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Paths in the Ashes

by Chemda Lewinowicz

Translated by Jerrold Landau

The Town and its Panoramas

The center of the town was a square plaza surrounded on all four sides by rows of houses. From this plaza, the streets and lanes spread out to the length and width of the town. The Jews lived in the center and in the nearby roads, while the Poles lived in the outer alleys. The Polish intelligentsia was for the most part concentrated around the roads adjacent to the road to Lomza, and around the courthouse and post office.

The town served as a business, cultural and religious center for the residents of the villages that surrounded it on all sides. On the regular weekly market days, villagers would stream into the city, some by wagon and some by foot  (in the summer, the villagers would walk barefoot to the outskirts of the town, with their shoes tied to their backs so that they would not wear them out). They would bring bags of grain, produce of the chicken coop and cattle barns, firewood, peat and other such items, to sell to the Jews. They would purchase foodstuffs, cloth, household utensils, tools, etc. During the fairs, the market plaza and the nearby roads would be filled to capacity with wagons laden with agricultural products that were brought in by the villagers for sale. Merchants and salesmen would come from afar during the fairs with their variegated merchandise, and the market would be noisy and bustling.

During the summer months, wanderers would bring into the town a merry-go-round, which was set up in one of the corners of the market place. Beautiful wooden horses attached to two seated winter wooden wagons would circle around from the afternoon hours until late at night, accompanied by the sound of a noisy band. The merry-go-round was an attraction for the children, both Jewish and Polish. First and foremost, the gentiles of the villages would invite their girlfriends for a spin.

Aside from the children, the adult Jews would also try out this means of enjoyment. Only Reb Avraham Ber  Kilinsky of blessed memory once broke this 'tradition'. The friends of my brother Yitzchak of blessed memory knew Reb Avraham Ber, who was an intelligent Jew and a lover of tricks, and they would jest and converse with him on occasion in our home. Once, when these boys were light of heart, they promised Reb Avraham Ber a specific prize if he would dare to take a spin on the merry-go-round. To their surprise, Reb Avraham Ber agreed, and the entire group accompanied him to the merry-go-round. Reb Avraham Ber mounted a horse, took hold of the reins, and to the cheers of the crowd made an entire circuit, and thus won his prize.

There were other attractions for the children. A man with a street organ that rested on a wooden pedestal would circulate through the streets. He would stop at every house and turn the handle of the organ, and a melody would play:  "From Russia, Oh From Russia…". At a later time, a person came with a more advanced street organ, equipped with a large amplifier, which was able to play many melodies. The small children who faithfully accompanied the organ player would inspect the organ from all sides, place their heads into the amplifier, and search for the singer who was "hiding" inside…

The small monkey tied to a rope, which would dance to the order of its master, brought special enjoyment. Similarly, on occasion a troupe of youths who were practicing acrobatics would appear in the outskirts of the city,  and present their routine to the children.

Each summer, a variety of vagabonds would come to town and pitch their tents in the nearby forests. The men would sell handmade copper vessels, and the women would go around from home to home to solicit fees for palm reading and telling of fortunes by cards.

The first radio that arrived in the town was far from perfect. It was barely possible to hear the broadcast through the pair of receivers that was attached to the device. However, due to the novelty, it gave rise to great curiosity in the community. In order to allow for a large group of people to see the wondrous device and to hear the voice coming from it, the small radio was brought to the library hall, where people would stand in line until the awaited moment arrived in order to listen to the broadcast. However, only a small period of time was allotted to each person, and even though it was only possible with difficulty to make out a word here and there, the people would leave satisfied, and describe with enthusiasm the wonderful device to those who did not merit to hear it.

Hershel Mark of blessed memory, a well-to-do man in town, was the first to acquire a large and functional radio, as functional as could be at that time period in any case.A large amplifier was attached to the side of the device. On summer nights, he would place his radio on the sill of his open window of his second floor residence. Since his house was near to the main street where many people would stroll along the sidewalk near the house in the evenings, many people would be able to listen to the tunes that blared into the street via the amplifier.

Stawiski was blessed with beautiful forests that were part of the property of the Squire Kiszlaniczki, a member of the Polish nobility. On the southwest side, about a kilometer and a half from the town, stood the Sokolocha flourmill, which the Squire leased to the Jewish miller Stolnicki. A gigantic wheel drove the mill through the power of the waterfall that was created from the waters of the nearby river. The river continued to flow through the depths of the forests, and there the women of the town would go to bathe in the summer. The route to the mill served as a shortcut for the path that led between the wheat fields. Particularly pleasant was the sound of the walking of bare feet upon this path while it was still soft from a summer rain which had fallen a day previously, and while it had now been warmed from the sun which shone when the clouds had dispersed.

During our childhood, we loved to visit this pleasant place. We would secretly go around the house that was in the center, and walk along the path to the mill. On occasion, we would succeed in hiding in the haystacks that were at the side of the road when we would see from afar Uncle Chaim of blessed memory walking along the path to the mill, in order that he would not find us and report at home that he had caught us in our "mischief". Our friends, the children of the miller, would greet us at the mill, and take us for a boat ride on the river, or we would go for a walk in the depths of the aromatic forest. When we got tired, we would rest in the valleys of one of the hills, and refresh ourselves with cold buttermilk and black bread, made by the wife of the miller.

There was a large forest of pine trees on the hills to one side of the mill. On the other side of the hills, the village Chmielewo was nestled among the trees of the forest. It spread out for a few kilometers on the sides of a dirt path, which led to the estate of the Jew Denenberg, the brother-in-law of Yisrael-Eli Szapira of blessed memory. On that estate, the "Hechalutz" youth group members would receive their agricultural training (hachshara) prior to immigrating to the Land of Israel. During the summer, the village of Chmielewo served as a vacation spot and spa for the residents of Stawiski and the towns in the area of Lomza, Szczuczyn, and others.

The scenery was amazing. Artists would come from afar to draw pictures of the landscape. The Squire Kiszlaniczki would invite his noble guests to the forest, near the flourmill, where he held parties during summer evenings. After some time, the Squire cultivated the forest, and the hills and valleys that were once covered with trees were now bare, and sadly bore witness to the beautiful landscape that once was and now is no longer.

There was a six-kilometer long forest along the sides of the road to Lomza. This forest served as a meeting place for the youth, who came there in droves primarily during Sabbaths and festivals. They would come alone or in groups, by foot or on bicycle (of course, only on a weekday). This forest had the splendor of creation, and it was saturated with its beauty and special charm during all seasons of the year. Its tall, erect coniferous trees looked as if their tops were kissing the heavens.
A spring flowed from the thickness of the forest, and would provide cold water for the thirsty hiker. During the summer, the children would spread out among the thick trees to pick berries and strawberries. On moonlight nights, a walk in the forest was like a walk in some far-off enchanted land, which was wide without end.

Destruction befell this forest as well during the Second World War. As is related, the trees of this forest served as building materials for the Soviets, who built a new city in that place.

In a cave in the forest, near an open field, stood the lone house of the guardian of the forest, who was also a skinner of carcasses. That gentile, who would mingle with the Jews, would greet our group pleasantly and allow us to use the seesaw that was in his yard. He would purchase his household goods from the Jews in our town. Once I saw him in the bakery of Meir Katz of blessed memory, he purchased a loaf a bread and said "Hamotzi lechem min haaretz, I want to eat like a
squire" [1] – he laughed heartily and devoured an ample piece of bread with his healthy teeth.

There were gentiles, particularly young ones, who learned to speak Yiddish fluently due to their constant dealings with Jews. The horseman of one of the wagon drivers particularly excelled in this. He was sent on long journeys with his horse and wagon, including to the capital city of Warsaw. Once this young gentile was forced to spend the Sabbath in one of the towns. What did he do? He went to the synagogue, pretended he was a Jew, and, as was customary in those days, one of the Jews of that town invited him as a Sabbath guest to his home.

The church of Stawiski took up one entire corner of the market plaza.Even though it was not a low building by any stretch of the imagination, the priest decided to raise the spires so that it would not be lower than the Jewish synagogues, even though the synagogues were on one of the side alleyways, and did not "compete" at all with the church. The construction effort was done primarily by Christians from both the town and the villages. Christian girls also assisted in the construction effort by bringing building materials to the builders. Thus did the priest realize his wish, and the spires of the church were higher than anything else.

There was a large courtyard behind the church, which had in it a fruit orchard. On each Christian festival, the congregation of worshippers would exit through a large gate in the side of the building in order to make processions around the church. A long brick fence surrounded the east side of the church. In the center, near the door to the church, there was a tall, thick wooden pillar, upon which rested a large statue of the "holy mother" carrying her son Jesus in her arms.

On Sundays and Christian festivals, all the Jewish stores were closed.Only the grocery store, which was owned by one of the rich gentiles, remained open. Ironically, it was only that individual, a Christian, who was allowed to conduct business on Sundays and Christian festivals.

Another rich gentile purchased the inn in the center of the city from its Jewish owners. Thus did the Christians slowly encroach on the businesses that had been the sole domain of the Jews for generations, in an effort to increase their livelihood. This activity became more prevalent, overt and brutal during the latter years of the 1930s, when, with the rise of the Nazis in Germany, the Polish anti-Semites began to pillage the domain of the Jews.

There were Christian holidays that were the cause of practical jokes in the town. In addition to the prayers and confessions that took place in the church, the anti-Semitic priest injected a heavy dose of Jew hatred into the hearts of his flock. Many of the gentiles filled up the taverns after they left church, and as they left there drunk as Lot, they would often provoke the Jews. On such days, brave fearless Jews would stand on guard, and any drunk who would attack a Jew would merit to feel the full force of their power. This independent Jewish defense instilled fear upon the hotheaded anti-Semites.

There were Christian holidays when Jews avoided going out on the streets. Once such day was January 1st, the New Year of the Christians. On the eve of the holiday and during the following morning, their children and youths would roam about in groups in the town dressed up in a variety of costumes. The most prominent of these costumes were:  the angel of death dressed in white, upon his head a gigantic styliform white hat, with a sickle in his hand;  another costume was black, with long horns and a tail, with a whip in his hand;  a third costume was a hunchbacked dwarf – symbolizing a Jew. If any such a group would come across a Jew, they would mock him and force him to bow down before them. Thus did the gentile take revenge on the Jew for the crucifixion of Jesus.

In the summer, on a particular Thursday, the "Green Festival"  (the festival of the fields and the crops) would take place. There would be a religious procession which drew large crowds. This procession spread out all over the town plaza. Only after the conclusion of the religious ceremony, when the crowds returned to the church, would the Jews come out onto the streets.

The Jews did not live their lives in the town in comfort. From way back, Poland spread hatred and venom upon the Jews. Their babies imbibed this hatred from their mother's milk. A child who did not listen to his parents was threatened with the threat that "the Satanic Zhid (Jew) will come and snatch you". The Jews seldom entered the gentile alleys, especially so during evenings and nights, due to fear of Polish hooligans "shkotzim" [2] who would pelt them with stones and send their dogs toward them.

From my childhood, I remember one particular incident with a dog that scared my friend Gittel and myself as we returned in the evening from a walk in the forest of Lomza. A gentile whom we did not recognize walked behind us, and beside him was a gigantic hunting dog. When the gentile caught up with us and passed us, the dog fell upon us and frightened us.As it approached us we began to scream in fright.We thought that it would tear us to pieces. The dog backed off from us for a moment as we screamed, and then again fell upon us. This cruel game lasted the entire way from the forest to the entrance to the town. The gentile walked in front of us the entire time, as if he did not hear our screams.

From among the Polish intelligentsia, we remember fondly the teacher Helena Laskowska, and the justice of the peace, whose relationship with the Jews was liberal. The judge would customarily come, along with a number of other Christians, to the synagogue on Yom Kippur eve in order to listen to the singing of Kol Nidre. They would also come on Simchat Torah eve. The teacher Helena  described the final journey of the Jews of Stawiski in a letter to Dr. Yona Rubinsztejn, a native of our hometown who lives in Paris.

In those days, wide wagons were used for transportation. They were covered with thick cloth that was supported by semicircular iron bars. This protected the travelers from the sun, rain, and snow.Later, people would travel in a wagon that was harnessed to two horses, where eight travelers were squished in like sardines. With the passage of time, there was a radical change in the mode of transportation.People would travel from Grajewo to Lomza via Stawiski by bus. The young wagon drivers in our town could not compete for long with the modern mode of transportation.At one point they purchased a bus which would travel twice daily to Lomza and back. The bus was not new, however its red color caught the eye. When it would park in front of one of the inns in the center of the town, a group of curious onlookers would gather around to witness the wonders of modern technology. The bus was primarily an attraction for the children, who would gather around it and pat it lovingly. They did not leave it until it began to drive away.

It is related about one gentile farmer, that he stood and wondered how such an inanimate object could move by its own power. After he listened to the explanation, he pursed his lips and asked: "this all makes sense, but I still wonder how the bus can move without the aid of horses…".

I still remember an event that occurred to me in connection to the bus. One day, I was almost trampled by the hooves of horses. The event was such: When the driver moved the bus, I was in the middle of the plaza. Suddenly the horses became frightened from the sound of the horn and the engine, and began to panic as they were tied to the wagons. I made my way with difficulty among the horses that were fleeing in confusion. I ran with all my might, and my hands were spread out to all passers by in an effort to "stop" the horses. I was constantly shouting to them :  Frrr!… Frrr!… Only by a miracle did I come out unharmed from this unexpected stampede.

During the Time of the First World War

A few weeks prior to the outbreak of the First World War, I began grade one in a Russian public school, since White Russia, like other areas of Poland, was at the time under the dominion of Czarist Russia. The school was housed in a large room on the second floor on one of the Chamilawski houses on the route to Szczuczyn. There were three classes in that room, one for beginners, one for more the more advanced, and one for older students, and one teacher taught all three. We did not have opportunity to learn much. One day, we heard the ringing of a bell outside. As was customary in those days, the town clerk would go about at a time of need, ringing a bell in different places to alert the residents and inform them of various announcements from the civic government. This time there was something out of the ordinary in the alarm of the bell, since we saw the teacher leave the room in a hurry, jump over the stairs and disappear. We never saw him again.That was the day that the First World War broke out, and a short time later the Germans occupied Poland, that is to say, the part that belonged to Czarist Russia.

During the war, a few cannonballs landed in the town. One cannonball damaged the side of the Beis Midrash and destroyed a portion of the eastern wall. The Germans fixed it, and even decorated the windows that were part of the door of the Great Synagogue with stained glass. Another cannonball hit a woman who was carrying food to her son who was studying in the cheder and killed her on the spot. An additional cannonball fell near the smith shop that was at the edge of the city, in the direction of Jedwabne. At that time, I was walking from the market plaza to my home with a half a pail of water (I was not able to carry more than that). Suddenly I heard a frightening whistle. I recognized that this was a cannonball, and at that moment, I imagined that it was falling upon my head. In fright, I left the pail in the street and ran home with all my might as I was "shaking" off the cannonball from my head. A short time afterward, we, the children and older youths, ran toward the smith shop. Only through a miracle was the house saved from destruction and its inhabitants from death. To their good fortune, the cannonball fell on loose ground near the smith house, and did not explode.

At first, the German army garrison that was stationed in the city began to plunder anything that came to its hand – cloth from stores, barley, wheat, flour, sugar, and other provisions, and transferred them to Germany. In return for this plundering, the Germans gave a "receipt". Apparently, all of the receipts were written with the same text: "Giving on credit causes worry". They left a small amount of flour to bake black bread, which was distributed each day to the hungry population in small quantities. White sugar was not available, but on occasion they distributed portions of yellow sugar that was referred to as "horse sugar". Tea was made from Landrin candies [3] , and dry cherry stems were used to make juice.

In those troubled days, my brother Yitzchak would go at night to the villages to purchase wheat from the farmers.Most of the time, he went with my Uncle Chaim. The trip to bring the grain to the Sokolocha flourmill, and to bring the wheat home was fraught with fear, lest this food fall into the hands of the Germans. Once my brother requested my help in bringing the flour from the mill. At the time, I was a young girl. He dressed me in a wide long dress, and placed a cloth on my head so that I would resemble a gentile, and my brother took me with him on a wagon to the mill. After they loaded up the sacks of flour, my brother seated me on top of them so that my long wide dress would cover the sacks. Thus we were able to traverse the entire journey, and bring the flour home without a problem.

We were not always that successful. As was customary in those days in the town, we raised chickens for our own use.From among all of the hens, I liked one in particular, which had very nice feathers.It was very fat, and "motherly" as she walked with her chicks. One morning, I found it dead in the yard. When I began to cry, my mother got angry and said: "is this what you cry for?  If the Germans, would take the flour, heaven forbid – you certainly would not cry". That afternoon, when my brother returned from the mill with a wagon laden with bags of flour and stopped near the house – German soldiers suddenly appeared and took everything.They did not even give a "receipt".

My mother was correct – I did not cry about the theft. I only had enough tears to cry about the beautiful hen that died.

It is important to point out that the Germans during the First World War were not the same as the Germans during the Nazi era. As they became acquainted with the residents, they related to them in a sympathetic manner, and made various improvements for the benefit of the population. They closed up the open pits, dug new wells and equipped them with pails for drawing water, in order that the residents would be able to draw good, clean water. The uncovered springs of water near the Beis Midrash, and hear the Sokolocha mill, which gave forth an ample supply of clear water.

The Germans also ensured that the town would be kept clean. They would arrange the cleaning of any dirty place. They would enlist youths for "hard labor". For this purpose, they would enter houses and find any young person who was young and able in order to do various jobs – in the winter for clearing snow from the paths and in the spring for cleaning the streets from the mud that remained after the snow melted. They put up large shelters in all open fields for the benefit of the residents, and placed benches in them. They placed benches around the old chestnut trees that were close to the post office so that the pedestrians and those who came to the post office could rest. In the evenings, the soldiers would sit on the steps of the house in the center of the city which served as the garrison headquarters, and they would play joyous marching tunes with hand held accordions, accompanied by percussion instruments.They loved children, and would give them sweets.

Nevertheless, I remember an incident that left a heavy impression on me. One day, a crowd of villagers entered the market plaza. They said that they were brought there because they did not provide the requested amount of grain to the Germans, and they did not know what was to happen with them.The villagers stood in the plaza in a square. The Germans ordered some of them to place down bags of sand in a few places. Suddenly, other villagers were brought there, and the Germans commanded them to lie on the bags of sand, and the thugs beat them on their backs until blood flowed. The site that we saw by peering out of the window was horrible. This incident took place in front of all of the villagers, so that they should see and be afraid. The screams of those that were beaten were heart-rending, however they did not move the hearts of those "good" Germans.

At the conclusion of the war, Poland was left with a great shortage of food and clothing. Salvation came from the United States, which sent large shipments of food to the hungry lands of Europe. Poland also received its share, and each city and town received an appropriate portion. Cloth for clothing was very expensive, and we used the American wheat sacks for that purpose. They were made of thick, fine cloth, which was appropriate for the sewing of clothes. First, mother would dye the cloth bright gray. After some time, our brother Nechemia who was in the United States sent large amounts of non-perishable food, as well as wonderful packages of clothing. Due to the unusually large size of the shipment, my brother Yitzchak had to travel to Czestochowa, a large distance from Stawiski, in order to bring them home. The package included clothing for men and women, shoes, sewing materials, soap, and many more such things – all new, straight from the factory. Friends and relatives came to see the array of fine things, and their mouths were full of praise for the dedicated son who was overseas.

The Bolshevik Invasion

The road that went through the city was known as the "King's Road" or the Warsaw-Petersburg Road. The Bolskeviks arrived via this road in 1920, when the Red army invaded Poland. The soldiers camped out in the market plaza for some time, with all of their utensils and weapons. The soldiers appeared forlorn in their poor clothing and their torn shoes. They did not give the impression of an orderly army, but rather as riffraff who had weapons in their hands quite by chance. They behaved sympathetically toward the population during their sojourn, and the gentiles also enjoyed their food.

The estate of Kiszlaniczki was on the side of the road that led to Szczuczyn. He lived there in a splendid palace with his family. It is told that his daughter was married to one of the wealthy oil sheiks of the Persian Gulf. After some time, she separated from him, and she went to live in her father's house with her child. They guarded the grandson of Kiszlaniczki very carefully. Rumor had it that the emissaries of the sheik were stalking her in order to kidnap the child and return him to his father's house. The daughter of the Squire would on occasion suddenly be seen driving along the main street in a splendid automobile. A private automobile, especially one driven by a woman was in those days in Stawiski one of the wonders of the world.

Near the entrance to the villa, on the other side of the road, stood a row of low two family houses, where the estate's employees lived. Some of them looked after the fruit orchards; another group took care of the fields near the villa that grew all types of vegetables. The wealthy Jews of the town would purchase the best of the fruits and pay top dollar for them. The remainder of the workers worked in the fields. During the time of the harvest, early in the morning, wagons full of groups of workers, male and female, would pass through the town. They would be on their way to the wheat fields that were behind the city, a few kilometers away. They would return at dark to their homes after a hard day of difficult labor.

The houses of the workers were small, poor and covered with soot. The foreman of the estate was hard hearted, and had no concern for the minimal needs of the workers. The working conditions in the estate were difficult, and the pay was poor. Strikes were not acceptable in those days, and the exploitation was terrible. It is no wonder that the hatred toward the rich Squire, who lived a life of excess and comfort, overflowed in their hearts.

When the news arrived that the Red Army invaded Poland, the Kiszlaniczki family fled to Warsaw. The last one who remained was the foreman of the estate, who did everything to save what could be saved, including among other things the large flock of cows which was transported on foot to Warsaw by a group of workers. After the Bolsheviks entered Stawiski and set up a local government, the workers of the estate were the first to rise up in revenge against their master, and many of the gentiles of the town joined them.

On one Sabbath, we went to the estate. We entered inside the courtyard and the palace. This was the first time that a Jew set foot there. The courtyard was quite large, and it had a variety of fruit trees.  Surrounding the palace, there were shade trees and flower gardens. We entered the main palace, went up to the second floor – everywhere we turned there was ruin and destruction. The gentiles pillaged everything that they were able – they destroyed without mercy. This was the first time that we saw a bathtub in a home, for aside from in the bathhouse, there was no bathtub even in the homes of the wealthy people of the city. The bathtub had also been destroyed.  Parts of books from the large library of the Squire rolled around the steps and the paths in the courtyard like falling leaves. Our gentile neighbors also enjoyed the loot, and they brought to their homes upholstered chairs, curtains, fine foodstuffs, bedding, expensive mirrors, etc. The revenge was thorough.

The leader of the local communists was the young man Hertzke Kolinski, the son of old age of Rev Avraham Ber. He was a fine young man, self-taught. He knew Russian fluently. The Polish authorities knew that he was an ardent communist, and persecuted him. He hid from them in granaries or attics.

When the government passed to the Bolsheviks, Hertzke stood at the head of the "Rebkum", the town council. He was strong willed and energetic. He would speak to his elders in an authoritarian manner. When he took control of the government, he treated harshly anyone who appeared to him as a counter-revolutionary, or who disobeyed his edicts. He did not show favoritism to anyone, whether he was a person of honor, or a family member.

Reb Yechiel Mondensztejn was one of the first of the bakers who was put in jail because he refused to accept Czerbonczim  (the Bolshevik coin in those days) in payment for bread. The Jews had no faith in that currency, and treated it as a low value. After a few days, he also put my father in jail for the same crime. When I went to visit my father, I heard Hertzke's secretary tell one of the prisoners who looked at her longingly that Hertzke "almost shot a bullet into the head of Yechiel the baker". It is told that when Hertzke's mother, who was known as a valiant and sharp witted woman, came to Hertzke to request that he have mercy on the life of Reb Yechiel, he said to her":  "Get out of here immediately, otherwise I will shoot a bullet into your head". His mother knew that her son was liable to carry out his threat – and she left as quickly as she came.

After the defeat the Bolsheviks suffered near Warsaw, the famous defeat that was known as "the miracle on the Wisla", they retreated via our town. They passed through the road in three rows for three consecutive days and nights. That was the first time that we saw a camel. It was the conclusion of the Sabbath, the final night of their retreat. Most of the local communists joined the last of those retreating. One of them, a gentile, came to us and tried to take the coat from my brother Yitzchak by force. My brother wrestled with him, and my mother and my sister assisted him. Suddenly the gentile quickly left the house, after his Jewish friend, who stood behind the door, warned him that someone was approaching.

This was not sufficient. In our neighborhood, there lived a Polish family. With their good anti-Semitic hearts, they incited a soldier of the Red army to enter our house, to go to the cellar and take anything good from there. They told them that they would find a bounty there. The claims of mother that we did not have very much were to no avail. The soldier went to the cellar. A Russian captain entered our house when he heard the loud argument. When mother explained to him what happened, the captain went to the soldier, who in the meantime came up from the cellar empty-handed, and scolded him:  "You are a communist, are you not ashamed?  What business do you have here?"  The soldier left in haste. Mother thanked the captain. He comforted her, and told her to close the doors, to shut the blinds, and not to open up to anyone.

At the Time of the Polish Liberation Army

The next day, on Sunday, a tense quiet prevailed in the town. There was great fear about the future. There was a fear that the Polish army that would come on the heels of the retreating army would see every Jew as a communist. There would be no shortage of groups among the gentiles who would support this notion, in particular since the city government during the time of the Bolsheviks was almost all Jewish. Shots were heard all day, which were fired by the Polish army that was advancing along the road to Lomza, even though the last of the retreating Bolshevik army left the town in the middle of the night. The residents spent the day locked up in their homes. Some found refuge behind the inner walls, and others in the cellars of their houses.

As the Polish army hesitated to enter the town, lest they find remnants of the Bolshevik army in town, a delegation of Jews went out to inform them that the town was clear of the enemy.

The Polish army entered the town in the evening, and filled up the entire Market Square. According to an edict from the Jewish guard, all of the stores were opened wide, and the Jews welcomed the arriving army with joy, and gave them goods some of the goods that they had left. The soldiers behaved toward the Jews with great indignity. Soldiers requested from us pails from which to feed their horses. It is unnecessary to add that the two pails that they took were not returned. We did not become upset about this. We were happy that we were saved from "blood of revenge" in their anger.

At that time, garrisons of the Polish army visited the town at certain times.  Among these were the troops of General Haller, whose soldiers were called after his name – Hallercziks, and garrisons from the Poznan region – Poznancziks. Both of these were known for their great hatred of Jews. Whether they spent a short period in town, or a longer period, the Jews were afraid, for they would pillage the Jews and treat them with cruelty. They would search the houses of the Jews, and take whatever they wished.

The head of the Poznanczik garrison, who lived in our home for a long time, was certain that our silver and gold – for is there any Jew who did not own silver and gold? – was hidden in the thick plank that was in the ceiling of the large room. According to his imagination, it was manufactured for that purpose, due to the unusual dimensions of that plank. The soldier began to knock the plank with a stick. He thought that in that manner he would hear the sound of the clanging of the valuable objects, which his soul so desired, and he would be able to find the hidden door to this treasure. However all of his efforts were for naught, and his eyes became green with flames of anger. His eyes were able to freeze the blood in the veins. I was not at peace until that soldier left the town with his friend.

 One day an army garrison arrived in the city. There was a rumor that a group of Hallercziks was approaching. All the stores and homes were locked, and no Jew wandered in the marketplace. Unexpectedly, the garrison continued on and traveled to Szczuczyn, however the last of the soldiers of this garrison intentionally remained in town to pillage the Jewish homes. Suddenly, cries of "help" were heard from amidst the quiet with reigned in town. Members of the local government could not be found on the streets, as if the earth had swallowed them, and the cries for help of the Jews were like cries for help in a desert.

The soldiers entered our house as well through the back door. They searched until they found father's coat hanging in one of the corners of the room, with a sum of money in the inner pocket. When the soldier placed his hand in the pocket, mother rose from her place, grabbed the soldier's hand, and did not let go. He at first began to wrestle with her, but he was finally startled by her bravery and her words of admonition, and he left the house.

On another occasion, when we thought that all of the Hallercziks had left the town, were surprised to see behind the market plaza one of the soldiers on the back of his friend climbing the wall, grabbing onto the edge of the parapet of the second floor, and breaking into the home of Chaim Kolinski. We quickly closed the shutter of the door with a wide metal rode, but we did not know how to deal with the large window of the main room, whose frame had been given to the glazier one day previously for repair of its broken pane. The sight of the broken window frame which was near our house made the soldiers think that their friends who came previously had already done the job on that house, and they left the house without coming to us. Thus we were saved from their hands due to the broken windowpane.

Those soldiers had a particular interest in the elderly Jews. When they caught a Jew, they would pluck out or cut his beard with great enjoyment. Once they captured Uncle Chaim. He had an impressive beard, divided in half like the beard of Nordau [4] . They cut off one side of his beard in order to torture him. Uncle Chaim walked around with a bandage on his cheek for quite a while until his shorn beard grew again.

On May 3rd, the most significant Polish national holiday, national flags fluttered from all the houses from the early hours of the morning. Woe to any Jew who would forget to place a flag on his house early in the morning, or who would forget to remove it the next day. At noon on that day, a large crowd would enter the market plaza near the statue that was erected in the center in order to honor the independence of Poland, to hear speeches from the leaders of the city. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the firefighters band would play patriotic songs.

The conductor of that band was a gentile who was always tipsy. Without a drop, he would not do anything, and as he became more drunk, he would began to play the trumpet in fine fashion. Daily, during the afternoon, he would ascend the roof of the church, and play liturgical music from up there, which could be heard all over the town. The leadership of the church paid him a special salary for these songs.

That gentile became attracted to communism. Since he was the head of the firefighters, and was also the bandleader, the communal leaders needed him more than he needed them, and he was not afraid of expressing his political views. One year, as May 3rd approached, he made an agreement with his employer the major that he would perform with his band on the national holiday, if he would permit he and his band to also perform on May 1st, the workers' holiday. The mayor had no choice. Therefore the band played on May 1st at the "International" workers' gathering, and after the main speech, which was delivered by one of the chief communists from Lomza, and after the words of the head of the local communists, the band played happy tunes. On May 3rd, the gentile did not fulfil his word, and he refused to perform with his band. Threats and persuasions were to no avail. To the distress of his supervisors, and to the joy of many of the residents, he stood his ground. His supervisors were not brazen enough to punish him.

Slowly, Zionist activity was renewed among the youth in the city. The majority of the youth were Zionists. Their cultural activities took place in the "Hatechiya" hall, which also served as the library. A new spirit began to spread in the town, and youths who would occupy the benches of the Yeshivas would abandon their learning, to the distress of their parents. They would only come to the Beis Midrash on festivals, in particular on the Days of Awe. On the evening of Simchat Torah, [5] the youths would compete with their parents for the purchase of "Atah Hareita". Even the richest of the householders could not stand up to this competition. When the young people won the auction, they would honor the honorable people of the town with the recital of the verses. The youths also took part in the Hakafot, and the joy on Simchat Torah eve was exceedingly great.

In 1924, a group of Hechalutz members of Stawiski made aliya to the Land of Israel. The older youths could not obtain certificates, and many of them had no choice but to leave Poland, and ended up through various routes in the United States. Two of my brothers were among these, who joined their eldest brother who had immigrated several years previously to America. My brother Yitzchak of blessed memory died there at the early age of 45. His good soul – as he was known by all of his friends and acquaintances – left him in an untimely fashion.

Aharon Eliezer Zak spent a great deal of time at our home in those days. He loved to have discussions about various matters with my father. These discussions would continue until a late hour in the evening. He would read the long feuilliton style letters that my brother Nechemia would send to us from the United States. He would not skip out anything, and he would enjoy reading these letters greatly. He would eat lunch with us every Passover eve. Once Aharon Eliezer revealed to us the secret that we have a poet in the family – Chaim Leibel wrote songs that were beautiful and well received by his audiences. Chaim Leibel, the youngest of our brothers, had an artistic soul, dreamy eyes, black curly hair, and a sweet pleasant face.

Aharon Eliezer Zak was the driving force of the members of Hatechia. Unlike most of them, he still wore a long black coat and wore a small hat, as was the custom of the Orthodox in those days. One day his friends decided that the time had come that he too should wear modern clothes. The matter was prepared secretly. On the first day of Passover, the door of our home opened with great noise, and Aharon Eliezer Zak entered accompanied by a group of youths. He was wearing a modern suit, and on his hat was a nice hat. We were shocked, but the joy of the youths influenced our household, and father did not say anything.

The difficult winter that overtook Poland in 1929 did not pass over Stawiski. The elders of the community did not remember anything like it for the previous fifty years. There was an unusually harsh cold spell for three days. People did not venture outside except for urgent matters. It was impossible to draw water, for the well had frozen so much that it was impossible for water to enter the pipe. The school was closed and the children sat imprisoned in their homes. When the cold spell snapped, the villagers that had begun to come to the town said that there had not been such a cold spell for decades, and they told of incidents where people and animals froze from the deep cold.

As far as I remember, for almost all the summer there was a fierce wind in the town. In the middle of a clear summer day, the sky would suddenly cloud over with black clouds. A strong wind would suddenly blow, which would stir up high whirlwinds of sand, which would dance about and sweep up anything that was standing in their path. With difficulty, people were able to flee from the marketplace and take refuge in the nearby houses, as they left their merchandise to its fate. The stalls overturned, and the merchandise scattered in every direction. As the storm abated with the same suddenness that it had started, an eerie quiet prevailed. Only after the heavy gray clouds broke up and the peaceful sun began to appear, did people return to the marketplace to gather up what the storm had left behind.

I remember another unusual natural phenomenon that took place in our town. This was on one of the hot summer nights. As usual in the evenings, there were many people strolling along the wide sidewalk that was at the side of the road, as well as people sitting on their porches. Suddenly, bolts of lightning began to flash. There was not even one small cloud in the sky, and one could see stars scattered around. The lightning was of a unique nature, in that it was not accompanied by thunder, and the bolts intersected each other, as if two people were fighting unceasingly with flashing swords. People froze in their places, with their heads turned upward, watching this strange vision in awe and fear. This vision lasted for a long time, and then slowly people began to scatter and hurry to their homes.

The following day, everyone was discussing this event. Nobody knew how to explain this strange evening, and even the elders had never seen anything like it in their lives. The villagers also discussed this event in fear, for they interpreted it as a bad omen – a difficult war that was about to break out. A few years later, their frightful prophecy was fulfilled.

My Parent's Household

There were always many fires in the town. Most of the houses had been destroyed by fire and rebuilt. Our house, which was passed down as an inheritance from the parents of my mother of blessed memory was an old house, and was one of the few in the market plaza which had not been burnt down. It was a corner house, with its front facing the market plaza. From there it turned rightward to Biczki Street (on that wall, there were worrisome cracks), and its two other sides created a long narrow courtyard by the house, which lead to the back doors of the residences. There was a cowshed in the yard, as well as a shed for firewood, and a large storehouse for grain that was owned by Uncle Chaim Kabakowicz of blessed memory.

As was customary, the ceilings were built out of criss-crossed planks. In the large room of our house, the short widthwise planks rested on one long plank which went the entire length of the room. This plank was square and so large that it impressed anyone who saw it. People did not understand how, with the building conditions that prevailed in my great-grandparents' era, they were able to lift such a plank to the height of the ceiling.

This plank was the source of suspicions  –  once by the German invaders during the First World War, and once after the war as I have told previously. The suspicion in the first case was aroused by a thick rope that was tied to one side of the door of the baking oven, since one of its hinges had broken. At that time, there was no possibility of fixing the door, or of exchanging it for another one. My father, who was very handy and knew how to fix broken things, had no other choice but to tie a rope to the side of the door. He tied the other end of the rope to the heavy plank – and this enabled the door to turn on its one hinge without difficulty. That rope, which innocently fulfilled its duty, aroused suspicion in the hearts of the Germans who encamped in the city at the time they invaded Poland in 1914. They thought that this rope served as a wireless connection to the Russian enemy. It took a great effort on the part of my father to assuage their suspicion.

Our town was not blessed with a multitude of means of livelihood, however there were artisans of all types. The Jews provided for their households through a great deal of backbreaking work. They also ensured that they would be able to teach their children Torah, and provide a dowry for their daughters when they reached the appropriate age. There were very few wealthy people in Stawiski. The few that were there were mainly lumber merchants, and one cloth merchant. The rest were of the middle class, storekeepers for the most part. The majority of the population were poor, and worked in various trades – shoemaking, tailoring, porting, glassmaking, etc. There were also wood choppers and water drawers. Almost all of the barbers were from one family, and they also served as the band players at weddings.

{Photo page 186 – Menachem (Mendel) Lewinowicz of blessed memory}

The bakers had a special place in our town. Most were scholars. Father of blessed memory had studies in the famous Mir Yeshiva, and he was known as an illustrious scholar. Moshe Goelman of blessed memory told me this. After he got married, he decided to support himself by the work of his hands, and he went to work in the bakery of his father-in-law. Work in the bakery was free work, which was done by all the members of the families. My brother Yitzchak of blessed memory, who was a wheat merchant, would provide the flour that was needed by the bakery. The baking of bread and rolls of all types for weekdays, and braided challas for Sabbaths and festivals would commence in the middle of the night. At an early hour in the morning, the sale of the baked goods would commence. After dinner, father would go to the Beis Midrash, where he stood at the head of the group of those who studied Torah. In the cold winter nights, he would stay home and study Talmud with its commentaries until a late hour at night. These were the times of rest from his difficult work in the bakery.

Father was tall and had an upright posture. The lines on his face were aristocratic. His brown eyes exuded tenderness and good-heartedness. He had pleasant mannerisms, and he was upright in his behavior. We learnt from him not to take an oath even about something that is true. He was beloved and honored by his fellowmen. Many would come to him to discuss their troubles, to solicit his advice, and to request that he argue their case or pass judgement on their issues. Women would come to him to ask him questions about kashruth  (Jewish dietary law).

Aharon Eliezer Zak of blessed memory related to father as the lion of the group. He respected his great erudition, and valued his generous personality and his straightforward intellect. Aharon Eliezer, in addition to his knowledge about a variety of subjects, was an expert in mathematics. He would often present mathematical problems before father, and solicit his expertise to help find a solution in a straightforward and logical manner.

When the Zionist activity started in the town after the Balfour Declaration, father was the head of those that addressed the community from the pulpit of the Beis Midrash, and encouraged many to collect money for the settlement of the Land of Israel. He desired with all his heart to make aliya to the Land of Israel, and he hoped for the day when his dream would be fulfilled. I once asked father how it would be possible from the medley of languages to promote the Hebrew language in the Land, and he answered me:  it will be a matter of only one generation, and Hebrew will be the language of the people who settle Zion.

 As his youngest daughter, in my childhood, I would accompany father to the Beis Midrash on festivals. The prayers, with their sad and heartwarming melodies, were magical to me. I especially enjoyed the style of prayer of the teacher Reb Akiva the Hassid, who had sweet melodies that were devotional without bounds. He sung the "Hayom Teamtzeinu" prayer at the end of the Musaf service with exceptional joy and enthusiasm [6] . Even though father was extremely pious, and careful about both the easy and difficult commandments, he refrained from fanaticism. Once a young rabbi, who was often at our home, asked him why he permitted me to ride a bicycle. Father answered him:  "where is it written that the riding of a bicycle is forbidden for a girl?". Nevertheless, when I asked him to teach me a chapter of Talmud, he did not want to transgress the adage  "whomever teaches his daughter Torah is as if he teaches her foolishness" [7] . Nevertheless, he sent me to study in the Hebrew gymnasia (high school).

Father saw an evil portent for the future in the frequent battles and hatred between men. Once he said:  "a time will come, and the living will be jealous of the dead". He prophesied, and did not realize that his prophecy would be fulfilled in his generation, and in the generation of his household.

His desire to make aliya to the Land of Israel was never fulfilled. On the 18th of Tevet 5689  (1929), his pure soul left him. His body was placed on the floor of the bedroom, and candles were lit at his head. The men of the Chevra Kadisha (burial society) sat around him and recited chapters of Psalms, and I, the daughter of his old age, recited the Kaddish prayer between each chapter.

The honorable men of the town carried him on a black gurney to his final resting-place. In the open area between the synagogue and the Beis Midrash a large crowd gathered. Reb Shay Mendel Zilbersztejn of blessed memory eulogized him. He said:  "We eulogize for the dead, even though his wish was not to be eulogized. For a great man of the generation was taken from us today."

A great yoke fell on the shoulders of mother of blessed memory. She would often wake up in the night prior to father and prepare the dough for the white bread and roles. In my childhood, when I woke up at night and could not sleep, I would get up from my bed, sit next to mother as she was working, and I would sing songs that she loved to hear.

In addition to the work in the bakery, mother also took care of the home. She did not concern herself only with her own home, but she helped the needy in many ways and in a quiet fashion. She would give bread on credit to poor families, knowing from the outset that they would not be able to pay their debts. I remember one respectable elderly man, who for some reason was not given sufficient food in his own house. He would come to us each morning, quietly go into one of the shelves, help himself to a loaf of bread, put it into his bag, and leave. During the entire time, mother would shield him with her body so nobody would see him in his disgrace, and no evil rumors would be spread about him or his household.

{Photo page 188 – Rashke (nee Kabakowicz) Lewinowicz, may G-d avenge her blood.}

Mother had dark hair and was very pleasant. She was very pretty in her youth – so related her friends. She had long hair even in her adulthood. She became gray prematurely, but there were still strands of black hair that stubbornly clung to their black color. Her eyes were brown, and her eyelids and eyelashes were black. On Sabbaths and festivals, when the entire family would dine together at the long table, her eyes would sparkle with joy, and her beautiful voice would mingle with that of the rest of the family in singing the hymns, for they all loved to sing. She particularly loved to sing "a brivele der mamen"  ("a letter from mother"), in which she expressed her longing for her eldest son, who had moved to the United States when he was still a young man.

On Sabbaths and festivals, the weariness that was stored up from the week suddenly dissipated. The black wig that she wore on her head and the gold earrings she wore on her ears brought her back, so to speak, to the splendor of her youth. She was slender and thin, but she was full of vigor. Her gait was quick and deliberate. It is impossible to understand from where she drew her spiritual and physical strengths throughout the difficult travails of raising a family. She was very occupied in the raising of her family and the running of her home. As their strength waned, my parents liquidated the bakery and opened a small grocery store.

Toward twilight on Sabbath, we would sit – mother, my sister, and myself – in the darkness of evening and wait until three stars would appear in the heavens – the sign that it was now permitted to turn on the lights. Like all Jewish mothers, mother would recite the prayer "G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", and with the turning on of the lights, the atmosphere of Sabbath suddenly dissipated, and the difficult and wearisome week took its place.

On occasion, I would accompany father as he went to the Beis Midrash after the third Sabbath meal. The sun began to set. Slowly darkness fell, and the windows of the Beis Midrash appeared scary due to their darkness and height. The congregants recited chapters of Psalms in unison with a special melody that was reserved for that time, and as they shook back and forth in their seats, their shadows danced on the walls, as if they were part of a secret conclave.

The mysteries of the Sabbath dissipated suddenly as Reb Yaakov the Shamash (sexton) lit a candle and made the "Hamavdil" [8] blessing over a cup of wine in his pleasant voice. We children would surround him, and respond Amen with the rest of the worshippers.

After father passed away, the splendor of mother's face darkened, and her posture became bent. It was difficult to get used to the emptiness and gloom that suddenly descended upon the house. The three of us – mother, my sister and myself, for our brothers were in the United States – did our best to look after each other, to ease the pain and loneliness, and to continue with the customs which we were used to while father was alive. I loved to kiss mother's forehead, which showed the difficulty of her life and the toil of the years. I did not want to leave mother and my sister alone in the house, in particularly when the sky clouded over and a thunderstorm was about to break out;  it was difficult to weather the fear all together.

For a certain time, prior to my aliya to the Land of Israel, mother would scream n her sleep. I was worried about this strange symptom, which was happening too frequently. When I heard the strange scream, I wanted to wake her up. Her breathing was heavy from the effort of the scream that strangled her throat. She was always happy when I woke her up and saved her from her nightmare. When I asked her for an explanation, she would tell me that in her dream, a pack of wild dogs attacked her and threatened to tear her to pieces. She wished to escape from them but was unable to do so. She wished to shout for help, but it was impossible;  she tried to awaken but did not succeed.

This frightful dream was repeated until it became reality – a pack of dogs in the form of human beings, the refuse of the human species, pursued her and her family and tore them to pieces.

My sister Chana of blessed memory bore the burdens of the household from a young age. She was very dear, and had pleasant mannerisms.  She related pleasantly to everyone, she tended toward righteousness and justice, and hated flattery.

Chana was tall and erect. Her head was covered with light brown hair. Her visage was pleasant, and her teeth were very beautiful, without blemish. When she grew up she was a pretty and pleasant. During the First World War, it was necessary to perform an operation on her neck near one of her ears. Father took her to a hospital that the Germans set up on the estate of the Squire Kiszlaniczki, a distance of a kilometer and a half from our house. After the operation, father carried her home on his shoulders when she was still anesthetized, and with her head  bandaged. She was asleep for about three days. Due to her high fever, she would utter words that did not make sense, however she repeated one sentence over and over again:  "the sheet is torn and worn out, torn and worn out – –."  Mother stood by her and comforted her.

We were concerned and worried about her well being, despite the reassurance of the German physician. I remember in the afternoon of the third day – suddenly a bird flew into the house, flew around, tweeted, and left as suddenly as it came. We watched it leave with trepidation, and suddenly mother said:  "good news, good news". We hurried to my sister's room, and she was lying there with her eyes open and a faint smile on her ashen face. We were happy, for it was as if our sister was reborn. Aharon Eliezer, who participated in our concern, said:  "the bearer of tidings left". Indeed, this was the beginning of her recovery from her illness.

{photo page 190 – Chana (nee Lewinowicz) and her husband Yisrael Zeev Solnik, may G-d avenge their blood.}

One of my sister's hands was full of moles. The German physician who looked after her attempted to remove them with various methods – but he was not successful. Once the Rebbetzin Remigolski noticed this, and was determined to cure her. She said:  "it is not a fitting thing for a girl". The Rebbetzin stood for an entire day and tied many knots in a string that she brought with her, and hid it in a secret place. A few days passed, and the moles disappeared as if they had never been there. This was a wonderfully mysterious thing in everyone's eyes, and nobody knew how to explain it.

Chana desired to make aliya to the Land of Israel, but she did not succeed in doing so. She got married to Yisrael Zeev Solnik, the son of the shochet (ritual slaughterer of Nowigrod. She blossomed as a flower, and her entire being was refined and noble. Her brother-in-law Chaim said of her:  "It appears to me, as her character was like one of the matriarchs".

With the ascension of Hitler to the government, anti-Semitism increased in Poland. The venomous anti-Semites in the town began to come forth, and did not give the Jews any rest, neither in the day or the night. They would set up guards in front of every Jewish store, and would not permit gentiles to enter. After the sun set, the Jews would be locked into their homes, and the shkotzim [2] would throw stones at the doors and closed windows. The ban on Jewish business reduced the already difficult livelihood of the Jews. The gates in the land were locked, and the hope to free oneself from the strangulation grew greater by the day. I was lucky to receive an "authorization" for my family, through the help of a good man, Dr. Y. Goldsztejn of blessed memory, who was the head of the national council of Keren Hayesod in the Land of Israel. Nevertheless,  when anyone brought the authorization and requested a certificate, S. The head of the aliya office in Warsaw, requested a sum of money that was so large that it was impossible to pay. Aharon Eliezer Zak, who had been a friend of S. years back, made a special trip to him in Warsaw, explained the difficult family circumstances, and requested that he go beyond the letter of the law in this case. However his efforts were in vain, and his requests fell upon deaf ears. He returned empty-handed.

Even during this difficult situation, my family was concerned about the situation in the Land of Israel. On the eve of Shavuot 5699 (1939), my mother wrote to me, among other things:

 "… Yesterday, all of the stores were closed, and the Rabbi gave a speech denouncing the black "White paper". – With such a lot, there is no place in the world where a Jew can rest."

One year later, I received a Soviet manufactured postcard from my sister dated June 17, 1940. In it, she expressed her fear that "your lot (i.e. in the Land of Israel) should not be like our lot". This was after the partition of Poland between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, in accordance with the Molotov-Ribentrop agreement. On September 18, 1940, my mother and sister wrote:

 "… the news that reaches us about you worries us. We hear that the despot (i.e. Hitler) is approaching you also. – We cannot rest from the danger that is awaiting you –. "

My mother and sister were worried about my lot and did not realize, just as the rest of the Jews of Poland did not realize, that their fate had been sealed. Mother, my sister Chana, her husband Yisrael Zeev and their three children – Menachem, Nachum and Nechama – were all murdered along with the rest of the Jews of the town in the terrible holocaust that fell upon our town, the Jews of Poland, and the rest of the lands of Europe.

It is told of Yankel Nissel, the son of my Uncle Chaim Kabakowicz of blessed memory that he succeeded in fleeing along with one of his children to a certain landowner with whom he conducted business previously and who knew him. There, the two of them found refuge. They were hidden there for a long time, and the landowner provided for them, and made sure that nobody would discover them. Nevertheless, the matter became known to one gentile, and he informed about them to the Germans. An S.S. group arrived, and wanted to take also the landowner to be killed for the crime of sheltering Jews on his land. However Yankel Nissel bowed down at their feet of the murderers and pleaded with them to leave the landowner alone if he would take an oath that he knew nothing about their presence on his land. Thus did my cousin save the life of his benefactor, and he and his son were taken out to be murdered.

Translator's Footnotes :

  1. Hamotzi Lechem Min Haaretz (He who brings forth bread from the earth) is part of the text of the blessing that is to be recited before eating bread. Back
  2. Sheketz (plural Shkotzim) is a derogatory term for gentiles. Back
  3. I am not sure what this refers to. Back
  4. Presumably referring to Max Nordau, one of the original founders of Zionism. Back
  5. The recitation of special Simchat Torah liturgy, of which the honor of reciting is often auctioned off. Hakafot are the processions made around the synagogue with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah. Back
  6. "Hayom Teamtzeinu" ("May He strengthen us today") is a prayer recited toward the end of the Musaf (additional) service of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Back
  7. Traditionally, it was frowned upon to teach a woman theoretical aspects of Torah, particularly Talmud. Nowadays, in more modern Orthodox circles, where women have equal educational opportunities to men in the secular world, this has been relaxed significantly, although Talmudic study has generally remained for various reasons in the domain of men. The reasons behind this tradition, and the various applications of it in different streams of Orthodoxy nowadays, are quite complex, and beyond the scope of this footnote. Back
  8. "Hamavdil" ("He Who differentiates" between sacred and profane…) is the main blessing of the Havdalah service which marks the conclusion of the Sabbath. Back
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