its neighboring Podkamen) or in the matter of the place of his death (Carlsbad or a town in Romania). There are also inconsistencies in several other details, some of which have already been clarified and some that are still vague, hence the words of contradiction or duplication in lexicons or in anthologies. However, there is no vagueness in his poems. The poems are truly his, and they're assembled in the two mentioned collections. Others, which were only preserved orally and given fully or in sections, reveal the unity between the author and his work. The reader would find that the openings of several poems are basically identical. For example, the song about the shepherd starts with: “I am, alas, a poor shepherd,“ the song about the roofing tile maker starts with “I am, alas, a poor roofing tile maker,” the opening of the cantor's song “I am, alas, a poor cantor,” the song for the night-guard starts with “I am, alas, a poor night-guard.” The same is in the song about the preacher, the wagon owner tec. Even the song about the moneylender starts with the words “I am, alas, a poor moneylender.” Their opening is like the opening of the shepherd song, but with the change of the name of the craft. It goes without saying, that this opening is the most typical because its spirit is the spirit of the entire song, the spirit of complete identity between the singer and his subject. This poetic aspect is noticeable and its main aspect is visual, because the common singer was satisfied with the words of the song. However, the singer, Berl Broder himself or his helper, also added an image to the matter- the singer disguise himself as the person he was singing about. In every song the singer appeared in the clothing of the person he was singing about. And if we summarize his songs, between those who begin with that and those who do not begin with that, like the gravedigger song that its opening turns to a man whose origin is dust and his end is dust, and also if we add the various dialogs like the conversation between a tailor and a shoemaker which gave the opening to a couple of singers who portrayed the image of Jewish workers. He was truly a great innovator in all the topics of the literature of the generation, and we cannot find anyone like him, not in his predecessors or among his peers. Moreover, not only his predecessors, but also his most prominent student, Velvel Zbarz'ar, that the world was mostly divided for them according to the division of the Hassidim that all sorts of disgraces bound in them, and all sorts of praises are firmly attached to the maskilim. One could not find anywhere a similar wide range of characters, a range that spans the entire topology of the Jewish street. All of that work, incorporating the songs and their presentation, can be considered a primitive art. However, this primitive art encompasses the embryos for souls, and they are the sociological and psychological fabric of the first dramatic theater and its sequel.

Therefore, the sense of affinity between Berl Broder and Avraham Goldfaden is important, and there are two documents for that. One document is of Goldfaden himself. He regarded the creation of the Brody singers as an important part in the history of the Jewish theater. And these are his words in his autobiography: “Many years before the beginning of the story of our act, kind of “minnzinger,” who are known by the name “Broder singers”were discovered in the city of Brody in Galicia. In those days, the comedians entertained the audience

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almost all year round because most of the audience were foreign traders, mainly Jews from Russia, who stopped in Brody on their way to the fair in Lipsia [Leipzig]. At that time, Brody was the starting point for all foreign trade. The singers amused the merry traders and the whole thing became a big business. Later, when the city of Brody fell because of the fierce competition, the singers moved their business to Russia.” The other document is of David Yeshayahu Silberbusch, which included memories from his youth. He had heard from Avraham Goldfaden, that when he was fourteen years old, and already fond of writing merrymaking-songs, a new apprentice came to the workshop of his father the watchmaker. He was a native of Brody, he was seventeen, and his name was Nachman. He was a singer-helper to the cantors, and also here, in Old- Constantine, he was a member of the cantor's choir (this community was known to praise for its Cantorial music, and A.B. Gotlober's father served there during that generation). He is the one who brought the cantor's melodies, Berl Broder's jingles and Velel Zbarajer's songs, and also sang the first jingles of the watchmaker's son – Goldfaden himself. The rest of the story is amusing in itself, but it is not of interest for us right now, our case is to establish the connection between the provider and the recipient - between Berl Broder and Avraham Goldfaden.

The line, which is taken into account, is the connection line between him, the young Goldfaden, as the future playwright, and between the former playwright, Shlomo Ettinger, master of comedy and Yiddish fables during the Haskalahperiod. He wasn't awarded to see one printed letter out of his vast work in Yiddish during his lifetime (only one song in Hebrew, which was immaterial, was published during his lifetime). His comedy, “Sarkele,” was circulated in hand-written copies, and later, it was printed according to faulty formulas until his savior, Max Weinreichh, rose and published his writings in two volumes. Later, Max Eric, followed suit and published his writings in another edition. However, about three generations have passed between writing and publication, and now, in our discussion, we focus on the days when young Goldfalden left his birthplace, Old Constantine, and traveled to Zhitomir to study at its Rabbinical Beit Midrash [school for Jewish studies MK] and the unique quality of his singing, acting and writing helped him to settle there. It was also reinforced in the atmosphere of Lepin's tradition, which was nurtured by his student, the institution's teacher, R' Mordekhai Sukhistover, who was the bridgehead between the life works of Lepin and Mendele [Jewish writer – Mendele Mokher Sfarim MK]. It was also strengthened in the atmosphere of affection for the people's spoken language [Yiddish MK], which was rooted in the hearts and the pens of other school teachers who were led by Gotlover and Tsvaifel Among his students were Y.Y Lintski and Menashe Margaliot. It's no wonder that in such atmosphere the students, in the manner of students, used this window of opportunity to exercise their desire for flaunting and passion for laughter. When the wife of the head of the school, R' Khaim Zelig Slonimski, brought the hand written manuscript of “Serkele” from Warsaw, she encouraged the students to present it and they accepted the offer enthusiastically. This show was like a turning point in Goldfaden's life, and obviously, in the life of the Jewish theater, because he has done two things for it - he used Berl Broder's oral attempt to revive the writing experience of Shlomo Ettinger, so that we can say that in the short time span, between the foundation of the group of Brody singer, which took place in 1857, and between the presentation of the comedy in 1862, meaning, for only five years a transition took place between the singers' podium and the theater's boards, and it began through the pastoral power that was

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embodied in that young man – Goldfaden, who carries the living legacy of Berl Broder and expands it.

Thus, two inclusive family lines were set for us - one wave, which lasted from Shlomo Ettinger, whose writing remained hidden between him and a small group of readers who were able to obtain his writings. It seems that he never imagined that the play would become a real theatrical show. Even if he had known, he wouldn't have seen it as a foundation for a real and permanent theater. Even the author himself couldn't guess that his act of writing would be the foundation for a great and extensive literature. After all, with all of his attachment to the nation's spoken language [Yiddish MK], and all of his dedication to knead it in an artistic way, he was bound to the common perception of the maskilimin on the need to us the language of the country or the language of the neighbors, and not because the most positive character in the comedy spoke in literary German. The second line is drawn from Berl Broder, whose sayings were greater than his writings, and only few of his songs survived. Most of them were forgotten or imbedded in several folklore songs and songs of various writers. His sayings-signing spread among the crowds, and even he could not have guessed that his amusing jingles are like a sown area its end will come in a hundred years. Even though his stand within the people's spoken language came to him naturally and without the need for ideological justifications, he probably didn't pay attention to its changes and didn't doubt its longevity.

We emphasized this differentiation between the comedian, the perfect artist, the singer and the primitive artist, in order to highlight the differences between them, not only as individuals but also for the fact that they came from different layers inside the Haskalah, the first- a descendant of a privilege family, a physician and an author by his craft, the last, from the lower class, a clown not a clown by his craft. Both lay, from two different ends, the foundations for the Jewish theater. On this end – we find a perspective of theatrical perfection without the prospect for realization, and on that side – dramatic performance without the possibility of achieving perfection. The young man, Avraham Goldfaden, came and connected end to end, and he is, as written, the third, the decisive between them.

And when the two family lines were set, we notice each line and its pedigree. The pedigree of the first line is known, Shlomo Ettinger. Other comedians preceded him, but not necessarily as part of the Haskalahin Germany. One should obviously mention the comedies of Wolfson and Eichle. He tells us about the big impression of a comedy that he had read in Lvov, and it is the anonymous “Di Genarṭe ṿelṭ” [“The deceived world”]. The unknown author is certainly an important personality, worthy of fame like other famous figures of his generation and region. As a matter fact, there is no other person as important as him is except for Yitzhak Erter with his great personality and achievements. May the God of assumptions forgive me if I add Erter to the group of candidates who might have written this outstanding comedy, or maybe place him at the lead. The pedigree of the second line is unknown - indeed, people say that Berl Broder brought about the transformation between the comedian and the singer in the taverns and in the fairs, as a transformation between somebody who is still somewhat in the realm of religion to somebody who is totally secular. This saying is surprising, in the generation after him we saw Eliakum Tsunzer in Lita

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and Hirsh Leib Gotlib in Carpathian-Russia and Southern Galicia, who opened as comedians and closed as singers and poets, while he, in the generation before them, opened with what they have closed. However, this popular statement requires a decent examination - because we are talking about the first group of Brody singers and mention Berl Broder and Yosl Broder in one breath, and this breath requires a pause, as there is no comparison between the two. The first, we knew his stage - taverns. We also knew the stage of the last – the court of the Ruzhyn Rabbi and his descendants. To say, a city that placed what it had in order to entertain the visitors from Odessa or Iasi, who were mostly followers of the Haskalahor its margins. It also placed what it had to entertain the visitors from Sadagora or Potok-Zolotoy, who were mostly followers of the Hassidut and its center.

Furthermore, both fell to the edge of the spiritual and intellectual orientation of the generation despite the fact that they were rival each inspection its own camp. They grew from the same background and both preserved the crumbs of Jewish tradition in their work. From them we learn about the existence of a true comical atmosphere - and here are the names of Brody's comedians, from the two brothers Tshornik, to R' Moshe Yampoler and R' Alter Kleitnik, whose jokes nourished the humor of the joyful city. They are few out of many, meaning, kind of ambiance of clowning that was already rooted in the city. It sought an outlet for itself beyond the traditional expressions, such as Purim games, playfulness in a wedding and the like. We discussed one fact or another in order to show the journey of this clowning into the game. One example - the gathering of every resident named Shmuel, from the city and its suburbs, during the big fair. The main goal of the gathering was to publicly and humorously prove the impropriety of the common phrase: “Shmuel is just a fool.” The other fact - is the memory of the act that A. Litvin rescued from the mouth of Berl Broder's son. R' Fayvl, one of Belz's Chassid, who was challenged by his brother-in-law, told his wife, Fruma: “today I will make two Fayvls for us” please don't say anything when you see it.” On the same day, when R' Fayvl and his wife, Mrs. Kesler, came to visit his brother-in-law, she was called to hurry back home. Upon her arrival she was surprise to find her husband. Only several minutes have passed since her husband told her that they would have to return to Berl's house. When they arrived, they found Fayvl sitting down comfortably and talking to Mrs. Fruma. Before us is an act that was derived from a national folklore joke that gave birth to a comedy act called ,“Qui pro quo,” that Berl Broder used in his shows (in our generation, an amusement stage was called by this name in Warsaw). We actually cannot determent which came first, the story or the actual event. In any case, this very act of deceit occupies a tradition in literature - see, from here, Isaac Mayer Dick and his story – “A Farddreishenish” [The Mix-Up. MK], which is entirely built on this theme and develops into an amusing saga, and from here, Shai Agnon – and his story, “Hakhnasat Kallah” [The Bridal Canopy], which describes the summons of three men named R' Yudel Natanzon. Of course, it was powered by the magic tricks of Brody's clowns. What matters for us now is this way in Goldfaden's renowned comedy – “Two Kuni Lemel,” and in our time the extension of his other comedy about the “The Three Hotzmachim” [The Three Misfortunate Jews MK] by Itzik Manger.

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And when we mentioned Itzik Manger, we, as defendants, stand on the distance between the beginning and the end, more accurately, between the primitive beginning and the refined end, and this stand requires, first of all, the examination of the legacy of Berl Broder, in terms of collecting his lyrics and their melodies, analysis of his entire subjects and a review of his tools. This is a major issue on itself, and until we reach it, we will return and mention the impact of the writings of this singer on its three directions, and will summarize that he, and his friends, gave birth to a large populace, and conclude with the words of Itzik Manger in the sonata about the Brody Singers in which it says that he jumped onto their wagon and travel with them a good part of the way, through towns and cities, through years of singing, in wandering, in lawlessness and starvation.: and he ends.

“At long wooden tables, sit ordinary Jews and listen.
Here they sigh worried, and here they laugh in tears
Outside the wagon is waiting for us in the rain”
He also describes Berl Broder in a prose chapter in his book “Close Images” (Translated by A. Shlonsky, 1941, pg. 56): “He collapses on the bed. Green stars, stars of frost, peeking at him through the window. In his dream, a wagon and a carter, a whip, cities and towns, are admixed endlessly, endlessly”.

Translator's footnotes

  1. The meaning of the name, Margaliot, in Hebrew is pearls. There is a saying in Hebrew which describes an eloquent person as somebody “who drips pearls (margaliot).” Return
  2. The Hebrew initials form the Hebrew word Yam – sea, so the nickname sounds like the Zionist Sea. Return
  3. The philosopher, Moses Mendelson (1726-1789), is considered the father of the Jewish Haskalah (Enlightenment) Movement. He called for secular education and the revival of the Hebrew language and its literature. Return
  4. ERambam's “Moreh Nevochim” was written in 1190 in Judeo-Arabic. Return


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Brody: City of Border and Immigrants

by Mendel Zinger

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Yocheved Klausner

Brody, my hometown, was a border town in Eastern Galicia, bordering with the Czarist Russia, until the First World War. Any disturbance that occurred in the life of the Jewish people in Russia, or in the life of Russian people in general, caused a panic migration, which was felt in this border town. Longtime residents could tell many details about the mass migration from Russia through the city during the 1880's and about the stormy debates and arguments among the Jewish immigrants concerning the fateful question: “America or Eretz Israel?” Old-timers would also tell about famous people, eminent authors and leading Jewish activists, such as Karl Netter[1]and Righteous Among the Nations such as Sir Oliphant[2], who stayed in the city during the mass migration years. Ahad Ha'Am[3]lived in Brody for several months. M. Y. Berdichevski[4]was active in the city for some time, on his way to his studies in Berlin. Interesting impressions from Shalom Aleikhem's[5]visit in Brody are included in his writings.

After the pogroms in Kishinev, and during the war between Russia and Japan (roughly 1904-1905), over one hundred and twenty thousand Jews left Russia. A considerable number of them crossed the borders of Volhyn and Podolia, and arrived in Brody. Many community officials in the city delivered care faithfully to the immigrants, refugees of the war and the pogroms who managed to smuggle through the border; most of them were impoverished - men, women and children, carrying bundles and wretched suitcases, tired and exhausted, without a roof over their heads. There were immigrant families who lay down for days in the corridors of Jewish institutions, or in the entrance porch of the synagogue. An assistance committee was organized, whose members provided advice to the immigrants and helped them find an apartment and work. In one of the city's main streets, a –“tea-kitchen” [soup-kitchen. MK) was established. It became an important meeting place for all immigrants who were slated to travel together to a port city or for those who wanted first to stop by other major European capitals. Local Jews who wanted to “do business” with the immigrants met in this location, where the assistance committee could keep an eye on them so that they would not swindle the immigrants.

There were quite a few artisans among the immigrants, who easily found work in Brody and could make a living during their stay. Some clung to the city and settled in it permanently. I recall that there were immigrants who made a living in the “tea-kitchen” by authoring couplets and jingles. This “poets” were sitting there and singing their songs for the crowd, often accompanying themselves by strumming on a mandolin. They used to copy their songs by hand and sell them. The topics depicted in these songs were the life in Russia, the pogroms and the life of immigrants. Over time, songs about the life in Brody were authored as well. One popular song was about the war between Russia and Japan. The song begins by mocking Russia for bragging [all poems below are translated to English from the Hebrew versions given. MK]:

[Page 109]

Everybody knew,
how big and powerful
the country of Russia was.
It presented itself
in front of the entire world
as the actor with the most important role on the stage.

..and the last lines of the jingle are:

See now, how she ended up ailing!
She thought she would overcome easily:
but Japan stood up to her,
and with the world's support beat the “great hero” - the Russian bear

There were four verses for this jingle. One of them expresses revenge for the pogroms. The verse goes like that:

[Page 110]

We have waited longer and longer,
we have waited for a long time,
Now comes the revenge.
To the battle
with the lion, the fly went,
and the lion is being beaten in this fight.
This is a revenge for the blood spilled in Kishinov
Japan is reciprocating,
and he got the punishment he deserves.
G-od showed him
that everything that happened
was brought upon him because of the bloody pogroms

In another verse of the jingle, the author mocks Admiral Makarov who suffered an immense defeat in the ocean:

You know Makarov,
this is not Kishinov,
small children are not being slaughtered here.

Another verse of the jingle settles the account with the reactionary regime and its fight against freedom fighters:

Little Japan is beating the dictator
The little one is killing the big one;
You repressed the people

[Page 111]

deported innocent people
They take revenge now from afar

This big and diversified crowd of women and men were sitting in the large hall of the “tea-house”, sipping a cup of tea, listening, and participating in singing these songs. This was reminiscent of the heydays in Brody's from a few decades before, when Berl Broder[6]and his friends used to amuse the city's big merchants and those who were visiting, with their songs and jokes during the evening hours, in the city bars and restaurants. A person by the name of Barukh Kutik (his surname was Shprukh, but he was called Kutik because his wife's – a woman of valor- maiden name), was still alive during my time in the city. He was a tiny old man who was a member of Berl Broder's family. He used to sing for the immigrants, in a weak but sweet voice, the songs of his famous relative, Berl. He was also imitating Berl's gestures, which provoked much laughter. R' Barukh excelled in the singing of the song of the drunk for which these are the verses:

[Page 112]

What is going on outside,
I am standing here bewildered,
the whole city is roaring,
exactly like a grinder.
I won't go home, it is comfortable for me right here,
the whole city is spinning,
my house would come to me.

While strolling on this trail
walking I could not,
Woe to you, my trail, you are drunk!
not appropriate for you.
Going left, going right,
my house, I could not see:
since, the trail is drunk all right,
it is now clear to me.

…and the city's clock, that's you,
why so slanted stand you?
You changed your stance,
soon you will fall on me.
You need to sound four,
but eight you rung;
if you wanted to follow me
you did well…

The welfare committee was tasked with other roles, guarding the immigrants being the most important of them. Guarding was needed so that they would not become victims of the ships' agents, who were ambushing the immigrants in various places in order to sell them fraudulent train or ship tickets. The committee was helped by young volunteers, who would go around in the streets leading from the border, and would lead any immigrant cart to an agent found reliable by the committee, or direct them to the “tea-house” where the committee members were stationed during most of the day. Repeatedly, the agents or their delegates would assault the youths who came to interrupt their business, and administer them massive beating. When the news about incoming immigrants would reach the city, the agents and the youths would go out to meet them. They would virtually assail the travelers – these to capture them in their deception net, and those to save them from it. At times, fist fights erupted between the two sides. I was privileged to receive a gift in a form of a fist from the agents' representatives and went back home bleeding and with a swollen mouth. It is easy to imagine the impression of this strange reception upon these people who had just experienced the fear and the hardship involved in smuggling the border.

[Page 113]

Among all of these immigrants, refugees of pogroms and war, came a few tens of young people, workers and students, apprentices of all of the various revolutionary ideologies, of which there were many in the Czarist Russia, obviously operating underground there. David Pinski[7], in his theater play “The Tzvi's Family”, Shalom Ash[8]in “The Days of the Messiah” and Shalom Aleikhem in several of his stories, described the ideology and political chaos which penetrated all facets of Jewish life. However, when I recall now how abundant were the views and political nuances among them and the resulted stormy and stimulating debates, it seems to me that the literary descriptions were only a hint to the perplexity that was rampant in these circles. This perplexity also spread considerably in the places where the immigrants passed through or stayed for some time.

I recall that among the immigrants were social-revolutionists (on the right and the left), social democrats (Bolsheviks and Mensheviks[9]), and various types of anarchists. Some movements reconciled with Zionism and some were neutral towards it, but most rejected the “Reactionary Zionism”[10]with all of their revolutionary fervor. The main streams were the “Bund”[11], Territorial-Socialists[12], and “Poalei-Tzion”[13]. There were various nuances in each of these streams.

There were many debates between the members of the various streams, which took place in associations gatherings, soup kitchens, and even openly in public locations and streets (the authorities were indifferent about them and did not interfere). In these debates (which often lasted until beyond midnight), members of several streams argued about tens of issues simultaneously. The debates were imbued with Jewish acuteness and Hasidic excitement and drew the hearts of the youths. These political refugees, who had to act underground in Russia, breathed a sigh of relief upon crossing the border. Here they could make a speech, argue and debate at will without interruption. All the dams opened, all the limitations were removed and the freedom of speech was tried to its limits. The youths followed the debates with great interest. They often witnessed brawls that arose at the end of the debates, particularly following the debates between the members of “Poalei Tzion” and the “Bund” – so called Zion haters. More than once, the youths have been dragged into the fights. Then they would have to leave the gathering, along with the adults, not as they came in, through the door, but rather through the window.

There were several Zionist youths among the immigrants. Among those who came to Brody and remained there for a long duration, Yosef Aharonovitz stood out. He did not isolate himself from the rest of the immigrants and took interest in their issues and in the assistance activities aimed to help them. He often participated in the political debates. However, Aharonovitz did all of that only casually. He devoted most of his time and energy to his preparation and the preparation of a group of youths he gathered around him, for making Aliyah to Eretz Israel. His activity was mainly through the “Poalei Tzion” movement and besides the immigrants also among the students of the Gymnasium [High School. MK]. The plan was that following some learning of the Hebrew language and preparation as workers (later called “Hakhshara” – Hebrew for “preparation”), the group would immigrate to Eretz Israel and establish a settlement together. The settlement was meant to be based on the principle of cooperation at work and life [later called a Kibbutz. MK]. Yosef Aharonovitz was one of the first immigrants to Eretz Israel. His activities in Brody bore fruit. Numerous members of “Poalei Tzion” clubs and students of the gymnasium made Aliyah during the following years and settled in Eretz Israel.

Translator's footnotes

  1. Karl Netter – A Zionist leader (1826-1882) founder of Mikveh Israel, the first modern agricultural settlement in Eretz Israel. Return
  2. Probably referring to Sir Laurence Oliphant (1829-1888) – a South African born British author and diplomat. He became an ardent supporter of the Jewish immigration and agricultural settlements in Palestine as he saw these settlements as a means of alleviating Jewish suffering in Eastern Europe. Return
  3. Akhad Ha'Am (Literally translated as “one of the common people”) – was the pen name of Asher-Zvi Ginzburg (1856 – 1927). He was a Hebrew essayist and one of the most prominent thinkers of the Zionist movement. Return
  4. Micha-Yosef Berdichevski – (1865-1921) a Ukrainian born Jewish author (who wrote in Hebrew, Yiddish and German). He was one of the first authors who advocated the freeing of the Jews from the religion, tradition and history way of life. Return
  5. Shalom Aleikhem – (literally translates to “Peace be upon you”) is the pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich (1859-1916), the most prominent Yiddish author. Born in Ukraine, he later immigrated to New York, and lived in Geneva Switzerland and New York. His writings depict the life of the Jews in Eastern Europe. He is also famous for his letters to his wife after immigrating to the US. Return
  6. Berl Broder – born Berl Marguliot, was a Ukrainian Jew who became the most famous of the Broder singers (a 19th century comedy and singing group originated in Brody who performed all over Galicia). Berl Broder reputed first to be both a singer and an actor, as well as song writer. His songs are seen as a precursor to the Yiddish theater. Return
  7. David Pinski – Yiddish language author and playwright (1872 – 1959). Pinski was the first to introduce to the Yiddish theater a drama about urban Jewish workers, and was also known for writing about human sexuality with a frankness previously unknown in Yiddish literature. Return
  8. Shalom Ash - (1880 – 1957) a Jewish Yiddish author, born in Poland and later lived in the US and Israel. Known for controversial books and plays. Return
  9. The Mansheviks (derived from Russian for minority) were a nick name given to a faction of Russia's socialistic movement that separated from the Lenin's movement in 1904, initially over a dispute about minor organizational issues). The Mensheviks were known to be more moderate and were more positive towards the liberal opposition movement. Return
  10. The Zionism movement headed by Theodore Herzl who represented the Jewish “middle class”. This was a rightist political movement. On the Jewish political left were the Socialist-Marxist movements, some of which were not pro Zionism. The left denoted the middle class Zionism – “Reactionary Zionism”. Return
  11. The Bund (or the Jewish Labor Bund as it was called) was a secular Jewish Socialist-Marxist movement in the Russian Empire who rejected Zionism as a solution for the Jewish problem. Return
  12. Territorial-Socialists was a Jewish Socialistic movement who believed that salvation for the Jews would come through territorial concentration (not necessarily in Palestine) and autonomy. Return
  13. Poalei Tzion – meaning “Workers of Zion” was a Zionist Marxist movement founded in Russia and Poland as a contra-measure to the rejection of Zionism by the “Bund”. Return


[Page 114]

On the Very Close Connection of the Jews
of Brody and of Vohlynia
[a]

by Joseph Parvari (Leiner)

Translated by Moshe Kutten

Edited by Rafael Manory

In memory of my exalted friend, Arieh Avatikhi of blessed memory, who devoted
his life to serving the public. He would always be my guiding light.

If not for the partition of Poland among Russia, Austria and Prussia at the end of the 18-th century, Brody would not have been different from the other towns in the area, such as Radzivilov (Radyvyliv), Dubno, Rovno (Rivne) and others; Podolia and Vohlyn provinces were always considered part of Ukraine, until the Polish Piast Dynasty rulers conquered these areas and annexed them to their kingdom. With the liquidation of Poland as an independent country, Brody was annexed by Habsburg's Austria and the entire land of Vohlyn was annexed by Czarist Russia. Only a small distance of 6 kilometers separated Brody from the border between these two world powers.

Since then and until the First World War, Brody was a Galitsian city, and Vohlyn's towns and settlements became Russian. Even the culture that developed in these places was characteristic to the center of the regime: in Brody—German, and in Vohlyn—Russian. However, the Jews, who were the majority in these places, were influenced only superficially. Deep down, they all remained Jewish with a national identity, faithful to their religion and tradition, and far from assimilation. As far as the bond between Brody's and Vohlyn's Jews—this bond was never severed.

The only road leading from Russia to Austria was the Radzivilov–Brody road. There was a continuous legal and illegal traffic between the two countries, because of the developed commerce relations between the two on one hand, and Jews fleeing Czarist Russia on the other hand. Jews were fleeing Russia because of three main reasons: The desire to avoid military service, the Czarist oppression and the wish to break through to the free world and reach Eretz Israel.

[Page 115]

Indeed, anybody who managed to reach Brody, felt liberated. There was no way back from Brody. This is why a famous phrase was coined [in Yiddish, RM]: ”A secret, the entire Brody knows about”. This is because every youth in town knew about the border smugglings despite the fact that these were supposed to be shrouded in complete secrecy …

Many immigrants who reached Brody stayed in it for long durations. Among these immigrants there were many Hebrew language educators and teachers, who dealt in the organizing the youths as part of the pioneering-Zionist movements, such as Yosef Aharonovitz who established the “Pioneers of Zion” association under the “Poalei Zion[2]” movement and others). Thanks to these activities, Brody became a focal point in the Zionist movement.

 

Between the two World Wars

When the country of Poland was reestablished in 1918, a symbolic signpost was erected at the former border between Brody and Vohlyn, at the 6-km mark on the Brody–Radzivilov road. This signpost read: “Here was the former border between Russia and Austria, two countries that annexed Polish areas to their territory”.

While in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Jewish Brody developed nicely; many Rabbis and famous scholars, as well as the first enlightened people originated from the city, such that the nickname “Yerushalaim of Austria” was affixed to it. However, under the new Polish regime, the city lost its greatness, and the process of social and economic deterioration has begun. Many of its eminent Jews left for larger cities—Lvov, Krakow, Vienna and Rome (Rabbi Peretz Khayut, Dr. Khayim Tartakover, and others), and many immigrated to Eretz Israel (Asher Barash, Dr. N. M. Gelber, Mendel Zinger, Professors Arieh Tartakover, Dov Sadan, and others). This is when the influence of Vohlyn on Brody began. New Jewish residents, individuals and families, from nearby and from far away arrived. They shaped the cultural image of the city (the highly acclaimed teacher—Naftali Lerner-Naor, the founder of “Beit Haam” (the Community House), the big city library and “Gordonia”[3]; Pnina Gratzberg-Lanski from Berestechko and Yitzkhak Ettinger from Verba, Mordekhai Pursht and others, were all, as mentioned, Vohlyn natives).

During those days, a Hakhshara[4]center, the only one in the city, was established in Brody. This was a branch of the famous Kibbutz-Hakhshara in Klosova. Who were the members, if not the boys and the girls from Vohlyn?. These were young youths of valor, initially consisting of about 50 people. Their life was not easy. Brody was never an industrial town so the pioneers could only obtain a few jobs, in Landgevirtz's flourmill, Parness' linen warehouses and others. During the winter months, they became lumberjacks, and conflicts between them and the gentiles, who were traditionally engaged in this craft, erupted…

Members of the (Socialist) P.P.S. Party [Polish Socialist Party. MK] considered the pioneers as competitors of the local workers and took extreme measures against them. The underground communists embittered the lives of the pioneers as well. They even took violent steps: ejection from the market place, beatings and throwing rocks at their windows at night. The pioneers' dwelling stood without windowpanes throughout the entire winter, and the pioneers suffered from the cold in addition to hunger, but they persevered.

[Page 116]

The Partisan Activity during the Holocaust

Similar to youth activities in towns across the rest of Galitsia, Russian and Poland, part of the youth in Brody, organized itself as a defense force. In the ghetto, a new fighters organization, headed by Shmuel Weiler of Beitar[5], and Shlomo Halbershtat and Yaakov Linder from the Socialist youth. The last two fought a heroic battle and were killed in the line of duty. Shmuel Weiler survived and lived to testified in Nazi's trials. He died in 1962 in the diaspora and was brought for burial in Israel.

During that tragic period, there was a strong bond between Brody and Vohlyn. Yekhiel Purkhovnik from Radzivilov, wrote about the youths who organized in the town's ghetto in Radzivilov's Yizkor Book (“Sefer Radzivilov”). When the ghetto was annihilated, those who survived ran away to Brody. Some of them were captured at the old border and were shot on the spot; however, some made it to Brody unscathed, Purkhovnik among them. They built a bunker underneath the house of their friend Henikh Tishker, where 30 people, five of whom were from Radzivilov, found shelter. A Christian woman neighbor provided the food for them.

Half a year later, they went out to the Leshniov forest and joined a mixed partisan group consisting of Russians, Jews and Poles. Purkhovnik was sent to Brody to mobilize the youths to join the partisans. During one of the bloody encounters with the Germans, he managed to transfer 28 youths from the bunker to the forest. In the spring of 1943, just before the annihilation of the ghetto, he managed to take out another 20 people. Other people managed to escape and join the partisans who were about 100-people strong at that time.

The partisans company acted against the Germans and the Ukrainians. In September 1943, a German force of 1500 soldiers surrounded the company. The battle was arduous and bloody and only eleven people survived from the [partisans (RM)]company. In another battle in the village of Punikovicze, four more partisans were killed.

At the end, only three Jewish partisans survived and they returned to Brody. They found a shelter in a bunker under a big house in the center of town, where 40 more Jews were hiding. When the Germans discovered the bunker, everybody ran away to the ghetto. Some returned to Leshniov forest on the next day.

In the summer attack, on 14thJuly 1944, the Red Army's 192ndTashkent Division, where Purkhovnik served, liberated the city of Brody. He himself excelled in the battle and was awarded the “Red Star” medal. In the face-to-face battle with the Germans to liberate the city of Lvov, Purkhovnik lost his right leg but survived.

Thus, there has always been a tight and effectual bond between the Jews of Brody and of Vohlyn. Indeed, the Jews of Brody remained thankful to the Jews of Vohlyn. I know of two of them who edited Yizkor books for Vohlyn cities—Dr. Yaakov Rotman-Netaneli, a Brody's native from a Dubno Hassidic family, a teacher, poet and author who edited “Sefer Dubno” and Mr. Mendel Zinger (who made Aliyah together with Y. Kh. Brenner[6]), who edited the Kehilah book for Vohlin's Beresteczko and Boremel towns. Brody natives who live in Israel consider these books as a small token payment toward their moral debt to Vohlyn's Jewish community.


Author's Notes

  1. Someone from the Brody community might ask—“What does Brody have to do with Vohlyn, given that Brody was located in Galitsia?”. However, the author of this article, who is quite familiar with Brody and the tight bond, that existed at the time between its Jews and those of Vohlyn, thinks otherwise. According to his opinion, Brody suckled her culture from Vohlyn's cities and towns, and from there she attained her greatness. Shai Agnon in his book “Bridal Canopy”[1][p. 468 (in the Hebrew edition-RM)] wrote about her “…that Brod [nickname given to Brody in Yiddish. MK] was full of Torah students like a garden full of hearty fruits… Where did these many Torah students come from if not from Vohlyn, the students who crossed the border illegally and came to her to be liberated from Czarist Russia?” (as implied by the author of this article). In his letter to SH. Z. Shoken (Chapter Ki Tezeh, page 780), Agnon writes: ”…I visited Brod on Sabbath, and was happy to see the city of residence of the Hasid R' Yudel, may his memory be blessed. I felt there like in my own home”. Vohlyn Jews who managed to sneak out to Brody felt there, with the help from the city residents, like in their own home. Return

Translator's footnotes

  1. “The Bridal Canopy” (Hebrew: “Hakhnasat Kallah”) by Nobel Prize laureate, Yiddish author Shai Agnon is considered one of the classics of the Yiddish literature. The story tells about the wanderings of a naively pious Hasid—Reb Yudel, in search of a groom and a dowry for his daughter. Some scholars equate the fictional Reb Yudel to a Jewish archetype of Don Quixote. Return
  2. “Poalei Zion” (literally “Workers of Israel”) was a Socalist–Zionist Jewish workers movement founded in various cities in Poland and Russia at the turn of the 20th century after the Bund rejected Zionism in 1901. The right-wing of the movement headed by Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, formed the Akhdut Ha'Avoda Party, which together with another party formed the “Mapai” Party, the precursor of the Labor Movement in Israel. The left wing of Poalei Zion was later split between the Israel Communist Party (“Maki”), and the other part joined with the “Ha'Shomer Hatzair” (Young Guard) movement to form leftist “Mapam” (The United Workers party). Return
  3. “Gordonia” was a Jewish youth movement. Its doctrines were based on the beliefs of Aaron David Gordon, i.e. the salvation of Eretz Israel and the Jewish People through manual labor and the revival of the Hebrew language. Return
  4. Hakhshara—Literally, means “preparation”, was the name given to preparatory camps in which the Zionist youths learned Hebrew and trained in agricultural and manual labor. The camp was organized as a kibbutz (a commune). The graduates organized themselves into groups pending Aliyah to the Eretz Israel. Return
  5. Beitar—Hebrew acronym for the “Jewish Alliance for Joseph Trumpeldor” is a youth movement established in Ukraine by Vladimir Jabotinski, which was associated with the rightist Revisionist movement. After the establishment of Israel the movement became the rightist party of Heruth (later the Likud Party). Return
  6. Yosef Khayim Brenner was a Russian-born Hebrew-language author and one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew literature. Return

 

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